Leaders hint at new policies

| 23/01/2009

(CNS): The much anticipated debate between the country’s two political leaders on Thursday evening offered few surprises. However, the leader of the opposition indicated he would be looking at a new approach to immigration where one size does not fit all, and the leader of government business confirmed the current administration’s desire to start an ambitious $150 million waste to energy programme, as soon as funds permit, to address the George Town dump.

The face-off between McKeeva Bush and Kurt Tibbetts, hosted by Cayman Business Outlook at the Ritz Carlton, turned out not to be a debate in the strictest sense but saw the two leaders asked different questions, which they had not previously seen, on a range of subjects, from the economy to the environment. Speaking without the benefit of prepared speeches, the two were articulate and on occasion humorous, giving some hints at where the campaign between their two parties may head once it gets underway in the coming weeks and months.

The issue of Immigration came up in a number of questions when the men were asked about growing Cayman’s population and how to tackle this crucial subject to enable local business to flourish. Tibbetts defended rollover, saying the system allowed people to come here and move towards settlement and Caymanian status, which increased the population in an orderly fashion and did not make the indigenous people feel like they were being smothered.

However, Bush disagreed and said that rollover had seen jobs lost, especially back office work which had gone to other jurisdictions. He noted that an across the board immigration policy may no longer be suitable and that a new policy was required that treated industries according to their different needs.

“No one in this day and age should expect the financial services industry or the tourism Industry to work with the same policy that construction industry works with. There needs to be some changes. Immigration is not working. We would, must use immigration law to remove glass ceiling but preaching nationalism doesn’t work for us,” he said, adding that financial business in particular needed a policy that could help it recruit and retain the very best people available.

Although moderator Gary Linford commended the government on its infrastructure improvements, he asked why nothing had been done over the infamous George Town dump. Tibbetts said that the scientific data had been collected and as well as a recycling programme the government wanted to launch a waste to energy project.

“The government had planned to begin a recycling programme and then move into a phased effort regarding waste to energy but funds won’t allow us to begin that yet. Conservative estimates suggest it will take $150 million to do it. This issue needs to be addressed, it will have to be done but given the revenue stream we have to prioritise,” the leader of government business said.

The two men both defended the country’s Christian heritage when asked if Cayman should be a secular society with rights for all, which received wide applause, and they both agreed that Cayman’s political landscape was by and large an honest one where politicians followed the code of ethics.

They disagreed on the economy, and Bush criticised Tibbetts for his failure to address the needs of the financial service sector and to see the recession coming. Tibbetts defended the government’s record and said it had a committee that engaged with the private sector over the economy and what was needed. He said the capital project programme, in which government had invested, was an important injection for the local economy.

Both men were asked to write each other’s obituary, which gave an amusing diversion, but when each was given five minutes to say why they should be elected to office at the next election it was back to the politics. Tibbetts defended the PPM’s record and said the government was being prudent but at the same time keeping the economy active. “In times like these it is a fine balance between spending and doing nothing,” the LoGB said, adding that his administration was getting it right.

However, Bush pointed to the increase in unemployment every year since the PPM came to office and said the country needed to see policy changes and fiscal changes. “We need more than a committee that is monitoring the situation. The immigration framework has resulted in jobs being exported to other country and we need a plan to put the country back on track. This is not just a global crisis, it isa local crisis,” he said.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What really is a crying shame is that Big Mac is no longer that. I am quite sure the people would have much preferred and would probably have paid good money to see a  UFC style, no holds barred battle between the two. It would have been far more entertaining than listening to this dribble for the next 4 months and we could have used the gate money to buy some new school books for the kids!

  2. Bruce says:

    What change the Roll Over policy and allow thousands apply for permanent residence or Citizenship. The UDP must be getting advice from the same people who told them that granting status to 3,000 persons was a good idea.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the problem with residence for people who inject money into the local economy by buying proprety hence paying stamp duty which pays money into government coffers.  Also spending money in Caymanian businesses and shops.  Why are the Caymanians all so against people wanting to be part of the community.  This attitude is divisive and leads to a lot of discrimination and ill feeling.  As I see it there is only fear where there is ignorance or prejudice – is that what the Caymanians want to be known for?  If so then I suggest independence and we will all step back and watch the outcome…….

      • Anonymous says:

        There is no problem at all for permanent residence for persons of independent means. There is provision for it in the Immigration Law which is well-exercised.  That is not the issue that is being addressed. 

        Rather than dismissing the legitimate concerns of Caymanians about being swamped and marginalized in their own country as "ignorance and prejudice" why don’t you take the time to understand? Not all fears are based on ignorance; some are legitimate and based on self-preservation. For instance, it is a legitimate fear that if I jump from a tall building I might have an unpleasant landing.  

        Any other country faced with expat imbalance in the population would have erupted into riots or worse by now. I suggest that you research Britain in the 1960s when waves of immigrants came from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean.  In fact , they constituted a relatively small segment of the population but feelings ran high with speeches about "rivers of blood" if the immigration was not checked. The end result was that Britain took away the rights of some Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies to reside in Britain.        

  3. Anonymous says:

    This should have not been titled as a "debate" on the global financial crisis, since both men were being asked separate questions on a range of unrelated topics.

    Nonetheless, what is clear from the "debate" is that neither of these men have anything substantive to say and are incapable of answering simple questions. It was particularly telling that either answered the questions and were allowed to ramble on and on incessantly, without direction from the "moderator".

    Moderator Gary Linford asking the two leaders "which one of you will give me status" was wholly inapprpriate and unprfessional. The grant of status is a matter of significant honour and should never be handed out without the most careful scrutiny. And for the avoidance of doubt, moderating a q&a session for the Chamber of Commerce does not suffice!

    Even worse, neither McKeeva or Kurt corrected him, and a number of persons in the audience seemed to think that statement was somehow humourous.

    Overall, the event was less disappointing than it was scary- to realise the poor quality of the options of persons we have to put in charge of our country’s government.







  4. Anonymous says:

    Bush attacks the ‘rollover policy’.  This left me scratching my head. What has been misidentified as a policy was in fact the term limit provisions in the Immigration Law, 2003 which was passed into Law by the UDP Govt! Of course, the UDP had people going around telling the white collar workers from the UK etc. not to worry that this was only for the Jamaicans.  Perhaps that is the ‘policy’ they are referring to.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was dissatisfied with the remarks regarding the solution to the the landfill problem. The $150 million dollar program sounds like something that will "soon come".

    Clearly it has not been a priority and with the port redevolopment and new schools on the books one must assume that the landfill will remain on the back burner.

    Could someone explain to me why the Dart plan to deal with the landfill was rejected by government???