Resetting the clock and realigning our priorities

| 21/05/2020 | 39 Comments

George Ebanks writes: I wish to write on a few issues that I think are pertinent to where we as a people and a country find ourselves in in the face of the onslaught throughout the world relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am especially thinking how we could and should move forward in what will surely be a new normal.

Let me hasten to say that I congratulate Premier Alden McLaughlin and his team for the work they have done thus far. I think the government has been pragmatic, measured and cautious in its suppression approach to ensure the safeguarding of the well-being of these islands and the quality of life of ALL of its peoples. And in that I make no apologies.

Sitting at my table at home, I read local articles of a growing humanitarian crisis developing in our midst. Without empirical evidence to the contrary, I am of the personal opinion that no such humanitarian crisis actually exists. I also think that the qualified cry out of “a humanitarian crisis” is but a call from the many quick-profit takers who operate (and make a mint!) within our robust economy to “just get back to business as usual” and “do it NOW”.

One only has to go on the internet and read the current happenings in Brazil, where they acted foolhardy and recklessly and now have a real crisis (their healthcare systems are overwhelmed with the sick and the dying, with no room for them, much less being able to look after other normal patient visits and care) to know that that approach is not one for us to aspire towards.

I say not so fast please!

We need to use this time of closed borders and curfews and lockdowns to reflect on ourselves. Take a look inward. Let’s do a self-audit on ourselves.

In this inward analysis, here are a few thoughts that I think we should explore as we move towards re-opening and a return to “normal” again.

Help to the needy among us: What use is it to boast that we have a government treasury that is not only in balance but has a projected cash reserve of CI$90.3 million for 2020.

In this self-audit of which I speak and now write about, why not have a “re-think” of how to best to address the accepted low level of poverty and marginalization that does indeed exist within our midst here in my Cayman community. In many ways some financial actions of our own government can appear hypocritical.

Why can the government forego millions in revenue dollars by granting substantial tax concessions to medium and large-scale developers, who directly or indirectly cause untold environmental and ecological damage and appear unwilling to properly assist the poor and struggling within our own Cayman Islands?

Isn’t the large treasury cash reserves, by extension, their money too? So, we need a serious rethink and a new “action plan” to deal with the poor, the needy and the marginalized within our own society.

Selective clientele: In this period of self-reflection and self-audit, I also think that we need to move forward with not only new thinking but also new priorities. I strongly think that we need to be cognizant that the COVID-19 disease will be in our midst long after we enact our visionary “re-opening plan” and get our local economy booming again. But in this “new normal” we need to be selective.

And we are in the most enviable place that we can be, if we so chose, both as a country and as a people. We should only invite those high-end cruise ships to call on our shores who can guarantee (yes, guarantee!) us that they themselves have a robust and credible coronavirus testing programme and procedures onboard their sailing ships.

No more low-cost cruise ships who are themselves struggling financially, let alone able to procure and ensure a robust and credible medical testing regime on board their vessels for all of their guests. We no longer need to invite sick people off cruise ships, be they low cost or not, onto our tranquil shores and environment.

Quality and not quantity: Whether we eventually build the cruise ship piers (or re-adjust our national plans and just do the enhanced cargo port, which, by the way, has a 85% approval stamp already by the people and could be pursued on its own now), I strongly believe that we must be, and we can be, selective in which cruise ships we invite to call on our shores.

We need to emphasis quality over quantity. And I am sorry, if the potential long-term damage to our environment and eco-systems is a cost to have the mega ships call, then perhaps that, too, is a bridge too far in this “new normal” and they may indeed have to continue passing us by.

Doing away with favouritism and tour monopolies: The existing retail, watersports and on-island tour monopolies MUST be a thing of the past. A good rule of thumb to use going forward is that once retailers and tour operators are in good standing with their relevant governmental authorities and are encouraged to be paid up members of the Chamber of Commerce and their Better Business Bureau, then their businesses must get equal promotion onboard cruise ships for visits from the select cruise ship passengers.

Those passengers will be allowed to call on our shores because of their quality and steadfast adherence to strict COVID-19 scientific protocols going forward.

Failing to implement such a new stringent policy will only contribute to more persons being “left behind” and will in the end lead to a total elimination of the mom & pop start-ups of small businesses, which are already acknowledged to be the lifeblood of any real all-encompassing successful economy.

“Caymanianization” of our visitors’ experience: I agree with sentiments expressed elsewhere in another recent article, when the writer said “our focus should be on building up more boutique hotels, more Caymanian tour guide businesses and attractions”.

Yes, as we reset the clock and realign our priorities, let us too have a mission to “re-brand” our tourism product and its many underlying ancillary services. Let us each accept that the driving force should be in increasing our stay-over tourist visitor segment, who, according to data from our own Department of Tourism, reflect a per day spend of some $4,044 against a mere $57 on average for each cruise tourist landed on our shores.

