McLaughlin spearheads BOT’s aid lobbying efforts

| 01/11/2017 | 10 Comments
Cayman News Service

(L-R) Chief Minister Anguilla Victor Banks, FS Minister Tara Rivers, Montserrat Premier Donaldson Romeo, CI Premier Alden McLaughlin, TCI Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, BVI Premier Orlando Smith, Bermuda Premier David Burt

(CNS): With memories of Cayman’s own challenges in the wake of devastating hurricane strikes, Premier Alden McLaughlin is continuing his efforts to support the British Overseas Territories that have been hit hard by hurricanes this season. Having returned from Miami, where he chaired a special meeting of the Caribbean BOT leaders, accompanied by Tara Rivers, who has responsibility for Hazard Management Cayman Islands, McLaughlin said the aim was to ensure that the hurricane-hit islands are top of the agenda at the upcoming Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London next month. 

“My objective is to ensure all the territories show solidarity when we go to London at the end of November and that we are presenting a unified stance with regards to relief and recovery funding,” he said. “I remember after Hurricane Ivan the Cayman Islands didn’t receive a penny from the UK Government. It took us years to get fully back on our feet and we were fortunate that we had millions in insurance money coming into the islands, which helped our recovery, however that’s not the case for these other overseas territories.”

At the special meeting to discuss disaster response, recovery, building resilience, preparedness and mitigation were Chief Minister of Anguilla Victor Banks, British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith, Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson — all leaders of territories that were all hit by the storms — as well as Montserrat Premier Donaldson Romeo and Bermuda Premier David Burt.

Leaders of the affected islands expressed their gratitude for the humanitarian, law enforcement and military assistance provided by the UK Government and fellow BOTs in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Minister with Responsibility Overseas Territories Lord Ahmad has confirmed £62 million in relief funds but it is not clear if the funds include the cost of deploying the military, the ships and the assistance that came immediately after the hurricanes. If this is the case, available financial aid could be diminishing rapidly and there could be little left for ongoing relief and recovery, government officials said in a release.

Rivers said that she was able to share some of the initiatives and actions taken by the Cayman Islands in the recovery and reconstruction efforts post-hurricanes Ivan and Paloma.

“As the minister with responsibility for home affairs, it was very informative to hear the experiences and lessons learned by each of the affected territories of these most recent hurricanes,” she said. “I know that here at home we have rebuilt stronger and increased our ability to be resilient to such natural disasters; however, I think the information sharing about the disaster management plans and structural organisation that was put in place by some of the territories versus others, and the intended reconstruction plans was very helpful from a forward planning perspective. I will certainly be having discussions with my team in Hazard Management in light of this meeting held.”

Recovery efforts are making slow but steady progress and McLaughlin said cruise tourism will be the first to come back to the islands after the hurricanes.  “All three islands, Anguilla, BVI and Turks and Caicos are hoping that cruise ships will begin to start back at the end of November. Cruise tourism will bring in much-needed revenues to the Governments of the affected islands and provide employment for their people. This was also the case in Grand Cayman after Hurricane Ivan and further reinforces the argument for a new cruise port in the Cayman Islands,” he added.

One of the major challenges faced by Cayman’s fellow BOTs is that they are unable to access the UK’s £13 billion aid budget because they are classified as “high-income countries” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This has caused controversy in the UK and has led to Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development, writing to the OECD, the body that sets international aid rules, asking for changes to its rules to reflect the fact that small island nations are particularly vulnerable to disasters like Irma despite their national income.

These efforts seem to have had some success, as the BBC reported Monday that the OECD was to consider allowing access to aid by the BOT’s impacted by hurricanes this year. However, it is unlikely that any decisions on this will be made in the short-term.

Cayman News Service

Drafting Joint Communique

Montserrat’s premier pointed out that it is 22 years since the volcano erupted on that island, but he said, “We are still suffering due to the lack of investment in recovery. After all these years, 60% of Montserrat’s annual budget comes from the UK paid by the British taxpayer. I don’t want to see this happen to the islands that have been impacted by these hurricanes. The UK has a legal, moral and constitutional responsibility to its overseas territories to not just help with immediate relief but to assist with the recovery of their economies so that they can return to being self-sufficient.”

The meeting concluded with agreement to a joint letter signed by all leaders of the Caribbean Overseas Territories that would be delivered to Lord Ahmad. The letter sets out the urgency of focusing the upcoming JMC agenda on matters to do with disaster relief and recovery. In addition, a formal request will be made for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, who has shown a continued interest in the welfare of the affected territories.

“I was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting,” said McLaughlin. “We have a clear strategy on ensuring the agenda for JMC reflects the urgency of need in the affected OT’s. The reason I lobbied so hard when I was recently in Manchester and London was to encourage the UK Government to meet its obligations to the OT’s. Today it is Anguilla, BVI and Turks and Caicos, tomorrow it could be the Cayman Islands. This meeting has shown the continued solidarity of the OT’s and our commitment to support each other in times of need.”

The attached communique was agreed by all leaders at the end of this meeting.

Communique, Special Meeting of the BOTs, October 2017

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anon oldie says:

    This has come up before, and so far as Cayman is concerned the UK Govt would only offer financial aid if it was truly decimated – and I mean worse than Ivan. The arguments are worth repeating: In the UK practically everyone pays income tax, and companies pay corporation tax. Most UK people and companies pay at least 20% of their income over to Govt one way or another (excluding purchase tax which is another 20%!) , and richer individuals pay up to 45% on income. That way the UK Govt has money in reserve – for emergencies.

    But why should the British taxpayer allow that money to be spent on territories where the average income is often greater than it is in the UK, and which don’t tax their people or companies. The reason that Caribbean nations don’t have war-chests for their own emergencies is because they don’t tax their citizens. If Cayman introduced a simple income tax of 10%, just think what that might do for the Govt coffers, its budgets and its emergency planning. Of course that will never happen, but it should.

    To put it into simpler language – suppose two brothers each received $250,000 from their father’s estate. The first brother starts living a grandiose life, flying first class and eating in the best restaurants, and treats himself to expensive trinkets. The money is gone within a couple of years. The second brother is careful with his money, spends only what he needs to spend, and invests carefully. One day, the first brother, finding himself broke, asks his brother for some cash. Fair?

    Quite possibly the prudent brother will give his brother some funds, maybe even call it a “loan” (but knowing there is little likelihood of it being repaid). What happens next? A couple of months later the first brother comes knocking again.

    The prudent brother should never bail out the imprudent one in the first place, and so it is with Cayman and the other territories. Montserrat has been receiving aid for 22 years and still can’t sort its own sh*t out? Give me a break! Whining and spineless politicians the lot of them. The homeless and dispossessed people of the affected territories need to look to themselves and their own governments, not the UK. You live in a freakin’ Hurricane zone people – do some emergency planning and above all put some money away for it!

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said. The parasites asking for help from one of their hosts seems sickening when they could easily fund a disaster fund from taxation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is no deserving case for tax havens to receive any aid. They can simply obtain capital funds from income or corporation tax.

  3. West bay Premier says:

    Ms Rivers are looking everyday like she is Mr McLaughlin right hand woman .


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