Economy not a priority ‘right now’

| 31/03/2020 | 103 Comments

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has said that government’s priority is to get Cayman to stay home, contain the potential spread of COVID-19 and save lives, and the economy is not the focus now. Over the last few days he has repeatedly responded to questions about how government will help the business community, saying that while the economy has tanked, it can be dealt with in future. Right now, he said, it’s time to focus on the health crisis.

Asked again on Monday if he was considering a stimulus package for small business, McLaughlin said, “Not right now. We are trying to get people to stay home. We want businesses closed. We want people to stay home for at least the next two to three weeks.”

While government has to consider this down the line, right now he said government was not thinking about stimulating the economy but managing the health crisis. He has, however, implied that if the government’s current strategy of trying to contain the spread of the virus throughout the community does work, then there will be a pathway sooner rather than later to at least opening up the local economy.

Opening borders remains some time away, the premier said, and given the situation around the world, the return of tourism may not happen until next year.

McLaughlin warned that it would be “quite a while before we can open the borders to bring visitors back here again”, as he pointed to what is happening in the US, Cayman’s largest market for tourists, as well as the UK and Europe.

But over the last few weeks the premier has hinted that if people stay home now and concentrate on containing spread of the coronavirus, stay healthy, save lives and not worry about the economy in the short-term, in the medium-term things could then begin to move.

“We are hoping that the suppression measures we have put in place will allow Cayman to get back to some semblance of domestic normalcy… quicker than most other countries would have,” he said, pointing out that would still be within the confines of closed borders. But if the virus spreads, that won’t happen, as the focus will remain on stopping hundreds of people from dying.

But even if Cayman begins to emerge from the risk of community spread and is able to test adequately to ensure it has been controlled, things will be very different.

“No one should believe that this is going to become anything like normal anytime soon. I think we are looking at next year… before the world gets back to where it was before this crisis began,” he warned.

With Cayman depending on financial services while the world economy in the tank, and tourism when no one is travelling, he said Cayman would be hit hard. He hinted again that Cayman could cope with serious economic decline by increasing debt, and the governor once again indicated that the UK was likely to relax its stringent guidelines for the overseas territories’ debt ratios, especially Cayman, given its fiscal independence from the UK.

But McLaughlin is still keen to deliver home the message that while the economy will have to be addressed, now was not the time. He repeated his position that saving lives is first and foremost now and profit is not going to stop government from taking these measures to save its people.

No one, he said, is going to starve, get their water or power cut or lose their home over the next few weeks. Government is prepared to help anyone in need right now, so the short term goal remains dealing with the health crisis.

He said that while the banks are giving people loan holidays, landlords should also be careful with tenants. He said they would be wise not to evict people because finding new tenants to replace them would be a challenge. He urged landlords to let people stay, as there will be “a surfeit of places to rent” soon. He warned that as it becomes more apparent that there will not be work in Cayman for the medium-term, many people will try to leave as soon as they are able.

“If I were a landlord I would be working really hard with tenants to be supportive” and encourage them to stay, even if they are struggling with rent now, he said.

McLaughlin said he is aware of all the economic challenges people are facing now and are going to face for many, many months. But he urged everyone “to hunker down” in the short-term and work towards fighting the virus to save lives. Then the focus can switch to the domestic economy.

“If we can hang on for a month, we might be in a much better place,” the premier added.


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Category: Economy, Health, health and safety, Politics

