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Opinions & Editorial 30 Mar, 2020 Follow News

Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin

“Alden can live off a couple of cans of corned beef and white rice for weeks!”

With that timely and unscripted response to a question posed by Caymanian Times Publisher and Editor-In-Chief Ralph Lewis, Premier Alden McClaughlin has reset the narrative of the challenge the territory faces as it strives to cope locally with the COVID-19 global crisis.

Frugality is the mantra.

This advice, both timely and necessary, should be taken on board seriously.

It's borne not just an innate survival instinct that has served these islands well as hurricane experiences can attest, but an inner fortitude that has underpinned a drive to rebuild - sometimes bigger - but always better.

“You know, we don’t need to have ribs and steak and chicken every single day. Let’s just calm down, think of this as a long hurricane that we are trying to get through,” he counselled having lived the hurricane experience himself as others have done.

Mr McClaughlin was at the time addressing the matter of not just the economic pressure on the territory by the COVID-19 crisis, but the financial impact on individuals and families.

It was prompted by a question asking if residents abided by the current restrictions to suppress the spread of the coronavirus in Cayman, would the government consider lifting the restrictions after seven days, given the financial pressure some people are already facing?

The Premier has expressed concern, that after initially complying with the regulations there were indications, much to his displeasure, that some people were abusing them.

He acknowledged being mindful of the financial hardships being faced by some persons, but said that at this stage it would be inadvisable to exit early from the Stay Home Cayman and Shelter-In-Place procedures.

“Not enough time would have expired based on the advice we have in terms of public health for us to be certain that the virus is still not lingering in the community.”

On the direct issue of financial hardship, Mr McLaughlin demonstrated that he was indeed acutely aware of the financial pressures on individuals and families, as well as the impact on the economy resulting from policies adopted and actions taken by his government to fight back against COVID-19.

“We are not at all unsympathetic to the financial woes (and) the economic woes that this is causing.

“In addition to what has been happening globally, we know we have crashed the economy,” he admitted.

The Cayman Islands has been running a healthy surplus due to what the government has credited as its strict financial discipline.

Mr McLaughlin has estimated that this could tide the territory over for at least the next three to four months.

What comes after is the challenge for both government and households.

If the crisis persists, especially due to people not complying with the restrictions in place, the knock-on economic effects could be even more severe, he has warned.

However, the Premier has this solemn advice for his fellow citizens.

“Just let me say this,” he intones with a sense of disquieting urgency.

"We can rebuild the economy, but the only person reputed to have been able to be raised (from) the dead was Jesus Christ himself. We cannot bring back lives.”

Advising people to be frugal with their spending in this period of crisis facing the country, Premier McLaughlin observed:

“When I see the amount of panic buying that is going on, I ask myself; if people spend up all of their money what about the week after, and the week after?"

“Even when the curfew is lifted, the economy is not going to bounce back miraculously,” he cautioned.

“Look at what’s happening all around us. People need to hoard what money they have. Eat frugally. Sparingly.”

And that brings us back to two of the Premier most memorable and sage quotes on this issue.

“Alden can live off a couple of cans of corned beef and white rice for weeks!”

“You know, we don’t need to have ribs and steak and chicken every single day. Let’s just calm down, think of this as a long hurricane that we are trying to get through.”

The Premier has a point. Well, two to be precise.

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