Editorial for November 8: Lack of debate disturbing

There is no denying that times are
tough in the Cayman Islands.  The local
economy has yet to recover from the global financial crisis and it is being
further impacted by a population contraction. Faced with this difficult situation,
the government has had to make some difficult decisions in an attempt to offset
the resulting decrease in its revenues.

One of the measures it implemented
was a substantial increase in work permit fees last January. Although this
measure might have helped government’s budget problems, it has also hurt many
businesses, particularly small businesses, that could ill-afford to take on
greater expense at a time of lessened earnings. As a result, many businesses
have either off-shored certain company functions or made positions held by
foreign workers redundant in order to reduce costs.  This has not only affected service levels
here, but also exacerbated the population decline.

George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin
raised these points when he brought a motion to the Legislative Assembly last
week asking the government to consider reducing work permit fees back to
pre-January levels. The government members all voted against the proposal and
did so without offering any debate whatsoever.

Forced into a difficult situation,
the government might indeed have good reasons to keep the work permit fees in
place; perhaps it believes there are no other feasible sources of revenue to
replace what would be lost in doing so. Unfortunately, we don’t know its
reasoning because the government basically said ‘no comment’ to a properly
tabled motion in the House.

Ironically, if the current
government were the opposition, we feel fairly certain one of its members would
have made a similar motion. During the previous People’s Progressive Movement
administration, the then opposition – which includes five members of the
current ruling government – talked constantly about how high costs were hurting
residents and businesses.

The issue raised by
Mr. McLaughlin is one that should have at least been publicly debated to determine
if the revenue measure was actually hurting more than it was helping. To
dismiss the motion without serious debate is the kind ‘politricks’ nonsense
that needs to stop.

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