Cruise port talks “abandoned”
Port expansion talks with a Chinese government-owned company will be abandoned and a fiscal framework document penned by the United Kingdom will be accepted, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush announced Tuesday evening in a broadcast address.
The announcement was a sharp departure from positions taken by Mr. Bush just a day earlier in the Legislative Assembly, where he presented a revised Framework for Fiscal Responsibility document and told members that good governance requirements had been observed with regard to the port talks.
“I make these announcements with a heavy heart,” Mr. Bush said. “I have fought against these positions, but I am now forced [to accept them] through the dictate of the UK government.”
Mr. Bush said “no reasonable person” could say that the port selection process, which seeks to install a cruise ship berthing facility for larger cruise liners to direct dock in George Town harbour, has not been fair and open.
“However, we are told by the UK that it is the specific type of process that matters, not the outcome,” Mr. Bush said. “We have been stymied unless we follow their prescribed approach to the letter.”
Mr. Bush apologised to the China Harbour Engineering Company, with which the Cayman government had been negotiating for a number of months on the cruise port deal.
Meanwhile, the Premier said the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility proposal would be “taken to the [Legislative] Assembly as prescribed”. Presumably, this meant in the form in which it was signed by the Premier and then-UK Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham in November 2011 and not the version that was contained in legal amendments made public Monday.
The fiscal framework document sets out a number of requirements on public project bidding, financial management and project management for the Cayman Islands government. It requires Cayman to get its budget back into line with responsible financial management guidelines contained in the country’s Public Management and Finance Law by the end of the 2015/16 budget year.
The proposed legal amendments contained, among other things, requirements that the UK compensate Cayman for any reputational damage or financial loss due to following the dictates of the fiscal framework.
“God help us all if it proves to have the negative consequences that some experts have warned are likely,” Mr. Bush said of the fiscal framework agreement.
Mr. Bush said he was prepared to continue resisting the UK’s demands, but said he did not wish to expose his family to the “political turmoil being brought into play at the present time”.
“I can only pray that the worst will be averted, and that we will find a way forward that shields our population from too painful a decline in our living conditions,” the Premier said.
Please see Thursday’s editions of the Caymanian Compass for more on this story….