In October of last year, the UK launched a National Infrastructure Plan amid tough economic conditions and against the backdrop of shrinking public sector budgets. It is the UK government’s opinion that such a plan is a “key roadmap” to generating economic growth and the prime minister himself has made it a top priority.
The five infrastructure sectors of transport, energy, water and waste, digital communications and intellectual property are all covered by the plan. For each of these, the government has set out visions, or goals, much like our Future of Cayman Forum and has identified the scale of the infrastructure challenges they face. The plan notes that the quality of the UK’s infrastructure has fallen down the World Economic Forum’s rankings to 33rd place and that this is damaging its overall competitive position.
Unfortunately the Cayman Islands doesn’t factor in the forum’s ranking, but we do face many similar issues as we look to the future and try to keep pace with our own diversification, as well as the way we compete in an evolving knowledge based global economy filled with expanding digital networks and smarter thinking.
The time has long gone that we could afford to build now and think later. As we examine cruise terminals, airports, hospitals, water, communications, waste management, energy and the development of previously undeveloped areas, it is vital that we have our own national infrastructure plan that looks forward to a sustainable future while taking into account all possible environmental and sociological outcomes. Planning for the future is not something that Cayman has been traditionally good at, but just like many successful businesses in our current world economy, we must tighten our belts and get the most out of our existing infrastructure while making decisions about critical investment to ensure a prosperous future.
There is a growing frustration from our membership, seeded by the uncertain direction of our economy. The world is emerging from the recession hungry and if we don’t prepare and look strategically at the next 10, 20 or 50 years then, there is a good chance we will be left behind; second place to more worthy jurisdictions. Contributors from both the public and private sectors who attended the Future of Cayman Forum have stressed the importance of the development of a National Infrastructure Plan as well as investment in critical infrastructure so that we may see an increase in Cayman’s economic growth potential while improving our international competitiveness. Cayman has suffered economically like the rest of the world and we are now looking for a way forward.
The Chamber supports the objectives of a National Infrastructure Plan, which should include a prioritised list of major infrastructure projects and the confirmation of funding sources and timelines, the development of enabling legislation, support of private public partnerships for collaboration on major infrastructural projects, the promotion of the establishment of segregated infrastructural funds, and the advocacy of a fair share of public infrastructure funds that support the creation of jobs opportunities for local contractors. We also believe our critical infrastructure investment should include the modernisation of Owen Roberts International Airport, the George Town Port, our waste handling capabilities, as well as the development of a comprehensive and sustainable energy policy and the improvement of our wired and wireless communication networks.
It should also be said that the National Infrastructure Plan should be a live document that is reviewed and updated on a regular basis and that other areas of public policy such as planning, investment, employment, and education should be aligned to support its successful delivery.