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The Editor Speaks: When fair is not fair

“ A fair and transparent bidding and evaluating process… to make the best decisions possible.”

The above is what the Cayman Islands Airport Authority” claims when they awarded the new concessions at the newly renovated Owen Roberts Airport.

All the big brands won and no small brands were in sight.

Last Wednesday (16 ) the CIAA revealed exactly who the successful bidders were:

Food court: Wendy’s, Subway, Island Taste, Brew Hut.

Retail outlets: Kirk Freeport, Last Chance Island Souvenirs, Bodden Freeport, Tortuga Rum Co., Jacques Scott, Island Jewellers, Churchill Cigars.

Not surprisingly, The President of the Cayman Islands Small Business Association (CISBA), Dawn McLean-Brady, said, “I don’t see any small businesses on there and I believe the reason is the process was so arduous, so bureaucratic. It was over 70 pages of application forms that you had to submit. You had to get audited books… all of that is costs that small business didn’t have to begin with.”

Exactly, but there was help in that regards initially from the CISBA but I don’t have any figures as to how many small businesses took up the offer.

The big rub, however, is the cost of fitting out the concession stands. The cost of which has to be upfront.

McLean-Brady said, “We would have liked more dialogue from the very beginning. I mean, it is what it is. We’re hoping the government will see our concerns were legit because there’s no small businesses here.”

I well remember these concerns were raised at the very beginning and assurances were given that the government were very keen that there would be some of the islands smaller businesses at the airport.

Words are cheap.

There is no way smaller businesses can compete when the goal posts are raised too high.

It is a great pity because it is the small businesses where government gets the majority of its total revenue from.

Sadly, statistics are telling us small businesses now fail at a faster rate than they are being created. Over half of the Cayman workforce is employed by small businesses. Startups and new businesses are responsible for all net new jobs.

Free enterprise embodies the essence of the Caymanian spirit. When will governments realise this?

Every Caymanian business came to being from an idea. A start up. In the early days there wasn’t the big brands new businesses had to contend with.

Last year, in the Cayman Islands the total value of global duty-free and travel-retail sales was US$68.6 billion. That was a year-on-year increase of 8.1%!

All due to passenger numbers being up constituting a rise of 8.4%.

It is not fair none of this is going to our small businesses. It is wrong and very short sighted.

Government says it is fair when it is obviously not.


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