Brac needs airlift to sustain

Poor air service to Cayman Brac is
causing the Island’s economic model to become unsustainable, according to MLA
for the Sister Islands Moses Kirkonnell.

Mr. Kirkonnell said one of the
major hindrances to overseas investment and tourism was accessibility.

“We need an initiative that
develops industries that can sustain our economy in Cayman Brac, as the present
model will not.”

The MLA added that he felt that the
Brac presented a great opportunity for the Government of the Cayman Islands to
create office space and move some jobs in the civil service to the Brac, which
would help to stimulate businesses already there.

He said the Island could be used as
a great retirement destination and cited affordable real estate as one of the
draws that made the Sister Islands attractive.

There is the issue of the price of
goods to be considered however, as items cost more to transport to the Brac and
therefore are considerably more expensive.

A gallon of fuel is currently $4.65
in Cayman Brac; a loaf of bread is said to cost $6; while a gallon of milk is
$8.

Mr. Kirkonnell said he felt this
could change with a paradigm shift in planning and that price would come down
as volume of purchases increased with initiatives that encouraged retirement on
the Brac and an outsourcing of some jobs from Grand Cayman but warned that
accessibility was the main issue to be considered.

“There is currently no direct air
service to Cayman Brac and this is a major hindrance to our developing a
sustainable economy, direct imports, etcetera. The price to get to the Brac is
dictated by the price of getting to Cayman.”

He said that every aircraft had to
consider their “yield management” and explained that as plane seats decrease,
the price of tickets increase.

Mr. Kirkonnell said this meant that
if a flight was full on its way to Cayman, persons wanting to get to the Brac
would have to pay the premium price.

“We are at a disadvantage to begin
with given the current scenario,” he remarked.  

 At the same time, residents in Cayman Brac say
they are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Paloma. They say there is
no financial sector and the larger salaries that exist in Grand Cayman are not
a part of the “blue collar” social order that prevails there.

As a result, the residents say they
cannot sustain businesses and commerce is in jeopardy of drying up on the Brac.
 

“I feel like there is some price
gouging, as there have been concessions on duty since the Hurricane that are
not being passed on to the consumer,” said Sue Smartt, who has lived and worked
on the Brac for many years.

She said the businesses on the Brac
were basically monopolies that could price products however they wanted.

Customs Assistant Collector for
Collections Arthur Ebanks said the PPM Government extended the customs duty
concessions on goods and items in the Brac and Little Cayman for a period of
six months after Hurricane Paloma. That grace period has expired.

 However, a concession on building materials
was extended until 2011, meaning businesses there are still enjoying those
savings.

Manager of Billy’s Supermarket and
Appliance Centre Ira Bodden remarked, “Them that are saying it is too
expensive, should try shipping goods from Grand Cayman or America themselves,
where the cost for a twenty-foot container is $2,300 odd dollars.”  

 There are some on the Brac who  do subscribe to this and say they do bring
their own goods when they can but added that they wished there were some
regulatory structure for pricing in all the Cayman Islands.

LOCALtimewaitingfoodSTORY

Brac residents wait for food outside the demolished Billy’s Supermarket on the Brac in November 2008 after Hurricane Paloma. The store is now up and running.
Tammie C. Chisholm

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