EDITORIAL – A NiCE way to kick off the holiday season

“Well, don’t stand there staring. Best
foot forward. Spit spot!”
“Spit spot! And off we go.”
“Come along, children. Spit spot!”
“Hurry up, please. Spit spot!”
— From the 1964 Disney movie “Mary Poppins”

Fifty four years after actress Julie Andrews uttered the now-enduring words “spit spot,” the movie is being reprised and will open in theaters on December 19, just in time for the holidays.

Likewise, just in time for the holidays, beginning at 9 o’clock this morning, Cayman will embark on a most worthwhile effort, cleaning up our island for our visitors and residents who deserve not just pristine sand and seas but, indeed, pristine highways and byways as well. Spit spot. That’s the spirit.

Cayman’s cleanup program, of course, is called NiCE, and after some initial basic safety work skills and conduct training, our pickup patrols will fan out to spruce up roadsides, parks, playgrounds, vacant lots and beaches; to fix and repair; to tidy gardens and give our islands a bit of holiday sparkle.

As we have written, we are staunch supporters of the NiCE program, which provides temporary employment for Caymanians who struggle to find permanent jobs. The fact is that in any nation, there will be some people who lack the skills, aptitude or interest in full-time, permanent work.

Government has devised a handful of opportunities, including NiCE, green iguana culling, beach vending and various retail markets to enable unemployed Caymanians to earn a bit of cash by working temporary or part-time jobs, rather than career-path employment.

In the NiCE program, contracted workers earn $10 per hour, foremen $12, and work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday for one, two or three weeks. Only unemployed adult Caymanians and their spouses are eligible. In our experience, the crews have done a fine job clearing out litter, trash and freshening up Grand Cayman’s public spaces. They have every right to be proud of the job they do, and the service they perform for our community.

We believe that, given the opportunity, most able-bodied people would prefer the dignity of work over the tyranny, if not the ignominy, of welfare dependence. NiCE offers that opportunity in small increments while beautifying our island in time for our busiest tourism season.

The initiative is led by the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure and delivered through the Public Works Department, the National Roads Authority and the Department of Environmental Health. A similar project in the Sister Islands is supervised by District Administration.

It is an all-too-rare example of a government program that actually runs relatively efficiently, is effective and directly helps people who it is designed to help.

In fact, our one quarrel with the program is that it is not a permanent fixture, one that exists year-round.

As we have suggested, our small island could easily support an ongoing “Cleanup Corps.” As tourist arrivals approach the 2 million mark, there is plenty of picking up to do after our islands’ guests. Giving more unemployed Caymanians the opportunity to earn directly and proportionately decreases the funding needs for social services.

As you drive by, give these workers a friendly toot of your horn and a holiday wave. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. We certainly do.