Government budget presentation uncertain


It’s not clear when the Cayman Islands government budget
will be presented to the Legislative Assembly, but it won’t be today.

A spokesperson for Premier McKeeva Bush confirmed late
Friday morning that the budget presentation, which must be done prior to 30
June if the government is to maintain any legal spending authority beyond that
date, would be delayed.

“I can’t say anything more than that, all I know is it’s not
going to be [Friday],” said Premier’s Press Secretary Charles Glidden.

Mr. Bush told the Caymanian Compass Tuesday that he hoped to
have a budget ready to present to the assembly by 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.

Calls and emails seeking comment from public officials in
the administration had met with no response by Friday.

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.