Big pay outs despite cuts
(CNS): The premier is likely to face further criticisms in the coming weeks not just from the opposition benches but across the community as the details of the operational expenses in the Appropriation’s Bill are explored, including $10.5 million to the Turtle Farm, $1.5 million for the hurricane shelter on Cayman Brac and some $4.5 million to the premier’s Nation Building Fund. Although there is still no word from the UK regarding the budget tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, the debate on the Throne Speech and Appropriations Bill will begin this afternoon at 4pm with the leader of the opposition’s reply to government, which will be followed later in the week by Finance Committee.
At that point members of the legislature are meant to quiz ministers and their senior staff on operational expenses to ensure the public is receiving value for money. But with the clock ticking on the need for the bill to be passed into law by Friday 31 August, McKeeva Bush in his role as chairman of the Finance Committee is likely to ensure questions are cut short.
There are a number of payments in the bill, however, that are likely to raise the alarm, given the current climate of austerity, which government will be required to justify, not least because of the crisis that has ensued over the last few months with the UDP government’s final budget.
The documents detailing the annual plan and estimates, purchase and ownership agreements are not yet available to the public because of the failure of government to meet the FCO economic advisor’s framework for this year’s budget until the eleventh hour.
This government is aiming to collect the most revenue of any administration in the history of the Cayman Islands since they are not able to borrow to cover any government expenditure and the UK has requested a substantial surplus at the end of this current financial year. But the UDP administration is spending a considerable amount, with core operational expenses at $531 million, which is still higher than previous years.
The budget debate could last several days before the legislators begin their detailed examination of government spending in Finance Committee as each member of the LA is allowed to speak for as long as two hours. The debate will end when Bush gives his reply to the MLAs' contributions. Speaking on Monday evening, the premier warned members that the House would sit late until the job was done.
At this stage, however, although government has set the legislative process in motion it is still waiting on the UK’s approval of the budget, which was presented to the FCO this week. The final and critical step in making this financial spending plan law is the governor’s assent to the bill – something that won’t be forthcoming without agreement from the FCO.
See Appropriations Bill below.
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