Today’s Editorial for March 9: Dire straits

Last September, when there were
worries that the government wouldn’t be able to pay its employees, everybody in
the Cayman Islands should have known the territory was in a difficult

However, after the Foreign &
Commonwealth Office’s Chris Bryant indicated the UK would allow Cayman to
borrow more money to ease the cash crunch; many people seemed to forget that approval
came with stark conditions and that Cayman still faced severe challenges.  Put in the back of many people’s minds were
declining government revenues, high operational expenses and a budget that
didn’t stand a chance at being balanced at the end of the financial year.

Back then, there was a suggestion
that all civil servants earning over $3,000 per month take a two-per cent pay

That idea was abandoned, partially
the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association objected to the decrease and
partially because the salary reduction wasn’t enough to make a big difference
in the budget deficit in any case.

As a result, nothing much happened
to address the government’s budget situation from the expense side, and instead
only the revenue part of the equation was addressed through increased fees and
import duties.

Now, with just more than three
months left in the financial year, the government is scrambling to adjust the
operational expense side to at least show good faith in its promises to the UK made
last September.  Now the civil service
now faces pay cuts much larger than were suggested last September.

The chickens have come home to
roost. Years of runaway government operating costs have now put the country in
dire straits indeed, and something has to give.

Civil servants are supposed to vote
on whether they agree on pay cuts, pension suspensions and health insurance
co-payments, and we’re sure we know how that vote will go.  But if civil servants think they can simply
say ‘no’ to sharing the economic pain that must now come, they are deluding themselves
as to just how bad Cayman’s financial situation currently is.

The longer people pretend change
isn’t necessary, the worse off everyone in Cayman is going to be.