Letter to the Editor
A budget committee is nothing new in government and was a standard and important part of the process for balancing the budget. Until 2009, finance was the responsibility of the financial secretary who was and still is a highly qualified and experienced Caymanian civil servant who balanced all government’s budgets and could do what was right for the people of Cayman without worrying about the next election.
Sadly, the 2009 new constitution, which was promoted mainly by the PPM Government and not supported by the then UDP Opposition, provides in section 54 that …”a minister shall be charged with responsibility for finance” thus taking responsibility fully from the financial secretary. Finance is the only responsibility which “SHALL” go to a political minister. This formalised the position that the political party governments, mainly PPM, were trying to achieve.
One of the results of this and the increased power of Cabinet over finance prior to 2009 is that Cayman has had no consolidated annual financial statements published during the PPM Government’s four years term nor since. This year may be the first in about seven years (all governments up to the year 2000 always had such audits) that such accounts audits are completed thanks to the UDP Government. But there are still about six years of consolidated annual audits to be done and billions of dollars of expenditure during that time!
Section 54 of the constitution above shows how desperate the governments were to get responsibility for and further control of the public’s money. And what a financial mess the political party governments, especially the PPM, have made of Cayman’s finances. Now some PPM members are trying to blame the UDP!
The UK has the right under Cayman law when a government breaches the fiscal responsibility provisions of the law, to impose certain restrictions on government’s fiscal responsibility. This is in the public’s interests as it forces present and future governments to be fiscally responsible and stops them borrowing new loans until the government becomes fiscally responsible again. This protects the public and their children from being saddled with future irresponsible borrowings and wastage by the politicians of the public’s money.
Ourselves and others have seen the financial havoc that political parties caused,especially in independent countries and the suffering of the public from irresponsible spending and borrowings and we warned the public. Nevertheless a majority supported or voted for political parties in the new constitution. Now the Compass poll shows that a majority of the public polled feel that political parties are bad for Cayman showing that our advice was correct again.
The political party’s power is great and may not require formal input from the electorate as we saw when the PPM Opposition Leader resigned and was replaced by the present Leader of the Opposition in mid-term. More recently the elected member from East End left the PPM party and afterwards held a public meeting in East End to inform the public. Yet that member told East Enders previously that political parties could best achieve success in government. That member and the previous PPM government have damaged Cayman’s financial position by the heavy spending and commitments to spend and/or loans for roads, the two new schools and the new administrative building, which could have been built for much less and achieved similar results. The party in power in government can cause the premier to be replaced without any public debate and at any time if it so wishes. Further the premier can similarly remove one or all ministers and cause them to be replaced with others.
While the UDP Government and the premier have had the difficult and embarrassing task of trying to restore fiscal responsibility, every time the public has to pay the new taxes and at election time they should remember that a large portion of government’s borrowings, expenditure and/or deficit ($81,000,000 deficit in 2009) were done or caused by the PPM Government.
Sadly it is the UK Government, which will cause fiscal responsibility to return to Cayman and protect our children and future generations from the power and authority given to Cayman’s governments without the necessary checks and balances. Remember, the more power the ministers and politicians have under the Constitution and the law, the less power the people have!
The new 2009 constitution should be amended to provide for the necessary checks and balances to protect the public similar to the new constitution recently introduced in another dependent territory.
These changes in our constitution should provide that failure by government ministers to follow the fiscal responsibility principles in the Public Management and Finance Law and Constitution, which are not corrected within a specific reasonable time should result in the ministers losing their seats in the Cabinet and Legislative Assembly. Politicians have to be meaningfully sanctioned for their failures, which cause the public to pay high duties and taxes and to be burdened with debt by breaking the said fiscal responsibility principles in the law.