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CIG presses on with scaled-down costly Dubai Expo – Cayman Islands Headline News – Cayman News Service

(CNS): Government has continued with a scaled-back involvement in the Dubai Expo 2020, which the auditor general found had cost the Cayman Islands around $2.5 million, most of which was not approved via the proper channels. The exhibition started in October last year and will last until the end of March but Cayman only began taking part in January.
The decision by the previous administration to partner with the UK at this event was based on a weak business case, the auditor found in a recent report, and the contracts relating to it were all signed just weeks before Cayman’s 2021 General Election.
The event was supposed to have opened in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the global business promo event into late 2021. This led to a revised approach by the Cayman Islands, including more virtual and online appearances designed to promote the country on the world stage as both a business jurisdiction and a tourism destination. But it is not clear how much, if any, reductions in cost will flow from the reduced participation.
The Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development (MIISD) took over the Cayman government’s partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade (UK DIT) at this Expo in the United Arab Emirates from the Ministry of International Trade of the previous administration, which was held by Alden McLaughlin when he was premier.
However, the decision by the former government to tie Cayman up in the project has proved controversial, given the cost and the limited benefit the investment is likely to have. A report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), recently leaked to CNS, revealed a catalogue of issues arising from the fact that the previous government committed Cayman to the exhibition so close to the 2021 election.
The report, which is still not a formal public document, revealed that the former Progressive-led Unity government had first considered joining the UK’s exhibit at the Expo in 2018. But a paper proposing the partnership with the UK for Cayman to be represented did not go before Cabinet until January 2021, when it was approved.
However, the necessary funding was not approved by Parliament, and contracts of employment for the commissioner and an assistant were signed just a month before the elections in 2021.
Officials said in a release that over the next few remaining weeks of the exhibition, the Cayman Islands Government delegates and partners will highlight Cayman’s culture, cuisine, tourism features and industries. While he took over what was a fait accompli, Minister AndrĂ© Ebanks said the government would be reviewing its value.
“Through partnership with the United Kingdom and the Department of International Trade, and then through the lens of a truly global event, Expo provides an opportunity to leverage attention and elevate the Cayman Islands on the world stage. After this initial opportunity, we will measure and assess the value of participating in future similar events,” Ebanks said.
MIISD has worked closely with the UK DIT, the governor’s office, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to plan the Cayman Islands’ presence at the Expo, the first for a British Overseas Territory. Governor Martyn Roper, who had asked the OAG to look into the arrangements and financing of Cayman’s participation, nevertheless described it as an “exciting endeavour” that took the collaboration between Cayman and the UK “to another level”.
“As we bounce back from the pandemic, the future looks bright for Cayman. It’s a great place to live, work and invest and it sets a powerful example for the wider region,” Roper said. “I wish the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development the very best promoting all that Cayman has to offer. My office and I stand ready to support, further deepening the robust Cayman/UK relationship.”
Caymanian Expo representatives, Alee Fa’amoe and Melanie McField, have been out in the Gulf state for several months preparing for this costly endeavour, and they are now welcoming various representatives from Cayman’s business community as well as local artists.
“At a time when we are emerging from the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 is a well-timed opportunity that will foster new global connections, bolster private sector relationships, and ultimately advance the Cayman Islands in the context of the world economy,” said Fa’amoe. “I am deeply honored to represent the Cayman Islands at Expo.”
The business part of the exhibition is meant to highlight the “unique attributes of the legal and financial system that makes the Cayman Islands a global financial centre of excellence”. However, questions have been raised about government funding delegates from sectors such as construction and retail, as the controversy around the costly participation rolls on.
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Realistically there is probably more value here than say attending a World Post Office Congress. I remember when JuJu went to the Middle East for that one.
But overall this is pathetic, the Jolly culture and tolerance for graft within multiple generations of Gov’t and the Civil Service is awful.
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