Premier McKeeva Bush held a public meeting Wednesday night
to explain how he intends get the Cayman Islands out of its current budget
crisis. Part of his address included a tirade against the media, which he
blamed for the loud and widespread objections to his now-abandoned payroll tax
on expatriates and the social divisiveness that ensued.
Mr. Bush is particularly perturbed that the media called his
proposed ‘community enhancement fee’ an ‘expat tax’. Sadly, he has never
understood this is not the job of any free press to be the government’s public
More importantly, Mr. Bush’s opinion of our reporting of his
tax proposals should not be the current focus considering the grave and
potentially catastrophic issues now facing the Cayman Islands. The country is
more than a month into the current fiscal year without a permanent public
sector budget. If the United Kingdom actually did tell the Cayman Islands to
cut $60 million from its expenditures, that will be extremely difficult and
painful for many civil servants.
The government now needs to come with a serious, long-term plan
to repair these issues that it has utterly failed to address thus far. Frankly,
we did not see any evidence of that Wednesday night at the Mary Miller Hall.
Howling about press coverage and writing letters concerning off-hand remarks by
the premier of Bermuda will not achieve this goal.
This whole debacle has cost the Cayman Islands dearly, not
just because of the reputational damage from the negative international press
coverage, but also because of the serious mistrust it has caused in the minds
of potential foreign investors. If the government was perfectly willing to tax
only its foreign residents, foreign investors now know quite clearly that when
it comes to paying the bills for government’s overspending, it will be they who
are first in line to pay.
Repairing this damage is going to take serious effort from
the government, with the private sector involved. We hope elected officials
will now swallow their pride, reach out to members of the community and come up
with realistic, workable and fair solutions before it’s too late.