Last week drew to a close with no clearer indication of when the Cayman Islands government might present a budget for review to the Legislative Assembly.
According to the Public Management and Finance Law, government must approve a new spending plan by 30 June to give itself spending authority in the new fiscal year.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said during a broadcast address Thursday night that a spending plan for the government’s upcoming 2012/13 budget year has been presented to United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives.
Mr. Bush said the budget for the upcoming year, which begins on 1 July, would have some “modest borrowings” and was forecast to end with a modest surplus – meaning revenues would exceed government spending.
The United Kingdom’s three-year budget plan for the territory indicated that no borrowing would be allowed during the 2012/13 year, unless there were certain special circumstances and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office agreed to it.
At press time, the Caymanian Compass had received no word as to whether British officials had given the green light to Mr. Bush’s spending plan.
The premier, who is also the territory’s finance minister, said during a broadcast address that he had asked civil service chief officers and financial managers in January to present a $498 million spending plan for the 2012/12 year. He also asked that capital expenses and investments in government entities be capped at $59 million for the year.
He said that expenditure target was overshot in the initial budget proposals by $130 million. He said that amount was cut to $81 million, but government demanded that the public service go further.
“Ministers have been deliberating assiduously to remove this excess in order to present a more sustainable budget to the LA,” Mr. Bush said.
Borrowing proposals in the budget sent to the UK included more money for Grand Cayman’s two new public high schools, funding to provide solar panels to low income homes and money to support the construction of a new juvenile remand facility.
Mr. Bush did not provide any clues as to how Cayman would end its current fiscal year on 30 June or when the new budget might be presented to the Legislative Assembly for review.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said Friday that it was unclear whether Mr. Bush had even presented a finished budget to the UK, and in any case, it was well past the timeline set by the governing power for presentation of the budget. Mr. Bush conceded the budget had been presented late to the UK.
Mr. Bush said, if the government had not been saddled with two new schools, a $108 million government administration building and other unaffordable projects “then this budget, and the other three I presented, would not have been so burdened”.
Mr. Bush said Thursday that Mr. McLaughlin and the former ruling government had perpetrated that financial crisis.
“This [budget] is a far cry from the one I was saddled with,” Mr. Bush said.
LA meets under protest
Cayman Islands lawmakers met late Friday morning to attend to some procedural matters in the Legislative Assembly, but opposition party members boycotted the gathering stating that it was not being held in accordance with the Constitution.
According to a letter sent to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor on Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin wrote that he expected some announcement regarding a new meeting of the Legislative Assembly to host the state opening and premier’s budget address.
This did not happen during a Wednesday business committee meeting of the house, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“Instead, the government members advised the committee that there would be a sixth meeting of the 2011/12 session of the Legislative Assembly which would commence [Friday],” Mr. McLaughlin wrote. “No reasonable explanation was provided to the committee as to why the state opening was not proceeding and no date was given to members as to when the budget would be ready for presentation.
“When pressed, the premier would only say that ‘the budget was in the hands of our lords and masters’,” according to the letter.
Instead, the meeting Friday was set to deal with the mundane procedural issue of moving forward business from the previous session of the House to the next year, which will start with the state opening and budget address.
“If the House proceeds to meet [Friday], it will do so unconstitutionally,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Clerk of the House Zena Merren-Chin confirmed to the Caymanian Compass that proceedings began Friday before 11am.
“The present situation of no budget having been presented with only two weeks left in the current fiscal year is but another very grave example of the unrelenting downward spiral in the state of governance of these Islands,” the opposition leader wrote.