Comments (103)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    One of the things I thought we could do is buy those handheld temp monitors. So when we do make the decision to open for business like banks, restaurants, stores, etc, we could have an attendant check each individual before entering. Of course someone needs to bring them in so businesses could purchase them. This could be a chance to return to normalcy for some businesses.
    What Government could do is create an Emergency Law to reduce costs of food, water, Elect, gas, diesel, etc. Otherwise Government will be paying for all this price gouging when people can’t pay water, Elect, rent, internet ( TV, phone) and food. Surely CI$600 per month couldn’t pay all those bills. But cutting the interest rates at banks would go a long way to bringing Cayman down in costs while stilling giving 20-22% profit to all of the above.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Gov came up with a plan. Do you not understand? Stay at home (after you’ve been to the supermarket) in the hope we can get an all clear sooner rather than later – when you’ll be in a worse situation than you are now. Maybe much worse… Just stay home.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If the social distancing encouragements and isolation of positive cases have the desired effects, i.e containing the virus among our populace, Government may be able to relax these measures and allow business activity to resume to a certain degree. Clearly, it must be shown without doubt that the virus is totally controlled or ultimately, non-existent within our shores.

    At that time, business will have to do discounts to attract customers and locals should do stay-cations in the hotels, shop local, etc., etc. so as to stimulate the economy. It will be awhile before our interactions with the outside world will be normal so local support of local business and discounted hotels, etc will have to be relied on.

    • Anonymous says:

      And what about tourism? Is the whole island to stop cruise ships and stay over visitors coming when these tyrannical measures cease? Are we to try and test every visitor coming to the island every time there is a flu in the future?

      The idea that the world is going to get rid of Covid-19, which is a type of coronavirus is absurd. It will mutate into hundreds of different variants by next year. We have never had any success in getting rid of the common cold coronavirus, because it mutates quickly and there are millions of different strains. Holding out hope for some miracle cure is just foolish.

      The fatality rate is close to zero for people under fifty. The solution is to let everyone under 50 get back to work and develop some resistance. Extra care can be taken of people who are over 50 – in fact we could buy them all a condo on seven mile beach at the insane rate at which money is being wasted. Let me do the math for you. 10,000 workers times 24,000 dollars per year in salary = 240,000,000 dollars or 250 million dollars. With no revenue coming in from tourism and related economic activity, where is government going to get 20 million dollars per month to give to people?

      We need to take a common sense solution like Sweden:
      https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/other/covid-19-like-i-e2-80-99m-on-another-planet-canadian-mitchell-smolkin-on-how-life-is-proceeding-as-normal-in-sweden/ar-BB121BlS

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dart Corp should join in manufacturing masks, gowns and other PPE for health care workers around the world. That would guarantee its revenues for awhile.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whilst business revenues are always a concern, I should imagine their disposable container business is going gang busters right now with all the take away food being sold. Plus, he may have a few more dollars than you and I, so I would not be worried about his welfare too much, apart from health of course.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not really 4:37, because all the hotels and big restaurants are not bringing in containers of food because the tourists have gone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So does this mean everyone in Government (including MLAs) will take a paycut for the better good of the country? (They don’t pay for Healthcare or Pension as is)

    The Government funds need to be spread evenly to help all of it’s citizens and not just be guaranteed for some.

    • Anonymous says:

      thats a joke….the civil service is a sacred cow that will be protected at the expense of everybody else in the economy…

      • Anonymous says:

        it’s also unfair to suggest taking (pay cutting) only one of the segments of the island still working in order to give money to others.

    • Civil servant says:

      Considering I am an essential civil servant putting my life on the line everyday I would not accept this pay cut you are talking about. Government owes us NOTHING. The mentality that Government MUST provide financial support is what is wrong with many today. I work for my salary.

      • Anonymous says:

        @2:37pm as far as I am concerned EVERYONE is an essential worker in all areas of work.
        No one should be made to feel singled out given the situation. Yes you work for your salary but so did/do everyone else feeling the overwhelming strain of this situation.

        You put your life on the line in the face of this crisis but you were doing that way before so to make that an issue is unnecessary.

        The Government is there for the PEOPLE (every single person who make up The Cayman Islands) and no one said that they owe anyone anything.

      • Andrew says:

        That’s fine and all, assuming you’re not once of the “civil servants” who sit behind the window at the licensing department twiddling their thumbs while people wait for hours. I do agree that if you’re out there working, you should be paid. You’re working the same amount of hours before and after this virus hit so I don’t see the reason for you to have to take a pay cut. There are however, many who are home and on full salary. I support the decision to cut the pay of these set of workers.

