OPPOSITION PLEDGES ROBUST BUT FAIR SCRUTINY OF PACT GOVERNMENT
Leader of the new Official Opposition, Roy McTaggart, has said that while their scrutiny of the government will be robust, they will also offer suggestions and work with the government in the interest of the Cayman Islands.
Mr McTaggart was speaking at the first press conference of the Progressives and Independents Alliance since they missed out on forming the government during a roller-coaster negotiating process to secure a majority in the Parliament.
“We take our role as the Opposition very seriously, and commit to serving the people of these islands as a check on the government," the Opposition Leader stated.
"We will be a fair, but robust and effective opposition, supporting the government and the policies and projects that we believe are in the best interests of our people and the country, while challenging those that we do not believe to be the country's best interest," he affirmed.
The former finance minister who now leads the Progressives party, listed the state of the tourism industry, global pressure on the financial services sector and the COVID-19 pandemic with the threat of emerging variants as concern topping the agenda.
He called on the new PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) coalition of Independents government to alleviate the financial burden on residents.
“Tourism is not going to return to the levels it was at the end of 2019. It is going to be a process of rebuilding and that's going to take, in my mind, several years to accomplish,” Mr McTaggart estimates.
He suggested increasing the current pandemic unemployment stipend for tourism workers to CI$2,000 from the current CI$1,500.
“Happily, the government has confirmed that they will now keep the CI$1,500 stipend to tourism workers in place,” he observed about the relief put in place last year by the then-Progressives-led government.
“The government should be considering increasing this to $2,000 as soon as they're able to do this.”
With reopening of the borders the key focus of economic recovery, Mr McTaggart is again urging residents to get vaccinated.
“We in the opposition were heartened to hear that the government intends to follow, at least for the time view, the sensible border reopening policies that we established when we were in government,” he stated.
“We believe, and I suspect that the Chief Medical Officer might support us in this, that we need to have 75 to 80 per cent of people fully vaccinated before any widespread border opening takes place.” “Certainly, 80 per cent is preferred,” the Opposition Leader opined.
Saying “we should watch carefully what the government does going forward,” the Progressives leader added: “I do applaud the Premier for convincing his ministers who have not been vaccinated, to go ahead and do so. It is important that leaders lead by example.”
The PPM/Alliance has established a shadow cabinet in which it has assigned specific roles to its Opposition members to shadow and monitor the policies and performance of each ministry in the government.
“The Shadow Cabinet of the Official Opposition will comprise myself. Roy McTaggart as Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for finance, economic development and infrastructure,” he announced for the ministry now headed by Chris Saunders.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Joey Hew has been named Shadow Minister for commerce, environment, transport and planning covering portfolios currently handled by Premier Wayne Panton, Kenneth Bryan and Jay Ebanks.
Alden McLaughlin is Shadow Minister for financial services, international trade and investment, and agriculture for portfolios held by Andre Ebanks.
Moses Kirkconnell takes the role of Shadow Minister for tourism district administration, e-government and innovation, where the portfolios are held by Kenneth Bryan and Andre Ebanks.
Dwayne Seymour will function as Shadow Minister for health, housing, culture and heritage, and home affairs. Those respective ministries are now headed by Sabrina Turner, Bernie Bush and Jay Ebanks.
Barbara Conolly has been assigned Shadow Minister for education and social development for ministries headed by Juliana O’Connor-Connolly ( her former colleague in the previous Progressives-led administration), and Jay Ebanks.
David White is Shadow Minister for youth, sports and labour where the respective portfolios are currently carried by Bernie Bush and Chris Saunders.
(Caymanian Times will have more from the Progressives-Alliance post-election press conference in our printed editions as well as online)