Premier: ‘It is time for action’

TOPMckeevaeconomyLEAD

Repairing Cayman’s economy with an
eye toward getting Caymanians back to work by June 2011 will be government’s
top priority over the next six months, Premier McKeeva Bush told more than 100
people at a town hall meeting in George Town Wednesday night.

“Modern Cayman has not seen the
likes of the situation we have seen today,” Mr. Bush told the crowd gathered at
the old Town Hall; the first public meeting held at that building in a number
of years. “Too many people are out of work; too many businesses are struggling
and having to lay off staff.”

Mr. Bush said the Islands could no
longer wait for developed western economies to come in and bail the local
economy out.

“It is time for action; we do have
to help ourselves in these Islands,” he said. “We cannot afford to wait for the
rest of the world to restore their economic health and then hope we…get a
little better as a consequence.”

The premier said he planned to meet
with the heads of various industries and that government intended to come up
with an action plan on to improve the economy in the short term within the next
30 to 40 days. He said those discussions included an economic stimulus plan,
but cautioned that government plans to roll back fee increases on certain
sectors of the local economy – particularly the financial services industry –
might not be possible immediately.

“We are hog-tied to the extent that
if the economy doesn’t kick off the way that we want to, then we can’t roll
back fees in the ways that we want to,” Mr. Bush said.

In terms of development, Mr. Bush
said several projects were under way including the new cruise port project – expected
to begin construction in the first quarter of 2011 – as well as additional road
works and affordable housing initiatives. He also indicated that government had
given money to a number of churches to help them with construction or
refurbishment of gathering halls.

Construction of two new high
schools has been restarted and Mr. Bush said he expected the same to happen
shortly with the Owen Roberts Airport expansion project.

Other government initiatives, like
the waste-to-energy project envisioned at the George Town Landfill had been
held up by what Mr. Bush termed “bureaucratic delays”.

“I’ve never seen as much
bureaucracy as I’m seeing now,” Mr. Bush said in an apparent reference to delays
occurring within government, although he did not specifically mention the civil
service in any of his comments.

The premier said a type of “silent,
passive non-compliance” had been used to delay certain government initiatives
and in some cases he believed that was simply because “somebody didn’t agree
with a project”.

He said the waste-to-energy
initiative was one such government effort that had been delayed.

“I wish I had gotten more done in
the past 12 months, I really do,” Premier Bush said. “But I’m not going to
stand for it any longer.”

“The world is not going to wait for
us to get our act together.”

 

Crime

One of the major issues plaguing
the Cayman Islands, crime, would improve if the local economy got better, Mr.
Bush told the audience.

“If we can get people back to work,
then I believe we will see a decrease (in crime),” he said.

He said he believed Royal Cayman
Islands Police Commissioner David Baines was doing a good job and that people
needed to support the police.

“We are not seeing the kind of
violence now that we were seeing earlier in the year,” Mr. Bush said. “Give
them the chance to get the job done.”

 

Immigration

Mr. Bush suggested further reforms
would be needed in Cayman’s Immigration regime to help the economy along.

“I’m likely to get my head kicked
off for that one,” he said. ‘But immigration must work for us, and not against
us.”

The premier said, to have a robust
local economy, there must be money in circulation and more people means more
cash flow.

“It takes people to create demand
for goods,” Mr. Bush said. “And some of you smite your conscience when you say
different.”

“If we are ready to go back to the
1970s, then people need to be saying that loud and clear. But I’m not prepared
to do that. I spent too many nights fighting with a cardboard fan…hot as hell.”

“The truth is, wall can fall back –
and we don’t want to do that.”

