MLA pay cut offer applauded

The loudest audience applause at the Chamber of Commerce district candidates’ forum in George Town on Tuesday night came when each participant said they would take a 15 per cent pay cut if elected in the 20 May elections.

Running as an independent candidate, Walling Whittaker added another layer to the proposed 15 per cent pay cut.

‘We should take a closer look at all the benefits [MLAs] get, like travel benefits, and look at everything to see where were they can be cut,’ said Mr. Whittaker.

In accepting a pay cut, United Democratic Party candidate John Piercy, said politicians should lead by example. Another independent candidate, Eddie Thompson, concurred with Mr. Piercy that accepting a pay cut would be a good example to voters.

Running on the People’s Progressive Movement ticket, Alden McLaughlin said he would be happy to accept this motion.

And while PPM fellow running mate Lucille Seymour said she would also accept a pay cut, she said that it should be re-accessed when the economy turns around.

‘I think it is important that we pay our politicians, otherwise they could be corrupted,’ says Ms. Seymour, adding this was particularly important for young politicians who are just starting out and have not had a chance to build up another source of income. Ms. Seymour added that she pays thousands of dollars of her own money for cell phone calls with citizens and does not get compensated for that expense.

While the pay cut, if implemented, would be unlikely to make a significant impact on the government’s budget, the loud applause seemed to send a strong signal to the candidates.

Candidates also weighed in on how to protect the financial services industry, in light of the recent G-20 summit and Cayman being placed on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development grey list.

‘For too long, Cayman has been sleeping at the wheel to protect the financial services industry,’ said Mr. Whittaker, adding that slow responsiveness of legislation and expensive Washington lobbyists have not made inroads into the growing movement into international regulation. In this current financial environment, there needs to be a closer look at improving specialty products and innovations to stay competitive.

‘I am befuddled why we are on this grey list,’ said Ms. Seymour.

‘We have to take a closer look at what businesses are leaving our shores,’ said Mr. Piercy. ‘When businesses leave our shores, so do jobs.’

Mr. Thompson said much of the downturn in the financial services industry is out of Cayman’s hands, because it is a global situation. However, he also said it was important to continue the policy of consulting with private sector.

International threats of being placed on various black lists is the government’s primary challenge with the financial services industry said Mr. McLaughlin. But cooperation with international organisations continues to be important he added.