District: Bodden Town West
Current profession: Accountant
Interview with Chris Saunders
Kayla Young: Hi, this is Kayla Young with the Cayman Compass. We are here with independent candidate Chris Saunders, running for the district of Bodden Town West in the May 2017 elections. Welcome Mr. Saunders. Why not introduce yourself and tell us why you are running for the Legislative Assembly?
Chris Saunders: Thanks and it’s great to be here. First and foremost I am a husband to a very lovely wife, a father of three talented and polite children, a brother to four lovely sisters and a son to a praying mother. I am a certified public accountant. I have had held senior leadership positions in both the telecommunications and financial industries for the past 14 years. Over 20 years ago, the people of the Cayman Islands made an investment in me and others of my generation to go overseas, study and return to make Cayman better. That is a charge from my generation. If we want to be brutally honest, the Cayman that we inherited yesterday is better than the Cayman today, and if we do not make some changes, things are going to get worse tomorrow. So my job is basically to see what it is that we can do, recognizing that families have challenges after paying their mortgages, paying utilities, health insurance, people have very little money left for food. To answer the question for this century, “what can we do to make Cayman better?” As an accountant, I know the difference between having a job today and a career tomorrow. And I believe that there are many challenges facing this country, but my experience, my education, the jobs that I have had have allowed me to see many places, to prepare me to be part of the solutions to the challenges that we face today.
Kayla Young: What’s the most important issue facing your district?
Chris Saunders: Some say that Bodden Town has been divorced economically, politically and socially from the rest of the Cayman Islands. We have very little investment in our district, despite being the second largest, fastest growing, and having one of the longest coastlines in the Cayman Islands. Some also saw that the development [in] other districts came at the expense of Bodden Town, and this is not to take anything away from the other districts, and saying that maybe they have better representatives. I believe that we could have done a better job recognizing the historical importance of Bodden Town, we could have done a better job of ensuring that Bodden Town had a little bit more. So I think getting more investment in Bodden Town is definitely the key of what I want to tackle for the district of Bodden Town.
Kayla Young: What’s the most important issue facing the Cayman Islands as a whole?
Chris Saunders: The most important issue I would say is definitely cost of living; cost of retiring; lack of opportunities; and lack of a long-term plan. When we look in terms of struggles and challenges that families have today, it is honestly very, very unnecessary. And we understand how the Cayman economy works. It is not rocket science in terms of fixing it. I’m not going to say it’s going to be done overnight, but I can say it can be done. We also need to address the issues of retirees. That is definitely one of the issues because a lot of people cannot afford to retire. Unless people can afford to retire, we need to have an economy that’s creating a thousand jobs a year. As a result, you definitely would need to have businesses that can create a thousand jobs a year. So looking at even government taxation, our tax base is also key in terms of trying to see [how] we can make this country better.
Kayla Young: What is something that Cayman is doing right and how would you help to continue that?
Chris Saunders: One of the things that we are definitely doing right is we’re holding on to our history; we’re holding on to our faith. We’re also still respectful to each other and we still abide by the rule of law. I do not believe that any elections or any politicians will ever change that about the Caymanian people, or who we are as [a] community. If you look at what we have been able to achieve, from the pioneering men and women of yesteryear; from very little, they made Cayman one of the largest offshore financial centers in the world, and that is not an easy feat. So I think we still have a sure foundation … I’ve always been a firm believer that the things that are wrong with Cayman can be fixed by the things that are right with Cayman. And I honestly believe that we still have a solid foundation on which to move this country forward.
Kayla Young: If elected, what are your top priorities on day one?
Chris Saunders: The top priorities are actually tackling the cost of living for sure; developing a short-term, medium- and long-term plan, and also looking at our immigration policy. Those are things that definitely need to be tackled. We have a system right now that marginalizes Caymanians and exploits foreign workers that come to this country, and no society can be built on that kind of foundation. Those are some of the things we definitely need to fix, but we definitely need to look at regulating interest rates, regulating fuel, and see what else we can do in terms of dealing with cost of living. Also education. That is a big thing for us, in the sense of we need to look at our curriculum and what it is that we are preparing our kids for. Our healthcare system is definitely something that needs to be looked at. So there is a myriad of issues, but I believe that looking at some of the other people that are running in this district, both independent people, UDP people, and the PPM, I think there are some good people, some smart people, and I think that once we take the egos out of this and we remember that the highest political office in this country is that of the voter, not premier or politician, I think we can definitely move this country forward. And that is what I’m looking forward to.
Kayla Young: Thank you Mr. Saunders for coming in and providing voters with this opportunity to learn about your issues. Once again, this is Kayla Young with the Cayman Compass. Thank you for watching.