CS cuts will create burden
(CNS): Cutting too many jobs from the civil service would create further burdens for government coffers because the private sector would not be willing to give up enough work permits, the premier has said. As the debate rages in the community about 'big government', McKeeva Bush pointed out that it would still be the public sector that would have to foot the bill for the growth in unemployment with welfare costs if significant jobs were lost. But he pointed out that the cuts would also impact spending in the economy. Bush berated those who are calling for over 500 jobs to go from the civil service, stating that it would do untold harm to many families.
Speaking at a public meeting about the budget at the Mary Miller Hall Wednesday night, the premier denied that his refusal to cut CS jobs or other major spending areas of government, such as scholarships, the Nation Building Fund or veterans' payments, was vote buying but said it was about helping Caymanians.
Bush said that as a result of the pressure from the UK, Cabinet had already slashed public sector spending this year but he was not prepared to allow any job cuts. In any event , the premier continued to insist that it was not his job to cut the headcount in government as the elected members of Cabinet did not have the power. Once again, he pointed the finger at the governor as the one responsible for what many considered the inflated size of the public sector.
Duncan Taylor has stated on several occasions that while the supervision of the civil service is his responsibility through the Deputy Governor's Office, jobs cannot be cut unless the elected arm of the administration indicates its policy priorities and areas where it would be willing to reduce services. The governor still requires policy direction so the civil service management can work out where job losses should be made.
The premier made it abundantly clear, however, that he would not approve any major job losses in the public sector as it would be too damaging to too many people. He said that there were already concerns about the impact the cuts that have been made to benefits would have.
Bush said that in this budget the government had reduced spending considerably as a result of slashing the marketing budget for tourism, a fall in spending on consumables, a decrease in equity investments, the proposed sale of the helicopter, the reduction of the police housing allowance down to pre-Ivan levels and the removal of free health benefits for civil servant's dependents, whose cover will now need to be paid for. He described a policy sea-change that would require all new recruits to the public sector to contribute to their own pensions and their health cover in future.
Acknowledging the demands for still more cuts in operational expenses, he said there was a need for greater recognition by the private sector of the civil service's role in the Cayman Islands' well-being.
Bush said it was impossible to make the cuts to satisfy everyone and people had to be aware that if public sector workers lost their jobs and were unable to find employment in the private sector they would still be a burden on the public purse as government had an obligation to take care of its own people. “These are humans who have been given a contract,” he said, also pointing out the loss of spending power in the economy.
With pressure from the private sector mounting to acknowledge that the problem with Cayman's budget was not revenue raising but spending, Bush pointed to other costs in government that he did not support but was forced to find the money for.
He complained about the costs associated with the implementation of the bill of rights and legal aid spending. He said government had to find $1.8 million per year so that the person “who killed the baby in a car” could have the best QC, and while prisoners had access to better healthcare than civil servants he was not prepared to make cuts on hard working Caymanians.
Bush berated those who said he should cut things such as the money to veterans, the Nation Building Fund or scholarships. He said there was too much hypocrisy as only certain people in the past had got scholarships to go to high school or college and too many Caymanians were left out.
Bush also defended the money going to churches as he said it was to help them build hurricane shelters, which was cheaper than government funding those projects, and added that the Nation Building Fund was about the future of young people and keeping them out of jail.
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