We were somewhat surprised when backbench MLA Cline
Glidden Jr. took to the airwaves last week to accuse the Caymanian Compass of
sensationalism for drawing attention in a headline to the possibility of the
Dart Group getting a 99-year lease on the proposed port project.
It’s obvious that Mr. Glidden didn’t want us to focus on
that particular aspect of the port deal.
However, when politicians try to downplay such things, that is usually
when the media and public should look at the situation even more closely.
It’s not that we disagree with the concept of the port
facility; we have said on numerous occasions that if Cayman wants to continue
to be a major cruise destination, we need a berthing facility.
Nor do we have an issue with the Dart Group being
involved. On the contrary, its involvement would ensure Cayman get a
first-class facility, just like everything else the Dart Group has done here.
We also don’t have a problem with the Dart Group making a
profit on this deal. No one is going to
fund a $300 million project for nothing; it’s only reasonable that whoever
develops the port project makes a fair profit.
We don’t object to the leasing the port facility either.
Since Cayman doesn’t have the money to fund this project, leasing the facility
is the only way the deal is feasible financially. But the government shouldn’t even be
entertaining the slightest possibility of a 99-year lease. That might as well be forever.
Mr. Glidden might argue that a 99-year lease is not the
likely outcome of negotiations, but if it weren’t possible, he wouldn’t have
said so in the first place.
More importantly, we believe even 50 years would be too
long to cede control of the port facility to any non-government entity.
If a private sector entity cannot make a reasonable
profit with 20 to 30 years of control over the port facility, there’s something
wrong with the business model.
In addition, giving a range of 21 to 99 years as a lease
term is ridiculously vague. It’s also like giving the Dart Group a blank,
signed cheque, and we don’t think it is sensationalism to point that out to our