EDITORIAL – Government’s spending, spending, spending plan

In recent weeks, days and even hours, we can’t help but observe what appears to be a significant expansion and growth of government that includes new infrastructure (building projects and building acquisitions), new agencies, and now even a new ministry.

We are concerned because it has been the long-standing position of this newspaper that the smallest government – with the highest degree of efficiency – is the best government. Cayman’s government, civil service, authorities and businesses, we believe, are far too large, too cumbersome, too complex and, certainly, too expensive for a tiny island with such a small population.

In his address at the opening of the Legislative Assembly on the Brac this week, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the creation of a new ministry which will be charged with representing Cayman’s interests overseas. He declared that the Ministry of International Trade and Investment was made necessary by the United Kingdom’s failure to defend our islands’ economic interests.

For context, Mr. McLaughlin made his remarks without reference to the current array of financial and economic ministries, offices and departments we already have in place. Namely:

  • The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (the Hon. Roy McTaggart presiding),
  • The Office of the Financial Secretary (Mr. Ken Jefferson, who also serves as Chief Officer),
  • The Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs (The Hon. Tara Bush at the helm), and
  • The Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure (The Hon. Joey Hew in charge).

Let’s step back. Cayman currently has so many ministries, departments, authorities, commissions, committees, subcommittees and who knows what else that it is impossible to keep track of all of them and, as importantly, to know who is responsible for what.

For those who have given up counting (or caring), the public payroll now includes well over 6,000 employees – and all of their paychecks are coming out of your paychecks (meaning from the people of Cayman).

But we’re not done. Premier McLaughlin, while on the Brac, also announced, or made reference to, the following:

  • A 5 percent pay raise for civil servants,
  • A new Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman agency, and
  • A new multistory courts building, in addition to the recent purchase of the Scotiabank building for court expansion.

Government is also promising a new port, a “new” airport, a new Coast Guard (with a new helicopter), a new $9 million iguana eradication program, a multimillion dollar renovation/expansion of John Gray High School, across-the-board pay raises for teachers, dramatic increases in existing social services payments, and a new “ex-gratia” payment for retired civil servants.

The following merits more than a mere footnote, but as we are approaching the end of this editorial, we only have space for an obligatory mention of the government’s unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities, as well as the country’s long-term debt. The total? Sit down, and fasten your fiscal seat belt: More than $2 billion.

Amidst all this talk of government growth, we have yet to hear out of the Brac any announcements of cuts, savings or new efficiencies to counterbalance, offset or, at minimum, mitigate the additional spending.

As the Legislative Assembly returns from the Brac having added many millions of dollars to the public sector’s bottom line, we’ll offer up to public officials some strongly suggested beach “re-reading”: the Miller-Shaw and EY reports – on how to reduce the size, scope and cost of Cayman’s government.

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