Report card: Progressives manifesto

Goals promised vs goals achieved

Progressives - ManifestoThe Progressives have released their new manifesto, outlining their achievements over the last four years and setting out their objectives if they lead the next government.

In this article we take a closer look at what the party promised and what it delivered from its ‘Keeping Cayman Strong 2017’ manifesto which formed the basis for the policies and plans for the National Unity government’s four year term.

We will also look at the joint Progressives-alliance roadmap for 2021 and beyond.

Health/COVID-19

Back in 2017, the Progressives fielded 15 candidates.

This time around the party has put forward eight party representatives and is throwing its support behind four independent members who are working with the Progressives as an alliance team.

While its last manifesto predated the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent border closure, improving local healthcare and driving down costs were core parts of the party’s plan in 2017.

However, the cost of health insurance remains a challenge, though some movement was made to bolster CINICO and the announcement of plans for two new hospitals could help lower prices.

Cayman Islands Hospital

The party promised reforms to the health insurance market, but formal changes are yet to be made.

In the new manifesto, the Progressives together with the alliance, pledge to “Review the effectiveness and viability of a modern health insurance system that includes a national health insurance plan alongside options for private insurance.”

As for COVID-19, the 2021 document vows to complete Cayman’s national vaccination programme across all three Islands, having already surpassed the goal of inoculating about 90% of those over 60 years old.

In their 2017 manifesto, the Progressives pledged to construct a much-needed mental health facility. The preliminary work for that project had commenced under the Progressives’ 2013 administration. Formal contracts were signed in 2019.

Work on the facility is continuing and is expected to be completed later this year. The party also promised to work on a new health care facility for Bodden Town, which was previously announced, and investigate the feasibility of commissioning a single healthcare provider for the care of indigents.

Education

In its 2021 manifesto, the Progressives alliance, similar to the party’s 2017 plans, placed high priority on fixing the education system. In 2017, it vowed to improve overall grades of students and “ensure that at least 75% of high school graduates will move on to post-secondary education, either in academic degree programmes or training in vocational trades locally or overseas”.

According to the Education Data Report for the academic year 2017-2018, achievement in the key performance indicators for Year 12 “reflected marginal improvement” over time, but the following year students did not post similar numbers.

Steve Gaffing leads MEYSAL officials on a recent tour through the heart of the construction site. Photo: MEYSAL

For 2018-2019, the reduced percentage of Year 12 students achieving Level 2 qualifications in English and Maths, “highlight the need for the development of an effective strategy in Math education to combat the persistent low performance in Mathematics and that will put the system on track for greater and more sustained gains”, the report stated.

The Progressives vowed to implement more Technical and Vocational Education and Training apprenticeships, and over its term partnered with Inspire Cayman, Superior Auto and other local companies to build on TVET.

However, its promise to address concerns regarding the de facto segregation in public schools which, for the most part, only accept Caymanian children, did not bear fruit. Employment The Progressives promised to ensure more Caymanians joined the workforce.

According to data from the Economics and Statistics Office, in 2017, the overall unemployment rate stood at 4.9%, dropped to 2.8% in 2018 and hit 3.5% in 2019. At the end of 2020, the rate rose to 5.2%, after the tourism industry, in particular, was decimated by the border closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Caymanian unemployment rate stood at 8.3% in fall 2020, up from 5.6% over the same period in 2019, according to the ESO. The Progressives vowed to create a Cayman Human Resources Authority to oversee the human resource requirements of the country, and established the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman department.

The government also oversaw the creation of the JobsCayman portal, a national jobs clearinghouse which provides a searchable database of all available jobs in the Cayman Islands. It also passed legislation to make job postings on the portal mandatory.

Governance

The Progressives promised to amend the Advisory District Councils Law (2011) which featured in previous manifestos; that work was not completed.

The amendments once again form part of the new Progressives alliance manifesto which vows to make the law “fi t for purpose in a single member constituency regime”.

The manifesto pledged to continue to reduce taxes and duties on people and businesses, where practical, which they accomplished, especially following border closures when assistance to small businesses was expanded.

The coalition party also reduced stamp duties for first time Caymanian homeowners.

The party vowed not to incur new borrowings, and kept that promise despite the pandemic, and also paid down government debt.

In addition, the Progressives asserted they would continue paying seamen’s and veterans’ pensions, including payment to their widows, and actually increased the amount to $850 per month.

They also pledged to deal with the landfill and finish the George Town revitalisation project.

Both those initiatives experienced significant movement in March, with government and a Dart-led consortium signing the final contract for the Integrated Solid Waste Management System and a request for proposals for enhancement works in the capital.

Despite losing almost a year to COVID-19 restrictions and having to shift policies to focus on the pandemic, the Progressives appear to have worked through most of their manifesto.

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