In a series of political meetings held across West Bay district in the past month, independent candidate Bernie Bush said he keeps hearing the same thing: it’s the economy.
With a major downturn in tourism numbers so far this year, and the international financial markets in flux, Mr. Bush said West Bayers are worried about jobs being available here for school leavers.
‘When you hear young people come to me and say they’ve gone to representatives…and they need a job,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘These are people who are serious about working. And they hear from representatives ‘oh, my hands are tied.’ You can get this done if you really want to.’
Mr. Bush said he expects there will be a change in the country’s current employment policies, whoever is elected to lead the next government.
‘Employers will not get away with the things they’ve been getting away with,’ he said. ‘What upsets me is that some of these companies are laying off Caymanians from work, capable, experienced, qualified Caymanians…that must stop.’
Mr. Bush also said the country should do what it could to reduce the cost of living for families.
‘CUC (Caribbean Utilities Company) provides good service, but I cannot support the proposed rate increase,’ he said. ‘We must sit down and negotiate with them.’
The need to improve the country’s public education system has also been a hot topic around West Bay.
‘They seem to realise the problem is…the teachers don’t have the tools,’ he said. ‘It’s like having a Mercedes Benz parked in your garage, but no wheels on it, or no gasoline.’
Mr. Bush urged the government to start education early through day-care programmes that not only make sure the children have a safe place to stay, but to teach them as they attend.
‘It helps us with two things; one you make sure the classes are standardised…that it’s not just a babysitting agency,’ he said. ‘What it also does, for those single parents who have to hire a helper…you have someplace to leave your child where your child is not only safe, they are getting an education as well.’
He also stressed that intervention for kids who may have learning disabilities is not always as swift as it could or should be, and that adequate facilities for learning disabled kids should be available on island.
‘We have kids after they hit ten years old, their parents are being told ‘we have to send your child to the Lighthouse School,” Mr. Bush said. ‘It takes you ten years to identify that child has learning disabilities? Something is not working.’
‘Every country has some pillars: a good education system, a good health system, God, and the way you take care of your needy, your old, your handicapped and your children. Once you have those in place, your country will do pretty good.’
Another standout issue in West Bay has been crime, Mr. Bush said. .
‘A lot of it goes to social problems and the economy,’ he said. ‘For too long, we’ve had our police records where something as simply as a joint of weed…a person will go to jail for that, and that stays on their record forever. They try to apply for a job, and they can’t get a job.’
‘You see them…trying everything. But everywhere they go: ‘I want a job. No, you can’t have a job, you have a jail record.’ No second chances. These are the things that people are talking to me about.’
The state of Cayman’s financial services industry is also on the minds of West Bayers. But he believes people in the district are looking at the industry in a new way.
‘Everyone is now seeing for themselves something that I told them a long time ago. England is in competition with us; they want to see our financial industry gone.’
Mr. Bush believes Cayman should employ a much more aggressive public relations strategy with regard to defending its financial services industry.
‘Whenever something negative comes up in the press…you answer them back, and you keep on using international press. And international press is always glad to see these conflicts.’
Mr. Bush has also sought to reassure West Bay voters that his health is good. He had surgery to repair a partially blocked artery in February, but insists he will be able to serve his full term vigorously if elected.
This is the third time Mr. Bush has sought public office in the Cayman Islands. He was not successful in his two previous campaigns.