(CNS): The minister of commerce has declined to reveal any more of the very heavily redacted deal he signed with TechCayman because, he said, it was a confidential agreement. After CNS received a largely blacked-out document in response to a freedom of information request, we requested an internal review. However, in response to that Minister Joseph Hew backed the earlier decision, saying that the agreement he signed this summer “contained highly sensitive information” which could negatively impact business and undermine the competitiveness of the Cayman Islands.
The request to reveal more of the document centred largely on what the government might have offered or is obligated to do for the private sector company, which has said it wants to develop a digital hub in Cayman.
When the deal was signed in August, the minister said it would pave the way for the Cayman Islands to become the “Silicon Valley” of the Caribbean. But during a press conference to announce the deal, the nature of it was not made clear, and the press was not told what exactly the Cayman Islands Government had agreed to.
CNS therefore submitted an FOI request for a copy of the deal, but two months after that request the ministry released a document that was largely blacked out. The limited parts of the document which were unredacted revealed little about the venture being spearheaded by local businessman Gene Thompson and US-based technology entrepreneur Samir Mitra.
Following the release of the redacted deal, CNS followed up with a request for an internal review which was conducted by the minister. The findings of the internal review were released Tuesday and Hew said that any further disclosure would “constitute a breach of confidence” on the part of government.
CNS has now appealed the decision, as we still believe that it is in the public interest for government to divulge details of any waivers in fees or work permit concessions it has granted as well as any benefits that CIG expects to receive as part of this deal, and we remain unconvinced that this would negatively impact the private sector company’s business interests.
Mitra, who was one of the people involved in the creation of Java programming, said at the August press conference that he wanted to encourage local people to begin building a digital sector here by offering to help start-ups with business and legal advice, and to also provide education for Caymanians who want to learn about software development and related fields.
Hew said the agreement included work permit concessions and changes to legislation that would enable the creation of new technology-related businesses. But no details were revealed in the redacted document about the potential inducements.
The unredacted areas of the document include some information about the principals of TechCayman and a vague description of the vision to establish technology start-ups, but how that will happen and what “certain undertakings” the parties have agreed to also remain under wraps.
See the original press conference below: