Premier delivers unapproved budget

Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly - 300x250
Premier McKeeva Bush on Monday evening delivered a budget address that had not been approved by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Despite the budget not receiving the approval of Henry Bellingham, the Minister for the Overseas Territories, Mr. Bush delivered his budget address, while Acting Governor Franz Manderson delivered the throne speech in the stead of Governor Duncan Taylor, who is off island, following the official state opening of the Legislative Assembly.

Among the measures announced in the budget is the re-introduction of a 3.2 per cent pay cut for civil servants, which will be implemented in lieu of a proposal to impose health premium and pension contributions on civil servants.

The premier accused the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office of repeatedly moving the goal posts as his government tried to meet the budget requirements, saying the government and the FCO had been negotiating the budget up until Friday, 17 August.

Defending his budget, the premier said the government had been as diligent in preparing this year’s budget as it had been in previous years – the only difference was the “level of scrutiny” the FCO exercised on this budget. “That’s what has taken the time. Every time you send them a bundle of papers, they want another bundle,” he said.

He said that due to time constraints, the usual paperwork that accompanies a budget address – the budget statement, the annual plan and estimates and other documents – were not available on Monday night, but would be distributed to members of the Legislative Assembly Tuesday.

Mr. Bush said the FCO had wanted Cayman to have an expenditure of $528 million, but his government had come up with a projected expenditure of $531 million.

He said that Mr. Bellingham was “off” and not seen the latest budget figures. Therefore, the FCO could not consent to the budget until the minister had seen the figures and was more fully briefed. “They did not see a problem with him accepting the $531 million of expenditure and the governor reiterated the same support,” Mr. Bush said during his budget speech, which lasted about three and a quarter hours.

A statement released earlier Monday from Acting Governor Manderson said: “The Honourable Premier intends to present the 2012/13 budget to the Legislative Assembly today. If so, he will be doing so in the knowledge that the Minister for the Overseas Territories has not given, and may not give, his approval to these budgetary plans.”

The premier said he could not wait any longer for approval because it was vital that the budget be delivered Monday because the temporary two-month budget, which is currently in place, runs out on 31 August.

“We had to come to the House today because of the time it takes to get the budget through, presented, give members time to examine it, debate it, then examine it through Finance Committee process and have the Legislative Assembly staff do their work on it and the governor go through his process of assent. It could not be completed by 31 August if we didn’t begin the process today,” he said.

Independent member for North Side Ezzard Miller boycotted the proceedings, saying he did not want to be a party to the presentation of a budget that had not been approved.

In a press release issued as the budget speech got underway, Mr. Miller said: “I decided not to take part in the process because this is yet another example of the premier’s continued circumvention of due process by ignoring the provisions of the PMFL (Public Management and Finance Law) and the FFR (Framework for Fiscal Responsibility), which he signed with the FCO.”

The Legislative Assembly will recommence on Wednesday, 22 August, to debate the budget.

For more on this story, read Wednesday’s Caymanian Compass.

1 COMMENT

  1. Tonight’s procedures in the LA, combined with Bush’s ranting and raving, makes DisneyWorld look like The Real Thing . It would be interesting to hear the comments over coffee tomorrow morning at the FCO.

  2. Big Mac is playing with matches, and if he’s not careful he’s going to light one really big fire.

    Guess what would happen to interest rates on CIG debt if the UK were to tell the world; we no longer implicitly or explicitly provide any guarantee to the debts of the Cayman Islands Government.

    Cayman would turn into the Caribbean version of Greece.

  3. You know what disturbs me more than anything else about this whole Budget fiasco?

    The news site Cayman News Service is not accepting sensible comments being posted on their site. I bumped into sereval persons who told me that they posted comments before on Cayman News Service, comments that were in accordance to CNS policy, yet their moderator has not accept comments to be viewed by the public.

    Here, we are bickering about this budget fiasco and a news organization is attempting to shape public opinion, and show to the world comments they feel the world should see.

    As a Caymanian, I am a staunch believer in freedom of speech and the press, but I don’t know about you… I find CNS moderation of comments at a time like this, very disturbing.

    Sir Turtle (excuse my handle name)

  4. Dear Sir Turtle
    Freedom of the press includes having opinions that you do not like. It includes reporting events to shape opinion in ways you do not like. In particular they do not have to include or publish your opinion or any other.

