Candidates debate crime, traffic issues

Traffic congestion, the image of Cayman’s financial industry and the awarding of government contracts were among the issues discussed at Monday’s Chamber of Commerce forum.

Speaking at the forum, which attracted about 30 people, were George Town candidates Kurt Tibbetts and Alfonso Wright of the People’s Progressive Movement; Frank McField of the United Democratic Party; and Ellio Solomon, independent.

One of the questions asked was how the candidates would deal with worsening traffic congestion.

All agreed that drivers should have to pay for using the roads, which would help to fund any improvements.

Mr. Wright wants to consider alternate means of transport.

‘We cannot build our way out of congestion. We have to look at other ways of transporting people from Point A to Point B,’ he said, suggesting a fixed-line system or the option of a ferry system.

Mr. Solomon proposed the government should encourage flexi-hours and the private sector should follow that lead.

The candidates were also asked how they would deal with the negative image overseas of the island’s financial-services industry.

Most believed that overseas politics have played a part in Cayman being perceived as a haven for money launderers and tax evaders.

Dr. McField pointed out that the government has done a lot to try to improve this image, including hiring public relations companies to help.

‘We will always have people creating a negative image, but I believe the Cayman Islands will be successful despite those people,’ he added.

Mr. Tibbetts believes that the reputation has gotten better, but that ‘we must absolutely and with clarity, get out that message that the Cayman Islands is ready to play on a level playing field,’ he said.

Violent crime

In light of the recent spate of violent crimes, the issue of adequate funding of the police was addressed.

Mr. Solomon believes other issues are at play.

‘We talk about organised crime, but there is no legislation dealing with it. There is a lack of either understanding (of the problem) or the will to do something about it,’ he said.

Dr. McField explained that the commissioner of police has said he has the types of resources they need.

‘There can be no criticism of government in its desire to provide the police what is necessary,’ he said.

He added that they need to be proactive and find a way to deal with the specific type of crime that is being committed now.

Mr. Wright faulted the government on this issue.

‘The government doesn’t see crime as a priority. If they are not giving money, it has not been given priority,’ he said.

The awarding of government contracts post-Ivan was also called into question.

Mr. Tibbetts wants there to be a system of checks and balances to ensure fairness.

‘There must be autonomy in the process so that political interference cannot occur,’ he said.

Mr. Solomon took issue with how contracts have been awarded.

‘Fairness depends on government,’ he added.

A related question dealt with making the government more financially responsible.

Several candidates pointed to the problem of politicians competing with each other in making promises.

Dr. McField said that people need to look at the financial implications of various manifestos, and that competition between politicians causes irresponsibility.

‘If we change governments too often, it leads to this problem,’ he added.

Mr. Solomon suggested that politicians should have a clear understanding of business and not try to outdo each other with promises.

The next forum will be Friday, 22 April at 7 pm at the John A Cumber School in West Bay.

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