As the Progressives-led alliance enters the final days of the election campaign, putting forward its vision for a “Stronger, Safter Future,” according to the title of their manifesto, the Cayman Compass has fact-checked some of the claims in the document.
Before listing the party’s priorities for 2021, the manifesto touts the accomplishments of the last two Progressives-led administrations (2013-2017 and 2017-2021).
MANIFESTO: “The Progressives-led Governments, with our Independent partners, returned the Cayman Islands to strong economic growth. We cut unemployment by more than half as over 3,000 more Caymanians found work in a strong economy.
“At the same time, we restored effective stewardship of the nation’s finances, reducing fees and duties while generating Government surpluses and paying down debt. “
FACT CHECK: According to the government’s Economics and Statistics Office, the country’s GDP growth increased from 1.2% in 2013 to 3.2% in 2019, the last year for which official figures are available. With an estimated GDP decline in 2020 of 6.5%, government is forecasting an economic expansion of 3.2% this year, accelerating to 6.3% in 2022 and 3.8% GDP growth in 2023. Checked: accurate.
FACT CHECK: The Progressives-led government reduced import duties on diesel used by CUC for the generation of electricity and on merchandise for licensed traders, and reduced trade and business licence fees for small businesses, according to a 2018 report to the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Forum by Finance Minister Roy McTaggart.
Since July 2013, central government’s operating revenues have grown steadily from $647.3 million in 2013/14 to an unaudited total of $1 billion for the 18-month period ending 31 December 2017.
The same report states that since July 2013, financing costs have decreased steadily as central government debt balance has declined at an average of $26.6 million per year.
In March, government reported a budget deficit of $38 million for 2020 and forecast a much-larger shortfall for its core operations of $98 million in 2021 and $59.6 million in 2022. Checked: accurate.
MANIFESTO: “We have raised standards in our schools through the introduction of a new curriculum.”
FACT CHECK: The Cayman Compass reported in November 2019, “In January and March of this year, a team of officials from the Ministry of Education, including Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, travelled to London to tour British schools and see the curriculum in practice. In April. Cayman teachers first got a look at a “rough draft” of the material and were given the opportunity to begin employing some of it before the system was fully implemented at the start of this school year.”
Teachers told the Compass the new curriculum represented “a significant step up from what was previously being taught”.
In spite of this, the ministry of education’s website still hosts the national curriculum document from 2007. Checked: accurate.
MANIFESTO: “We created thousands of new job opportunities and cut Caymanian unemployment by half.”
FACT CHECK: The unemployment rate in 2013, as recorded by the government’s Economics and Statistics Office, was 6.4%, where it had roughly been since 2010. The rate dropped to just under 4.8% in 2014 and 2015, dipped a bit closer to 4% in 2016, and climbed to 4.8% in 2017. It fell to just under 3% in 2018. The Cayman Compass reported strong labour growth in 2019, with an unemployment rate of around 3%.
At another point, the manifesto states: “We strengthened Cayman’s economy and Government’s finances, reduced Caymanian unemployment from a high of 10.5% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2019.” The Economics and Statistics Office records an unemployment rate of 3.5% in 2019, down from 6.2% In 2012. The ESO states, “With the growth in employment, the unemployment rate improved slightly from 6.3 percent in 2011 to 6.2 percent in 2012. Caymanian and non-Caymanian unemployment rates stood at 10.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.” Checked: partially accurate. The manifesto uses figures that apply to Caymanian unemployment, not the overall employment rate.
MANIFESTO: “We have doubled the stipends to veterans, seafarers and those in need of welfare assistance.”
FACT CHECK: Premier Alden McLaughlin highlighted welfare reform as a priority of his administration, according to a Cayman Compass article in 2017, when it was reported that “an auditor general’s analysis…suggests government has made little progress in implementing a coherent and coordinated welfare system that represents value for the money spent.” The report noted that “stipends and benefits to seamen and veterans account for more than half of the $50 million expenditures” out of central government’s annual revenue of about $600 million. According to the article, spending did double – or more than double – in several categories. Checked: largely accurate. While spending increased, the auditor general’s findings temper that fact.