The Chamber of Commerce is urging government to secure contractual agreements to protect local businesses and jobs when it negotiates large-scale public-private partnerships with overseas developers.
In a letter to Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts last week, the Chamber outlines 10 specific provisions it suggests should be included in final agreements with developers. These include written commitments to use local contractors and local labor where available and to hold open tenders for subcontracts.
David Moffitt of Ironwood, which hopes to develop a $360 million golf resort in North Side and East End, has previously stated that local companies and workers will be hired on all aspects of the associated road project, estimating it will create 200 jobs.
Chamber president Barry Bodden said the organization was hearing all the right things from government and private companies, including Ironwood, which is negotiating a partnership to build a 10-mile extension to the East-West Arterial road to help make its resort project viable.
But he said the Chamber wants to ensure verbal commitments are included in written contracts, along with a clear chain of accountability and oversight.
Mr. Bodden, who owns Island Paving – which has previously been involved in road paving projects – has stated that he believes such public-private partnerships will be the new formula for large infrastructure developments going forward. And he is urging government to tread carefully to ensure local firms are protected.
“Recently proposed multimillion-dollar and multiyear projects demonstrate confidence in the Cayman Islands economy, and when approved and completed will create new jobs and business opportunities for Chamber members and the business community that will help to stimulate economic activity across several industry sectors.
“The Chamber council intends to meet with developers of these projects shortly to review their long-term plans and to ask them questions about their projects.
“We believe large-scale developments can provide substantial benefit to the business community as long as the government holds the developers accountable,” said Mr. Bodden.
In its letter to Minister Tibbetts, the Chamber suggests agreements with private sector partners should:
Incorporate provisions that local contractors and available and qualified local labor are given first priority at all times
Incorporate provisions to ensure an open tendering process designed to enable licensed local businesses the opportunity for bidding on various aspects of the projects
Mandate sourcing of locally available equipment during the construction phase of the projects
Require developers to demonstrate the need for importing specialized construction equipment, before doing so
Demonstrate relevant local expertise is not available before being allowed to contract directly with overseas entities.
Incorporate regular meetings with the National Workforce Development Agency to ensure that no locally qualified labor resources are being overlooked
Incorporate provisions that products and services required for the projects are sourced locally, wherever possible
Ensure that all local subcontractors who are hired by the developers are in compliance with all local licensing, health and pension requirements
Incorporate reporting requirements to ensure regular inspections and compliance with the final agreements.
The Chamber writes that local businesses that are in full compliance with local laws should be given the opportunity to bid on various aspects of the projects so that the local economy receives the full benefits of the large scale developments. Mr. Bodden said some of the recommendations had already been discussed with government and he believes they are in support.
“These projects are needed and are important to our islands and the local economy.
“The current restrictions on borrowing by the government creates a challenge, therefore partnerships with the private sector are critical in order to move these projects forward. We must, however, ensure that any large scale PPPs provide true direct benefits for local businesses and the Caymanian people.
“The government has assured the Chamber that any such agreements will incorporate provisions to this effect and the Chamber remains committed to working closely with them to achieve these goals.”