Sitting on the same side of the discussion table was just one of a handful of situations that saw two candidates competing for West Bay South on the same side when they met in the Chamber of Commerce's Candidate Forum series.
A raft of different approaches to how they would tackle the main challenges facing Cayman characterised the exchanges between Andre Ebanks and Raul Nicolson-Coe, who are vying to take over from former seat-holder and Minister of Financial Services and Community Affairs Tara Rivers who is not running.
Mr Ebanks sees himself as the better candidate for the job, especially at a critical juncture for Cayman as a whole.
“I believe that West Bay South and Cayman are at a crossroads. We’ve had long, complex problems that have existed for years but the COVID pandemic has ripped the band-aid off those problems,” the former head of the Cayman Islands UK Office said.
Businessman and former CEO of Digicel Cayman, Mr Nicolson-Coe views himself as being more up to the task and sees the challenges facing Cayman in a different light.
“Cayman is not only at a crossroads, we are facing unprecedented problems,” he said committing to implement a recovery plan within 100 days of being elected and bringing a business-oriented strategy to how government functions.
Both candidates are running as independents but have different perspectives on even what that means in this election.
Mr Nicolson-Coe: “I'm independent. I have nobody on my platform from any other parties on my platform. These are independent thinkers and independent minds and I think it would be interesting when people say that they're independent they're truly independent because if not we're fooling the voters.”
Mr Ebanks: “I find that a strange response to say that because you are currently working with people who may have been from other groups, but that somehow makes you are a dishonest or an unethical character. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Employment and education are at the top of Mr Nicolson-Coe’s national agenda but he sees a huge array of issues and opportunities to be addressed to revive the economy.
Among them he lists medical and sports tourism, and using fibre optic technology across a range of sectors to reduce costs and maximise earnings.
“There are massive issues especially around opportunities and employment for Caymanians," he said referring mainly to the hospitality industry and other sectors of the economy.
"I also see education has been a massive issue that has to be addressed because we cannot have a service-based economy and not have our people trained and have the skill sets to be able to deal with these issues.”
Mr Nicolson-Coe said the solution lies in 100 days plan that underscores his campaign and was evident throughout his responses from the cost of living, pensions and insurance, traffic, education and youth affairs.
Mr Ebanks envisions the solution differently.
“I think a long list of issues is fine to outline, but I think we are lacking vision," he said pointing to the recurring themes of “…cost of living, access to land, unemployment, enhance human services prioritise gender equality for purpose education, diversifying the economy, focusing on tourism and we reorganise our borders...”
Mr Ebanks stressed, “If we don't come in with a structured plan and a vision of where we are going to go, all the long list of issues but in a haphazard dysfunctional way we will not go anywhere forward.”
The pace and scale of projects by private developers is also occupying the attention of the two West Bay West hopefuls and was cited in the discussion about affordable housing for Caymanians.
“Because we don't have the overarching vision or development plan, Mr Ebanks lamented, “developers are able to have an uncoordinated approach to development that is allowing people who've never ever set foot in Cayman to purchase property at extreme prices just pushing the values up.”
Mr Nicolson-Coe has his own strategy of ensuring that the average Caymanian gets on the homeownership ladder.
“Within my first 100 days of being elected, I'm going to reduce the import duty,” Mr Nicolson-Coe said, adding that he would immediately press for a review of the stamp duty “resulting in the cost of owning a home for first-time buyers 22 and a half per cent less.”
While the two opponents walk the same road on the challenges facing Cayman, they are clearly not talking the same talk and hit a fork in the road on the best way forward.
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