According to the request for proposals posted on the government’s bid portal, the ministry claims that not only is the port poised to be the biggest infrastructure project in Cayman’s history, but it is “likely to be the largest single determinant of the future prospects for cruise tourism”.
As government has selected a preferred bidder, the RFP indicates that it is now in a position to “embark on a high intensity, comprehensive PR and marketing communications public education campaign to provide information to the public that previously could not be disclosed due to the ongoing procurement process”.
The ministry claimed that the legal requirement to keep details of the negotiations confidential until a winning developer was selected had “led to accusations of lack of transparency and has given rise to misinformation circulating in the community, which this public education campaign will seek to address by providing the facts”.
However, even in the RFP, government is already including claims that are not factual. In the introduction it states that cruise ships will stop calling on Cayman without the piers, despite clear confirmation from one of the cruise companies partnering with the selected bidder, the Verdant Isle Group, at a public meeting last year that they will still come, no matter what.
Nevertheless, the RFP is seeking a publicity company that can “develop an aggressive, slick, out of the box campaign that can support the government’s position” on the project and address what it says is the negative perspectives across all types of media.
The RFP documents give the first real indication that government is well aware that this project does not have wide public support and sets out a goal for the PR campaign to “positively sway public opinion and increase support for the project”.
It is asking the bidders to provide copy for regular blogs and advertorials as well as speeches for officials and responses to “inaccurate media reports”, and sets out an ambitious campaign of TV and radio commercials.
The documents at this stage reveal no cost estimates but the extent of the campaign indicates that it will be far more costly than the spending so far, all of which will come from the public purse.
Although the RFP makes no mention of the likely referendum, it is clear that government will be using public finances to fund the pro-port campaign once a date is declared for a people’s vote, while the grassroots activists will be depending on their own resources.