The Cayman Islands government’s Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said he wants to chat with the Dart group about reopening the strip of West Bay Road that was closed in mid-March.
Swapping that section of beachfront road in exchange for the new Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension defeated the objective of having two ways in and out of the district of West Bay in times of emergency, Mr. McLaughlin said Tuesday during a Chamber of Commerce forum for George Town candidates at the South Sound Community Centre.
Mr. McLaughlin, a People’s Progressive Movement candidate, said the road and Dart’s planned hotel on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“It can be done and accommodate what Dart is doing by slowing the traffic down, say to 15 miles per hour, as it passes through that particular development. Those sorts of things are done in many places around the world,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Most people are not going to use it unless they absolutely have to.”
Jude Scott, an independent candidate endorsed by political advocacy group Coalition for Cayman, said public officials mucked up the ForCayman Investment Alliance negotiations with Dart.
“Our government failed us,” he said.
Mr. Scott said major public private partnerships should have a due process, assess value for money, have tangible and sustainable benefits to the country and be conducted with appropriate transparency. “We really can’t tick any of those boxes on this deal,” he said, adding that the fault lies with government, not the private developer.
He said at this point officials should try to negotiate having emergency vehicle access over the closed strip of West Bay Road, just in case.
Independent candidate Stefan Baraud and PPM candidate Lucille Seymour participated in the forum along with Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Scott.
In response to a question about government debt, Mr. Baraud said it’s difficult to see how government can address its serious financial problems without election officials leading the way on responsible and ethical use of funds.
“How can we address these types of matters when we see our elected representatives in the House double-dipping, taking pensions while they are getting paid. Where is the example in that?” he said. “How are they going to address it when they’re doing things of that nature?”
Mr. McLaughlin said the amount government spends on debt financing is not the greatest concern, and neither is the $261 million bullet loan due in 2019, which he said government will simply have to refinance. He said the real concern is unfunded healthcare and pension liabilities of an unknown amount.
Meanwhile, Mr. Scott said government debt is another form of wasteful spending.
The proposed Legal Practitioners Bill, amid other sweeping changes, seeks to regulate the practice of Cayman law from overseas offices. Ms Seymour said the legislation should accommodate overseas and local attorneys.
“The Cayman Islands really needs to have the business overseas, but at the same time we need to regularise our own homefront to ensure that our local lawyers have their piece of the pie, especially the newly trained ones,” Ms Seymour said.