Premier blasts PPM on budget

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush
said last week that the local government was in a “salvage operation” designed
to take the country out of the “grips of wasteful PPM expenditure”.

The Premier’s comments came
following the release of the opposition People’s Progressive Movement’s
position paper on government finances earlier in the week.

The opposition party suggested a
number of measures which Mr. Bush does not support, including the immediate
roll back of a series of new fees assessed to the finance industry. However,
the opposition party noted that Mr. Bush and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth
Office did come to an agreement that Cayman would submit a three-year budget
plan with an eye toward eliminating the country’s deficit.

The three-year plan was something
the opposition party had advocated.

Mr. Bush said last week that his
government would continue to oppose direct taxation – property or income tax –
as suggested by the UK
foreign office.

“We had no alternative but to raise
additional revenue by increasing various fees rather than by income tax or
property tax,” Mr. Bush said. “I have said that when we turn the economy around
we will look at reducing fees.”

The Premier again urged the
opposition party to propose specific plans to rectify Cayman’s operational
deficit, projected to end up at more than $50 million by the end of government’s
budget year on 30 June.

“What they should have said is what
to do regarding finding the money to finish the new schools and the new
government administration office building that they started; what to do about
the additional $340 million in loans that they left behind; what to do about
the significant increase in civil servants that they caused,” Mr. Bush said,
referring to the opposition.

“We have a credible plan,” the
Premier said. “It might be slowly, but I will get the country out of this situation.”

The PPM statement indicated the
opposition was relieved that Mr. Bush no longer intended to attempt a one-year
fix for Cayman’s budget problems.

“No more nonsense about getting
government finances straightened out within the year,” the opposition’s
position paper stated.

The PPM supported the recently released
Miller Commission report which recommended reducing the size of the civil
service, and urged Governor Duncan Taylor to “play his part as the person with
constitutional responsibility for the civil service”.

Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks has
since announced details of a plan that aims to reduce government spending by
$49 million through to 30 June.

The opposition’s position paper
also noted that the PPM no longer backed any new taxation measures.

“We discern from the director of
the Overseas Territories Directorate’s letter of 12 March, 2010, that the UK is
still pushing for us to identify additional sources of revenue and, it appears,
for us to adopt some form of direct taxation,” the paper stated. “We do not
agree with additional taxation.”

Earlier in the month, Opposition Leader
Kurt Tibbetts sent a letter to Premier Bush, which stated both cuts in pay to
civil servants and additional taxation would be needed.

“(It) will inevitably involve real
sacrifices by everyone in the country – cuts in pay and benefits for civil
servants, additional taxation and so forth,” Mr. Tibbetts wrote. He declined to
elaborate on what was meant by “additional taxation”.

LOCALbushSTORY

Mr. Bush
Photo: File
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