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Government’s Performance Debated

Election Center 17 Mar, 2021 Follow News

(L-R) MP Alva Suckoo, Wayne Panton

For the first time in the Chamber of Commerce election forums candidates have been asked to rate the government’s performance.

All of the independent candidates for Newlands - incumbent Alva Suckoo, Wayne Panton, Raul Gonzalez Jr and Roydell Carter - gave the incumbent People’s Progressive Movement(PPM) Unity coalition good grades for its economic stewardship and its management of the pandemic so far.

But there were reservations.

Roydell Carter said "I believe that where we are today is the consequence of an action handled poorly such as the calling of early elections.”

Raul Gonzalez Jr felt that the government “dropped the ball” in its spending priorities. “I could only rate them good on where they have us here, on anything else they dropped the ball and our people are feeling that.”

While he also gave the government high marks for handling the pandemic and economic management, Newlands incumbent Alva Suckoo, a one-time PPM government councillor, said the cruise port issue was a setback.

“They didn't handle that national issue very well.”

Former PPM financial services and environment minister Wayne Panton who quit the party last year over the McKeeva Bush assault scandal, cited that the handling of that issue as a failing of the administration. He also felt that the government erred on the cruise port issue.

Another issue on which the candidates were asked directly to rate the government was on the work permit and employment situation via the WORC agency.

Alva Suckoo who was involved in setting it up before he crossed the floor as an independent said: "I am proud to say that I was able to contribute to the beginning of this, but it needs to go a lot further.”

Wayne Panton said that perceptions that Caymanians are not benefitting needs to be addressed urgently. “I think it's a very significant problem and one which we want to roll up our sleeves and really get to find out exactly how to address that.”

For Roydell Carter the agency is still trying to find its way. "Many Caymanians are still not getting their fair share and I think we need to have a revisit of some areas of that department.”

“It ain’t working,” was the assessment of candidate Raul Gonzalez Jr who said the agency needs to be “radically reformed.”

A number of ideas were put forward to address the seemingly intractable traffic problems with the focus this time on whether roundabouts are a help or a hindrance.

An efficient public transportation system, express bus lanes, a park-and-ride shuttle system in George Town, vehicle import restrictions and staggering work and school hours were suggested.

Education was another subject that the Newlands candidates agreed warranted serious attention. There were commitments to better resource it and a debate over whether the Cayman education system should be modelled more on the British system without sacrificing its local and Caribbean component.

The cost of living is the top concern of respondents to its surveys. That alongside the minimum wage, health insurance, and utility costs factored into a mix of pressures on household incomes and how to address that challenge.

In that connection is the reopening of the borders - and the economy with the four candidates advising to proceed with caution.

Roydell Carter: “We will be probably looking sometime in the summertime, although that is no certainty.”

Raul Gonzalez Jr called for more government support in the interim.

“People are feeling it, people are struggling. You have to, as a government, find other ways to help these people,” he stated.

Mr Suckoo highlighted the risk of rushing to reopen.

“If we were to go back into another lockdown situation…it would be not just an economic disaster but a disaster for us.”

Looking at the stability of the government’s finances, Wayne Panton suggested: “I think if anything we need to make the necessary investments, helping people to get to the point where we are in a safer position where we have most of our population vaccinated.”

On their priorities for Newlands, Raul Gonzalez would focus on a district council and ensure that there are proper amenities at the public parks including the launching ramp.

Incumbent Alva Suckoo said he would focus on floodwater management, care for elderly and a third primary school.

Wayne Panton cited upkeep of the parks, community beautification, flooding and education outcomes.

Roydell Carter listed flooding, the parks, and the launching ramp among matters that he would give attention to for the district.

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