December 2, 2020

DART STUDY POINTLESS

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 Campaigners reject report as nonsense

Ormond Morgan

West Bay activists have rejected as nonsense a Dart-funded report on the benefits of closing the road in front of Public Beach and rebuilding the Marriott Hotel.

The report, released on Wednesday by accounting giant Deloitte & Touche after four months of research, promises 410 jobs and $1.9 million in government revenues during the next three years as a result of the two Dart-government ForCayman Investment Alliance projects.

The 14-page study predicts an additional 600 jobs and $2.4 million in revenues by 2020.

“People can be paid to write anything. This is not an independent report,” said Ormond Morgan, head of the West Bay Action Committee, who, along with Captain Bryan Ebanks ‘Save Cayman” group and Alice Mae Coe’s “Concerned Citizens” have lobbied against closing half-a-mile of West Bay Road, facilitating revitalisation of the old Marriott Hotel.

“My forefathers’ tombstone is not for sale. These people need to go back to the drawing board,” Mr Morgan said.

Mr Ebanks said the developments were not in West Bay’s interests, but rather the developer’s.

Demonstrators take to the streets at a recent protest

“They say 400 jobs: to give up what [in exchange]? Of what benefit are they? What can $2 million do? Almost $1.5 million was given to a local church,” he said, alluding to government’s “Nation-Building” grants to West Bay’s Wesleyan Holiness Church.

“Dart benefits from this road, not us. We don’t know of any traffic problem. This is a sham, and in Dart’s greater interest,” Mr Ebanks told iNews Cayman.

Next Monday, in a 4pm ceremony on the steps of Elgin Avenue’s Government Administration Building, Ms Coe will hand Governor Duncan Taylor bound copies of an island-wide petition with at least 3,500 signatures, protesting closure of the road.

While reluctant to comment yesterday on the Deloitte report, Ms Coe asked if “Dart had engaged Deloitte to do the study?”, preferring to read the document before reacting.

The Deloitte report reviewed government’s inability to borrow money by the terms of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility signed by Premier McKeeva Bush in London two weeks ago.

Private-sector stimulus was the only alternative, the study concluded, pegging Dart-led growth of employment at 1.2% and revenues at only 0.37% by 2014.

”Some people look better going than coming,” Mr Morgan said.

“These guys have promised $1.5 billion in the next 30 years,” he said, referring to long-term alliance spending plans on schools, roads, parks, hotels and relocation of the George Town landfill to 110 acres in Bodden Town.

Construction has already started on refurbishment of the Dart-owned Marriott Hotel and construction of a 9,000-foot extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway across Dart-owned land near the Cayman Islands Yacht Club into Batabano.

“Who knows what is going to happen in the next 15 years?” he asked, lamenting the road project. “Our fathers were in that land in their wompers, and they could have made something of it if they had wanted, but they decided to leave it for three or four generations.”

Captain Ebanks was similarly dismissive of the road-building. ”It’s swamp in there, and it’s unnecessary. It’s a sham. It’s in the interests of Dart. If it were in the best interests of the country, I would support it, but it’s being done so they can develop the land.”

The Deloitte report ends by discussing long-term “indirect, but tangible positive impacts” of alliance spending, citing “modernisation of waste-disposal processes,” in the relocated landfill, “an increase in available schooling space, and an improved tourism infrastructure that will better position the Cayman Islands for increasing its share of the tourism market when growth resumes in that industry globally.

“Further,” it says. “there will be a social benefit associated with the increased availability and quality of recreation and other lands available for public use.”

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