Who are we going to rebuild/reset the country and its assets for? Here too, the great opportunity presents itself for some inward reflection and self-audit. Moving forward, will the Caymanian public, its qualified/experienced professionals be properly utilized and recognized? Or will the same number of persons and companies who have benefitted from tax exemptions and other special considerations/deals which were agreed to by this and previous governments do.

For in the final analysis, if you assess the persons who are in need of humanitarian aid, they are the same good souls who have not benefitted by the previous “build, boom and bust” development philosophy adopted by our many previous elected and civil governments!

So, in conclusion, I am all for moving forward economically as speedily as we can. But we must do it with our Christian values intact coupled with all of us now being our “neighbour’s keeper”, by the diligent wearing of face masks, social distancing and other professional medical advice.

Because while we must always seek at the national level to safeguard life, in this “new normal”, let us refresh our minds and our determination to ensure a consistent approach to the less fortunate and their own quality of life and in the process seek to reset the clock and our priorities.

Let us be more civil and less quick-profit takers for a better Cayman Islands. Let us win together!


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Comments (39)

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  1. Locked down says:

    George thanks for this oped! But can you and the other horse floggers, please stop using the slogan “new normal”. It is kind of boring and each day is new, each year is different and each decade has it own characteristics.

  2. John says:

    If government workers and MLAs had zero pay along with tourism workers there would be a marked change in attitude.

  3. Tameka C. says:

    George I commend you on a very well written and laid out article and some reasonable options that if followed; will lead to a BETTER Cayman Islands for all.
    Thanks for taking your time. Stay safe my friend.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Another fallacy:

    “Why can the government forego millions in revenue dollars by granting substantial tax concessions to medium and large-scale developers, who directly or indirectly cause untold environmental and ecological damage and appear unwilling to properly assist the poor and struggling within our own Cayman Islands?”

    The evidence for your argument doesn’t exist but many people like to use this flawed reasoning.

    If a project doesn’t exist where are the “millions in revenue”? On the contrary, the long term revenue received by government when they strike a deal with a developer can far exceed short term concessions. Particularly when viewed on a macro level where entire support businesses spring up as a result of development each contributing further to gov coffers in many ways.

    How many projects have been proposed with concessions that never came to pass? Ironwood? How much gov revenue is that project producing? Maybe Ironwood was a bad deal for gov but that’s the point, it didn’t happen.

    To say the government foregoes something that literally doesn’t exist is strange thinking.

  5. Just me. says:

    The Caymanian culture that made Cayman what it is today will not change for the better because of the virus but you can change yourself to deal with it the way you want to.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And it also could be sold in liquor stores. One such store on Cayman Brac has this slogan spray painted on their storage building adjacent to their store.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Absolute self-serving sanctimoniously parental piece of politically correct F*ing garbage of an article. Clearly this person hasn’t lost their income or business.

    Who are *you* to determine what businesses people should or should not get into after they have been WRECKED!

    Get lost, you and your f*ing *new normal* COVID-19 protocol !!

    • The Silent majority! says:

      Seems alot still here who might necessarily not want to be!?…we all know the easy answer to that problem. Right?

      • Anonymous says:

        No one is forcing you out. So stay in for as long as you’d like. Wear a hazmat suit if you need to leave. But let the rest of us get on with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you don’t know who George Ebanks is you’re either a foreigner or an imbecile, or both, potentially. Also, “parental piece of…” – I’m pretty sure you meant Paternal. Lastly, this was an opinion piece; George has a right to an opinion last time I checked. The fact that you can’t discuss something without cussing and coming across as a ranting lunatic and complete moron is indicative of your low breeding, whether local or foreign.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t take these suggestions. Wow.

  9. Anonymous says:

    New Normal – humans will revert back to the mean. Most things will be the same in the future.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Pure speculation but could all these visits and hear in the area be part of a wider plan with the US. I am thinking Venezuela.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cayman broadly still doesn’t understand the proper flow of power, and that includes some of the sitting LA members. We are a UK Territory and ultimate authority lays with the Governor. It was the Governor who exercised emergency health crisis powers, and directed the CoP to impose curfew orders, in consultation with the policy committee. The committee includes Alden, but whether anyone is “dumb or crazy enough” to say it aloud, he doesn’t ultimately run things. You’ll also notice this open panel format doesn’t look or feel like anything the PPM/Unity regime would normally come up with, and that’s why.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “I also think that the qualified cry out of “a humanitarian crisis” is but a call from the many quick-profit takers who operate (and make a mint!) within our robust economy to “just get back to business as usual” and “do it NOW”.”

    Your extremely tone deaf and above it all mentality disqualifies your entire thesis from serious consideration….

