An often confusing and uncertain week of debate over what form the United Kingdom’s Framework for Fiscal Responsibility document should assume when it is passed into Cayman Islands law took yet another twist late Friday.
It appeared a third draft of amendments containing the fiscal framework document would be brought to the Legislative Assembly this week, as lawmakers attempt to work out what the UK wants in the country’s Public Management and Finance Law.
Acting Governor Franz Manderson said Friday that the third version of the amendment bill was being brought “to ensure that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility is enacted in its entirety”.
The framework document sets out a number of conditions and best practices for public financing, bidding processes and budget management for the Cayman Islands. Government members have expressed concerns that the requirements are too restrictive and will end up hurting the local economy.
The second proposed version of the Public Management and Finance Law amendments incorporated some – but not all – of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility document Premier McKeeva Bush and then-UK Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham signed in November 2011.
Governor Duncan Taylor’s office gave notice Friday that the second proposed version of the bill would have to be changed again. Mr. Taylor was off Island all last week meeting with UK officials, including new Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds, presumably about matters involving the Cayman Islands and the fiscal framework agreement.
Premier Bush withdrew the first version of the amendment bill he had proposed on Tuesday before lawmakers got a chance to debate it.
“It has been decided to reformat the bill whereby the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility is appended as a schedule to [the public finance law],” a Friday statement from Mr. Taylor’s chief of staff read. “The necessary redrafting has taken place and the document was sent [Friday] afternoon to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
The foreign office was expected to respond to the third and latest version of the bill before Tuesday, chief of staff Steve Moore said.
Premier Bush, who gave no public indication Friday afternoon that he was even aware of the statement from the governor’s office, moved to adjourn the Legislative Assembly until next Wednesday at 10am. Attempts to seek comment from Mr. Bush’s office about the governor’s statement were not successful by press time Sunday.
Lawmakers confirmed Friday evening that they had received a third version of the framework bill and were in the process of reviewing it.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said it was likely that the current bill, which lawmakers had been debating most of Wednesday and Thursday last week, would have to be withdrawn and the new bill made public in the house this coming Wednesday.
In any case, passage of the second version of the amendment bill had been thrown into question when legislators from the government backbench said that they would not vote for the fiscal framework. Those members included George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, West Bay MLA Cline Glidden Jr. and Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour.
Opposition party Cayman Brac and Little Cayman representative Moses Kirkconnell said he would support it. George Town MLA Kurt Tibbetts was in the midst of his debate when the house was adjourned Friday, but he had urged fellow MLAs to work past party affiliations and try to resolve this crucial issue.
Independent lawmakers Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean said earlier in the week that they would not support the proposed second draft of the amendment bill put forward by Mr. Bush’s government unless they had received some public assurance that it was what the United Kingdom government intended.
Mr. Miller said voting on the matter without knowing that information would place MLAs in an “uncomfortable position”, while Mr. McLean likened the situation to “playing Russian roulette with the United Kingdom government”.
UK representatives never opined publicly on the second draft of the bill, but it was obvious from the appearance of a third draft of the proposal Friday that what the government had brought to the house was not what Britain intended.
“It is the full Framework for Fiscal Responsibility as dictated by the United Kingdom,” Premier Bush said last Wednesday.
However, a section of the framework that dealt with procurement processes for public projects was not included in the second draft of the legislation. Rather, Mr. Bush said those provisions that dealt with the bidding of government projects would be placed in regulations to the law.
Neither Mr. Manderson nor Governor Taylor’s office made any further comments on the matter Friday or over the weekend. Mr. Bush gave no indication how his government intended to proceed with the third version of the amendment bill this week.