It took the United Kingdom a while getting around to it, but on Friday new UK Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds finally confirmed publicly what this newspaper has suspected for some time: The UK government will not assent to the port redevelopment project as currently proposed by Premier McKeeva Bush’s administration.
In addition, it seems the UK feels the government is not keeping his word with regard to passing the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility agreement into law.
Unless the government’s short-term plan is to take these Islands independent of the UK – and, with the current government’s recent behaviour, we’re not ready to rule anything out at this stage – it seems to us that the current government is engaging in a dangerous game.
If, for example, the UDP government were to attempt to ram through a contract with China Harbour Engineering Company for the port redevelopment without the proper tendering processes, the UK will almost assuredly reject the deal. The fallout of that could stress the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands and between the UK and China. The resulting international media coverage could cause the erosion of investor confidence in Cayman, slowing the territory’s economic recovery.
Similarly, with the fiscal framework agreement, if the government feels it can get the UK to back down on the terms simply by pushing it through, he’s taking the risk that the UK won’t then turn around and take over some or all of the financial management of this territory directly – even to a greater extent than it has already done.
We believe we are correct in stating that no one in Cayman wants to contemplate that possibility.
There seems to be no logical endgame for the government pursuing these actions. Unless the government is trying to create reasons for advocating Cayman’s independence from the UK, we would urge local government officials to rethink their recent decisions and to consider the legacy of their collective actions. Otherwise, the consequences for the Cayman Islands could be disastrous.