  5. Hardly surprising, Mr. Bush is disturbed by his own conduct and has to stick it to someone.

    I guess this governing thing is eating into his fishing time.

    You know if you don’t borrow money to cover a bloated government and you run a balanced budget you can tell the overseers to go fly a kite.

  6. catchandrelease, the thing is about Cayman News Service, is that it mixes opinion with fact. If you are not discerning between the two, you can easily be misled. Even in their articles which suppose to be a hundred percent factual, you can read opinionated statements. But I do agree with Sir Turtle completely. I have posted my comments on their site before and until now I have seen them. Like I said before there needs to do a report into the effects of opinionated journalism in the Cayman Islands. Have recordings conducted where persons post sensible things on the site and the comments are not viewed. Expose them, and with the factual documentary, present these things to our school to teach our children about the subtletize of the media. It is very important we learn as well the concept of divide and conquor which was used to divide a country. I am not deliberately opening a can of worms, but I think we learn from our history. If its not the party system that has cause a divide in the Cayman Islands, its the media and sites like CNS that have contributed. Since weve had the mixture of factual news with opinion, have you not seen Cayman so divided?

    Just food for thought.

  7. The Premier accused the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office of repeatedly moving the goal posts as his government tried to meet the budget requirements, saying the government and the FCO had been negotiating the budget up until Friday, 17 August.

    The goal posts have been in the same place for the last three years. The problem is that he refuses to acknowledge their existence.

  8. CompletelyBaffled, to me the whole budget fiasco is one thing…. but what are we going to do with DEBT? The D word has been on our backs since PPM tenure ended in 2009, and it will continue after this UDP reign. The budget mess between the FCO and our government, is just the icing on the cake. Beware of what come next. More than ever our finances should be in the hands of competent leaders.

  9. Bodden,

    I agree that debt is a big issue, and it is an issue with which many of us are familiar. The main way that we deal with it in our private lives is to CUT spending. Don’t you think that might work for a government as well?

    I was merely pointing out that when the Premier accused the FCO of moving the goal posts that he was being a bit disingenuous, as they were clearly stated in the letter he sent to them in May 2010 and in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility that he signed last year. It is here for anyone to read:
    http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CIGHOME/PRESSROOM/ARCHIVE/201111/PREMIERONFCOTALKS/FRAMEWORK%20FOR%20FISCAL%20RESPONSIBILITY%20-%20DRAFT.PDF

  10. Completely Baffled, let us look beyond our cat-and-mouse games and personalities in the Cayman Islands for a little bit: the Cayman Islands is a very small speck in the Caribbean sea, surrounded by worldwide vultures, leeching governments and causing prices and cost to go up. These things are taking a toll on us, and I am afraid the waves will become big ones.

    At this moment of time, CUTS will/may work. But in the foreseeable future, people who love this island will have to learn to LET GO and bunker themselves down for what is to become a tsunami wave of cost and economic control encroaching upon us.

    My advise to all those living in Cayman, is to invest somewhere else. Move towards living a country life, buy up lands, and think organic. No hope can be found in the governments of today, particularly this one being pressured on all sides. When this whole budget fiasco is done, another wave will come upon us. I saw it, it is a huge tsunami that is coming our way, it will end up effecting all of us, the mere people struggling with debt. Last month the UK just went into a recession again. Think of that and our relationship with them.

    I am learning now that if you want to make big dollars, you have to practically sell your soul. I hear rich people wanting to commit suicide, and poor families living off of nothing with a smile on their faces. So I know money and gain is nothing. If Caymanians really want to be happy they will have to think out of the box and invest elsewhere for themselves and family.

    I hate to be like a false prophet, but the ship is sinking. 🙁

  11. In reference to Bodden’s comment. It is so obvious that no one can deny. I visited the site and in their article BUDGET DELIVERED WITHOUT OK (from the goodness of their hearts) the CNS team, posted this comment to which they replied, as follows:-

    Sorry CNS, but I agree with this poster. Your report claims to have ‘observed’ the premier delivering a ‘rambling and unfocused’ speech. This is not impartial, you are instead publishing your own opinion as to the quality of the speech, not reporting on the feedback from others. If you article had said something like: ‘other attendees described the budget address as rambling and unfocused’ that would be a different story. You would have been reporting on the views of others which is totally fine, but this is smells too much like your own opinion, rather than unbiased reporting of the opinions of others. How about instead reporting back on the feedback of the other politicians to the speech?

