Opposition laments lack of budget

Opposition members have blasted Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush’s government on its failure to deliver a budget for the full upcoming financial year. 

The lawmakers lamented the lack of a full budget in a debate at the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, following Mr. Bush’s presentation of a temporary two-month budget seeking $127 million to run government.  

Legislators passed the interim budget Thursday afternoon, with eight votes for it, six abstaining and one member absent for the vote. 

Calling the United Democratic Party government “visionless and clueless”, Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin said this was the first time a government had failed to present a budget at the end of a financial year. 

Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Bush had blamed the previous People’s Progessive Movement administration, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the civil service for the state of the Cayman Islands’ finances, but the PPM leader laid the blame at the feet of the premier, who is also Cayman’s minister of finance. 

Mr. McLaughlin said that the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee, which scrutinises budget figures, would not be able to examine how the $127 million Mr. Bush was seeking would be spent. 

“I’ve never been more worried about the state of affairs in this country. I have never seen such recklessness… such inattention to duty… such glibness about what is a major national crisis,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “Here we are, on the eve of the close of the month of June, in this House, debating a motion for the government to have authority to spend two months’ worth of the budget, with no budget to look at, no opportunity to question or challenge what the government policies are, what the programmes are, no Throne Speech – not at the start of this government’s term but on the occasion of what should be its final budget for this term.” 

He said was the “height of incompetence” and demonstrated “how little the premier understands about running the financial affairs of this country”. 

He added: “Almost three and a half years in charge, you can’t blame me for your inability to produce a budget, even if it has a deficit.” 

Mr. Bush, in an interim spending plan he presented earlier in the meeting, sought approval for $84.9 million in operating expenditure – the day-to-day cost of running government and paying civil service salaries. The budget included $5.5 million to pay interest on public debt and $9.7 million to cover continuing construction of the John Gray High School, spending at the Turtle Farm, Cayman Airways, Cayman Islands Development Bank and the Health Services Authority, as well as paying for an aircraft hangar for the Mosquito Research and Control Unit and improvements to the Cayman Brac Vehicle Licensing Department. The government is also seeking a $25 million overdraft facility, which will enable the administration to access short-term borrowing, if needed. By 31 August, the government’s overdraft balance is expected to be $24.8 million.  

Mr. Bush revealed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had twice rejected a proposed budget for 2012/2013 because it contained long-term borrowings of $59 million and a sizeable increase in the overdraft facility for 1 July to 31 December. 

The premier said central government was forecast to have a deficit of $1 million for the 2011/2012 year, which ends on Saturday, 30 June. 

Mr. McLaughlin said he did not believe Mr. Bush’s assurances about the $1 million deficit, “anymore than I believe that we had a $25 million surplus in August of last year”. 

The opposition leader accused Mr. Bush of failing to implement cost-saving measures during the more than three years the UDP had been in power. “Nothing of consequence has been done by the current government to address the fundamental problems which are plaguing the state of government finances,” Mr. McLaughlin said, citing recommendations made in the 2010 Miller Commission Report on fiscal sustainability for the Cayman Islands, which had not been adopted. 

During the debate, which continued until 9.15pm Wednesday night and resumed on Thursday morning, North Side independent MLA called for Mr. Bush to resign as the minister of finance, saying the one job he has every year is to produce a budget. He urged Mr. Bush to hand the responsibilities of the ministry of finance over to another minister in his government.Describing the situation as a “sad day” for Cayman, Mr. Miller pointed out that normally, the first meeting of a new session of the Legislative Assembly is marked with pomp and ceremony, by the governor reading a Throne Speech and by live media coverage of the event. 

“For me, it is embarrassing and I am ashamed to be a member of this honourable House that is establishing this kind of history in this country,” Mr. Miller said. 

He said the government’s amendment of the Public Management and Finance Law in 2010, which allowed an extra two months for a budget to be presented, had set the precedent for the government again coming to the Legislative Assembly to seek an extra two months to prepare an annual budget. 

Premier Bush moves motion

Premier McKeeva Bush moved a motion to present a two-month budget at the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, 27 June. – PHOTO: SUBMITTED
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7 COMMENTS

  1. You cant get blood out of a turnip so dont expect this man to do anything resembling intelligent. Hoe can you not have a budget done? I cant run my household without a budget so how can this cowboy be expected to do a countrys budget. What am I thinking?

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  2. And the Premiere said to the foreign office; Ok! if your don’t believe the amount I submitted is what I need to spend, then tell me how much I can spend and I will share it out..

    We can call it, the proactive fat cutting initiative. Or, the, if you don’t tell me what you really need I’m gonna tell you what you will get initiative.

    And the foreign office replied; Read my white paper!

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  3. This is some sort of scam. Haven’t figured out the particulars of it yet but it sure smells rotten. Whilst everyone is focusing on incompetency a scam of sorts is just floating by.
    Somehow it’s tied to the exorbitant interest payments on public debt. As I always say, ‘follow the money’.

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  4. With the leader of the Opposition describing the current government as visionless clueless, I look forward to hearing the vision and solutions to the countrys problems from the Opposition at their earliest convienence.

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  5. Panama_jack: So true, this have not been lost on the Foreign office. Cayman has a national plan but they fail to implement it, so’ they super impose theirs over it. I remember the Opposition stating they were going to start their campaign early, many people objected. I thought the more time people have to hear and discuss ideas and plans put forth by both teams the better.

    I can tell you more about the ideal and objectives of the Democrats and the Republicans in the USA than I can about the PPM and the UDP in Cayman. True also about open discussion. Although this forum is a window of opportunity, many Caymanians are not logged on or just watching from the shadows.. The editor even had to prod discussion on the one-man-one vote referendum.

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  6. The level of incompetence and incomprehension is frightening. Do any of these people have a clue as to what their responsibilities are and they are supposed to be doing as our elected representatives?

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