Pension suspension to proceed

Other laws raise fees, promote safety

Mr. Anglin

Mr. Anglin

Proposals for suspension of private sector pensions, new customs and stamp duty charges, road safety legislation, and education system reform are included among more than four pages of government initiatives in Cayman’s new budget.

Despite scrapping plans for a pension ‘holiday’ within the civil service, it appears the ruling United Democratic Party administration will present legislation to enact a similar measure for private sector companies.

The move was first suggested by Education Minister Rolston Anglin as a way to reduce operating costs for companies in the short term by temporarily removing the five per cent payment employers are required to make to a pension fund on top workers’ salaries.

According to Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush, non-Caymanian private sector workers will be given a choice as to whether they continue to contribute five per cent of their own pay to the pension fund.

Caymanian employees in the private sector will still receive mandated pension payments, according to Mr. Bush.

‘The government felt that the increase to work permit fees across the board is supportable only by the removal of an existing employer expense, such as the pension obligation for work permit holders,’ Mr. Bush said.

It was not clear how long this ‘suspension’ of pensions would last, but Mr. Bush has previously said it would be for the short to medium term.

Although government is not suspending pension payments for its employees, the new budget severely reduces the amount paid toward past service pension liabilities. These are made to support regular pension pay outs for workers who retired under the government’s defined benefit plan.

The payment made by government in last year’s budget was some $14 million. In the current budget proposal, that amount has been reduced to less than $2 million.

Mr. Anglin, who has responsibility for national pensions under his ministry, has said there is no legally defined amount government must pay into past service pensions – but admitted any payments delayed in the current budget year will have to be paid back eventually.

Opposition Leader Kurt Tibbetts this week questioned whether delaying payments would serve to increase what is already a large unfunded liability within the Public Service Pension Plan.

Several other major increases in government revenues are proposed in legislative changes slated for next year.

Those include amendments to fee structures contained in the Stamp Duty Law, the Passport Law, the Customs Regulations, the Customs Tariff Bill, the Marriage Law, the Music and Dancing Law, the Companies Law, the Security and Investment Law, Development and Planning Law, the Public Health Law and the Immigration Regulations.

A number of new measures government wants to take a look at within the next year have to do with road safety.

Cayman’s Road (Prohibited Vehicles) Regulations are expected to be changed to require liquid propane gas-hauling vehicles to avoid downtown George Town while cruise ships are in harbour.

The Traffic Bill (2009) and corresponding regulations will be introduced to address a graduated drivers licence programme for teen drivers, to licence and regulate electric vehicles, and to address the proper disposal of junked cars; the ‘official road code of the Cayman Islands’ will also be produced as part of this legislation.

Although the previous People’s Progressive Movement government passed the Education Modernisation Law at the end of its term in office, specific regulations to support that law are expected to be drawn up. The regulations will govern the new Education Advisory Council and assist in maintaining professional standards in education.

The government also plans to ratify local legislation to give effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to enact the Prevention of Gender Discrimination Bill to eliminate ‘all forms of discrimination against women.’

Other legislative priorities include:

*Poor Persons Regulations – These will set out the conditions under which assistance to the poor will be awarded.

*The Tobacco Law and Regulations – The remaining sections of the law, including the ban on smoking at indoor restaurants will take effect between 31 October and 30 April.

‘The Police Law – This legislation will update police powers, sets out requirements in dealing with prisoners and creates an independent review board to handle complaints against police.

*Changes to Complaints Commissioner Law – This aims to improve the investigative powers of the commissioner, who is government’s official watchdog.

*The Legislative Assembly (Immunities, Powers and Privileges) Law and the Registrar of Interests Law must also change to be brought in line with the new Constitution, which takes effect on 6 November.