Opposition MLAs blasted the People’s Progressive Movement government during a public meeting that lasted two and a half hours last Tuesday evening in West Bay.
‘The present administration has created more chaos in the less than two years than in any other time in the history of this country,’ charged Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush in this opening address to about 70 to 80 attendees who turned out at the four-way-stop for the meeting.
Joining Mr. Bush were the other three West Bay and United Democratic Party MLAs Cline Glidden Jr., Rolston Anglin and Captain Eugene Ebanks.
Higher grocery bills, higher mortgages, higher health and house insurance costs, higher electrical and hospital bills and the cost of living in general were all blamed on the current government.
‘Our cost of living has been pushed so high by the increases in revenue enhancing measures which the PPM put into place – $25 plus million – and our people are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.
‘This is the first time in my years in the Legislature that I have had so many complaints from families who have to say I can’t pay my electrical bill if I go back to the grocery store.’
The PPM is taking credit for the current financial rating the Cayman Islands enjoys, said Mr. Bush, but he argued that this was due to all the work done under his administration and his efforts to have the financial industry carefully regulated.
Mr. Bush also said that because the PPM had changed the rollover policy, businesses big and small were suffering.
Mr. Bush also criticised the number of consultants brought in by the government. With regard to Cayman Airways, he said, ‘Prior to the new board it had already been decided to phase out the 737-200s and to upgrade the fleet to 300s. We did not need a consultant to tell us that. The decision had already been made.’
With regard to the Assessment of Living Conditions, he said, ‘We don’t need a consultant to tell us there are poor people in this country’.
Mr. Bush said he predicted that by the end of the present term of office Cayman would owe close to $1 billion. ‘And this will need to be repaid by our children,’ he said.
He also criticised the fact that so much money has been put into marketing the Cayman Islands to the UK tourist market, and yet the runway at Owen Roberts Airport is not being lengthened to allow for a direct flight from Europe as part of the airport expansion.
Direct flights out of the North East US are also needed, he noted.
The commercial port in George Town should be moved East and the dock kept as a tourist mecca, he said.
He also said there were Parliamentary Questions outstanding from April and September of last year asked of the government, but he has had no response.
The Speaker of the House, he said, must shake her party affiliations. ‘The Speaker, its terminology and the perks she receives as a Speaker are all constitutional, so when she comes to Finance Committee she cannot say she is the elected member for North Side. She gave that up to take up the speaker’s job.’
Throughout their speeches the four West Bay MLAs sprinkled the slogan ‘2008 we can’t wait’, referring to their hope that the next elections will be held then.
Speaking about the amendments to the Marine Conservation Law, Captain Eugene Ebanks made a number of criticisms.
He said the requirement of boats to be licensed and inspected involves fees. ‘While the small operators cannot afford any more costs, they are being forced to pay up to stay in the watersports business,’ he said.
Captain Eugene said limiting the number of boats at the Sandbar might only allow for one trip depending on the number of boats ahead of an operator and the amount of time the cruise passengers have.
He also criticised the measure dictating no anchoring within four feet of water in the special areas, saying it is physically impossible not to anchor your boat at the sandbar if you don’t want to bash into other boats and put passengers at risk, especially in windy weather.
He spoke about the requirement of holding tanks, saying this is physically impossible for some boats and others would need to be modified to comply.
MLA Cline Glidden said in the past years there hasn’t been any reduction in mobile call rates, after the phone monopoly had been broken under the UDP. He claimed that the current government has not worked with CUC on reducing rates and extending its licence.
He also aired concerns that Boatswain’s Beach is not getting enough visitors and so having to charge a high rate to get in. He said the plan of the ferry service to West Bay, a plan shelved by the current government, was to get people to West Bay to the attraction.
The local tour operators are also suffering, he said.
MLA Rolston Anglin criticised the cost of living. ‘Everything is up except people’s salaries . . .’ he said.
It’s a vicious cycle, he said, with juvenile delinquency a problem because parents are working long hours to make ends meet.
All the current government wants to do is form committees and talk about things, without actually doing anything, he charged.
‘These are the darkest days I’ve seen Caymanians and West Bayers go through,’ he told those present.
Mr. Anglin finished the meeting by stating: ‘We are going to show the country without a shadow of a doubt that a huge mistake was made in 2005. We are the team that will provide the correction needed.’