Minister Archer: 
Stick to finance, 
not PR campaigns

As impressed as we were by the serious approach the Coalition for Cayman took in its analysis of the fiscal condition of the Cayman Islands public sector, we are equally unimpressed by Finance Minister Marco Archer’s response, which reads more like a campaign pamphlet than an official government statement.

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?
Oh, brother.

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.”
Got it.
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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Respectfully, I do not agree with your analysis of the situation. Government is not a business and should never be run like one. In my opinion, the Minister of Finance has been doing an excellent job. The C4C chose to attack the Government for political gain and in my humble opinion, Mr. Archer’s response was entirely appropriate as it explained the Government’s position in a manner a lay person could understand where he defended education spending and showed a humanistic side to his management of public finances.

    Had the C4C’s attack not been responded to, I have no doubt that you would have written an editorial that read silence is deafening. I am proud of our Government, I am proud of Marco Archer, they are doing a good job with the Stewardship of our country, editorials like this which effectively seeks to mock the Government is not very helpful and I think the Compass should be ashamed of the level to which it has now stooped.

  2. I don’t need C4C to cast doubt on the economic recovery and future sustainability of the Cayman Islands. My doubts are rooted firmly in my own personal experience. I am employed 2 days a week. My tenants either don’t pay, pay late or my units remain empty for prolonged periods due to a lack of people to rent or buy them.
    We know 500 people have left (because they were term limit permit holders). However, we have no current numbers showing how many more have left, or what the level of replacement residents is. Judging by the vast amounts of empty residential and retail space, I feel safe in saying our numbers are not sufficient to allow for economic recovery and sustainability.
    Another point of concern is the income earning potential of the residents we attract. We need high income earners in order for landlords to pay mortgage, strata, insurance and maintenance expenses. We need high income earners to spend money regularly in restaurants, the cinema and other places that provide non-essential services. (essential being CUC, Water groceries).
    What precisely is supposed to grow and sustain our economy otherwise? What steps are being taken to defray cost of living? Saying, we are finding smarter ways to promote the island, or dealing with it in a systematic way sounds nice, but what are the exact methods being used? They shouldn’t be too difficult for a lay person to understand.

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