(CNS): The tourism minister has awarded the contract to work out how government can finance its cruise berthing project to local consulting firm KPMG. One in a long line of consultants that have been employed to try to move what is expected to be an extremely costly project forward, the local number crunchers are being paid US$$505,500 to come up with a formula. But whatever KPMG advise may not end up in the hands of a minister as enthusiastic about this project as the current holder of the tourism portfolio.
The announcement regarding the contract award comes just over nine weeks before the general election, which means there are no guarantees that Minister Moses Kirkconnell will still hold the tourism remit when KPMG comes up with a proposed financing model.
Despite the current minister’s continued support for the cruise berthing facility, public opinion is not on his side. The government’s official survey came down three to one against and support for the project remains confined largely to special interests, such as some downtown George Town merchants and tour operators. There are many people in the tourism industry that oppose the project, as well as those who have concerns about the damage to the marine environment and the pressure it could place on local resources.
KPMG was appointed by the Central Tenders Committee after an open tender process by the tourism ministry, and officials said they will provide both commercial financial and legal services. The ministry said they were seeking firms with experience in Design-Build-Finance Maintain (DBFM) — a type of public-private partnership agreement suited to large-scale infrastructure projects.
The ministry’s chief officer, Stran Bodden, said KPMG was a reputable consulting firm with a long-established presence in the Cayman Islands.
“They are the second of the Big Four consulting firms to be appointed to the cruise berthing project and will bring industry insight and strong analytical skills to the commercial, financial and legal aspects of the project’s development. Given their affinity with the Cayman Islands, KPMG understands the strategic context of this project and its importance to the cruise industry as well as our Islands economy. We look forward to working with them and benefitting from their analytical expertise as we move forward with the Berthing Facility negotiations,” the senior civil servant said.
Despite Kirkconnell’s support for the project, progress has been slowed by a number of issues. The massive environmental risks associated with the project have led to the original plans being re-worked, putting the proposed piers further out in order to minimise dredging and hopefully avoid the significant destruction of the George Town Harbour reef system.
Nevertheless, the ministry said it remained “committed to maintaining the forward momentum” on the project .
“The appointment of KPMG will enable the ministry to formalise the details of the best possible framework suited to our specific needs,” said Kirkconnell. “As has been previously stated, our goal is to arrive at a formula that will not only fund construction of the piers, but will ensure that they are owned by the people of the Cayman Islands within a reasonable period of time,” he added.