Premier Bush’s statement on North Sound

Editor’s note: The following is the full text of a speech given by Premier McKeeva Bush on Thursday.

“All
of us know and understand that the global economy is still facing significant
challenges following the most recent economic downturn… as a result, the Cayman Islands economy is also facing our own economic
challenges.

“As
a Government, we have been working hard, day and night, to address our economic
challenges, provide relief to our people and to put the Cayman
Islands on track for future success.

“We
have listened to many suggestions, read many proposals, and participated in
many discussions on proposed initiatives and projects.  Everything with merit has been considered;
and especially with more complex or controversial projects, taken adequate time
to make a proper assessment of potential costs and benefits.

“I
would like to take this opportunity to provide an update of some of the key
initiatives that the Government is considering that will undoubtedly help boost
our economic capacity and help put in place sustainable growth opportunities
for all of us in the Cayman Islands

“One such initiative is the
possibility of developing a channel in the North Sound.  This channel will help to protect the North
Sound by providing designated waterways for boats to enter and cross the North
Sound without stirring up silt from the bottom. This will be accomplished by
connecting the existing cuts to this channel, providing uninterrupted travel
across the North Sound without disturbing the sea bottom.

“It will actually improve the
underwater environment and wildlife because of the cooling effect of deeper
water. 

“The channel will also enable us to
accommodate mega yachts that will bring more business opportunities and jobs
for Caymanians

“As
part of our evaluation process, the immediate plan is to commission a
comprehensive environmental impact study. Such a study will include the
methodology that will be utilized in the project. The study will be conduct by
one the world’s top marine scientist. 

“Following
the preliminary preparations, which will include the Impact Analysis and consideration
for current knowledge of the North Sound, there is no definitive plan at this
time to begin the project. It is premature for the public to make assumptions,
whilst the Government is currently trying to assess the situation and make the
proper evaluations. The event of developing this channel will depend entirely
on the environmental study. I want to assure you that this project will not go
ahead if the environmental impact study says it will damage the North Sound.

“To
address many of the concerns and give consideration to our already existing
protected areas , namely the Sand Bar, this channel will be located approximately
over 2 miles from the the Sand Bar, utilizing 
the present channel by Barkers Key.   Based on existing data, it will not be
necessary to develop the channel to a depth of 50 feet. It is already 200 feet
wide and about 16 feet deep.  I envision
that the channel coming through the North Sound to be not more than 20 feet
deep.

“To
those people who are familiar with the North Sound, there are many existing channels
which have been excavated and there has been much coastal works done in
previous years.

“In the event that a channel will be
developed, the current inlets and pre-existing small channels into canals will
all be used to connect to the proposed channel.

“These ideas for creating a channel are
not new, but have been suggestions from me. In 2003 I made some suggestions. If
we had continued along the lines of achieving some of these projects, from as
far back as 2003, our economy would not have suffered as severely as it has
since the end of 2007.

“The world economic crisis hit us
fully in 2008 and we were not ready. There was already unemployment and that
has increased. The Government’s finances were shot to pieces during 2005 to
2009.

“Because of the situation that we have
now found ourselves in, we have had to implement increased fees, suffer severe
deficits, loss of revenue, and experience increased unemployment, and witness
the closure of many small businesses. 
These are but a few of the challenges that we as a country have faced
together.

“If we had been vigilant enough and
continued our planned developments that I talked about in2003-2004, our economy
could have been booming today despite the World Crisis.

“Personally, my vision was that these
projects would have created a buoyant economy and lessened our reliance on the
outside world.

“If we do not find new ways to sustain
our economy, we will continue to find it increasingly difficult to turn the
situation around.

“It is because of the financial crisis
around the world that we must look to new local ventures for sustainability.
Some prospective projects which may be viable in the Cayman
Islands are: the new channel in the North Sound, the development
of a Special Economic Zone, the establishment of an oil refinery and the
development of a new cruise berthing facility and a cargo dock.

“The idea of an oil refinery has been raised before and I
would like to highlight some of the benefits that a project of this nature would  bring to our local economy:

“Fuel
prices are very high and are now increasing

“It
will lessen dependence on outside producers to supply refined petroleum

“It
will lower cost basis for refined products

“It
will lower cost basis for power generation – CUC cost to us

“It
lowers the cost of living for every resident of the Cayman
Islands. Companies will pay less for electricity and therefore
have to charge less

“Increases
storage capacity for petroleum products on island

“Will
resolve issues regarding current location of petroleum storage tanks

“Produce
aviation fuel locally to support long haul flights – Cayman Airways Ltd. would
be enhanced 100 %

“Creates
employment

“Allows
Government to attract new industries for the Cayman
Islands

“Increases
our Gross Domestic Product

“Reduces
our trade imbalance

“Allows
regional and global trade of crude

“There is too much talk to discourage
without facts.

“I am mindful of the fact that after
Hurricane Ivan, I was criticized for bringing back the cruise ships. I’m also
aware that the PPM, people such as Bryan Ebanks, Peter Milburn and others,
criticized me for bringing so many cruise ships – when the PPM took over people
in this industry suffered.

“My friends, we can’t keep saying “No”
to everything – because when the world gets into a problem, as it is in today,
and has been from the end of 2007, Caymanians suffer – we lose jobs, we lose
businesses, we lose houses, we lose the ability to make money because nothing
happens here.

