A handful of political hopefuls debated what to do with Cayman’s burgeoning national debt during a Chamber of Commerce candidates forum held in Bodden Town last week.
Independents Charles Clifford, Errington Webster and Gregg Anderson, along with People’s National Alliance member and Community Affairs Minister Dwayne Seymour participated in the Wednesday, 1 May forum at the James M. Bodden Civic Centre.
The Caymanian Compass had reported earlier in the week that a $261 million “balloon” bond payment would be due in November 2019 and that government ministers expected that no sinking fund to help pay off the debt would be established any time soon.
Mr. Seymour told the audience of about 40 residents gathered to hear the debates that the current government had made a significant dent in the national debt by paying more than $30 million each year to retire central government debts.
By 2014/15, Cayman will still have well more than $500 million in central government debt, but Mr. Seymour said government’s three-year plan indicates that government operating surpluses should also rise during those years.
“We’re definitely on our way,” he said.
Former Tourism Minister Charles Clifford said he believed government should get away from its current “flawed economic model” that would cut off government revenue sources in the future.
“They have increased taxes year after year,” Mr. Clifford said. “Businesses have closed and we’ve seen people put out of jobs. Their plan should be the opposite of what it is, they should have reduced taxes over time.”
Independent candidate and retired fireman Errington Webster said he also supported reducing “consumer taxes”, such as the additional levies on fuel imports, to assist in generating more economic activity.
Mr. Webster also said government should aim each year for revenues that were at least $200 million above operational expenditures.
Independent candidate Gregg Anderson said he believed the next government would have to make some “harsh decisions” within the next four years to get the country out of debt.
Mr. Anderson said a “line-by-line” review of the government budget was needed immediately after the 22 May vote. “There are too many little projects that are approved that end up costing us a lot of money,” he said.
Whether or not to do business on Sundays was something of a divisive issue for the candidates.
Mr. Anderson said he kind of “likes Sundays the way they are”.
“I believe we should leave it as it is,” he said.
Mr. Seymour said he wasn’t sure quite which way that was, since some businesses can open on Sundays while others can’t.
“Sunday trading is already happening,” he said. “If you didn’t know, that means you’re not getting around Cayman.”
Mr. Clifford said existing government policy was one of “contradiction”, which is “very difficult to reconcile”. “I believe it’s time to review the Sunday trading law,” he said.
Mr. Webster said Cayman should “keep to the principles of our scriptures”.
“We need to remain unique from the world,” he said. “They don’t want to come here and see the same thing that they left.”
Bodden Town landfill
To the surprise of no one, all four candidates who participated in Wednesday’s forum opposed a planned waste management facility in the Midland Acres neighbourhood, as proposed by the previous United Democratic Party government.
Mr. Seymour, who recently claimed he had been “thrown under the bus” by former Premier McKeeva Bush on the issue, said his support of the matter would depend on the people of the district. “Right now, they’re saying no,” he said.
Mr. Clifford agreed: “The people of Bodden Town do not want a dump or waste management facility in their district”.
Mr. Webster said there was “a good chance” what was proposed would actually not turn into a waste management or recycling centre and that Bodden Town would simply end up with “another dump”.
Mr. Anderson, who led a coalition against the proposed Midland Acres facility, said the plan would bring “economic stagnation” to his district.