A top priority of the West Bay Alliance (WBA) election candidates Dalkeith Bothwell, Leonard Ebanks, Mario Ebanks and Thomas Jefferson is to set up responsible fiscal reform for the Cayman Islands if elected on 11 May.
The candidates were speaking at a public meeting in West Bay Wednesday evening at which they highlighted a range of topics on their election agenda.
There was much cheering and honking of horns during the meeting at which perhaps 50 to 60 people attended. The meeting was also broadcast live on Radio Cayman.
Candidate and former Leader of Government Business, Mr. Jefferson voiced concern that Government budget deficit and contingent liabilities had risen too high.
He said they estimate that by the end of the fiscal year, on 30 June, 2005, there will be a budget deficit of between $40 million to $45 million.
If the Government draws down all borrowing approved by the Finance Committee, at $62 million, and adds this to other borrowings there is a total borrowing of $200 million by the end of the fiscal year, he said.
Mr. Jefferson also projected the total contingent liabilities (guarantees issued by Government to the various statutory authorities) at the end of the fiscal year to be between $400 and $500 million.
‘This surpasses the annual budget by a lot of money,’ he said.
Mr. Jefferson also said that he believed a referendum should be required for any advance of self-government, saying he believed that having the Governor as Chairman of Cabinet has served the Cayman Islands well.
Candidate Leonard Ebanks spoke about the West Bay Alliance being ‘men you can trust, men of vision, men of integrity.’
He said his experience in management and in financial institutions would serve him well if elected. He also highlighted the need for transparency in Government.
‘We’re living in challenging times. We’re the fifth largest financial centre in the world. We need transparency in Government to maintain this enviable position,’ he said.
Mr. Ebanks said there was a need for the Public Tenders Committee to vet all government contracts and not give them out ‘willy-nilly’ and for transparency and accountability when awarding them.
He spoke about the recent spate of violence in Grand Cayman as a type ‘never before seen in the Cayman Islands’ and spoke about the need for action, even if it means getting assistance from Scotland Yard.
Candidate Mario Ebanks said the WBA are people who sincerely believe in country before self.
‘The West Bay Alliance could be yours and our last frontier of hope and freedom for the Cayman Islands,’ he said.
He strongly criticised the allocation of 3,000 status grants in 2003. This had happened while Caymanians and school leavers were unemployed, he said. Mr. Ebanks outlined the WBA’s stance on the granting of status.
He said the WBA supports the reform of the Immigration law and procedures to be put in place for the granting of status perhaps on a phased basis.
‘We support security of tenure for long-term residents deserving status and the regularising of status for those with strong Caymanian ties,’ he said.
Mr. Bothwell highlighted freedom of information to the media as an important issue for the WBA.
The education of youth is another topic he focused on, including areas such as mentoring, junior achievement, the arts, provision of support and properly structured childcare and after school programmes.
Strategies for self-esteem and leadership skills would also be implemented, if elected, he said.
He spoke about the importance of upgrading schools and Government funding for the inspection of private schools.
‘We cannot forget our leaders of the past so we will increase financial aid to the elderly,’ he said.
They would also address the issue of beach access, seek further land acquisition at the Hell site in West Bay and seek to promote e-business and agri-business.
Mr. Bothwell also mentioned the need for stiff penalties for violent crime coupled with rehabilitation and early intervention in drug abuse.
He said they would ensure the West Bay Police Station was upgraded and adequately staffed with proper equipment to combat crime.
Chairlady of the Committee to elect the WBA candidates, Alice Mae Coe said the WBA would make a great difference to the country for years to come.