North Sound dredging back on table
As part of the government’s plan to raise revenues in attempt to avoid direct taxation, several major projects are being planned.
Speaking at the public meeting held Tuesday night at Mary Miller Hall, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said the Cayman Islands needed to attract investors and explore the possibility of divestment of public assets.
‘These are unprecedented times and therefore we must seek to find innovative strategies to allow us to bring back prosperity and hope back to our lovely islands,’ he said.
With regard to the divestment of government assets, Mr. Bush said efforts would be made to retain a portion of public assets owned by government and other public bodies.
Mr. Bush gave the sewerage system as an example.
‘Sale of the sewerage system would enable the country the benefit of having access to a national sewerage system as a result of direct investment completely funded by private investors,’ he said. ‘Divestment would also allow the government to secure additional cash during the current fiscal year, and a system that safeguards our health and our environment.’
The government is in the process of inviting proposals for a sewerage system that would cost in excess of US$150 million, Mr. Bush said.
‘The private investor in the current sewerage system will be asked to install throughout [Grand Cayman] a new sewerage system that will collect all of the wastewater and discharge it to treatment plants, which will eliminate groundwater pollution from untreated sewage disposed to boreholes.’
The project would have multiplying effects on the economy and employ more than 1,000 people directly or indirectly, Mr. Bush said.
‘It will also create much needed employment for our people over the lifespan of the project,’ he explained. ‘This project will employ plumbers, engineers, labourers, heavy equipment operators, masons and much more.’
North Sound dredging
Mr. Bush made an argument for dredging a deep-water channel in the North Sound to facilitate a marina for large luxury yachts.
‘We are the largest luxury yacht registry in the world, but few if any of the ships registered here ever come,’ he said. ‘Aside from the registry fees, we gain nothing from letting them fly our flag. Many of them would come if they could; many of them would like to spend some of their time and money here in Cayman if we would let them.’
Mr. Bush said the North Sound is already being negatively impacted.
‘There has been a lot of emotion around the creation of a deep water channel in the North Sound, but the reality is that the Sound is being impacted every day and the status quo is not an answer,’ he said. ‘Every day there is damage being done to the Sound by boats that drag a brown streak as they carve up the bottom. Every day this stirring up is killing off the plants and coral and every day the Sound is closing down, slowly dying, while not providing the benefits to our people that it can.’
Mr. Bush said a channel, which would have to be about two miles long, could bring many million of dollars in benefits and actually help the environmental health of the sound by providing better water circulation.
‘The time has come to move beyond emotion and to do the right thing for our people and our environment,’ he said, adding that he project would only be done after studies. A committee headed by Bob Soto and others of knowledge would look at the proposal.
‘I can tell you, if the go-ahead is given by them, it’s going to be done,’ he said.
Mr. Bush said the mega yacht marina would add revenue through berthing fees, fuel sales, utilities sales tourism and many more ways. He said the Cayman Islands needed to build such things to stay competitive.
‘We are not the only girl on the block and we tend to forget our big neighbour to the north is more and more opening up,’ he said, speaking about Cuba. ‘It’s no longer a question of if.’
‘Change is difficult, but change is exactly what we need.’
East End cargo port
Mr. Bush reiterated his plan to move the cargo dock to the eastern part of Grand Cayman.
‘The current location of our cargo port in George Town is problematic on a number of fronts,’ he said. ‘Relocating the cargo port from George Town would allow for necessary, uninhibited growth in cargo operations to coincide with the growth of the economy over the next 10-20 years.
‘It would also relieve traffic congestion, create the possibility to expand the current site for other more valuable and consistent land uses, such as improved guest experience areas for the cruise visitors,’ he said, adding that it would also improve the aesthetics of George Town Harbour.
Mr. Bush said a cargo port in the eastern part of the island would allow for the redundancy or relocation of cargo and bulk oil activities from Jackson Point, a fairly dense residential area and with close proximity to schools.
‘Relocating the main commercial cargo port from George Town would also allow for Economic Growth from existing activities and create opportunities for the Cayman Islands to explore new economic activities that currently we don’t have the infrastructure to consider.