October 28, 2020



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More employment would help reduce lawlessness, Bush

Premier McKeeva Bush yesterday decried local crime, saying putting people back to work was the best way to fight lawlessness, while calling for a less-partisan “committee system” of government.

He also said 2011 tourism numbers would surpass a decade-old record of 300,00 visitors, and revealed that Chinese port builders would give Cayman 40% of their earnings after repaying a $300 million investment in the George Town harbour, a project also likely to include berthing facilities in Cayman Brac.

Addressing a packed ballroom at the Westin Hotel’s one-day Cayman Business Outlook financial-services conference yesterday, Mr Bush was enthusiastic about improvements at Cayman Airways Ltd (CAL), saying the national carrier would likely launch a Dallas route as soon as May, and a Panama route in August.

Praising police for their crime-fighting efforts in the face of Wednesday night’s attempted Bodden Town robbery and a hold-up in George Town yesterday, the fourth and fifth incidents in five days, Mr Bush nonetheless said even while Cayman is among the most prosperous and “viable” places in the world, “we cannot have peace and order with these robberies.

“We have to get people back working. We can’t have police at every bank door, but we can start these projects and get them done,” he said, referring to the employment generated by port construction, the Dart-government ForCayman Alliance, airport reconstruction and growth of the financial- services industry.

He lamented the opposition to his efforts, however, exhorting the press to “stop printing rubbish that perpetuates divisions in our children’s minds”, saying Cayman was in danger of “arguing over fireants while elephants are trampling on us”.

Divisive politics “all come from that aspect”, he said, questioning if the Cayman Islands Constitution were appropriate: “I have said since 2002 that what we need is a committee system of government”.

Tourism statistics due for release at month’s end, he said, would demonstrate the health of the industry, “surpassing 300,000, something we have long talked about, reaching 309,000 for the first time since 2001”. Further efforts to boost visitor numbers had sparked inauguration of CAL’s new Dallas and Panama routes, and would entail a 2,500-foot extension of the Owen Roberts runway into the Huldah Road cricket grounds.

“We hope by August the due dilgence on the project will be done and we’ll be starting an audit for the UK and our own audit, “ Mr Bush said, citing costs between $8 million and $12 million, far better, he said, than “well over $35 million to extend the runway into the North Sound,” frequently suggested by airport experts. “Which would you choose?” the premier asked.

Mr Bush re-affirmed contract details described to iNews Cayman earlier this week by Ellio Solomon, George Town MLA and head negotiator with port builders China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), including local labour, Cayman construction contractors, supply of building materials and local accommodation.

Repeating his own Wednesday statement to iNews Cayman that “George Town is not ideal”, Mr Bush said CHEC would not only build cruise berths in Hog Sty Bay, but “was committed to putting a jetty” at the Cayman Turtle Farm, defraying annual $9 million subsidies to the park.

“Government will not have to find that $9 million,” Mr Bush said.

Additionally, China will cover the full cost of the environmental impact assessment,” done by Los Angeles-based engineers Aecom, “and after China pays off its investment after 25 years, there will be a profit sharing with Cayman of 40%.

“There will be no government loans and no guarantees,” he said, before going on to praise Dart Realty’s West Bay hotel and highway projects, which entail a much-protested closure of 2,500 feet of road by Public Beach.

“It’s good for local investment. It’s good for George Town and it’s good for West Bay,” he said. “It’s the right thing and we have the right company to do it. People are going to be employed.”

But, he announced, a formal cost-benefit project analysis “is going to cost me $250,000 to get the proper advice, to tell me that it’s the right thing.”

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