Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart took aim at government’s Strategic Policy Statement presentation Wednesday saying it lacked “sufficient meat” to give the country clarity on implementing the plans and policies of the Premier Wayne Panton-led administration.
“We have not heard the clarity that is needed nor the conviction that would assure us on the Opposition and the wider public that they are getting this right,” McTaggart said as he spoke Wednesday afternoon on the debate on Panton’s SPS presentation.
McTaggart said he understood the speech was a policy statement laying the foundation for the detailed programme to come later in the budget but added the country needed more.
“It is important to have sufficient meat on the bone of the SPS to make it credible and better aid in the budget preparation process later in the year,” McTaggart said.
He pointed out former Premier Alden McLaughlin, and himself as finance minister, used the SPS as an opportunity to put “more flesh on the bone than what we heard today,” as they understood that it was an “important opportunity to do more than comply with the law in terms of tabling something”.
The Opposition, he said, expected more than what was delivered by the premier along with Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Chris Saunders.
The SPS, he said, was important in that it provides “clarity and certainty to the country and direction of the government” so when the details of the budget presentation are prepared that would indicate the clear intent of the administration.
McTaggart acknowledged that he may be accused of being overly critical and there may be suggestions that he should cut them some slack as the government members were “new to this”, but said the challenges facing the country are far too important.
“We on this side of the House have no interest in seeing this government fail, we cannot afford this. However, we do see some real risks and we all share a responsibility to avoid that from happening,” McTaggart said.
He outlined the Opposition’s suggestions as a means to assist the government in moving forward as he said the previous administration had laid a foundation that they could build on.
Border-reopening plan needs firm timelines
He took aim at government’s previously released reopening plan, saying that meeting the challenge of reopening the economy takes “more than suggested dates”, it needs clarity and firmly articulated timelines. The dates announced, he added, came with a caveat.
“It seems improbable that the government will even hit their 80% local vaccination trigger to even begin what they term ‘limited introduction of tourism’ on 9 Sept. The numbers that we have to achieve in the remaining weeks are quite significant,” he said.
A “real plan,” he said, is needed for reopening borders and restoring tourism as he pointed to comments from Cayman Islands Tourism Association president Marc Langevin who said government did not consult the sector on the planned reopening.
McTaggart also noted there was no mention of the Integrated Solid Waste Management System. He paid tribute to the efforts of ReGen project manager Peter Ranger, who died suddenly in May, as he urged government to move forward in dealing with the George Town landfill.
“Let’s get this done and close the dump,” he said, as he called on the Panton-led administration to provide the country with a modern waste-to-energy facility that can assist with electricity grid capacity.
He said a balance between accommodating growth and protecting the environment has to be struck.
However, he said, government’s decision to end the free George Town shuttle was counterproductive when it came to the planned push for an energy-efficient public transport service.
McTaggart said the previous government had authorised a mass transport study which was was hampered by COVID, but said it should be revisited to offer a way forward for public transport.
“Ignore [from] where the plans came,” he said, as he encouraged the study to be pursued.
He also questioned the population figure of 71,000 that is being used by government, as he said he was unable to determine where the figure came from.
“The government now wants a higher proportion of a higher population to be vaccinated before reopening. Without further information this looks suspiciously like the means to excuse the delays in setting a realistic target that will take longer to achieve; if indeed at this rate it is even achievable,” he said.
McTaggart expressed dismay over the recent spike in shootings and urged the public to help get guns off the street by providing police with information.
“We must ensure that the evil of gun-and-gang culture is not left to fester and must be curtailed. Strong policing is a part of the solution, but it is not the only solution. What is also needed over the medium to long term is to move forward with the work on the anti-gang strategy that was started under the last administration and announced in the Strategic Policy Statement delivered in 2019,” he added.
Parliament resumes Thursday at 10am.