Letter: Give people a say in cruise berthing project

The proposed cruise berthing project and the potential consequences have the ability to negatively impact the future of the Cayman Islands. It will be the largest and most expensive capital works project in Cayman’s history. As a result, the environmental, financial and socioeconomic concerns must be addressed as a matter of national importance.
Transparency, objectivity and a sound local approach by our leaders, the pro-port lobbyists and the large numbers of concerned citizens and residents is necessary in this national discussion. Ultimately, we all want to live in a clean, safe, vibrant and successful Cayman Islands.
Unfortunately, the current lack of transparency by the government fuels more speculation by the day and leads to many questions, for example:
1. Why are they unwilling to engage the public and release all the information and plans on the project?
2. What are the estimated total costs of the project?
3. If the CIG is not providing a guaranty for the project, will the cruise lines provide the necessary passenger commitments per year? It is important to remember that the CIG told the public the cruise lines would be paying for the piers.
4. Who will pay for the redevelopment of cargo operations on the current site? At what cost?
5. Where is the updated EIA and updated Final Business case as a result of the new design, size, costs associated by moving into deeper waters?
6. Is the Unity government in discussions with China Harbour Engineering Company to finance and construct the project? Is CHEC on the list of final bidders?
The lack of relevant and substantive communication/consultation with the public, which is best described as a lack of transparency by CIG, results in legitimate concern that the public will be left paying the final tab if the project goes ahead.
I agree that we need to improve the tourist experience and I appreciate the desire for the berthing piers for the ships that come to Cayman. However, it is imperative that our government proceed with caution, demonstrate the highest standards of transparency with the associated costs and long-term liabilities in order not to burden current and future generations to essentially aid a select few.
A project of this magnitude, which will likely be closer to CI$300-400 million in final costs, must not be driven or decided upon by pro-port lobbyists and the politicians they control. This type of major decision requires a national referendum.
I encourage the voting public and residents to stand up, speak out and continue to publicly ask questions and hold all MLAs accountable. Ultimately, all Caymanians, residents and businesses, including corporate Cayman, must unite against these types of poor and expensive decisions in order to guard against potential fiscal and environmental mismanagement.
In the spirit of candid dialog, I am prepared to call this charade what it really is. This entire process and project is nothing more than an example of “Government Sponsored Corporate Welfare” to benefit a few select business interests for certain families, political financiers, friends and acolytes who expect the public purse to finance and prop up their commercial interests. No business or sector is entitled to a profit. Profitability comes from sound strategic decisions and hard work, not a government bailout or subsidy.
History clearly shows us that the perceived success of most of those businesses and groups desperately pushing for the cruise berthing project, no matter the costs to the public, is largely because of the cronyism, nepotism and attitudes of entitlement which drives the duty-free retail sector and how decisions have been historically made in Cayman over several decades.
If the customary poorly negotiated contracts on behalf of CIG continues and is executed, it is the type of decision that could potentially plunge our country into significant long-term financial hardship. Poor and expensive decisions like this will accelerate the implementation of a direct form of taxation in the Cayman Islands.
Given the size, scale and magnitude of the project, our leaders must demonstrate the highest levels of transparency and good governance. The public deserves all relevant information in order to make an informed decision. It appears, given their blind support and their close connections and working relationship with government, that the pro-port lobbyists know more than the general public about the project.
This issue is too important for the future of our country to play the usual “politricks.” A referendum will clearly demonstrate the will of the people at a time when Cayman has record numbers in both cruise passenger arrivals and air travel arrivals.
The CIG and Ministry of Tourism promised public consultation and information sharing at the outset. What has occurred to date is unacceptable. Perhaps the reluctance is based on emerging details which suggests that there may exist significant issues that could potentially embarrass this government.
If so, the question to be asked is: why are they committed to moving forward at any cost? Their collective actions are reminiscent of the conduct of the previous UDP administration during its negotiations with CHEC in 2011-12. You may recall the PPM opposition members including the current Premier and Deputy Premier fought against it then, alleging a lack of transparency, alleging possible corruption and failing to meet the appropriate standards of good governance.
Johann Moxam