Ladies and gentlemen, the Opposition… in main Mr. Ezzard Miller and other opponents of our agreement with the Dart Group of Companies to build roads, to build schools, to build public beaches are spreading information that is misleading.
The NRA agreement was executed on 15 December, 2011. At the time of the signing, the public will remember that my Government and I made it clear the NRA Agreement had a provision for an independent review. The public will also recall that on the same occasion we stated there was a mechanism built in to the NRA Agreement for it to be amended during the review period. During the review period, all parties – the NRA, Government and Dart – agreed to bring forward some items that were contained in the Draft FCIA Main Agreement.
Government requested these items be brought forward to accelerate the benefits to the country, which included the 20 acres in West Bay for community development, the new Public Beach and the expanded existing Public Beach. In addition, Government negotiated with the Dart Group of Companies and secured agreement to include a few new items, such as land for the Sunrise Center, which will be in the main agreement.
The NRA Agreement encompasses most of the West Bay Road and Seven Mile Beach Corridor projects. The hotel is an integral part of the West Bay Road corridor projects.
The agreed incentives relating to the redevelopment of the hotel, including the intent to provide hotel tax abatements have been in the public domain since we first announced the FCIA in June 2011, starting with the front page article of the Caymanian Compass June 16th, 2011. However, I want to remind the public that hotels around the Caribbean and around the world are not getting built without government incentives. Other countries offer tax incentives, such as tax holidays with taxes either waived or deferred. In the Cayman Islands we are doing the same thing. Please take note – these are not taxes that the Government is currently collecting – these are taxes that would only be earned by the Government IF the hotel is first redeveloped and THEN if the hotel is occupied with paying guests on a nightly basis. Ladies and gentlemen, hotels in the Cayman Islands have been closing or being transferred to long term residency.
In the last 10 years, we have lost the majority of the rooms in the former Hyatt Hotel, the Sleep Inn, Indies Suites and the Courtyard by Marriott, the one now under discussion. We need new hotel rooms – that’s the way we can grow our tourism. The customs duty incentives apply only once per hotel redevelopment, and only apply to a major hotel redevelopment. We need to bear in mind that getting an additional 200 to 300 new hotel rooms on line in the next few years will have a stimulating effect on our economy and will contribute to government revenues in many other areas as a result of the multiplier effect of the initial investment and the ongoing annual expenditures on the operation.
We have said publicly, that once completed, the final NRA Agreement, any amendments and the results of the Independent Review will be made available to the public. Mr. Miller himself knows this, because he requested the NRA Agreement through Freedom of Information and he was formally told that he would get it when the process was complete. Mr. Miller choosing to put a part of the NRA Agreement, which is not yet complete, in the public domain with no context rather than wait for the review process to take its course is, as usual, being irresponsible and is designed for his own political agenda on the eve of the One Man One Vote Referendum.
My dear people, there are people in these Islands, especially people like Mr. Miller, who are always criticising me for not following due process. However, here I am, me and my Government, trying to follow the process – by ensuring the agreement complies with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility and prove it represents value for money for the people of the Cayman Islands. Mr. Miller preaches due process every Tuesday and every opportunity he gets, although he didn’t follow it many times himself. However, for his own politricks he is more than happy to mislead the people and not follow the same process he preaches about.
I encourage the public to focus on what we need and what we need right now is to get the economy turned around; what we need to do is create jobs, we’re trying to get money flowing into the country and allow people the opportunity to get jobs to take care of their families. It is all well and good to criticise, as Mr. Miller and the PPM group have been doing for the last three and half years. But that does not put food on people’s tables. And all of the objectors conveniently have good jobs or secure pensions. Don’t be fooled by people who are only looking to stir up trouble; and they certainly don’t seem to be able to tell the truth – don’t be fooled, we still need to focus on getting people back to work and getting business for Caymanian companies. Those things will help generate Government revenue in the process and help stabilise the fiscal situation.
A closed hotel cannot help us and anything we agree with Mr. Dart’s group of companies in regards to new hotels will benefit the Cayman Islands more than the revenue we choose to give up.
My job is to do as I have just said, create jobs, get money following into the country and allow people the opportunity to get jobs to take care of their families.
That is my priority and my focus. That is what my Government has been trying to do. Mr. Miller knows this; he is just being mischievous in this whole matter. My priority is what I have said.
My dear people I trust you have a good evening.
Premier McKeeva Bush