        Where you’re completely wrong is the government MUST take care of its citizens, based on the fact that I and everyone who lives here pay a 20+% duty or should I call it what it is a TAX on everything that I bring into this island, and on everything that I buy in the supermarkets. This means that whenever I call 911 I can expect an officer to be dispatched if I need, if my home is on fire a fire truck will be there to help, and YES if my family is starving they will provide assistance. I understand you work for them, and I agree you should be paid IF you are working, but the knee-bending is doing nothing but has to stop at you thinking the government doesn’t have a duty to help it’s People. That’s capital P for the People, just as you were sure to capitalize the G in government every time you wrote it.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are plenty sitting at home collecting a pay check, meanwhile there are plenty regular people forced to be home and forced out of paycheck.

      • Robert Mugabe IV says:

        I applaud you for your service.
        Here’s the problem. All the other civil servants sitting on their backsides at home are just like the rest of the now non-working population, so why are they still getting paid?
        It’s a disgrace.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Alden has stated more than once during these press briefings that the “Tourism & Private sector will be hardest hit”….with that being said what is the Government going to do for these key areas that contribute revenue to Government? Shouldn’t these be a priority?

    The individuals that work in these areas are for sure feeling like the ground has just caved in under their feet with no hope in sight. Yes work permit holders work in these areas but so do many Caymanians that have dedicated their lives to being loyal to their respective employer.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When do we return to normalcy? What if Coronavirus is here to stay? What if all this all just delaying the reaper for the high risk people? How do we protect them? Do we stop going to work forever? How long do we accept these restrictions? Is this our new normal? Do we accept continued motioning? When you go in public will it be now alway be for a purpose?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Caption should read “Oh no – the cruise ship piers!”

    • Anonymous says:

      Thinks that’s a complete loss now. Even when this is over, people will think hard about getting on a cruise ship after whats happened to several tens of thousands of cruise shippers….no point in building them now.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We need to get back to work really soon. Alden with have nothing to rebuild if he keeps this closed down.

    • Anonymous says:

      but we have to still keep paying pension
      .
      give people the option to draw on it employers wll not be able to keep paying their employees or severence pay if they arent’ making money. No one seen this coming

    • Anonymous says:

      @ 7:39 pm, Keep in mind that dead people can’t build.

  10. Anonymous says:

    People that were paid 6$ and paying 400 for a room are soon going on the street to rob you.
    Like jamaica, we are going that way.
    The poor are going to take back from the rich.
    Love it.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ 6:41 pm: The poor can’t take back from the rich, they have to get it from whoever is available……. like YOU!

  11. Anonymous says:

    CNS: There is no response when trying to contact NAU. Are they open for business as an essential service?

  12. Anonymous says:

    don’t worry cayman cayman can always go back to turtling and rope making….
    problem solved alden-style.

  13. Anonymous says:

    there is the covid crisis and the economic crisis….its is debatable which will have bigger impact.
    all we know now that alden has his head in the sand and has no plan for the oncoming economic holocaust facing cayman.
    his plan only plan is to tell expats to leave…..
    cayman is doomed under do-nothing ppm

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely true, 14 cases, zero admitted to hospital, zero dead besides the imported case. Time to go back to work and see how we begin to mitigate the economic damage. Alden does not need to worry about his salary. Already has made comments that he plans not to run again. Time to get back to work. If they are waiting for zero cases over a period of time I feel they will be waiting for a very long time.

      CNS: 14 cases SO FAR, zero admitted to hospital SO FAR, zero dead besides the imported case SO FAR. This is not luck. This is because of the extreme measures taken. We know that there is community spread, so if everyone goes back to work right now, the virus will spread rapidly and some will certainly die – Alden mentioned a figure of 800 at some point – and the entire healthcare system will be overwhelmed to breaking point.

