Four-month budget: $573M

The Cayman Islands government has increased earlier proposals for funding it needs to get through the next four months by nearly $30 million.

In Legislative Assembly this afternoon, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson said a total of $573 million in cash and borrowing approvals would take Cayman through the next few months until an actual budget is proposed.

On 19 June, Mr. Jefferson advised LA members that not more than $544 million would be needed to get the country through the first four months of the new fiscal year that begins on 1 July.

The new budget is expected sometime in September, three months into the country’s financial year.

The budget plan is coming in late this year because Cayman’s elections were held on 20 May, about five weeks before the end the fiscal year.

Mr. Jefferson cautioned that government departments should not take the four-month approvals for operating expenses – totaling some CI $178 million – as a license to spend freely.

“Government agencies need to be cognizant of the fact that their budgets may be decreased from what they had last year,” Mr. Jefferson said Friday.

Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts noted that $178 million in operating expenses was a sizeable spending plan for four months’ time.

“The fact of the matter is, when we look at all of the items that comprise these appropriations…and by saying three times that amount (would equal the entire year) then it certainly is business as usual,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “If the economic situation was…so terrible., it begs the question, why is it business as usual?”

The majority of the $573 million sought by the government breaks down as follows:

*$297 million in borrowing approvals, including a $154 million refinancing deal to pay off debt from the current budget year. Another $128 million was requested in borrowing approval for the budget year that begins 1 July.

*About $65 million in equity investments, most of that money, $44 million, will go toward the construction of two new high schools on Grand Cayman.

*Government operating expenses of some $178 million.

*Spending on executive assets of some $26 million, including the new government office building, road upgrades and community centres.

*Just under $6.5 million to pay off interest of government debt.

Debate on the continuing spending plan was expected to continue late into Friday afternoon, but ultimate approval was expected by the debate’s end.

If government does not agreed to the continuing appropriation it would run out of money by 30 June.