MLA: Grim outlook for Sister Islands

Hard economic times, partially put
off by an influx of recovery money after 2008’s Hurricane Paloma, are about to
strike Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with full
force, according to Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell.

Mr. Kirkconnell told a political
meeting in Savannah
Tuesday night that he expected between 200 and 250 construction-related jobs
mainly created in the rebuilding effort following Paloma to end when the final
$1 million dollars from the reconstruction effort is allocated.

“We will probably lose (those jobs)
within the next 30 days,” he said.

The Islands
are also facing the spectre of salary cuts, as well as temporary pension
reductions and increased health care premiums – that are expected to affect 70
per cent of the local work force who depend on central government or statutory
authorities for employment.

“My constituents are scared,” Mr.
Kirkconnell told a group of about 200 political party supporters on the lawn of
a Savannah-area home. “They come to my office and talk about ‘what are they
going to do’.”

Mr. Kirkconnell said signs of
economic distress began to appear in the Brac in 2009, and were more pronounced
last month when one of two local dive operations – Indepth Watersports – went
out of business last month.

The Brac MLA said now is not the
time to cut civil servant salaries between five and 15 per cent.

“Imagine what that will actually do
to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman,” Mr.
Kirkconnell said. “If you take that kind of money out of your pay structure,
just put it right back into social services because those people are not going
to be able to make ends meet.”

Mr. Kirkconnell said the proposed
salary cuts could also create the situation where civil service department
supervisors would actually end up making less than some of the employees who
work under them.

For instance, he said an individual
who made $3,100 a month that received a five per cent salary cut and had to pay
50 per cent of the monthly health care premiums would actually make less
overall than someone making $2,900 a month who had no salary cut at all.

“I say that just to bring out how
these things have to be worked through, and they just can’t be thrown out…to a
community that doesn’t have time to understand and doesn’t have outside jobs
and other stimulus for the economy,” he said. “That is how the economy shrinks
and shrinks in a hurry. Take 10 per cent out of the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman
economy and see what happens.”  

Premier McKeeva Bush has said those
making between $3,000 and $4,499 a month in the civil service would not have to
contribute 50 per cent toward their monthly health coverage premiums, although
a memo from the financial secretary’s office issued on 4 March indicated that they
would have to pay.  

The salary reductions were proposed
for the current month’s pay period.

Those making between $4,500 and
$9,999 would receive a ten per cent salary cut. Any civil servants making more
than $10,000 per month would receive a 15 per cent pay reduction. Additionally,
the government plans to temporarily suspend pension payments for civil