FFR won’t make UK deadline
(CNS): The premier has told members of the Legislative Assembly that the country’s parliament will not be meeting again until 5 November. This means that government will be not be compliant with the terms of approval for the Cayman Islands' 2012/13 budget set out by the UK last month. One of those conditions was that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility which McKeeva Bush signed with the previous overseas minister, Henry Bellingham, must be incorporated into the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL), making it legally binding before the end of September. This cannot be completed outside of the LA, and MLAs have pointed out that the late meeting will mean Cayman will once again fall foul of the UK’s conditions.
A short statement from the governor’s office on Monday afternoon in response to a CNS enquiry confirmed that the premier had told the new UK overseas territories minister that he would not be ratifying the law until November.
In a meeting with Minister Mark Simmonds at the FCO on 20 September, Bush said that he would bring the FFR to the next meeting of the LA, which would not be until 5 November. He also gave the minister an undertaking that the FFR, as signed in November 2011, would be transposed into law that same week and by no later than 9 November 2012, the governor’s office stated.
Bush travelled to London on Thursday to meet Simmonds ahead of two meetings in northern Europe related to overseas territory issues. (See Mac heads to frozen north)
Speaking to CNS Friday, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said he was “flabbergasted” that government was clearly not honouring its agreement with the FCO as there was no indication the UK had approved an extension on that requirement.
“The FCO required the FFR to be in law by the 30th of September, which is not now possible,” Miller stated after revealing that members had been informed about the next LA meeting on Thursday evening (20 September).
“This is the second time the UDP government has given an undertaken to the UK to put this agreement into law by a given time and failed to do so. The first time, after it was signed, the UK had asked that it be incorporated into local law by 30 June this year. Now the government had committed to doing so by the end of September and yet again it won’t be doing that.”
Miller said it was important that the public and the FCO understood that the opposition and both the independent members had no control over this and do not support the premier in his decision to delay its implementation, which could have significant consequences.
“We have had no part in this decision and are not party to any agreement to not honour the commitment to put the FFR into law by September," he added.
Miller and the newly independent MLA for East End, Arden McLean, said they had concerns that this delay was connected to government’s hopes that the ForCayman Investment Alliance, a major deal with the Dart Group, could be completed next month. They believe that government is avoiding making the fiscal agreement into law because it may not comply it.
“We are concerned as we understand the full Dart agreement is coming before the end of October and government is holding off until November as the agreement may not conform to the parameters of the FFR. It appears we are playing Russian Roulette with Cayman’s relationship with the UK in order to please a single developer.”
McLean added that this decision to not implement it into law may also relate to the George Town cruise port, which Bellingham had made clear could not go ahead under the current circumstances.
"The UK has said it should not be done until it is re-tendered to comply with international standards of procurement and we hope that, despite the change in minister, the FCO will hold fast to that position,” the East End member stated.
He noted that the move would add to an already tense relationship with the UK. “It is damaging to the country when the tension can't be resolved,” McLean stated.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin echoed the sentiments of his legislative colleagues about the damage such a move could have.
“The big issue for me is the non-compliance with the need to make the FFR law. This is a major problem and it continues to undermine our credibility with the UK and generally and makes the relationship more difficult at a time when we need their assistance and cooperation.”
McLaughlin said there had been no explanations at all about the decision not to comply with the September deadline.
“If there has been some agreement reached with the UK, the premier needs to let us know, and if there hasn’t, then government is in breach and the opposition doesn’t support that position,” he added.
The opposition leader noted that the Cayman Islands is already subject to the FFR even though it is not yet law, so delaying its implementation would not necessarily give the government a green light for the Dart agreement. He said the premier could not proceed with that deal if it breaches the agreement with the Brithish government.
“While he may still go ahead, the ultimate signature has to come from the governor in order to dispose of crown land, which he will not do if the deal, when it is finalized, doesn’t comply with the FFR,” he added.
CNS contacted the governor’s office and is awaiting comment from the UK’s representative regarding the decision of government not to bring the amended PMFL by the deadline set out by the UK.
CIG has 4 years to sort debt (November 2011)
UK gives conditional nod (August 2012)
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