(CNS): The premier appeared confident he would be back in the job after the general election when he spoke at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit Thursday. Alden McLaughlin took the opportunity to plug his government’s achievements over the last few years, from economic growth to a fall in unemployment. And with Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former California governor, set to appear in the evening as the guest speaker, McLaughlin told the audience he had wanted to be a body builder when he was young and Schwarzenegger was one of his heroes, before borrowing his catch phrase from the Terminator movie: “I’ll be back.”
“I welcome Arnold to the Cayman Islands,” he told the audience. “As a youngster I once aspired to be a body building star myself, and I confess Arnold and Lou Ferrigno were my heroes. And despite what some of you may think, I believe Arnold is doing a very job on the Apprentice TV show,” he added in reference to the US President Donald Trump’s seeming obsession with the ratings. “I have never hosted a television show myself but Arnold and I do have at least one thing in common. As a former California governor he, like me, understands what it takes to win an election and to govern.
“And so recognizing our elections in May this year, I cannot resist borrowing a line from Arnold: I’ll be back,” he said.
McLaughlin believes he will again be premier because of the government’s record on the economy, despite whatever other issues may be undermining the fiscal success. Pointing to the position Cayman is in today compared to where it was when his PPM administration took office, he referenced the theme of this year’s conference, “Defying Gravity: The Future of Alternative Investments in Exceptional Times”, and said the government had defied “the economic gravity of the time” to arrive at an economy “that is by far the best in the region”.
He said Cayman’s economic success was because government spending had been in support of it. He said unemployment was down 5.6% among locals and less than 4% overall, the lowest in the Caribbean.
McLaughlin told the wealthy attendees at the event taking place at the new Dart hotel, that the economic growth in Cayman was not by chance but because of the work done by his administration and business. In a surprising comment from the PPM leader, given past concerns, he said, “The Dart organisation is a leader in this regard.”
Claiming to have defied gravity while in office, he said the government had reduced taxes, fees and debt. He said it was also on track to repay the US$312 million bullet bond in its entirety when it falls due in 2019.
“Our policy of reducing taxes and fees as we increased surpluses through better money management has meant that we have put more than $22 million a year back into the pockets of businesses and families. And we have squirrelled away sufficient reserves to finance over six months of government expenses in the event we see another global recession with a falloff in revenues, as we did in 2009.”
McLaughlin lauded his government’s efforts, saying, “There has been no other administration in the history of these islands that has come close to this achievement. My administration subscribes to the principle that the only true independence is financial independence.”
He said he was ambitious for the future of Cayman, Caymanians and all who live, work and invest here, adding, “And we have only just begun.”
Looking ahead to the elections, he said, “I have confidence that the voting public will see the definitive progress we have made.”