That the chief concern of the minister’s response is politics, rather than public policy, is made clear from the opening words: “The Progressives Government was elected on a platform of fiscal prudence and has been working assiduously to address the fiscal challenges it inherited …
“It is disappointing to see efforts being expended on rhetorical exercises to sensationalize selective numbers in our national budget for the purpose of casting doubt on the economic recovery and future sustainability of the Cayman Islands and its people.”
In other words: It’s not our fault. We have big plans. Why don’t you love Cayman?
Since the May 2012 election, we have heard overwhelmingly positive things about Mr. Archer’s performance as minister responsible for public finance.
Therefore, it seemed even more disappointing to see Mr. Archer respond to the C4C’s cold, hard facts with explanations and promises as hazy as the airspace above the smoldering landfill.
The C4C points out a 36 percent increase in civil service pension and healthcare costs, from $55 million to $75 million per year.
“Rising healthcare costs is a global phenomenon,” Mr. Archer observes, saying the government is “looking at the benefit plans” and “promoting healthier living.”
Far too vague.
The C4C states that education expenses have gone up, and that tourism funding has gone down.
Mr. Archer says the PPM “is unapologetic about its investment in education.” As for tourism, well, the PPM is “finding smarter ways to promote the Islands.”
Unsustainable debt? The PPM’s dealing with it in a “systematic way.”
Unsustainable expenditure? The government’s operational surplus “belongs to every citizen in this country.” (Not exactly germane, but interesting nonetheless, considering that earlier in his response Mr. Archer scoffed at the C4C for framing the public sector’s total liabilities — $1.7 billion — in terms of how much each individual Caymanian would owe — $53,000.)
Mr. Archer attempts to dismiss C4C’s tables of figures as “miscalculations.” A serious charge indeed, if true; However, C4C’s analysis was professionally done and based on government’s own numbers.
Following the obligatory quote from Mahatma Gandhi (we would have preferred Milton Friedman), the minister wraps up his response by saying the PPM has only been in power for “a mere eight months.”
The minister does finally get to the root of the matter in his final sentence: “Continued prudence is what is required; not magical equations, rhetoric and grandstanding.”
We agree totally. Mr. Archer, we believe, is a competent economist and able Minister of Finance. He should not be writing press releases and making emergency talk show appearances. Frankly, he has more important work to do.