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
“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.”
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.”
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
The premier said, to have a robust
local economy, there must be money in circulation and more people means more
“It takes people to create demand
for goods,” Mr. Bush said. “And some of you smite your conscience when you say
“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.”