Public-private projects raise concerns

A
number of partnerships involving the Cayman Islands government are expected to
get under way in the upcoming budget year, but independent and opposition lawmakers
remain dissatisfied that enough information exists to determine whether those
should go forward.

Opposition
Leader Kurt Tibbetts identified four major Grand Cayman undertakings: the
George Town cruise ship berthing facility, a proposed cargo port in East End,
the proposed dredging of the North Sound to accommodate mega yachts, and a new
private hospital proposed as a medical tourism project.

How
much public money might be needed to pay for these projects is an ill-defined
area at best, Mr. Tibbetts told legislators last week.

“Of
course, you can keep the costs of a project off government’s balance sheet if
you can find a private investor, but the country must pay for it sooner or
later,” he said. “It would pay not only for the cost of a project, but also for
the profit made by private financiers.

“I
fear that these are measures of how little real thought that has gone into
these projects.” For example, Mr. Tibbetts questioned what public facilities –
such as roads and customs offices – would be needed to support a cargo port in
East End, and whether those costs had been included in government estimates.

Similar
questions have been raised about the proposed George Town port berthing dock,
for which government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Dart Enterprises
Construction Company. Specific details of how that project would progress have
not been revealed, but Premier McKeeva Bush has said that Cayman Islands would
pay nothing for the dock.

“Don’t
say to us that those things are not going to have any costs attached,” Mr.
Tibbetts said. “It is simply not so, and the people are going to be paying for
it.”

North
Side MLA Ezzard Miller said government appeared to be “pinning its hopes” on
the public-private development projects to earn revenue in upcoming budget
years.

Mr.
Miller said he was concerned that the company that had signed the port
memorandum with government had little or no experience with such projects and
that, in any case, revenue from the project would not be realised in time to
help with the 2010/11 budget. 

The
North Side member said he supports the North Sound channel dredging to allow in
certain larger ships, but not mega yachts as proposed by the government. He
also noted that government expected to earn just $179,000 in royalties from the
dredging.

Mr.
Miller said those royalties should earn between $1 and $1.25 per yard now and
asked government to consider a fee increase.

Premier
Bush said that the yachting industry is a growing business and that the world’s
1,500 largest yachts spend an average of $500,000 a year during their travels.

Questions
were also raised during the Legislative Assembly’s debate on government’s
budget over whether private investors would make money on a cargo port in East
End.

“I
hope Cabinet is going to insist on seeing the business plan,” Mr. Miller said,
referring to the cargo port. “I hope that the money is not going to be made on
the sale of fill. I have serious objections to that being done.

“People
in my community are very concerned if you are opening 60 feet deep, 600 feet
wide…to let hurricanes in.”

On
the private hospital project, known as the Narayana Cayman University Medical
Centre, Mr. Miller was concerned about government “putting all our eggs in one
basket”.

He
said he was “very concerned” about proposals to amend laws that would accept
doctors from India and elsewhere to practice in Cayman.

“Quacks
ruined Mexico and their reputation (for medical tourism),” Mr. Miller said.
“Our regular tourism is reputation sensitive; medical tourism is even more so.”

1 COMMENT

  1. POint to note:
    It’s easy to critize but difficult to give solutions. I am not bias to neither political party but it would be great that when one politician criticizes the ideas of another that they also have a solution.

  2. On the face of it – the four projects certainly sound like they will assist the Cayman economy – after all standing still is not a great course of action. But I agree that there must be more informaiton provided to those in the know to ensure that the projects will benefit not detract from Cayman.

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