The Brac has been an integral component of the Cayman Islands ever since Christopher Columbus first descried it some 510 years ago. Legendary visitors in the early times included privateer Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. The Brac was first settled in the 1660s, before Grand Cayman.
Over the past 80 years, the Brac’s population has inched up from 1,200 residents to about 2,200.
In the modern era, the Brac’s most important export has been its people. Many of Cayman’s most successful and influential families have roots in the Brac: the Fosters, Kirkconnells, Ritches, Scotts and Tibbettses, just to name a few.
Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell is a proud Bracker, as is House Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the country’s first woman premier.
Brac students continue to excel compared to their Grand Cayman cohorts, indicating the Brac will have an outsize positive impact on the country’s future.
The amount of public monies being bestowed upon the Brac is simply disproportionate to the number of people who live there. It’s not good for the country. It’s not good for the Brac.
Contrary to its résumé as an incubator for entrepreneurship, the Brac today exists as the Cayman government’s experiment with its own particular strain of state socialism.
While such a characterization may spark howls of protest, let us remind you that as many as 90 percent of employees on the Brac work for government, an astounding figure stated during a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum in the Brac in April.
The government plans a multitude of investments for the Brac, including enhancements to the island’s airport and improvements to the Brac’s FIFA-certified football field.
A cruise ship facility has also been discussed.
The biggest single project is the expansion of the so-called “Hurricane Hilton” emergency shelter into a secondary school to replace the current Layman E. Scott Sr. High School, which is named after
“Teacher Scott,” the foremost educator ever on the Brac.
While the end result may not be the wisest use of resources, we’ll give credit to Mr. Kirkconnell for improving a bad situation he inherited.
By now, most Cayman residents should be aware of the Brac paving controversy, which has resulted in the diversion of National Roads Authority equipment and staff from Grand Cayman.
Meanwhile, the more than 50,000 people in Grand Cayman still await the execution of similar projects: airport expansion, cruise berthing, adequate road paving. Little Cayman, the smallest of the three islands, continues to make do with an unlicensed runway that cuts across private property and is inadequate for jet aircraft.
The more cynical among us might dismiss those kinds of expenditures as political largesse or outright vote buying – after all, Brackers control the Sister Islands’ two Legislative Assembly seats.
We, however, tend to take lawmakers at their word when they justify the projects as investments to stimulate the Brac’s economy, increase its population and promote tourism. Given the right circumstances, a boom, they say, could be just around the corner.
We’ll set aside our skepticisms about the likelihood of government money turning the Brac into an ecotourism mecca, an economic powerhouse, a new Seven Mile Beach. Now, think about the attendant effects that success would have on our country’s little slice of Eden.
We ask, is this something Cayman can afford – or what Brackers really want?