      However, if we continue for a while longer, we might be in a position to start opening up business. Your position is exactly the same as Boris Johnson in the UK.. until people started dying…. and Trump in the US… until people started dying, and he has now been told that if they do everything perfectly from now on (which is not happening) the best they can hope for is no more than 100,000 dead Americans. That’s the best case scenario.

      Even if we open the Cayman Islands, no cruise ships are coming, no airlines are flying. There is no normal. The government is doing the right thing.

      • Anonymous says:

        its not all or nothing either way. the problem is alden is not even thinking or addressing the economic reality.

        • Anonymous says:

          He knows the economy is tanked. He’s acknowledged that. Seriously, what do you expect him to do? Tourism is out of his hands. We depended on American tourism and that isn’t coming back anytime soon. The population is going to contract as much as 25% – 30% – there’s nothing Alden can do except try to encourage some of that contraction so that they don’t become wards of the state. Of course, there is one thing Alden could possibly do, but most of the people commenting on this site would want his hide for having a discussion with Mr. Dart.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nothing Alden can do you say? I know one Big thing that almost every western democracy has done. Start or complete the legislative process of stimulus to stimulate the economy. In CIG case, its not even borrowing but returning the surplus (meaning excessive tax revenues collected) from the people over the last several years. Instead John John is writing poems, the deputy premier has closed down his shop (and his territory of the BRAC) and disappeared. And only God knows where big Mac is getting help. The time to act is now, I think we understand how the curfew thing works and that Govt is dead set on a questionnable BA flight which at this point has an uncertain amount of PPE because well Europeans manufacturer so much of our current PPE (yeah right bs) . But for some reason the Governor thinks we don’t understand how the normal supply chain works. I get it, we can’t live without walkers chips or Dettol but PPE from the UK for the HSA? Really? Crock of shit! That’s why you’ve now admitted what we have known all along that this stuff is going to come from Asia or North America. I would wager they don’t get the Korean testing kits on board but a few more cases of the virus and people to support instead. Can anyone say how many of these returning residences have mandatory health insurance. Perhaps a prerequisite to getting on the flight

      • Anonymous says:

        Easy for the media to say. You can still pay your bills. Well for now.
        The 800 number of dead an estimation. Based likely off 7830 of people over 65. Which all get the virus, which is ridiculous all people would get the virus. Then 10% ish mortality rate tied to that number.
        Also why would a population of 70,000 have 800 deaths and a population of the USA with 327,000, 000 have 100k deaths? Comparably the USA / Trump will do far better then Cayman treating the disease.

        CNS: I don’t know how they arrived at the figure and neither do you. There is no doubt that this is an economic disaster, but the fact of the matter is it’s going to be an economic disaster whatever we do until this pandemic is under control, so the best thing to do is to get it under control as quickly as possible. And because we are islands, it may still be possible to do this.

        The 100k deaths in the US is the best possible outcome – the expected number is between that and 240k, according to the CDC. The worst case scenario if they had done nothing to contain it (as Trump was on track to do) was 2.2 million people dead from COVID-19. That’s the number that apparently got his attention.

        • Anonymous says:

          The 2.2 million is an Imperial College projection and the number of 2.2 million reflects if nothing was done by individuals, private companies, or the government. The media has done a good job of misrepresenting the study.

          CNS: No they haven’t. That is just your projection because you’ve been taught to parrot the “media is evil” BS. What you have said, which is true, was made very clear in all the news reports I watched about it, and is also clear in my comment if you read it properly. The current projections of 100-240k deaths, which all the media is quoting right now, was clearly laid out in the press briefing by the Trump folk.

          The reason I brought up the 2.2M was because I think that is the comparable figure to the 800 deaths in Cayman if nothing was done. The caveat is that if everyone stops doing all they can to prevent the spread, those worst case scenario figures could become a reality. The current figures in the US are based on the continuation of containment measures.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m sorry but it is preposterous to say that there is going to be an economic disaster regardless and therefore there is no point in mitigating it. There is a big difference between 25% unemployment and 50% unemployment, and a big difference between people living on a government stipend or turning to crime to survive.