“If we create business that is
sustainable – a refinery, a channel – it will not only generate Government
revenue, opportunities and benefits will be created for our people. If we do
nothing, -we don’t want foreigners here, we don’t want a channel, we don’t want
an oil refinery, we don’t want a dock – what do we get? We get what is going on
now, a lot of people hurting! The status quo is not an option.  We are in a position, both as a result of the
global economy and the natural maturity of our existing economic growth areas,
that we need to diversify. 

“This
is to say that we are not abandoning our economic pillars of tourism and
financial services.  On the contrary,
those sectors will benefit if we can keep our economy robust and
progressive.  We are also speaking today
about what we are doing over and above supporting the policy and development
goals for those industries.

“As
a Government, we welcome constructive feedback and suggestions on possible
areas to explore and would welcome the opportunity to meet with those who are
willing to discuss their options in this way. 

“All
those people who are against everything – but in particular against the dock,
the North Sound Channel, a refinery – where have their facts come from? Besides
being critics on everything do they have answers as to how we make these Islands sustainable in the long term?

“Ezzard
Miller has gone on Rooster radio and said that an unmarked envelope was left on
his car windshield. Inside the envelope was what is purported to be the plans
for the dredging of a channel and the building of two islands in the North
Sound.  I can you assure that I have seen
the plan he speaks of and those drawings have nothing to do with what I’m
talking about. How irresponsible can a person be to get a set of unidentified
drawings, and then proceed to speak publicly as if they are genuine without
verifying it?  Those same plans are now
published on the Rooster website, again how can a radio station be so
irresponsible as to publish unverified plans on their website. 

“Positive
suggestions rather than negative comments are what are needed. 

“If
the United Kingdom, USA, the G8 or G20, ever succeed in their
various efforts in severely curtailing financial businesses in countries such
as these Islands- where will the business come
from – to keep people employed – create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities
for the hundreds of children coming out of school each year?

“When
the next big crisis hits the world – after what we have gone through since 2005
– and are still suffering the effects of that government, what jobs will be
created? Where will the business community get business? How will small
businesses survive? Where, and how, will people get money to save their homes
or their business – and where will Government get the revenue to provide the
essential services and support that we do now, and pay for education, health
services and pensions for the elderly and seamen?

“Some
people are prepared to oppose everything because they are satisfied with how
they are surviving – that is because they don’t care about other people. Those
politicians, who get on the radio weekly to oppose everything, don’t care how
you are able to live – if you believe them, and then re-elect them – no matter
what group – then you pay – they are satisfied – and you will not get
ahead. That is what happened in 2005-2009.

“The
country must move ahead. We should not and must not put all our eggs in one
basket or rely on any one sector or industry, such as we have to do now.

“We
should believe or accept that in order for these islands to do as I believe we
should – that is, to make businesses so successful that we can have jobs,  live decently and businesses can be so
successful that people can have money to spend… we will have to make sacrifices
to get something.

“I
do not believe a channel will destroy the North Sound. We are not digging
hundreds of acres of the wetlands; we are not touching the wetlands. Every time
I’ve been in Government, we have increased wetlands by dozens of acres. Because
I did things that we could increase the amount of land Government owns.

“The
North Sound is a vast expanse of water, bigger than the Island
itself. We are not going to depths more than 20ft. It will not go near the Sand
Bar. It is two miles or more away from the proposed channel. If we built two
islands they would prove to be buffers for the shoreline.

“While
we must consider “what if”, we can’t live our lives in fear of “what if”. But I
urge everyone not to talk before you have the facts. Be careful of who you
listen to out there no matter how good it sounds.

“You
probably will be asked to sign a petition against this channel. I ask you to
wait until you have the facts before you make up your mind for it or against it.

“The
investments I have been talking about will not be done by Caymanians because no
Caymanian has that kind of money to invest. But there will be Caymanians
involved and Caymanians all over the Islands
will benefit.

“Tourists
are coming back again. But that alone cannot sustain us.  I propose that islands be built and that it
be used by the people, particularly the operators in the North Sound for local
tourism purposes. The Bahamas
has its fish fry on Arawak Key- a place that was dredged up. Barbados has a similar venue that
was a natural place which tourists and local people flock to all the time. 

“All
that exist here now is the Sand Bar – that alone will not sustain tourism. If
we build two islands one of the islands will be for the North Sound operators
to use.  These are just ideas now as the
channel will only go ahead if the environmental study says it will not damage
the North Sound.

“When
investors see petitions being circulated, they will question whether in fact
these islands want investment. A petition might be against a channel but what
next?  …condos … hotels… a refinery? When
will the negative and destructive talk end? It makes investors uneasy.

“If
you really want nothing to happen and if you really believe the talk — no
matter how good it sounds – without facts, then I guess no matter what I say or
a study says you are against it.  But I
pray you consider what I have said, as what I have said are all facts and for
your own benefit.

“As
your elected representative for 27 years – I have to live here – I have a
child, and I have grandchildren. I have nowhere else to live. I’m not going to
do something that puts life at risk.

“Understand
this…. There will not be a channel before an Environmental Impact Study is
conducted. If the study, and good reason, says that we should not go ahead – it
will not move forward.

“As
the Bible says, “Come let us reason together.” 
It is for your long term good that I propose these projects.

“Thank you
for listening. May God continue to bless the Cayman Islands.”

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