Finance minister should resign
(CNS): The parliament’s only independent member has called for the premier to resign his portfolio as minister of finance as a result of his consistent failures in the post. Ezzard Miller said that the most important job of a finance minister is to produce a budget every year in accordance with the law. He said that the incumbent minister’s tardy budgets in the previous two years coupled with the complete failure to bring a budget at all this year left him no other choice but to resign. The North Side MLA said that when someone consistently fails in their most important job they should be relieved of that job, and he asked McKeeva Bush to give the finance ministry to another member of his Cabinet.
“The failure two years ago to produce the budget on time which necessitated an amendment to the law, the failure a year ago to present a budget within the new time frame, bringing it at the last minute so it was rushed and the discussion curtailed with no detailed answers from anybody … And the most miserable failure of all is to not be able to produce a budget at all this year,” Miller told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday during the parliamentary debate on the premier’s stop-gap emergency two-month spending plan.
“When people so consistently fail at their most important job they should be relieved of their responsibilities,” Miller said, as he called on the premier to give the job to someone else and see if they could do it better.
“The one job the minister of finance has every year is to produce a budget in accordance with the public management and finance law. “It’s his most important job for the year,” Miller said. “This is not something new … every minister of finance and his staff knows that the most important job for the year is producing the budget.”
The independent member said that the problem started when the legislators had amended the Public Management and Finance Law to give government two more months to prepare a budget, as he described Wednesday’s presentation by the premier as history repeating itself as Bush was essentially asking for yet another two months to prepare a budget.
“I can think of no conversation that the minister of finance can have now with his ministers or chief officers and chief finance officers that could not have taken place in March or April of this year,” Miller added, as he berated the premier for the budget crisis. “This is a very sad, sad, sad day for these beloved islands,” he said as he pointed out that never in the history of this country had such a failure on the part of government occurred and he was embarrassed to be a member of the parliament when such a history had been established.
Miller pointed out that the premier’s persistent blaming of the PPM, the FCO, the civil service, or anyone else would not solve the problems faced by government in regard to its finances. “We can’t blame the civil servants, because … the civil servants don’t set policy or pass legislation or put programmes in place. Those decisions are made by ministers and the elected arm of government. The civil servants have no authority to just imagine expenses and go out and create them,” he added.
Ministers must take responsibility to decide what programmes and what policies, what legislation it is going to amend to cut costs, the MLA said. “You can’t cut spending by just writing a letter to the civil service telling them not to spend. The PPM proved that didn’t work in 2008/09,” Miller warned.
He stated that amendments to the PMFL and to the Public Management Service Law were required to re-centralize government accounting and human resources and to make real cuts in government spending. The North Side representative pointed to the motion he brought in 2010 asking government to do that but he said the UDP benches rejected his proposal because they were planning on making the necessary changes themselves by June of that year.
However, the MLA pointed to the fact that two years later the changes still hadn’t been made and the government machine remained over staffed and out of control.
“If you have to get rid of people then you have to get rid of people,” he said. “You must take the responsibility to do what is best for the country, not play politics with these kinds of decisions and worry about votes. We have thousands of people on work permits which can be cancelled and Caymanians can be hired. If restoring the financial position of this country requires laying off some Caymanians, Ezzard Miller will support that,” Miller directed at the government benches during his debate.
Continuing with runaway spending and increasing the cost of living by imposing taxation to create jobs in government was wrong, Miller said, adding that the problem with the budget was not revenue. Every year since taking office the UDP had increased revenue and collected more money from the people. “But they have spent more,” he added.
Miller accused government of not being “man enough to accept the responsibility to do what is right by the country”, but like it or not, legislators had to make the tough decisions. The only way government could get public finances back on track was through genuine public sector cuts, the MLA stated.
He also spoke of the need to reduce fuel duty to stimulate the economy and accused the UDP government of “murdering Mr Entrepreneur” because by sending up the cost of business and imposing so many high fees, the cost of doing business was too great.
Despite everyone saying the local economy was in the doldrums, each year the government was able to extract more and more cash from the public.
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