Today’s Editorial for May 5: Who will build them?

The government is proceeding with plans to build three high schools, to go with the new government administration building, a new courthouse, a new emergency response centre in Bodden Town and a new emergency operations centre for Hazard Management. Added to that list are the airport remodelling and expansion project and the proposed cruise berthing facility.

And those are just the projects for government and its entities. There are also advanced plans for two luxury resorts in the Eastern Districts; new office buildings; new condominium projects; and there will also be continuing development at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Camana Bay.

Everyone can plainly see there is going to be the need for a lot of construction workers on this island.

Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin said last week that just the government projects alone would ensure that every willing and able Caymanian who does construction-related work would be employed for the next three years. That’s a great sentiment, but the fact is just about every Caymanian who is willing and able to do construction work for another company is already employed – that is why an extensive construction labour force has to be imported here.

Part of the problem is that many Caymanian construction workers own their own business, a by-product of the demand created by the post-Hurricane Ivan rebuilding process. Most of these small companies deal with residential and small commercial projects, which are the kinds of projects that are slowing down now. While some of these business owners will get work as a subcontractor on the planned major commercial projects, many others will not be helped at all, unless they are willing to work as employees of other companies.

Regardless of that, there are not nearly enough Caymanians to meet the labour demand for the amount of commercial construction work planned over the next three or four years, so the country will have to import workers from abroad. It’s either that or the projects simply won’t get done on a timely basis, which will ultimately raise the cost of these projects.

Mr. McLaughlin stated last week the government had refused to give any blanket work permit approvals for construction workers to the contractor for the new schools. We hope that doesn’t mean the government will not facilitate the needed importation of construction workers here, because if it does, the kind of delays we’re seeing on major commercial projects these days will seem short in comparison.