Premier McKeeva Bush is probably
pretty unpopular with a lot of folks right now.
Announcing that he wants civil
service to take a pay cut and for many of them to start contributing half of
their own health insurance premiums isn’t a good way to win a popularity
But then, leading a country
shouldn’t be a popularity contest.
The Cayman Islands faces some stark
choices. It is looking at an operating
deficit of at least $56 million for the current financial year. It also has several major infrastructure projects
under way that will require significant more funding.
Where does the money come from?
Ultimately, the country is going to
have to borrow. Since Cayman has already
run afoul of multiple provisions of the Public Management and Finance Law, it
requires the UK’s permission to borrow more.
The UK has already stated on
several occasions that it is not willing to give that permission unless Cayman
can present a sustainable plan that shows a broadened revenue base and/or
reduced government expenditures.
If the UK refuses to budge without
Cayman instituting direct taxation, the game is probably already up because
there is virtually no way the country can get through the rest of the year
without borrowing more.
If, however, Cayman can present a
viable alterative to taxation, a plan that shows it has the political will to
really reign in government expenditure, the UK might allow Cayman to borrow
more on the short term until the economy picks up.
The government has pushed the
private sector to the brink with additional revenue measures. Now it’s time to
look seriously at reducing expenditure.
These are difficult times that call
for difficult decision, no matter how unpopular those decisions might be.
Leadership is about making difficult decisions even if some people march the
streets in protest and even if it means losing the popularity contest known as
the general election the next time it comes around.
By taking a voluntary 25 per cent
pay cut himself, Mr. Bush is showing that he’s willing to lead by example, and
for that we commend him and all of the other legislators who agreed they should
have similar, if smaller, pay cuts themselves.