Chamber seeks role in landfill debate

Health minister calls on business lobby to be “less adversarial”

The Chamber of Commerce will continue to advocate for “transparency, accountability and objectivity” as government investigates plans to deal with Cayman’s landfill issues, according to President Johann Moxam.

In a message to members Monday, Mr. Moxam said the organization must be involved in the “national discussion” amid calls from Health Minister Osbourne Bodden for the business lobby to be “less adversarial” and “more supportive” of government.

Mr. Moxam praised government for keeping the matter at the top of its agenda, but the Chamber again expressed frustration at the pace of efforts to find a solution to the islands’ much publicized landfill issues. Plans won’t be completed until 2019 at the earliest and will cost in excess of $100 million, according to a strategic outline case released by government on Friday.

“The Cayman Islands has been provided with what is essentially an assessment of the current solid waste management situation,” the Chamber writes of that document in its newsletter.

“[It says] we are at a critical juncture on all three islands; that, despite grappling with this issue for more than a decade, we still do not have a solid waste management policy; we do not have the local expertise to develop such a policy and given the government’s financial situation, the islands will need to enter a public-private partnership in order to pay for whatever solution is ultimately selected for our islands.”

The Chamber had previously written to Minister Bodden to express concern about the formulation of a steering committee to research landfill solutions, suggesting that enough research had already been done and government needed to get on with solving the issue.

“The failure of successive governments to find a solution is not the result of lack of information, it is the lack of clarity about what the government is trying to achieve. It is lack of courage to make a decision in the best interest of our islands,” Mr. Moxam wrote in an open letter to the minister in February.

The Chamber newsletter, sent to members Monday, includes a link to Mr. Bodden’s response to this letter and some of the Chamber leadership’s reaction to both this and the strategic outline case, released Friday.

In his letter, dated May 22, Minister Bodden defends government’s decision to conduct fact-finding missions in Tampa to visit waste-to-energy sites as “extremely productive,” insisting the visits enabled the premier, the minister and their team of civil servants to get a better understanding of how such systems – under consideration for Cayman – work in practice.

He said the government plans to be open and transparent throughout the process but warned, “I must state clearly though that it is not in the country’s best interest, when the Chamber or any media house cries out for an instant fix, when we all know the financial restrictions we as a country are under. We trust this attitude will change as you see that we are working hard and openly to get the best solution for these islands.”

In his letter, the minister asks Mr. Moxam to take on a “less adversarial role” and be “more supportive” in future correspondence, suggesting the Chamber could help out with a public relations campaign.

Mr. Moxam said the $100 million tab for the landfill solution would ultimately be picked up by residents and the business community and, as such, the Chamber needed to be heavily involved in the process.

“Chamber presidents and elected politicians may come and go, but a practical solution to the national issue of the landfills is still another six years away as per the strategic outline case. The Chamber calls for accountability, objectivity and transparency, especially on a matter of such urgent national importance, which is estimated to cost our Islands more than $100 million. In order to fulfill our mission we must continue to be involved in the national discussion, policy formulation and influence decision making,” he said.

Mr. Moxam, in his comments to members Monday, suggested the Chamber would wait for more information before determining what level of support to provide to any public relations campaign.

He added, “We would expect that the company that is hired will develop a comprehensive public relations strategy which includes seed funding for advertising and public information campaigns. The ultimate objective must be to ensure that everyone is informed about the changes that will be required to effectively implement the approved integrated waste management strategy, including recycling, composting, tires and oil disposal and the handling of toxic and medical wastes.”

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