Cayman Islands central government revenues have risen by 44 percent in the past 10 years, according to budget records produced by the public sector’s Economics and Statistics Office.
Current revenue reported by the government during the calendar year 2008 stood at $522.2 million, compared to the same figure of $753.2 million for 2017.
The revenue figures went up substantially after two significant tax increases on immigration permit fees and financial services companies levied in 2010 and again in 2012, following the global market recession.
The figures compiled are for the calendar year, rather than the government budget year which previously ran between July and June. Also, the numbers do not include the operation of separate statutory authorities and government-owned companies.
By comparison during the same period, total government expenses – including capital costs – actually fell.
In 2008, central government’s total expenditure was $672 million, including $150.6 million in capital spending, mostly associated with the building of new high schools and a new government office building in George Town.
In 2017, that figure fell to $645.4 million, including capital spending costs of around $59.4 million – nearly three times lower than they had been in 2008.
Overall spending during the period on government employee salaries, supplies, public subsidies and payment of interest on borrowings went up by a total of about 12 percent.
However, when declining capital project costs were factored in, total central government spending was less for the 2008-2017 period.
The higher revenues and lower expenses have led to positive overall earning balances, according to statistics office records, of between $70 million and $140 million each year since 2013.
The statistics office figures, which are not the same ones government budget planners use since they are measured from January to December, reported that government has collected a positive “overall balance” between 2013 and 2017 of more than $522 million.
In the previous five years, between 2008 and 2012, the Cayman government ended with negative overall balances totaling more than $453 million.
Part of the budget surpluses amassed over the past five years have been used by the government to pay down its debt.
In 2008, Cayman’s central government debt stood at about $355 million, before much of the borrowing done for a raft of public projects, including the schools and the government administration building.
The debt figure then reached its peak in 2011 ($613.4 million) before it began declining. By last year, central government debt fell to $449.1 million.
Finance Minister Roy McTaggart has said the debt figure is expected to drop even further by next year when government pays about half of a $261 million loan owed by government.
A portion of what is owed on the so-called “bullet loan,” about $130 million, will be borrowed. The remainder of government’s debt repayment will be funded out of the cash surplus.
“This borrowing will be specifically for this purpose and no loan proceeds will be used to finance operating activities or capital investments,” Mr. McTaggart told the Legislative Assembly last fall.