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.