Editorial for April 3: Turtle Farm answers sought

An issue that’s sure to be on voters’ minds in the run up to the 22 May general election is what to do with the Turtle Farm.

Yes, those in charge of the farm have done a good job of whittling down the debt from around US$54 million to CI$24 million, but the fact remains that the Cayman Islands government is still pumping money into a tourism attraction that should, in reality, be autonomous.

Does the Cayman Islands need the Turtle Farm? Yes.

The farm should be continued and focus on conservation while still providing turtle meat for sale for those who enjoy consuming the traditional dish.

While the Turtle Farm attracts 230,000 visitors a year, it would have to at least double that number just to break even. Unfortunately, it’s not going to attract that kind of numbers without the berthing dock required in the farm’s business model and other efforts to lure more tourists.

Three years ago, the Miller-Shaw report recommended that government privatise government-owned assets like the Turtle Farm. So far, nothing has happened.
The idea is that if government divests itself of assets like the Turtle Farm, it will have money to help balance its own budget.

An audit completed by KPMG and reviewed by the Cayman Islands Auditor General’s Office states that the massive amount of government funding to sustain the farm is an ongoing concern.

The Turtle Farm is still losing money and the people of the Cayman Islands have a right to ask whether that should be allowed to go on. They deserve honest answers from those who are running for office instead of what some candidates think people want to hear.

It’s time to start developing a contingent exit strategy. This territory’s financial state is such that we cannot just hang in there indefinitely and hope that one day the farm’s board will be able to turn the Cayman Turtle Farm into a profit-making venture.

Everyone running for office should come up with a plan to cut back government spending, including at the Turtle Farm.

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