Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush held an emergency meeting at the Ritz Carlton hotel yesterday to outline the financial difficulties government is currently facing. Over 400 people attended.
He revealed that:
• For the year-ended June 30 2009 the public sector had an operating deficit of CI$81.1 million.
• On August 25 2009 government held net cash reserves CI$65.6 million, of which CI$76.1 was in restricted cash reserves.
• In order to pay the wages of civil servants on payday on August 25 2009 government postponed payments to contractors, and postponed the payment of employee healthcare and pension costs.
• Government is forecasting a cash shortage at the end of September of CI$44.1 million.
• Since government incurred an operating deficit for the 2008/09 financial year, it needs the permission of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK FCO) to borrow additional funds.
• Government has agreed with local banks to borrow CI$372 million to finance its commitments until June 30 2010. To proceed, permission must be granted by the UK FCO.
• On August 28 2009 government wrote to the UK FCO requesting permission to borrow CI$272 million.
• On August 30 2009 the FCO advised government they were unlikely to allow the additional borrowing.
• On August 25 2009 he spoke with the FCO seeking urgent permission to borrow CI$30 million to meet current obligations.
• He had received a letter that day from Chris Bryant of the FCO stating that government needed to present a realistic plan to turn around public finances before they could consider a request for additional borrowing. In the letter Bryant stated ‘To give me the confidence that you will be able to service any new borrowing you will have to widen the tax base. I fear you will have no choice but to consider new taxes – perhaps payroll and property taxes such as those in BVI.’
Bush then went on to suggest a number of measures that could increase revenues. These included:
• Widening the channel in the North Sound to attract mega yachts and their rich owners.
• Building cruise ship berthing facilities.
• Building a sewage system.
• Making additional efforts to attract five star resorts to the Cayman Islands.
He also stated aggressive cost cutting measures were required.