TOPMckeevaeconomySTORY

Premier Bush gestures to the audience during Wednesday night’s meeting in George Town.
Photo: Brent Fuller
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4 COMMENTS

  1. I know this will ruffle a lot of feathers, but hear me out. If you cannot find Camanians to do jobs ( of course, Camanians come first ) then your next priority should be Americans. My reasoning for this is: Firstly, the US economy is in the dumps, there are many Americans out of work and desperate for employment. Secondly, Cayman is easily accessible from the USA. Thirdly, and most importantly, Americans ( as well as Canadians & Brits ) spend MORE money on the island. They will rent single-family home or apartments, and just live with their own family there. They do not send every cent they have back home. They do not put 10 or 12 people in a house. ( I know a Philipino female sharing a 3 bedroom house with 15 other Philipinos — 2 bunk beds in each bedroom, 2 roll-aways and a pull out sofa in the living room). And every one of them sends any extra money they have back home. They do not eat out in restaurants, nor spend anything on extra things beyond the bare necessities. The bottom line — they do not put money back into the economy. My comments have nothing to do with Racism or elitism — just the plain reality of the situation. If Cayman wants to get back on it’s feet faster, hire the people who will contribute to the economic recovery — hire Americans. I would love to see statistics — and it is possible to find this out if the Government wants to — how much money was sent OUT of Cayman to Jamaica, India and the Phillipines last year, and look at the numbers to USA, Canada & Britain too — to be fair. An economic recovery is not just one thing to make it happen, it’s little things here and there and cumulitively, you begin to see things turn around. This is one area no-one has looked at.

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  2. First lets find out the number of Caymanians who are college educated and qualified for professional jobs like accountants, financial managers, lawyers, bankers, engineers etc. I’m sure it’s less than the demand on this island so that’s why companies have to hire from abroad. The average teenager in Cayman barely completes High School and then joins a corporation earning $3,000 monthly and owning a car and house financed by a bank.
    The Government’s long-term planning should be to establish more local Colleges and Universities so that the population is highly skilled and do not have to look for short-cuts.
    @CaymanMermaid, yes American do spend a lot more than others, but would they be willing to work in shops, restaurants, or as domestic help that Phillipinos and Indians are doing?

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  3. Sadly, it seems many do not understand just how bad this economy is, how much worse it can get and how much our economy is dependent on imported human capital. More importantly, just how next to impossible it is to have investors return once they have left.
    So far, the mass exodus of work permit holders seems to be from the construction industry, if our cost of business remains inflated, we will see an impact on the financial industry that will cause the Caymanian middle class, filling these jobs to become unemployed. This we must prevent at all cost. We need to look at and use all Government fees and policies in the same way interest rates are used. During our current economic decline, we must reduce the fees; accelerate the approval process in order to stimulate the economy. Example: Within the Financial Industry. Process work permits within a week and reduce the work permit fees to say $50. Increase the human capital and the customer base. The increase in persons on island increases consumption and reduces unemployment. And let’s really go after the Obama and the G8, let’s target their human capital and more of their domestic business.
    Projects:
    I support the Cruise ship berthing plans.
    Construction of the new schools.
    The Cargo port in East End.
    The dredging of the North Sound on the West Bay side for Yachts.
    And more importantly, the divesting of all Government owned and operated businesses. We have got to reshape our Governments functions during this economic downturn and reduce future taxation. Anyone who believes the cost from a Government owned and operated business is less than it would be if privatized is sadly mistaken. We pay in heavy taxation to subsidize these businesses. It is better to "Give" them away to young Caymanian entrepreneurs and provide some short term support than to continue to subsidize them. So offer them to the Directors managing them. Property assets can be separated from operating assets.
    The great challenge that we face is not in my opinion the ability to stimulate our economy, it is overcoming the disenfranchised Caymanian. This is the academic and social reform we must undertake to create more economic stakeholders rather than indigenous citizens that are economic onlookers. Give them the Government businesses, provide the necessary short term support, help them to develop the necessary business disciplines (many are already), reform education, and use draconian steps for this if necessary. Once they read and understand the books, there will be social and political reform. Of course, you have to want these reforms and not be afraid of them; you have to be willing to step aside for the future more developed political leader. Now, can we do that?

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  4. It would be nice to invite American Guest Workers here on the Island , that would be a treat ! as long as they keep their racial prejudices to themselves. No problem. they’ll be happy to bank their money here MOST OF THEIR MONEY WILL DEFINITELY REMAIN HERE.
    BIG MAC OPEN UP TO AMERICANS PLEASE!

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