While stating that there is no
“quick fix” to the financial troubles currently facing the Cayman Turtle Farm,
the managing director of the tourism attraction said Thursday that the farm was
“determined to navigate this difficult period” and solve its money problems.
“We are aware of the situation of
the likely effect on the Cayman Islands budget and economy, and certainly of
the Turtle Farm’s finances,” said Managing Director Tim Adam in a letter to the
Caymanian Compass. “It is, however, important to note that there is no simple
‘quick fix’ solution to the many complex issues and challenges faced.”
Mr. Adam’s statement was made in
response to a 24 February article in the Caymanian Compass that revealed the
government had given the Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter
(formerly known as Boatswain’s Beach) more than $28 million in equity
injections – subsidies – between July 2007 and November 2010.
The figures in the article reported
on 24 February, which came from government-commissioned audits that were
approved by Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, were largely correct, said Mr.
Adam. However, the managing director said that the statement regarding the
annual government subsidies left out a great deal of information.
For instance, Mr. Adam made
reference to statements in the audit, which indicated that in May and June 2010
the Turtle Farm made 20 employees redundant and payments made to those
individuals amounted to $107,471.
“But it also needs to be explained
that in the last few months on the 2009/10 financial year, employees accepted
mandatory days off without pay equivalent to 20 per cent pay cuts and in the
new financial year… all the employees remaining at the Turtle Farm accepted pay
cuts between 5 and 15 per cent,” Mr. Adam wrote. “Those one-off [severance]
payments not only reduced our long-term operating costs, [they] rendered us
more efficient and better prepared to handle ongoing economic problems.”
The pay reduction took effect on 1
July for all remaining staff at the tourism and turtle breeding facility,
affecting approximately 85 people. Prior to the staff cuts, Turtle
Farm/Boatswain’s Beach officials said there were 108 people employed at the
West Bay operation.
“We are aiming to… as much as
possible, take decisive action to reduce the amount of deficit from operations
and to cut down the equity injection we receive from government,’ Mr. Adam told
the Compass in a 1 September article.
According to Turtle Farm board
minutes obtained through an open records request, all staff earning less than
$30,000 per year received a five per cent pay cut; staff making between $30,000
and $50,000 received a 10 per cent pay cut; and those earning more than $50,000
per year got a 15 per cent pay cut starting 1 July.
Mr. Adam also took exception to a
Caymanian Compass editorial that he said oversimplified the financial problems
faced by the tourism attraction.
“If we never again fed the animals,
paid the crew, ran the pumps, tested the water, cleaned or maintained any of
the exhibits, grounds or buildings…the government would still be liable to pay
nearly CI$6 million per year for several more years in debt servicing on behalf
of the Cayman Turtle Farm,” Mr. Adam said.
The $6 million per year payments
are about two-thirds of the annual subsidy given to the operation over the last
three financial years. “If the government were to do anything that
significantly violated the covenants of the bond agreement, both the company
and the government…could be adjudged as immediately liable for the more than
CI$27 million that is the balance of that bond,” he said.
Mr. Adam ended his letter by
acknowledging the serious financial difficulties the Turtle Farm faces.
“Since the reconstruction of the
park earlier this decade, the farm has faced problems similar to many other
enterprises of this size during troubled economic times,” he said. “[We] are
determined to navigate this difficult period of troubled waters, to address –
and solve – the problems we face and come out more resilient in the end.”