No surprises in SPS

| 11/12/2008

(CNS): Confirming the already widely anticipated deferment of a number of capital projects, the Leader of Government Business gave few if any surprises in the Strategic Policy Statement delivered to the Legislative Assembly yesterday. Predicting a difficult year because of the global economy, he said government would keep alive what public projects it could to boost the local economy, but given the limitations on government borrowing, some would have to be postponed.

When he delivered his presentation on Wednesday morning (10 December), Kurt Tibbetts said that the government would continue with a number of capital projects, despite the criticisms.

“We have chosen to press ahead with as many as the country can afford, not only because the country desperately needs them but also because we realize that in trying times like these, government has a moral duty and responsibility to stimulate economic activity,” he said. Tibbetts explained the government would like to do more but that it is bound by the borrowing restrictions within the Public Finance Management Law which states that no more than 10% of government’s revenue in any given year can go towards repaying debt.

Consequently he confirmed the deferment of several projects which include the Beulah Smith High and George Town Primary Schools, the Bodden Town Emergency Response Centre, the seawall at Savannah, and the double lane extension to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway. Projects which are underway and will be completed include the new Government Administration Building, the Clifton HunterHigh School at Frank Sound, the new John Gray High School, the annex to the George Town Public Library, and the boxing gym. A range of necessary road works will also be undertaken during the coming year.

He said these projects represent a strategic investment in building capacity which will benefit the country in the future. “We do not believe development is achieved through piece-meal solutions that address issues only in the short-term. Rather, we take a medium to long range view of development because we are cognizant that as an economy grows, a country must build the necessary capacity, in terms of both human and material resources, to keep progressing for the benefit of its people,” he added.

Tibbetts stated that the government’s goal was improving the quality of life for people in Cayman and all of the initiatives implemented by government were meant to serve that purpose. He cited the CUC agreement and the regulation of fuel and now propane pricing as some examples of how the government was addressing the cost of living, and he said that initiatives like new gateways to the US by Cayman Airways and new immigration rules were helping the tourism and financial sectors. He also noted that the government was doing everything it could to be pro-active in dealing with this global crisis.

Outlining the priorities in the coming fiscal year he said government would seek to protect the economy from the full impact of the current global downturn;  stimulate business activity in order to keep people working; continue much needed capital development projects; maintain a sound fiscal position by ensuring the usual balance is achieved between spending and revenue; rebuild a stronger Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; do everything that is required to promote and protect the tourism and financial services industries, with particular attention to the various international challenges, and the need to enhance Cayman’s attractiveness and make it more business friendly and to continue providing support to vulnerable social groups, including our elderly, so that they enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

Although the country faced uncertain times, it wasn’t unusual for Cayman,Tibbetts said. “Grappling with challenging times is nothing new to the Caymanian experience. Just four years ago, this nation was put to the test by the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan. We did not run away. We held hands and faced up to the challenge,” he added, noting that he did not think there was anything unusual either about an economic recession. “Economics 101 tells you there will be times of boom followed by times of bust. The world recently went through a period of boom and has now entered a period of bust,” the LoGB declared.

Although he announced no new revenue generating measures, or any new spending projects, the LoGB did say that a decision had been made to grant an additional $550 to retired seamen, veterans, the elderly and those who receive government financial assistance. He also said that the government would continue on with the Affordable Housing Programme and the government’s subsidized mortgage initiative, the GGHAM, to get more Caymanians into their own homes

Tibbetts suggested that the election of Barack Obama brought a glimmer of hope on the gloomy global economic horizon. “His victory is seen as an opportunity for the world to change for the better. If Obama can match promise with performance and provide effective leadership on the world stage, he may succeed in rekindling the confidence which is needed to jumpstart the global economy.”

The LoGB concluded his two hour presentation when he said the challenges presented an opportunity for stocktaking, to look at the economy critically, to determine what was right and what was wrong, and to plan and reposition for future growth and prosperity. “If we do so, we will emerge stronger and better and will reap greater benefits when the global economy recovers,” he said.

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