The first Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum took place in East End Wednesday night and showcased stark differences between incumbent Cabinet Minister Arden McLean and John McLean Jr.
The two East End candidates took turns going first in answering questions posed by Chamber President Stuart Bostock and Chamber Director Peter Broadhurst. Ten questions came from the Chamber and others from the media or members of the audience.
Responding to a question on Cayman’s seven-year term limit for foreign workers – the so-called rollover policy – Mr. McLean Jr. said it should be re-checked because a lot of business owners complained they were losing valuable employees.
Minister McLean said the policy was still in its infancy and was necessary for the protection of Caymanians, so people should give it a chance to work.
The two men were asked if they would support the extension of the runway at the Grand Cayman airport or the building of another airport in the Eastern section of the island.
Minister McLean said he would support both, but the timing for putting an airport in the middle of the country was not right now. The airport should be relocated for safety reasons, he said, citing flooding during hurricanes because of proximity to North Sound.
Mr. McLean Jr. said he did not support another airport – ‘at least not in this district’ because its tranquillity had been compromised for too long. He said the present runway should be expanded, possibly out over water as Japan has done, and he noted that Cayman had a good track record for safety.
On reducing the cost of doing business, Mr. McLean Jr. said there should be a restructuring of work permit fees.
‘They should be paid jointly by employer and employee because the employee needs to come here as much as the employer needs him to come,’ he said. ‘Pensions should be solely on the employee because the employee is the one who benefits.’
Speaking about the Investment Bureau, Minister McLean said it was designed to help small businesses, which should be given incentives and someone to hold their hand until they can go on their own.
A question from the Caymanian Bar Association concerned the draft constitution and the role of the church in politics. Mr. McLean Jr. said the church should be a major voice in the making of any change in the constitution. Certain issues were still not settled with the constitution, so Mr. McLean said he would not support the current draft because it needed to be revisited.
Minister McLean said he supports the draft to modernise the constitution, although it was not perfect. ‘If we don’t do it now, chances are slim we will get another chance in the near future,’ he said. ‘It is not ours to modernise – it is England’s.’
He agreed churches play a pivotal role in the success of the country.
A question from audience had to do with stimulating the economy.
Mr. McLean Jr. said the 27,000 work permits granted had brought in revenue of some $45 million. At the same time, the people on work permits were sending $450 million overseas, so a small fee on those remittances would be a source of revenue.
Minister McLean said people now recognised that government must spend to stimulate the economy. The point was to put the right priority to spending.
Addressing concerns about drug abuse and burglaries in the district, Mr. McLean said better community policing was needed and building good relationships between police and residents so people would not be afraid to report incidents.
Mr. McLean Jr. said the problems arose because young people had not been given the opportunity to succeed from their school days. A trade school would enable them to realise their potential and not get involved in drugs and then commit burglaries for drugs.