Economics, politics and real estate

Get Real, JC Calhoun, Coldwell Banker 

The winter “high season” has been somewhat busy but not super busy. However, it has started to heat up. People perhaps feeling the bottom and sensing a potential turn in the market have begun to look again in earnest. Granted, some are still trying to buy troubled mortgages for 50 cents on the dollar, but increased activity signals that prices are now at more attractive levels – and that is good news for the real estate industry. 

Having said that, deals are still awfully difficult to get done with some of the ancillary players like banks being in no hurry to meet deadlines. We had an instance lately where we tried to refer a potential buyer to a local bank for a mortgage and he was told they didn’t have anyone who could talk to him for two weeks. So much for that deal. Thankfully all the banks are not singing that tune. 

Yes, our real estate market is very slightly improved, but it is a long way from being really healthy. For our marketplace to truly get healthy, the US must get healthy because we depend so much on revenue from our large northern neighbour.  

The US economy is showing mixed signals with some housing figures up and some hope for lower energy costs in the future via natural gas. However the underlying problems of debt, entitlement spending and government waste continue to mitigate against any real long term improvement. So in the long term we cannot depend on the US as a source of consistent revenue. We must look to ourselves. But sadly, we have many of the same problems and no natural resources to bail us out. What do we do to fix the Cayman economy so people can afford to own their own homes and invest in real estate here? 

What we don’t do is follow the lead of the progressives in the US and try to spend our way out of debt, or increase the size and scope of government, or not be accountable for our own shortcomings. We need what Lt Colonel Allen West (Ret.) was here in Cayman to talk about: enlightened, determined and honest leaders, and a return to family values. 

That is what is missing in the US and that is what is missing in Cayman. Unlike the US, where size and complexity makes a quick fix impossible, here in Cayman a change in leadership can have a significant impact on our future. Is that possible in May? It certainly seems like the country is ripe for a change – but what kind of change will it be? 

For people to have money to invest in real estate, they have to have jobs. And for people to have jobs they need to have education or training. These situations have not gotten better by passing new laws or building new buildings (ie throwing money at the problems). How about we fairly apply the Immigration Laws we have for a change? Or improve the standards of our teachers and our existing school facilities? Or open vocational schools and encourage apprenticeship programmes. One of the secrets of Cayman’s success in the 80s and 90s was that more Caymanians had a stake in the economy. But we cannot lower the standards to make that happen; we must help and encourage our people to reach a higher standard. This leads to accomplishment and pride of ownership of both businesses and homes. 

In the Financial Industry, part of our attraction is our connection to the UK and the positive perception of the rule of law to which that is associated. There are many examples of what happens to countries that have stubbornly dismissed that connection. Maintaining a good relationship with the UK is an important element relative to our economy. And whatever happened to the lengthening of our airport runway? That would have an immediate positive impact on our tourism numbers, and we have all the resources locally to undertake that project. Wealthy tourists and investors look for nice places to go that are easy to get to. That means a runway long enough to handle direct flights of bigger planes from new, more distant destinations. 

We are in serious trouble here and we need serious leaders now. No longer can we afford to elect people who are just looking for a “career in politics”. We need honest, ethical, business minded individuals to lead us, while at the same time remembering they are elected to serve as well as lead. Leaders who are attentive to the small businessmen and women whose businesses are dying, and who appreciate that if those businesses fail more workers are laid off. Leaders who will pay attention to the volumes of reports which have already told us where the waste is in government, and stop it from continuing. Because every dollar which is wasted by government comes out of our pocket through higher fees on gasoline, power, food, building materials – everything. 

We cannot continue to support this upward spiral of the cost of living while at the same time being caught in the downward spiral of decreasing income and losing jobs. And this problem is only made worse by politicians who give a few of their friends all the contracts, or in exchange for some favour give someone a better deal than the next guy.

We need leaders who will honour a system which is fair to all. This will encourage all to do a better job with hopes of a fair reward for that effort. We must not be enticed this election cycle by parties or candidates who have been associated with either corruption or incompetence. We simply cannot afford it, and we deserve better.

That is why it is crucial in this election, if we want to improve our economy, that we vote for honest and intelligent candidates who will put Cayman first.