“The members of the Progressives administration like to style themselves as ‘a government that gets things done.’ On the subject of the George Town cruise dock, they have lived up to that promise.”
—Cayman Compass Editorial Board, Oct. 2, 2015
As we say in the newsroom … “Get me rewrite!”
Last week’s announcement by Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell was, in reality, more of an admission: The Progressives government, led by Premier Alden McLaughlin, has failed to carry out what would have been one of its signature projects, the George Town cruise berthing facility.
As is too often the case in government-led initiatives, the cruise dock fell victim to a tangle of regulations, red-tape, fiscal requirements (of the FFR and RFP variety), and plain old-fashioned politics. To mollify a vocal group of environmentalists, the original design was sent back to the drawing board for a compromise plan that would have put at risk fewer coral formations. Meanwhile the clock was ticking, and eventually time ran out for this government.
In the four years since the Progressives have been in power, and the one-and-a-half years since Premier McLaughlin declared his administration’s commitment to the cruise dock, the government never announced its plan (if it had one) for how to pay for the project. Of course, that should have been Step One.
Back in October 2015, following Premier McLaughlin’s revelation to the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce of his government’s support for the cruise dock, we provided our vocal backing and offered four “guiding principles”:
- “First, when something is to be done, it is best that it be done quickly.”
- “Second, when Cayman sets out to build something of this magnitude, especially in the tourism sector, it must be of the highest quality.”
- “Third, the cruise dock project must fall within the financing scheme that government comes up with.”
- “Fourth, while the cruise dock project may be regarded as the catalyst for increased success in cruise tourism, the dock itself cannot be the centerpiece or focus of Cayman’s tourism product.”
Unfortunately, the Progressives weren’t able to tick off any of those boxes.
Last May, we published an editorial marking the beginning of the “Fourth Quarter” of the Progressives administration. At that time, we had already acknowledged that the proposed cruise berthing facility was unlikely to move forward before the current government left office.
In addition to the cruise dock, we highlighted a half-dozen other major initiatives begun by the Progressives, nearly all of which we supported publicly, and none of which, it appears, will amount to anything more than a stack of expensive consultants’ reports.
- The solution to the George Town Landfill problem, which the Progressives assured the country they possessed during the 2013 campaign;
- Key recommendations in the “EY Report” (AKA “Project Future”) to reorganize, downsize and streamline the civil service;
- The extension of the East-West Arterial (AKA the “Ironwood highway”);
- The demolition of the Glass House and creation of a new public park;
- Meaningful reform of Cayman’s public education system; and,
- A resolution to the permanent residence backlog caused by the Progressives’ 2013 revisions to the country’s Immigration Law.
Of the items on that list (as well as others), only the last has a foreseeable chance of moving forward by the May elections, and that will be through the court system – and in spite of the Progressives’ efforts, not because of them.
It is important to keep in mind that announcements are effortless, and that ground-breakings are not certain harbingers of ribbon-cuttings. Gold shovels make for good photo opportunities but in practical terms are poor substitutes for heavy machinery.
In the context of major government initiatives, we would do well to remember that promises do not preordain results, and to recall the now-prescient words uttered by Premier McLaughlin on Sept. 30, 2015, as he publicly committed his Progressives administration to the construction of the George Town cruise dock:
“There will not be [dredging] in George Town harbor tomorrow or next week or next month.”
Consider that a promise kept.