          The Premier is peddling a false dilemma and so are you.

          The Premier has two hours a day to devote to his ever less informative, ever more sophisticated coronavirus infomercials and members of his cabinet have time to write def poetry… but there is no time to think about the economy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said CNS. As the premier noted today, some people are more concerned about making money than stopping people dying. This will be over, but only if we all stop and stay inside. I think the Premier should name and shame the businesses applying for exemption that clearly don’t need to work and wish to continue the spread of the virus. Some people think its all a fuss about nothing. Currently near 50,000 dead globally, 500 in UK last night, another 1000 or so in the US, 890 in Spain over night, including people of all ages. Which part don’t you get? People are dying in large numbers. You want that here? If the 2-5% death rate that seems to be elsewhere came here, that would be roughly between 1,200 to 3,000 potential deaths in Cayman based on a population of roughly 60,000 . We would pretty much all know at least one person who died, and it could be one of us that goes too.

    • Anonymous says:

      economic holocaust? gtfoh

  14. Anonymous says:

    This idea that lives are more important than the economy is a fallacy. A country that craters their economy will inevitably reduce their life expectancy. That said CIG are doing a great job. For once. No tourists are coming even if we were open for business and most of the financial sector can work from home so the current course of action makes sense. Keep it together Cayman!

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess the down votes don’t understand how the economy and life expectancy are correlated. Cv19 is for the most part reducing the life expectancy of the ill and elderly. Not nice. The economy, for the most part, determines the life expectancy of us all. This is why choosing between ”lives” or the “economy” is a false choice. CIG, as far as I can tell and with no shortage of luck, are doing a great job of balancing the 2. Stay home, stay safe Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        For one thing, life expectancy is relative, goofball. If given the option to live 20 years instead of 30, or given the option to live 3 months instead of 30, which are you going to choose? What is really the fallacy is the suggestion that if we just all get back to work and let people do, it can all go back to being “normal” again. The economy is heading for a severe recession if not depression any way you look it – it’s a done deal and it has nothing to do with anything the CI Government does/says. The best thing the CI Government can do is shepherd policies that prevent as many deaths as possible, while dealing with the economic fallout the best it can for now. There’s a chance, if the current strategy works, that Cayman can abandon the stay-at-home edict and allow some of other businesses to operate again. But there’s a new normal in town, and folks better get used to it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Better be thinking about both. That’s why you are the leader…you will be confronted with more than one battles. If your people are not able to work or eat after this crisis is over.

    GHW Bush won the war but lost the election…because it was the economy stupid

    • Anonymous says:

      GHW Bush lost the election because Ross Perot split the vote.

      • Anonymous says:

        And because people hated him

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, just like Hillary lost the election because Jill Stein took enough votes from Hillary in Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan to take the 2016 election and give it to Trump. Geez, we sure are paying a price for that now.

  16. George Towner says:

    I am afraid that the war against Covid-19 virus, will put us back to prehistoric times. We are going to have to open up sooner or later for business, and deal with the Covid-19 threat …

    For always closing our borders and going into isolation is not realistic. This may cause more lives than the virus itself where everyone must depend on the government for handouts. Not good.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks to Antony eden we are still in prehistoric time, so we can really go back. We are still there.

    • The Prognosticator says:

      We won’t go back to prehistoric times, but we will certainly take a slide down from where we are now. Does anyone know how to get by with very little money? I’ve been there. It isn’t easy.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The roads are full. Clearly people think we’re all good and can go about our regular business.

    In my personal opinion, the 24hr lockdown should have been extended. People don’t (want) to listen.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I along with what I think is the majority of people are complying, but when I take my exercise walk, I feel I see way too many cars out and about. People PLEASE comply and STAY home!

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you in danger of catching COVID-19 from someone in a passing car? If not, on what basis do you declare there to be “way too many”?