    CNS replied: There is a point where the incoherent delivery of the premier’s speech is as much of an issue as its content.

    Now can you imagine that! What a response. Thank Bodden for making this very important observation. We will see more like this from CNS. There is no other word for mingling opinion with the facts… it is called propaganda. There is no justification for this unprofessional journalism, even if 99.9% are against the Premier.

  12. Needlecase, what’s interesting is that the comment you quoted is exactly the line of argument that would have been taken when the person who most likely wrote the CNS story was the editor at Cayman Net News and I was a reporter there.

    It’s a very basic principle of distancing the comment from the author of the piece, and the publication concerned, by quoting someone else.

    Whether any of this still applies in the world of instant journalism is open to question but the fact is that this kind of robust observation does blur what used to be a very clear line between reporting and editorial comment.

  13. We’d like to explore John’s comment a bit further since everyone seems to be keen to debate freedom of the press and website comments.

    John, if you’d care to respond, the media in the UK is allowed to be partisan, correct? Surely, nicknames such as the ‘Daily Torygraph’ must come from somewhere?

  14. May I interject.

    The media in the UK may be allowed to intwine their political persuasions with factual realities, but does it make it right, seeing the media is one of the prime sources of information and truth to the public?

    So should certain naive Caymanians be misinformed before one of them pulls out a gun and shoots a public figure?

  15. Press, using we does not fit you into the category of pronoun I was referring to… unless of course, when you say we, you are representing CNS, CayCompass, Net and everybody else combined… lol

    Your statement gives you away – WE spend a good deal of time thinking about lol… now you know that is false! Perhaps you, but you speak for everybody.

    Editor’s note: The Caymanian Compass staff does indeed spend a good deal of time thinking about and discussing the very same issues that are now being aired in this forum. We like to hear other views on the matter. We can’t speak for any other organisations, of course.

  16. The UK Press Complaints Commission has a Code of Practice, you can find it at – http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.html

    I think the relevant section here is 1. iii) Which states, the Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

    Basically, the way it works is that there is nothing to stop any newspaper taking any political stance they want as long as that is crystal clear to the readers. The other issue is that clearly political comments need to be attributable so the author or source must be indentified in some way. So there’s nothing to stop a Labour politician using the pages of the Daily Mirror to have a go at the Tories or for a Tory to use the Telegraph to retaliate as long as we know who they are.

    You are absolutely right that media outlets in the UK have well-established political leanings (just as they do in the USA) and it is also true that these alignments do tend to bias the contents at times. The point is that this is no secret, everyone knows the direction their chosen publication takes and the editors are normally proud of that fact.

    In simple terms you can slag off politicians as much as you want in editorials or in comment columns but in what are strictly factual (and that is a word that covers a lot of ground) news stories there has to be a very clear cut off point between reporting fact and making comments or expressing opinions that are not backed up by quotes or clear evidence.

    I think the classic example was when Blair was re-christened Tony Bliar after the WMD fiasco. There’s no problem using that term in a headline as long as the story ties it in to a quote from an identified source. What the code stops (or should stop) you doing is using the revised spelling in isolation with the headline effectively becoming a statement of fact made by the publication itself – that’s the territory the Cayman Islands appears to moving into.

    However, there’s no PCC in the Cayman Islands, no Code of Practice, not even any self-regulation. Anyone can set up as a news outlet, I could create my own website tomorrow and fill it full of my opinions so this is an academic argument. There are no rules so who can blame anybody for writing whatever they feel is appropriate.

    ECHR covers this in Article 10, Freedom of expression –

    1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

    2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

  17. Sorry Needlecase – think you have confused the focus of the CNS comment about rambling and unfocussed. Do not think they were commenting on the quality of the content of the speech – rather the quality of the presentation which typically, from what I saw, was indeed rambling – especially when throwing one of his verbal tantrums and lashing out at those who have not, and do not, accept his version of everything.

  18. What part of he does not have the qualifications of Premier let alone Minister of Finance do the voting public not get? Don’t even start me on tourism. Way outside his league. This guy is worse than Obama and that is pretty low.

  19. jabberwocky, what about those who think otherwise, that it was not rambling and unfocused? It is still opinionated. Because its the Premier or CNS, you can’t sugar-coat it. The CNS article BUDGET DELIVERED WITHOUT OK and some other articles, are still composed with the unadulterated mingling of fact and opinion. There is no excuse for this. Its bad reporting.

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