Skip navigation


You are here: Homepage > Press Room > Previous Press Releases > Tribute to Mr McCarthy

The Chief Secretary, the Hon George McCarthy pictured here at his farewell party.

Published 2nd July 2009, 12:54pm

Leader of Government Business/Premier Designate the Hon. W. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP, has lauded First Official Member, the Hon. George McCarthy, OBE, JP, for his "stellar contributions," particularly as former Financial Secretary and then as Chief Secretary.

Minister Bush's tribute took place in the House on Monday, 29 June. He expressed appreciation, praise and gratitude for Mr. McCarthy's 36 years of government service.

He noted that Mr. McCarthy, who retired on 30 June, had achieved much during his career, including handling financial challenges from rival financial jurisdictions, and introducing government's new accounting regimen, as well as civil service reform.

The Leader of Government Business noted that Mr. McCarthy's accomplishments were all the more impressive because they were achieved with "customary unflappable efficiency."

However, Mr. Bush also told the House that Mr. McCarthy would not be easing into a life of leisure because "his talents are too valuable to Cayman to permit mere retirement to impede their use."

Mr. McCarthy is to take over as Chairman of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Board. He is also part of the new committee that Mr. Bush, as Financial Services Minister, has formed to tackle Cayman's current overseas challenges, particularly tax information exchange agreements and the OECD grey list.

The tribute also noted Mr McCarthy's devotion to his family and church.


Statement by the Leader of Government Business and Premier Designate, the Hon. W McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP on the retirement of The Hon. Mr. George McCarthy, OBE, JP, First Official Member of the LA, Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service

Monday, 29 June 2009

I thank you, Madam Speaker.

Tomorrow marks a significant event for all in the Cayman Islands. This is the retirement date for our beloved First Official Member, Cabinet colleague, Chief Secretary, Head of the Civil Service and former Financial Secretary, the Hon. Mr. George McCarthy, OBE, JP.

His retirement marks the formal closing of a notable career spanning 35 years of dedicated, distinguished and invaluable public sector service.

Madam Speaker, his stellar contributions, particularly as Cayman's third Financial Secretary and sixth Chief Secretary, have forever established his place in our country's history. Small wonder then that back in 1994, Her Majesty the Queen bestowed an OBE on Mr. McCarthy in her New Year's Honours.

He has indeed performed admirably over the years, his many accomplishments surely comparable to those of a master mariner, navigating the good ship Cayman through challenging and sometimes turbulent, financial waters, into the 21st century.

It is indeed my privilege and, may I say my duty, Madam Speaker, to voice my heartfelt sentiments regarding his contributions to the financial progress of these Islands.

I have worked with Mr. McCarthy as a Cabinet colleague for many years and have come to know him well. I believe that one of the reasons that he has been a successful civil service head is that he himself negotiated the corporate ladder from the ground up and had first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges that public servants encounter at all levels. So I know he can empathise, one of the qualities I have valued highly all my life.

Born in Creek, Cayman Brac, on 21 January 1950, Mr. McCarthy was educated in Jamaica, as many Caymanians were. He went on to the UK for studies in government accounting and auditing, and on returning home, he earned an associate degree in applied science from the International College of the Cayman Islands. Thereafter, he was awarded a bachelor's degree in accounting from Pace University in New York.

Mr. McCarthy's career path began in June 1968 with his employment as a temporary clerk in the Cayman Islands Government's Education Department. This was followed by similar work with Customs, which led to a private sector stint in finance and banking that lasted five years. He returned to the civil service as a Treasury clerical officer in November 1974 and his rise through the ranks was steady thereafter. He moved from Senior Clerical Officer to Higher Executive Officer, from Assistant Internal Auditor to Internal Auditor and thence to Deputy Financial Secretary.

Then in September 1989, in an effort to gain sufficient practical experience to qualify as a CPA, Mr. McCarthy began an attachment with Ernst and Young, Having obtained that qualification in 1992, Mr. McCarthy was appointed Financial Secretary, a position he held for 12 years, during which his sterling accomplishments garnered considerable respect, both for his own abilities and for Cayman's thriving financial industry.

In November 2004 of course, Mr. McCarthy accepted his next challenge as Chief Secretary and as the first Head of the Civil Service Portfolio, with his customary unflappable efficiency.

So it is no exaggeration to declare that in his case, the private sector's loss was a definite civil service gain. Yet his foray there certainly helped to mould his pragmatic approach as head of the Portfolio of Finance and Development. His private sector experience also laid the foundation for his unerring acumen in ensuring a unified financial sector approach to proactively meet Cayman's growing challenges.

It was unarguably Mr. McCarthy's steady hand at the wheel that helped our Islands not only stay the course, but gain momentum as a world player. And at the same time, he steered us clear of obstacles thrown at us, often by overseas entities that coveted our financial progress.

It should come as no surprise when I say that Mr. McCarthy's role was visionary, particularly during Cayman's financial boom years, the 1990s. He brought his energy, commitment and, above all, his passion for his country to bear, retaining a necessary edge in all things financial.

Add to that his integrity, his hard work and stalwart leadership, his unswerving ethics and his deeply Christian faith and practice and we have a formidable personality indeed.

