Civil service cop out not true, says Gov

Cayman Islands government officials
are not ‘copping out’ by allowing the civil service the chance to decide its
own fate regarding recently proposed budget cuts, Governor Duncan Taylor said
last week.

Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks told
elected lawmakers and high-ranking government workers last month that some $49
million was going to be chopped from the current year’s budget and that another
$19 million would be cut from central government personnel costs next year.

Precisely how those cuts will occur
has been left to civil service department heads and chief officers to decide.

Governor Duncan Taylor said last
week he doesn’t believe that amounts to the country’s leaders shirking their responsibility.

“Personally, I don’t see it that
way,” Mr. Taylor said. “I think we’re really challenging the civil service to
come up with efficiency savings at this stage.”

However, the Governor has gently
put civil servants on notice.  If the
cuts don’t occur, Cabinet’s hand will be forced.

“If the civil service doesn’t come
up with a credible plan to achieve those efficiency savings, Cabinet will have
to address the issue again,” he said. “Cabinet may well want to determine what
the policy priorities are at that stage.”

None of the options are what one
might call positive.

“Obviously nobody likes to take a
pay cut, nobody likes to cut their budget, it’s never easy,” Mr. Taylor said.

“You could have a pay cut…that’s a
very unpopular way to go. You can reduce the size of the civil service.

“Natural wastage is one way to do
it, people retiring and you don’t replace them. A much more difficult way is to
go through forced redundancies and I don’t think anyone wants to see that
happening at the moment.”

Of the $49 million to be cut
between now and the end of the budget year – 30 June – some $20 million will
come from operating costs and another $29 million from capital (construction)
costs.

The majority of the $29 million is
being taken out of this year’s budget for the construction of two new public
high schools on Grand Cayman. That’s a temporary measure, and Mr. Taylor said
he expects that money will have to be found in the next budget to complete the
schools.

Cayman’s new fiscal year begins on
1 July.

Mr. Taylor said he was not aware
how the $20 million in operating costs broke down. Both Mr. Ebanks and his
second-in-command Franz Manderson have not responded to Caymanian Compass questions
about what will be cut to achieve that $20 million figure.

In last year’s government budget,
proposed cuts within the Cayman Islands civil service were supposed to reduce a
projected $62 million operating deficit to just below $30 million by the end of
the year.

Those reductions never materialised
and the country ended up with an $81 million operating deficit – which means
the government didn’t make enough money to cover its expenses.

Members of the previous
administration blamed civil service administrators for not achieving the
proposed cuts.

However, Mr. Taylor said, at this
point, he has no reason to believe government’s proposed budget reductions will
not occur this year and next.

“I have not wanted to try and
second-guess myself at this stage what the deputy governor, as head of the
civil service, and the senior members of the civil service feel is the best way
to achieve these savings,” he said. 

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