While the candidates at Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce forum may have different ideas on issues facing the country, they all agree that the Turtle Farm is a vital part of West Bay.
Andrea Christian, Captain Eugene Ebanks, Velma Powery-Hewitt, Dwene Ebanks and Woody DaCosta are seeking election in West Bay and were featured at the Chamber’s candidate forum at the John A. Cumber Primary School.
During the evening’s proceedings, candidates were asked questions about how they would govern if given the opportunity and what they thought were the most important issues facing their District.
On the issue of the Turtle Farm and how it should be dealt with going forward, Ms Christian said, “The Turtle Farm is iconic in Cayman.
Activists have cast a negative light on the operation and so I thing the some PR is needed in that respect as well.”
Dwene Ebanks said, “The Turtle Farm is crucial to our culture. It is one of the only major sources of food production and there are many cultural and culinary dynamics. It is also our highest visited attraction apart from Stingray City.”
He added that the Turtle Farm provides jobs and he would support a public and private sector partnership with an investor who is acutely aware of what it means to our culture.
Captain Eugene noted that if the Turtle Farm could be privatised, he would not object, as long as the workers did not lose their jobs.
Mr. DaCosta told the audience, “The Turtle Farm was viable before the ill-conceived version. Patrons on a ship with an average daily spend of $90 can’t afford.
It is important to research leasing the entity and partnerships with Disney for instance, which would free up venues for local artists and things of that nature.”
Mrs. Powery-Hewitt said she would support privatising the farm if employees do not lose their jobs.
With regard to the issue of Cayman’s financial industry and how the candidates would go about improving this sector of the economy, Dwene Ebanks said, “Caymanian integration into the financial industry is one thing that I would concentrate on. We have had the issue of lawyers and outsourcing of jobs. We need to create policies that will get Caymanians into managerial positions and/or higher.”
In his answer, Captain Eugene noted, “It is important to remember we were on the Grey List and we are now off. The key to keeping our financial industry thriving is stability.
We should encourage more hedge funds to set up here and remember that any kind of taxation would mean the industry goes out the window.”
Andrea Christian noted that improving policies and proper accountability in the Civil Service were crucial to improving Cayman’s financial industry.
When asked what they thought the top issues facing the top issues were facing the District of West Bay, Captain Eugene pointed out unemployment, cost of living and assistance to the indigent. He said these were among the concerns that were represented to him and other MLAs by the people of West Bay.
For Ms Christian, the issues of most concern were crime, unemployment and the social issues facing the young and the elderly.
Dwene Ebanks said unemployment, cost of living and learned helplessness were high on the list. He explained that there were over 350 jobs that could be identified that were doable by unemployed people.
Other issues canvassed included hiring of Caymanians and expatriates and voting to decrease government pay, which all candidates said they would do if they had to do so.
The matter of collecting pension and salary was also visited, to which Captain Eugene, the only candidate to have such a dilemma in practice, said he does not claim his pension though he could but feels it should be a personal decision.
The Chamber of Commerce has organised the series of candidate forums in each district during the months of April and May.
These will allow nominated candidates to state their positions on the major national, business and district issues. Questions are asked by Chamber representatives, allowing competing candidates to debate the issues.
The forums are moderated by Chamber CEO Wil Pineau and broadcast live on Radio Cayman.