  13. Anonymous says:

    George, thanks for sharing these thoughts. These are valid points and good ideals, but I fear that the greed-mongering which took hold of a lot of the “Caymanian” psyche and lifestyle (in this context I mean ALL who live in the Cayman Islands) since the 1980s will return full-force and prevail.

    We see it baying at the mouth with the calls for removing the lock-down restrictions and opening the island despite positive covid cases increasing. We see it in the large number of applications for special exemptions which Government reported in April.

    For your ideals to be realized there has to be a paradigm shift, with social values overcoming greed!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Perfect example of why we need to invest more in education.

  15. Theoptimisticone says:

    I’m sure I’ll get back lash for this but there are too many foreign water sports and tour operators in Cayman. The majority of them actually do their best to promote Cayman and hire some local staff, but they can only do so much. Cayman”s tourism model needs to change to not being so heavily reliable on work permits.- but who am I kidding, tourists love meeting the different nationalities when they are here.

    Can we become a Cannabis tourism destination already? This type of tourism Can also provide service to the local economy. Think again if you think only the young kids enjoy cannabis. There won’t be many older travelers coming for first time vacations post covid but more millennials. Cayman has a unique opportunity to become one of the only safe cannabis friendly destinations, which Millennials love! Different tourism methods needed post Covid-19. See Mike Tyson”s cannabis resort in California

    Travelers will change once covid is over. Many ppl will want contactless arrival. And limited contact with front of house staff. Front desk, bell men, and concierges I suggest you start learning a new trade.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The “new normal” is a temporary slogan – and should be referred to as temporarily abnormal.

    I for one seriously doubt that in another year people will be REQUIRED to social distance and wear face masks.

    Yes all of this virus stuff is temporarily inconvenient and does intrude on our civil liberties. Cayman is not and has not been in any sort of health care crisis (ie. daily death count increasing, reports of people being on ventilators increasing, health care people unable to get ppe, etc).

    As for cruise tourism, Mo$e$ and his cronies will be looking to make deals with the cruise lines, as if the whole virus thing did not happen.

    But, food for thought, if your intention as Government is too fill the coffers will the almighty US dollar – have Cayman become the Las Vegas of the Caribbean!!!
    Casinos, buffets, poker tournaments, slot machines at convenience stores, strip clubs, world class comedy, magic, concerts and professional sports teams.

    But perhaps along with this will come a little collusion, corruption, nepotism and mismanagement to go along with crime and gambling addiction hotline/counseling.

    So there you have it Mo$e$ I have freely given you advice/consultation to save tourism – you are welcome.

    And a troll post note for you most honourable Deputy Premier – your lack of presence and leadership during this crisis is noted. You will still get elected as the representative of CBW/LC. But with your diminished responsibilities associated with tourism you should have your pay cut and feel what it is like to worry and stress about where your next paycheck is coming from.

    You sir, are not in touch with reality, you have a silver spoon in your mouth and live in your own ivory tower on the bluff.

    While your handing out of $50 gift certificates on Mothers Day at a certain Brac church is noted, your philanthropy falls far short of what it could and should be for someone who was blessed to catch the coattails of his family name and association with a certain secret society.

    Mo$e$ K for MLA – 2021

  17. Terry Tibbs says:

    Part of this resetting should include a new line in the sand for Automatic status to become Caymanian.

    First sensible comment.

  18. Anonymous says:

    No Weed
    No Vote

    Let’s boost our agriculture, retail and export industries by legalizing farming of local medical-grade Cannabis. No more Jamaican drug boats after that!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an idea. Let’s just not have any more cruise ships, ever.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think the lockdown and heavy drinking is beginning to take its toll on me, for I find myself agreeing with just about everything Tookie said.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    • Anon says:

      6.35pm I think you get a gong for this year’s most incomprehensible comment.

      • Just a guy says:

        Lol that’s what I was thinking ..

        That been said I agree with most of what is said above. We have to be careful moving forward but moving forward we must do

        Let’s us do that together

        We need to rebuild and that will bring us together.

        Caymanians should have a great chance and the opportunity to find the work that “was taken before”

        We lost a lot of “xpats” who fled back home and I don’t think we should be in such a haste to bring them back

        That been said anyone who stayed and stuck through this with us. Deserves a look for a job also

        There is now plenty to go round and believe me I want to open up bad

        But I do agree a lot of what was said above by me Ebanks

        And most of all we have to stick together

        We are in this together

        Just a thought

    • Anonymous says:

      Uhhh what?

    • Anonymous says:

      HUH?

    • Anonymous says:

      Huh?

    • Anonymous says:

      What time did you start on the Quarantini’s

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, er I think I did, but that was when we could look to like decide when we went down that road of undulating doors in the angle. I’m not sure. It is kind of hazy.

    • Anonymous says:

      More beer?

    • Anonymous says:

      WTH are you trying to say?

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