Budget presentation set for Wednesday

A communication sent to Cayman Islands lawmakers late Friday afternoon confirmed that the government’s State Opening and Budget Address would occur on Wednesday, 27 June.

Governor Duncan Taylor also issued a proclamation Friday indicating that the new session of the Legislative Assembly would be held Wednesday.

The dates leave lawmakers just four days before the end of the current fiscal year and increases the possibility that Cayman would require an interim or temporary budget before a full spending plan could be approved. Cayman’s current budget year ends on Saturday, 30 June.

Premier McKeeva Bush was expected to address the country on the matter Friday evening in a broadcast statement.

Mr. Bush told the Caymanian Compass Tuesday that he hoped to have a budget ready to present to the assembly by this Friday, but he acknowledged that his was not the last word on the matter.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office must approve government’s spending plan for the 2012/13 year, which begins on 1 July, before the Legislative Assembly does. In simple terms, the UK approval is required because of concerns about Cayman’s cash reserves and the country’s debt-to-revenue ratios which do not meet requirements in the overseas territory’s Public Management and Finance Law.

Mr. Bush acknowledged Tuesday that Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham “didn’t like the borrowing” the premier had proposed in the 2012/13 spending plan. About $40 million had been earmarked for various projects including completion of the government high schools on Grand Cayman, the building of a juvenile prisoner remand centre and the provision of solar panels for low income households, Mr. Bush said.

Furious behind the scenes preparations within the civil service were going on all week with meetings continuing late into the night in attempts to reduce government spending to acceptable levels, the Caymanian Compass has learned.

On Tuesday, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson sent out an email to chief officers which indicated the government required further cuts including the reduction of equipment and supply budgets by more than 10 per cent and the elimination of most vacant positions existing within the service ahead of the 2012/13 year.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said Thursday that he was aware further requests for budget reductions from certain departments had been made, but he was not able to specify what those included.