Governor talks transparency

| 12/03/2009

(CNS): Describing the global economic recession as “rough and tumble times” the governor Stuart Jack told the Chamber of Commerce yesterday it was important for Cayman to maintain its reputation for quality and to be transparent. He also said that his controversial commissions and enquiries were not airing dirty laundry that was undermining the jurisdiction as he had heard. “Countries do not suffer by admitting that someone has erred, or a system has failed. Their reputations suffer because they try to cover up misconduct, or ignore processes that don’t work.”

He noted that Cayman needed to make the best use of its advantages and address the weaknesses but that Cayman had a number of blessings including a solid and reliable judiciary. “Let us not forget our many blessings,” Jack stated at the Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Luncheon on Wednesday 11 March.  “We have solid and reliable laws and judiciary. We have world class accountants, auditors and attorneys. For a small country we have first rate businesses across different sectors. We have beautiful islands that people want to live in and visit. I am optimistic about the future.”

He said he knew there was anxiety regarding what the G20 might conclude about global financial regulation, in particular about offshore centres. “We cannot simply ignore this pressure. As the international financial system is reformed Cayman should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem.”

He said Cayman had to adapt to the emerging emphasis on transparency. “Cayman now has a good record on anti-money laundering and, in practice, on cooperating with other jurisdictions, notably the US, on criminal tax matters. But we need to get that message across more clearly. Cayman must seek to conclude tax information exchange agreements with more countries, including the UK – Government is now working actively on this. And we should look again at any practices or laws that reinforce preconceptions about excessive secrecy, such as the Confidential Relationships Preservation Law, while accelerating work on data protection legislation,” he added.

The governor also noted that Cayman must not be too inward-looking as it had prospered because it looked to the wider world – for markets, for supplies, for staff.

He also pointed the finger of responsibility at the elected government and said the Cayman Islands need a sustainable development strategy that integrates in balanced way economic, environmental and social issues. “To achieve that we need leadership and good governance,” he added. “The main responsibility must lie with the country’s elected representatives – that is what democracy is all about. The role of a Governor of an Overseas Territory is a strange mix of being powerful and powerless. Constitutionally, I have a lot of power over a lot of things. New laws require my signature. I have a good deal of responsibility for lofty objectives – good governance and law and order.”

He said he had tried to do promote a culture of quality, particularly in the civil service and the police. “I know that many people will see my tenure here as a period of Commissions and Enquiries and investigations. Many of these actions have been controversial,” he added. “But I believe that where there are serious allegations – not just frivolous remarks – but serious allegations, they should be addressed. In most cases, on a small island like this, it is not always possible to get an objective and fair viewpoint on an allegation. We need a new, more distanced judgement. This is why I set up the Commission of Enquiry, the special police investigations and the Judicial Tribunal – in each case only where there appeared to be prima facie evidence backed up by legal advice.”

He said the primary objective has been to focus on a specific allegation, an external viewpoint can also teach us a lot about our culture, and what steps we need to take to raise our quality.

“The Commission of Enquiry provided some useful lessons on the civil service which have been followed up. Operation Cealt is as much focussed on how we can improve systems as on how we deal with alleged misbehaviour by a few individuals,” the Governor noted. He said that by being open about the problems in Cayman the country demonstrated a determination to solve them, which he thought would retain confidence in brand Cayman.

He said that Cayman’s older sea fairing generation could teach us how to withstand the current turbulence. “These Caymanians had to look outwards for their own survival, and in the process became knowledgeable about the rest of the world. It was their insights that laid the foundations for Cayman’s prosperity, that I fear too many now take for granted,” he said. “They also knew that their reputation as sailors depended more upon their ability to navigate stormy seas, than the calm. That required a clear sense of destination, flexibility, and above all hard work.”

He said that was an important lesson for the here and now. “We need to show the same resilience and skill in the face of adversity, as the seafaring founders of the nation. And, of course, as the resourceful women who looked after Cayman while they were away,” the Governor added.



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