When it comes to the proposed dredging of a deep water channel in the North Sound, it seems most people have a strong opinion one way or the other.
Although those against the project have been the most vocal, we know many people – including Caymanians to whom the North Sound is a vital part of their livelihood – who at least conditionally support the project. Interestingly, those who support the project want to see some of the same things happen first that those who oppose it want to see.
It makes sense that before undertaking this project that an environmental impact assessment is conducted. We should all know how dredging the North Sound could impact the marine environment of one of Cayman’s most valuable natural resources.
The Save Cayman organisation that opposes the dredging project also would like to see an economic impact study and a feasibility study. Here again, we agree these should be done before starting the project because we should all know the potential benefits and costs of dredging North Sound. For that matter, these kinds of assessments and studies should probably be conducted before any major government project.
However, there is one point on which we strongly disagree with the Save Cayman organisation, and that is on the issue of holding a referendum on the matter. For one thing, referendums are expensive and the last thing the Cayman Islands needs to be doing is spending a lot of money right now on a referendum.
In addition, this or any elected government should not be expected to govern by referendum. Section 69 of Cayman’s Constitution allows the Legislature to make a provision for a referendum on a matter of national importance, but the truth is, many of any government’s decisions are of national importance. No government could function properly if it had to hold referendums for important decisions.
What’s more, when it comes to referendums, special interest groups can potentially manipulate the electorate in ways that do not occur in general elections. Governments are given a mandate during the general elections and the public has the opportunity to voice its opinion on their performance every four years. That should be enough.