No firm completion date has been set for the new John
Gray High School in George Town, and the new Clifton Hunter High School campus
in Frank Sound may not open for the start of the next school year in September,
elected officials said last week.
Education Minister Rolston Anglin said during a Thursday
news conference that his government would not make promises it couldn’t keep,
given that the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office now must
approve Cayman’s public budgets until the overseas territory’s financial
“The Clifton Hunter High School is scheduled for
completion sometime between September and December of this year,” Mr. Anglin
said. “There is no completion date [for John Gray High School].”
Previously, timetables indicated that Clifton Hunter
would be done in September 2011, and John Gray by September 2012. Mr. Anglin
said Thursday that those were “internal target dates” for both projects.
According to a three-year budget agreement approved with
the UK foreign office last year, Cayman is not allowed to undertake any new
borrowings in either the upcoming 2011/12 fiscal year or in the 2012/13 year.
Cayman’s government ended both the 2008/09 and 2009/10
financial years with operating deficits of tens of millions of dollars. In
addition, it did not meet debt ratio requirements set forth in law that
determine what percentage of public funds can be spent each year to pay off the
The failure to meet principles of responsible financial
management has allowed the UK a greater degree of control over how Cayman
spends its money.
“Every budget has to be approved by the [Foreign and
Commonwealth Office],” Mr. Anglin said. “I cannot sit here and talk about the
completion of John Gray until the FCO agrees a budget for this country that
will fund completions.
“[Overseas Territories Minister] Mr. [Henry]
Bellingham…looked me in a eye and said ‘stopping two school projects? We’re
stopping several hundred here in the UK, what’s the issue?’”
Cayman’s government has not finished work on its budget
for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins 1 July.
Notification was sent out last week that the annual
budget address had been pushed back to 17 May to allow more time to finalise
the spending plan. The Legislative Assembly had been scheduled to meet on 6
“We’re close…to getting a budget that is agreeable
amongst us as members,” Mr. Anglin said. “I don’t anticipate [UK approval]
taking an inordinate amount of time because we already have a three-year plan.
Last year would have been the more difficult year.”
The education minister said it was unclear whether
Cayman’s government would end the year in surplus or with an operational
deficit for the third straight time. There are two months left to go in the
current 2010/11 budget year.
Both Governor Duncan Taylor and Premier McKeeva Bush have
indicated their hopes that Cayman would finish the year on 30 June with a
Government financial figures since January have not been
Mr. Anglin also gave indications Thursday that new fees
and charges implemented by government mainly during 2010 were not likely to be
repealed within the upcoming budget.
Those fees included hefty increases on work permit costs
for companies that employ foreign workers, a 25 cent per gallon increase in
petrol import duty, a 2 per cent across-the-board duty increase for most
imported items and a bevy of increased company fees, the lion’s share of which
are being borne by Cayman’s financial services industry.
“Our country continues to have a choice as to how we’re
going to fund high-quality services through a service-based economy,” Mr.
Anglin said. “We’re either going to fund it through fees or direct taxation.”
Premier Bush has repeatedly rejected UK-backed plans to
implement income taxes and/or property taxes in the Cayman Islands.
“At this stage, the country is not going to be in a
situation where government can go in and actually start to reduce its income,”
Mr. Anglin said. “The government took
the view that the funding of government operations and necessary services…could
all be done through indirect taxation.”