Multiple projects to start this year
Despite this week’s protest demonstrations, the government will march forward with multiple projects this year designed to diversify the economy, create jobs and generate government revenue, Premier McKeeva Bush says.
Speaking about Tuesday’s demonstration – which he termed “a flop” because of low turnout – Mr. Bush said it was not a good time to march.
“It’s a democratic country and people will march for whatever they want to march for.”
But Mr. Bush said that in years past when the people marched for a cause, Cayman didn’t have the world’s attention and there wasn’t the Internet to publicise what went on here. Now, people will see, he said.
“It leaves a bad impression and shakes our stability,” he said. “This is the worst time in the world to choose to march.”
The Tuesday demonstration protested a number of proposed developments Mr. Bush’s government has either announced or said it would consider. Mr. Bush defended the projects, which he said were needed to revive Cayman’s stagnant economy.
“People are losing their homes,” he said. “What should I do but try to get people work?
“My job is to create economic activity for this country or we’ll go down the drain.”
Speaking about the world economy, Mr. Bush said there were signs that investment was increasing.
“If we’re not in the vanguard of this, we’re going to be left out,” he said, noting that with all the projects slated for the Cayman Islands, significant investments would be made here. “In the short, medium and long term, this country is heading for a boom,” he said. “I want Caymanians to get a share in that.”
He criticised the opposition People’s Progressive Party members, saying that during their administration instead of concentrating on strengthening and diversifying Cayman’s economy, they were “spending time investigating me and playing games”.
“Those investigations fell flat and the so-called one they have now will do the same,” he said. Unless government can improve its revenue base, there will be dire consequences for the Cayman Islands, Mr. Bush said, noting that civil servants would lose their jobs, causing the economy to suffer even more.“Income tax and property tax would be the only other way to go,” he said. “I’m convinced if the [PPM] was still in, we’d have that by now because of the mess they left us in.”
East End Seaport
Mr. Bush acknowledged that the proposed East End Seaport was “drawing negativity”. He stressed that the government had not agreed or even proposed anything when it came to the project, despite what others were saying.
“If no one wants it to go up there, it won’t go up there,” he said. “But this country needs a new cargo facility.”
He said he also supported the idea of creating a cargo transhipment facility, something he said could diversify Cayman’s economy, especially with the improvements currently being made on the Panama Canal.
“I’m talking about generating big-time revenue with transhipment,” he said, adding that others in the region are also trying to take advantage of the opportunity.
“If we miss it now, we’ll be dead.” Mr. Bush commented that East End MLA Arden McLean is the one leading the objections to the project.
“Arden McLean needs to tell the country how that property got rezoned and how [developer Joe] Imparato came to purchase the property.”
Cruise berthing facility
Mr. Bush said he also found it ironic that Mr. McLean was complaining about the government dealing with a communist country in state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company with relation to the proposed cruise ship berthing facility. He noted that Cayman Airways has been flying to Cuba, another communist country, for many years.
He also noted that many countries are now dealing with China. “Look how much work the UK is doing with China Harbour,” he said. “[Mr. McLean] seems to want to keep the Cold War alive without an army to command.”
In addition to constructing the cruise ship berthing facility in George Town Harbour, the government is negotiating with China Harbour to make millions of dollars of improvements to the Spotts Dock and to create a cruise ship jetty in West Bay near the Turtle Farm.
In addition to the provisions of the mega deal agreed to with the Dart Group, Mr. Bush said he expected the Shetty Hospital to proceed, as well as the Cayman Enterprise City special economic zone.
Another project expected to go forward is the airport expansion, which involves extending the runway and taxiways and extensive renovations and expansion of the terminal.
He said the proposed oil refinery was also something he thought was viable, but that an environmental impact study would have to be done before that could proceed.
He noted that extending the East-West Arterial Highway was also something that needed to be completed, but that it would have to be done with private financing. That would likely lead it to becoming a toll road.
“That’s what I support,” he said. “How else are we going to get the money? No one is going to give it to us.”