Opposition says only rich benefit
Private development and business growth on Cayman Brac has reached levels not seen on the Sister Islands in the last few years, according to back bench MLA Moses Kirkconnell.
‘The private sector has come alive and they will spend more on Cayman Brac this year than the government does,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said. ‘That has not always been the case on Cayman Brac.’
But Opposition Sister Islands MLA Julianna O’Connor-Connolly said only a select few are benefiting from that economic growth.
‘There are a handful of families who have done very well on Cayman Brac,’ Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said. ‘The rest have been left behind.’
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said the government has created a situation on the Brac where the ‘rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’
Mr. Kirkconnell said Mr. Bush’s statements were ‘the farthest thing from the policy we want to propose.’
Mr. Kirkconnell told the Legislative Assembly last week that the value of land sales on the Brac had more than doubled in the past four years, going from $7 million in 2004 to an estimated $19 million in 2007.
The number of building projects approved on the Brac went from 31 in 2005, to 67 in 2007. Twenty-one construction projects have begun in the first three months of this year.
‘You’ll see about 50 projects working today,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said. ‘Not only are people buying land, they’re building on it.’
Mr. Kirkconnell listed several major projects that have been completed or started in the past few years, including a new satellite campus for the University College of the Cayman Islands, a new hotel, and the purchase of some 100 acres on the eastern end of the island, which the land owner plans to use for farming.
He also noted that new homes, built to Category 4 or 5 hurricane strength are being developed out on the bluff, a move he said should better prepare the island for the upcoming storm season.
‘What we’ve had until now, is an economy that has been dependent on the government, with a small percentage of tourism,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said. ‘What we have started to do is try to diversify that; the farm I mentioned, the back office jobs…to bring balance.’
Mr. Bush accused the People’s Progressive Movement of playing politics with Brac development, agreeing to complete projects that assist only PPM backers.
‘The residents of the Sister Islands…were promised to be embraced by the PPM… only to experience a resumption of the old system where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and the only roads being built are to friends’ subdivisions and to friends’ property,’ Mr. Bush said.
‘I know that he probably didn’t mean it the way he said it,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said in response to Mr. Bush’s comments.
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly also claimed Brac civil servants were being ordered not to vote for her in next year’s general election.
‘This type of (party) politics is divisive, completely,’ Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said.
Mr. Kirkconnell said development efforts were not about politics, but rather about trying to diversify Cayman Brac’s economic base.
‘Sustainability means diversification, and quite obviously we don’t want to build, build, build and not create the other social structures around it.’
Mr. Kirkconnell said the Development Control Board of Cayman Brac was working with the Ministry responsible for District Administration to keep an eye on overdevelopment.
Mr. Bush opined during Mr. Kirkconnell’s debate in the house that the previous United Democratic Party government had paved the way for much of the Brac development now taking place.
The two men engaged in a heated discussion on the topic after Mr. Kirkconnell finished his address on Wednesday.