Mac plans clause in FFR law
(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier has said that he intends to insert a clause in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) when it is passed into local law. Regardless of the position of the UK on the issue, McKeeva Bush says he wants the British government take responsibility for any financial loss or reputation suffered by the Cayman government as a result of FCO advice or instructions relating to the agreement. Admitting that he signed the FFR under duress in London last year, he said he told the FCO at the time that he wanted the clause inserted into the agreement but the UK categorically refused.
Appearing on Radio Cayman’s Talk Today programme on Thursday afternoon, ahead of his latest overseas trip, the premier spoke candidly about his reticence over the agreement, which he thinks is too onerous, costly and difficult for the Cayman Islands to implement.
Bush said that when he was essentially forced to sign the FFR in London last year in order to get support for the budget, he had raised his objections and insisted that, should the Cayman Islands lose money, miss important financial opportunities or suffer any reputational damage because of the rules the UK was laying down, the British government should foot the bill.
“They said, 'No, no, no; this is what you have to do',” Bush said on the government-owned radio station, adding that they refused to entertain the idea. “If this is a partnership, they must be responsible but they wouldn’t allow the clause. With all that the UK is demanding from us, where is their accountability?” he asked. “They are not infallible; they can make mistakes.”
During the signing in London, Bush explained, he had made his position very clear to Henry Bellingham, the then overseas territories minister, and the FCO technocrats. He also stated that he had asked for the ceremony to be videoed, including his comments about the need for the UK to be willing to pay if they got things wrong for Cayman, so he could show the public here. But he said that when he went to the FCO for the tapes, “they told me that it did not come out good. What a bunch of hogwash!” he stated as he accused the FCO of moving the goalposts to suit their benefit.
The premier said that when he brings the FFR to the Legislative Assembly to pass it into law, as required by the UK, which is expected to be sometime in November, he intends to insert the clause regarding the UK’s responsibilities for any loss or damage to Cayman that their advice, rules, or delaying causes, despite the fact that the governor must assent to the legislation.
“They must do what they must do,” the premier said, referring to the possibility that the governor will not sign the bill. “I am going to do what I think is right and what I have to do,” he added as he made it clear there was likely to be something of a diplomatic spat over the clause.
The premier stated that he believed the agreement was all about the UK wrestling back continuous control of the Cayman Islands budget well into the future. He said the FCO has now said the UK will continue to approve CIG’s budget even when the local government becomes compliant with the Public Management and Finance Law borrowing requirements.
Once again, the premier blamed the previous government, which left office three and a half years ago, as the source of the agreement being foisted on his government. He said it was not the deal with Dart or the China Harbour proposal for the port that was the problem but the projects undertaken by the PPM administration -- the new government building and the schools -- that had led to him having to sign the FFR.
Despite his concerns about the requirements of the FFR, Bush said that the objectives in it were laudable and he agreed with them, but it was the means by which they were to be achieved that he objected to.
He emphasised several times during the radio appearance, saying that he expected “they were listening”, that he supported and believed in the principles of the agreement but it was how the objectives were to be reached that was the problem. The administration of the FFR was going to be too difficult for Cayman, he warned, despite its commendable aims.
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