Why is so much of the equipment at the George Town landfill about as operable as the scrap metal contained therein?
Why are so many significant public works projects — airports, schools, highways and sewerage — left unacted upon year after year, and, in some cases, such as the cruise berthing facilities, decade after decade?
The answer, of course, is money. While Cayman is awash in annual revenue edging up toward two-thirds of a billion dollars (!), when it comes to running the country we might as well be broke, and here’s why:
Yesterday’s politicians spent today’s — and tomorrow’s — dollars.
Existing obligations such as pensions, healthcare, and salaries for public servants, not to mention outsize annual subsidies for nonperforming government-run businesses such as Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm, plus (whew!) unaffordable projects such as Clifton Hunter High School, the Government Administration Building and the Brac’s “Hurricane Hilton,” have left the country with nearly empty pockets when it comes to fulfilling what most would consider essential government obligations, such as providing garbage collection, firefighting equipment and classroom necessities. Even our Saturday postal services have just been curtailed.
The Coalition for Cayman’s recent analysis of the Progressives’ 2013/14 budget appeared in a double-page, paid advertisement in last Friday’s Compass. The report is a clear-eyed and deeply researched examination of government’s financial state.
For those quick to criticize C4C’s budget analysis as politically motivated — so what if it is? Numbers cannot be summarily dismissed just because you don’t like the calculators.
At the end of the day, it’s not about C4C, the PPM or the UDP. It’s about Cayman.
The report underscores the dangerous position that government is in: massive debt, growing obligations to support aging civil servants, static operating expenses and rising taxes.
According to C4C’s estimates, public sector liabilities total some $1.7 billion. Your share, if you are a Caymanian, is $53,000. For a family of five, that’s more than a quarter-million dollars.
Of the total liabilities, $859 million is for unfunded pensions and healthcare costs for retired civil servants.
When government announced an operating surplus of $100 million, much of that was due to a $97 million increase in revenues and taxes — with most of the additional burden placed on Cayman’s two key industries, financial services and tourism.
Coercive revenue from the financial and legal sector rose by an astounding 47 percent, while revenue from tourism skyrocketed 52 percent.
Any so-called “austerity measures” announced by politicians are hard to discover in the budget numbers.
Staggering pension costs, overwhelming debt, practically unquantifiable healthcare obligations, runaway subsidies, a formidable voting bloc of public sector workers — those are the hallmarks of governments teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, whether in Bermuda, Detroit, Portugal or Greece.
Do you think it can’t happen here? Read the C4C report. It’s already happening here.