Premier pledges open and transparent government
A private member’s motion filed by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin late last month seeks a government undertaking that, before committing to any development projects, the government must “tell the people of the Cayman Islands what the plan involves”.
In addition, the motion asks government to obtain and publish independent feasibility, economic impact and environmental impact assessments prior to moving forward.
“Government has announced its commitment to and/or support for a number of major development projects, and….little is generally known about the impact of many of these projects,” the motion, to be seconded by East End MLA Arden McLean, read.
The motion contrasted starkly with statements made by Premier McKeeva Bush during an address to the country earlier in the week.
“I have pledged an open and transparent government,” Mr. Bush said during the broadcast statement Monday evening, lauding the progress of several economic development proposals championed by his administration.
“Not only are these new investments substantial, but they are also a perfect fit for Cayman’s existing professional infrastructure,” Mr. Bush said.
In recent weeks, opposition party members have pushed for a vote of ‘lack of confidence’ against Mr. Bush’s government, precisely because certain projects such as the proposed development of a port in East End and the dredging of the North Sound are apparently being carried forward by government. The motion also blasts the ruling United Democratic Party government for not moving forward fast enough on a cruise berthing facility for downtown George Town. In addition, the motion cites “the Premier’s attitude to the Freedom of Information Law and his threats to impose fees and fines on certain sectors of the media”.
During the address, Mr. Bush reviewed several economic development projects his administration has planned:
The Special Economic Zone – the Premier said “phase I” of this project is due to begin in January 2012. He expects the completion of the three-year project will lead to the creation of 5,000 “direct” jobs and 2,000 “indirect” jobs.
The Narayana Cayman University Medical Centre – a “$2 billion project” aimed at boosting “medical tourism” and building a hospital with an assisted living facility, as well as a university. Construction of the hospital is expected to begin later this year and be finished 18 months from ground-breaking.
The proposed cruise berthing facility – Mr. Bush said tourism in Cayman was already experiencing a “remarkable turnaround” and that the new dock would be needed to keep that going.
“The government obviously had to prioritise these projects – they were essential to restarting the economy,” he said.
Former Tourism Minister Charles Clifford has taken a different view from Premier Bush on the cruise docking proposal – a previous agreement for which was terminated by the government in April. Mr. Clifford cited what he called a “series of blunders” that involved announcements that at least three separate entities would be signed on to construct the berthing facility.
“These series of blunders have denied our country the much needed cruise berthing facilities, which will have a significant negative economic impact for our country beginning with a 25 per cent decrease in cruise tourism in 2011,” Mr. Clifford said. Mr. Bush said the termination of the previous agreement in April with GLF construction was necessary because the government had doubts about the company’s ability to finance such a project.
The premier said there have been signs of recovery in the United States economy of late and that, historically, Cayman should follow suit in “short order”. “Despite the problems we inherited; unemployment, increasing crime, the world financial crisis – we have halted the downward slide, we have stabilised the situation, and now we are restarting our economic assent,” he said.