Mr. McCarthy has kept his finger firmly on the pulse of Cayman's financial industry's actual needs over the years, regularly meeting and maintaining constant dialogue with industry principals as Chairman of the Private Sector Consultative Committee. As you are all aware, I have now revived that committee and named new members from both the public and private sectors and I held the first meeting the day after I took office.

Madam Speaker, as Financial Secretary, Mr. McCarthy entered into the realm of changing global business practices. But this did not faze him; with his significant and hands-on contributions, he proved his mettle in Cayman's battle with the OECD and European Union, when those dark clouds started raining on our parade.

Throughout the 1990s, he was taken up with articulating, detailing and arguing, ever ensuring that Cayman's voice was clearly heard among principal players in the UK, the US, the OECD, the FATF, the EU and other entities.

To this day Madam Speaker, I congratulate him for carrying the ball for successive elected governments with dignity and grace. He played a pivotal role in coordinating measures that kept Cayman off the OECD blacklist in the early 2000s. His consistency and strength of conviction not only gained us the proverbial foot in the door, they also ensured we were heard at relevant international forums. And he did it all with his signature unassuming-yet distinguished-manner.

Another matter that began to rear its head during Mr. McCarthy's lengthy tenure as Cayman's Financial Secretary was the EU Savings Tax Directive, upon which we remain actively working to ensure we emerge from the shadows. Again, he played a stellar role in ensuring that Cayman was one of the first countries in the 1990s to demonstrate our commitment and serious intent to remain one of the world's best-regulated financial off-shore centres.

Indeed, it was during his watch that Cayman proactively undertook a number of vital amendments to fine-tune existing laws. Mr. McCarthy also played a critical role in enacting a number of significant laws such as:

  • our landmark Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Law that was spearheaded so ably by the Second Official Member, and
  • our Public Accountants Law that brought accountants a healthy mix of legal provisions, regulations and autonomy, ensuring that this vital financial industry segment remains on the cutting edge.

By consistently liaising with the Hon. Attorney General, he has guaranteed that Cayman remains proactive in meeting industry needs, tailoring and establishing an appropriate yet strict regulatory regime.

Mr. McCarthy served several years as Chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), an offshoot of the FATF. Under his leadership, much was done to raise its profile. He also chaired the board of the Caribbean Development Bank and during his term, he benefited Cayman with a firm voice in the region.

In addition, our country's shipping registry prowess showed significant growth under his stewardship, so much so that he saw the wisdom of establishing the Cayman Islands Maritime Authority. Today, particularly as a world leader in luxury yacht registrations, it continues to thrive.

Mr. McCarthy also saw the merit of establishing the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority as an autonomous body, likewise the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange. Together with the Financial Services Secretariat, each of these entities performs vital tasks that collectively maintain a cutting-edge and competitive vitality in the global financial industry.

His stewardship further positioned us well to ride through a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Ivan and its aftermath, and may I add, all the other storms, whether natural or manmade, that have blown in from overseas.

As we all know, presenting an annual national budget is no mean task and Mr. McCarthy always rose to the occasion, putting his stamp on the process each time.

Then, while wearing several hats, first as Financial Secretary, then as Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Mr. McCarthy was always firmly in the vanguard of efforts to streamline the way Cayman's public sector conducts business.

Madam Speaker, during his watch, reforms were articulated, debated, codified and finally implemented in all areas of governmental activity, from finance and personnel, to public authorities and the civil service itself . As a result, the very country has changed the way it does business.

Today, we have in place the Public Management and Finance Law that now drives Cayman's central and decentralised budgeting process. Reforms include an output accruals budget, a three-year, rather than a one-year focus, a new appropriations system based on outputs, not inputs, and the principles of good fiscal management, including surplus, debt ratio and cash reserves, are all embodied in the law.

The Public Service Management Law that is also in place employs business principles in the civil service. Its key features include an explicit focus on results; a change in emphasis to outputs and outcomes; improved financial measurement through accrual accounting; improved accountability that starts with Cabinet and Chief Officers, and enhanced input authority for managers, regarding human resources and finance.

And as the proverbial icing on the cake, over the past five years, Mr. McCarthy has guided the civil service with considerable skill, incisively yet with a humane touch since he understands so well that our public service's greatest asset is its personnel-provided staff can function as a cohesive unit in serving the people.

But Madam Speaker, it would also be most remiss of me if I did not enlarge on Mr. McCarthy's Christian heritage and practice. He has served as a church elder for several years and demonstrates his beliefs in all aspects of his life. He has encouraged prayer groups in government, an action that reflects his conviction about God's unshakeable place in every human endeavour. He has also been an active leader in the Gideon movement in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. McCarthy is a devoted family man and in this regard he is an inspiration to the community. He is a proud and supportive husband to his accomplished wife Alliyah and a super dad to their talented daughters Schwannah and Schmarrah. He remains deeply involved in their education.

It is true that the curtain now falls on a distinguished career. But for Mr. McCarthy, as I have already announced, it is only the closing of a door. His talents are too valuable to permit mere retirement to impede their use. So I have asked him to assume a key role in Government's renewed efforts in the Financial Services segment. Cayman is fortunate that he has accepted and will start following a brief respite.

So Mr. McCarthy, enjoy your well deserved freedom with your family for a while, but I must tell you that I already look forward to your return to the fold. My Cabinet colleagues and I will be more than delighted to work with you once again, albeit in a different role.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.