Please allow me to respond to the
letter by Truman Bodden and John McLean published on 14 September captioned ‘Financial
magician is needed’. First, I would like to congratulate them on getting their
first paragraph, concerning the new constitution, correct.
If said paragraph is deliberately
correct, the writers ought to have realised that it thus renders their other
points senseless. Contrary to the writers’ assertions, there are at present
still only five cabinet ministers and 10 ordinary MLA’s and therefore the
number of MLA’s required for a vote of ‘no confidence’ does exist (not that it
would be likely to happen due to the extensive wardrobe effect presently in
force). The constitution contemplates that the permitted addition of one minister
(bringing the total to six, not seven, sirs!) is simultaneous with an increase
in the number of ordinary MLA’s to 18. If it is that Bodden and McLean are
advocating a move to 51 per cent from the existing 66.67 per cent for the
removal of a government, then they need to be clearer. However, on present
evidence, it is they who are lacking in mathematics skills.
As to their comments about the
so-called “excessive long term debt”, into which they claim that the previous
government has placed the country, these again indicate a deficit in arithmetic
proficiency. If one reads, as I have,
the 2009/10 budget address delivered on 02/09/09, the first by the incoming government
and at the height of the “we are broke” rhetoric, the financial secretary
states that the total operating expenditure for 2009/10 was to be $557.4
million. Of that amount, $20.7 million (3.71 per cent) was attributed to
“financing expenses” that “relate to the servicing of government borrowing or
public debt”. That would cover the annual repayments on all existing
Therefore, I fail to see how a
“financial magician” is necessary to deal with such a small element of total
expenditure. It is dealing with the other 96+ per cent that needs a magical
touch. Even if that $20.7 million were to be deleted from that budget (by removal
of all debt), the year-end deficit would still be in the region of $40 million.
What would be appreciated is these
gentlemen standing up and admitting their part in the persistent neglect of the
country’s long-term needs, which, had they been addressed properly prior to
2005, could’ve been satisfied at lower cost. They are very fond of trumpeting
that “their” governments always had surpluses. That is great; now tell us what
you did with them. For instance:
• Why was there not an extensive
• Why was nothing done with the
1983 report to the education authorities that indicated that we needed a new
high school and that it should be built in Frank Sound?
• Why was not even one road
corridor secured for future expansion even though these ideas had been around
since the 70s?
• Why was money wasted on projects
that never came to fruition, e.g. hotel school in West Bay?
• Why was there no provision to
replace the Glass House, even though this had been identified as a need and
discussed for over 10 years prior to 2005?
• Why was there no proper solid
waste management plan implemented?
• Why was the civil service pension
fund woefully under – funded?
Unfortunately, “The four year syndrome”
continues to afflict us. For too long voters have allowed themselves to be
short-changed in relation to the benefits of long term planning and projects.
The last government was the only one that I recall that attempted to transcend
this syndrome, but with mixed electoral results (the government lost in 2009,
but only one of their ministers did not retain his seat). Thankfully some of the projects they started
are being continued in spite of all of the rhetoric that occurred when they
were initiated. The sad part is that more will still be required, but now it is
in the face of a reducing income stream and increased costs.
So gentlemen, do not bark from the
long grass that “the Cayman people, their children and future generations” will
have to shoulder the excesses of the PPM government. If those in control for
the past 30+ years had practised some foresight and used Cayman’s wealth
wisely, instead of raising avoidance and procrastination to an art form, the
necessary long term investments could have been made earlier and in a less compressed
timeframe. Admit your part in Cayman’s current situation and then perhaps your
comments may be taken more seriously.