Cayman can’t afford pricey airport plan

The Grand Cayman airport terminal was built by the government of which we were Ministers (Members) of Executive Council and was completed in 1984 and opened in 1985. Our government also resurfaced the Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac runways in the mid-1990s and extended the Grand Cayman runway by 1,000 feet inland including a turning area for bigger jets and filled part of the next 1,000 feet inland for an overrun. We tried to extend the runway for 2,000 feet but were stopped by public protest from closing the west airport boundary road. It would not be very expensive to add the inland 1,000 feet on the runway, and maybe this should still be considered.

Incidentally, jets which are landing would be the same height over the hospital as before as the extra runway length is for takeoff. The cost to extend 1,000 feet into the North Sound as mentioned by previous governments is astronomical and dredging would have detrimental effects on the North Sound environment. 

The terminal was constructed by Arch and Godfrey Construction and can be expanded into a second story for departures with jet ways which would free up the whole of the ground floor for arrivals. The second floor could be built at a reasonable cost of maybe $15 million rather than the $200 million airport expansion talked about by the last government. The income produced by the expenditure on the additional area must justify the capital expenditure. 

The government has to live within its means and spend as little as possible to achieve the needed results. We do not need any more extravagant high cost Rolls Royce-type of buildings. Cayman has financial problems caused by overspending and responsible fiscal policies must be followed as required by the law and repeated in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) with the U.K. 

Small inexpensive improvements such as covered areas with gutters for rainy weather where cars drop off and pick up passengers at the departure and arrival areas would be appreciated by the public.

The number of air arrivals in 1999 when we were in government has, at least up till a year ago, never again been reached. Prior to 2000 we did not have the overcrowding problems cited by previous governments to justify a $200 million terminal. How is it that with less passengers passing through the terminal there is suddenly a big problem. Why do not the government authorities schedule some flights later or earlier so as to avoid most of the aircraft landing and departing over the short period around midday? Such schedules were done before. Customs and immigration staff are on duty during these times anyhow and the spread of flights over another hour or two should not add further costs.

Since the comprehensive medium- to long-term visionary strategic plan Vision 2008 for the whole Cayman Islands which was prepared by and with the public’s input in 1998, there has never been a comprehensive medium-term plan for the Cayman Islands. No country can be properly run without such a plan to chart its future. The FFR with the U.K. requires government to provide “Effective medium-term planning to ensure that the full impact of fiscal decisions is understood,” so at least the government must do a fiscal plan!

Governments must live within their financial means and get reasonable returns for capital expenditures on revenue-producing projects like the airports. Governments, including the four governments we were in from 1976 to 2000, lived within their means, so why could not those governments since 2000 live within their means also, so that the Cayman Islands and future generations would not be saddled with repaying government’s astronomical debt today and in the future.

John McLean

Truman Bodden