Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said local residents – and elected lawmakers – should consider what they truly want when determining budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
“Where will these islands be in the future?” Mr. Bush said Wednesday during his response to the government’s budget presentation. “Caymanians must embrace wealth or reap poverty.
“You can’t listen to those who talk about they don’t want to have too many persons here … or that this person or non-Caymanians is responsible for taking business,” he said. “At the same time, that person complaining can walk away with $25,000 or $40,000 check from the business these people have brought to these islands.”
Mr. Bush said there was a delicate balance to be struck “by protecting our own people, but allowing people to come and spend so that we can enhance ourselves.”
As he has several times in the past, Mr. Bush warned the government against adopting immigration policies that could “stifle business” in the islands.
“[That] cannot build a country for the future,” he said. “Growth in gross domestic product means more demand for goods and services. We can only get that kind of consistent … growth if we have a population that can sustain that demand and also earn a decent wage. If we try to stifle growth and rely on cheap labor … the Cayman economy will suffer and businesses will close.”
Mr. Bush said Cayman’s future depends on it competing globally as a “center of excellence” in both tourism and financial services, as well as expanding into other industries.
“We can’t be the dishwasher destination,” he said. “We must continue to attract top quality people from around the world. The money [is] not growing on trees in North Side and East End.
“Caymanians need to decide what it is they truly want.”
A good portion of the opposition leader’s debate was spent reminiscing on the public projects that were begun under his former United Democratic Party administration, projects that he claimed the opposition of the day had not supported.
Among those projects listed were the Health City Cayman Islands hospital, Cayman Enterprise City, the proposed Ironwood Development and accompanying extension of the East-West Arterial Highway, the For Cayman Investment Alliance and a proposed five-star hotel in Beach Bay.
“If I had listened to the [then]-People’s Progressive Movement opposition, the special economic zone along with the Shetty hospital would never have gotten off the ground.
“But today, the PPM have seen the light and, lo and behold, what wonderful projects they are today.”
Mr. Bush also noted that his former government was publicly blasted for introducing a raft of new fees, including an increase in the petroleum tax and successive increases on work permit fees and certain financial service industry company charges.
“The alternative to introducing those fees would have been the introduction of some form of direct taxation, which the U.K. [government] wanted me to do,” he said. “[The PPM administration] broke the law and the Cayman Islands had to go cap in hand to the U.K. to get every budget, including this budget … approved by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“Take credit for that! Take credit that you and the members of your Cabinet that … you drove our islands to the brink of financial collapse. Now [the government] want to blame McKeeva for it.”