Cayman ‘playing Russian roulette’ with UK

Opposition party and independent lawmakers said Wednesday that they were not satisfied with a revised bill presented to the Legislative Assembly, as Caymanian officials struggled to make good on fiscal framework requirements set out by the United Kingdom.

“We need to stop playing Russian roulette with the United Kingdom government because at some stage the loaded chamber is going to roll to the top,” said East End MLA Arden McLean. “The only ones who will get hurt as a result of that loaded chamber being snapped upon is the people of this country.”

Premier McKeeva Bush on Wednesday presented a revised amendment bill to the house that incorporated most of the provisions set out in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility which Mr. Bush and UK officials signed late last year. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office also required that the document be passed into law by September, but that didn’t occur due to protracted budget negotiations this year.

The framework agreement requires certain procedures for financial management, public borrowing and public project bidding processes to be followed by the Cayman Islands government. If those steps are not taken, the UK Secretary of State can intervene.

An amendment bill presented to the LA Monday by Mr. Bush did not follow all of the dictates in the original framework document and invented some new provisions including one that required the UK to compensate Cayman for any reputational or financial damage that occurred because of the framework’s implementation.

That bill was withdrawn Tuesday by Mr. Bush and replaced by a revised bill made public in the LA Wednesday.

The revised bill did not contain any of the earlier additions made by the local government to the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility. However, it also did not include an entire section of the original framework agreement that dealt with proper public project procurement or bidding processes.

“It does not appear to us that the bill complies with the requirements of the United Kingdom government which is to incorporate the terms of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility into a revised Public Management and Finance Law,” said Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin. “We continue to have grave concerns about the bill as it has been presented.”

It was not immediately clear whether the UK would accept the revised version of the amendment bill. However, Premier Bush told lawmakers that procurement provisions contained in the fiscal framework agreement would be placed into the regulations attached to the Public Management and Finance Law. Mr. Bush distributed the draft regulations to legislators on Wednesday.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said the newly revised amendment bill had placed lawmakers in an “uncomfortable position”, since they weren’t sure if voting for the new bill would cause Cayman to run afoul of the United Kingdom again.

“It is the full Framework for Fiscal Responsibility as dictated by the United Kingdom,” Premier Bush said Wednesday.

I do not take at all the assurances that are given by the Premier,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “ I’ve had just too many unpleasant experiences when it came to relying on what was said by him in this house or elsewhere.”

Please see much more on this story in Friday’s editions of the Caymanian Compass.

Arden McLean

Mr McLean
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