      • Anonymous says:

        complaining without basis is’helping’ btw. it makes them feel good as if they have done something proactive

      • Anonymous says:

        They are going somewhere to meet people, dummy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Where are those in the car going to? Not everyone is just taking a drive, if any. They are all going and making human contacts! Does anyone even need to clarify this to you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Check Little Cayman, no Police in sight, landscaping and other non-essential people on the road, WHY? Living in LC don”t mean you do as you please, no matter where you come from!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Stay at home, says the guy going for a walk.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to stay home but i have a family to provide for . I cant go to the supermarket and ask for free food . Goverment need to come up with a plan soon because this is a ticking time bomb . I need work i need money just like the foreigners and work permit holders.

      Alden you have many of them working and providing for their families.

      Please remember I need to provide too.

      Caymanian.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Any truth in the rumor CIG only has funds to stay solvent for 4-5 months if this keeps on?

    • Anonymous says:

      Stop spreading rumours or supporting them, they are the root of all evil. If you read the entire article you would see that they can borrow if necessary. Hell, they should swap current debt for new, as it is so much cheaper now…

    • Anonymous says:

      No they got at least 18 months once they appropriate the private and public pension funds which will be first port of call. IOU $85,000 signed Alden M and Mackeever B.

      People asking Alden about Bail out and he pointing a private companies that are already folding…

      • Anonymous says:

        Like a Panamanian Bank after Noreiga… They already putting capital controls in place.. No Western Union/ odd banking days… They afraid and going to look after numero uno.

    • Anonymous says:

      Baby, we have DART.

    • Anonymous says:

      In one of the earlier press briefings sometime before the 22nd the Premier stated the country had funds to keep running 3-4 months. He said nothing about borrowing.

    • Anonymous says:

      i would doubt they have that amount of funds….remember nothing is coming in and they are still paying out…and paying out more than before. recipe for disaster.

  20. Anonymous says:

    There we go.

    I can only imagine what it would take to maintain hotels in top notch condition in hot and humid climate with no money coming and staff gone.

    You must accept that a couple of more generations would be living with Dump as it is.

    With educated, skilled and experienced staff across all industries gone, another earthquake or hurricane(s) could through Cayman 50 years back.

    With no agricultural sector and total reliance on imports, things could turn sour really fast.

    While the rest of the world is improvising, adapting, inventing, creating to stay afloat, Caymanians seem to be waiting, believing once they’re virus free, things would be again delivered to them on a golden plate with a blue rim.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe the hotels and condos will be maintained. But to what end if tourists stop coming. Which they have and by the Premier’s statement today they may not return until 2021.

      With Cayman having two major pillars for revenue being financial services and tourism, the islands will surely suffer gravely if this plan of the Government should fail.

      So far it has been a successful strategy which can only work with the cooperation of the people of the islands. It may seem extreme but we are all certainly living in drastic times. Extreme measures are required.

      The cayman islands government has done an excellent job and has made the world stage news for it. The consistency now is what counts.

      Let’s all be consistent and stay home. And pray, we need to pray.

      • Anonymous says:

        Tourism was never a major pillar for government revenue..only 3%. This has been said and written numerous times.

        Refresh you memory and take a closer look at the chart in this article. https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/05/government-coffers-overflowing/

        • Anonymous says:

          Unemployed expatriate tourism workers are however about to become a significant burden on government’s revenue.

      • Anonymous says:

        “The cayman islands government has done an excellent job” ? ? ? Hah hah hah hah hah hah! I can’t believe anyone would say that. Must be a government flunky.

      • Anonymous says:

        I live in the US. I had to cancel my April holiday to GC. Schools are out and businesses closed in my area currently until May which we are expecting will be extended until the end of the school year( June ). Rumor and so far it is rumor… our “ home state stay at home” will also continue until June.

        This is just my area. That doesn’t lift the international travel ban and without that lifted, we can’t fly to GC or any where out of country.

  21. Anon says:

    Bet folks are going to flock back to those cruise ships…

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