Money often costs too much

| 01/06/2010

The latest development in the saga that has become the salary cuts for MLAs reached new lows this past week as the government took to the airwaves on Friday justifying the new 3.2% cuts instead of the originally proposed 20%-30% cuts. The arguments put forth were as follows:

1- After doing the math, the MLAs realized that if they were to take the originally proposed 20% salary cuts their chief officers would be earning more than they would. This, we are told, would be contrary to the wishes of the people of the Cayman Islands as we would not take kindly to our elected officials earning less than their chief officers; and

2- The cuts to MLA salaries would not actually provide a substantial savings to the government, and much more time and effort were being better spent on looking for those more substantial savings.

Let us begin with the second point for it a question of mathematics and not reasoning:

15 MLAs x $120,000 (on average)= $1,800,000
15 MLAs x $96,000 (original 20% cut) = $1, 440,000

Savings to the country: $360,000

15 MLAs x $120,000 (on average)= $1,800,000
15 MLAs x $116, 160 (new 3.2% cut) = $1, 742,400

Savings to the country: $57,600

Does $360,000 saving look like a small sum in comparison to a projected $50,000,000 deficit? No doubt about it. But it doesn’t take a mathematician to see that it looks eons better ($302,400 to be exact) than a $57,600 saving.

Furthermore, it is not like any of us expected that the MLA salary cut would be the end all and be all of our budgetary woes. It is one step, perhaps small but nonetheless necessary, in getting the country back to where it needs to be. As the long string of timeless clichés will tell you, in the long run it all adds up and it will make a difference.

The first point is much trickier to address because quite frankly it is simply offensive.

The people of this country have, for some time now, questioned the salaries of civil servants, particularly those in top ranking position. In fact, government’s flip flopping on the issue of those salary cuts has created a rift between private and public sector workers as it appears that a line was drawn in the sand when the question of taxation was posed.

If MLAs too are having reservations about maintaining what some may call extravagant pay grades as they currently exist, especially in this economic crisis, then they need to simply own up to their feelings and voice them as such.

To project these reservations, however, on what “the people” will think/feel is nothing short of cowardly.

If it is the comparison of the size of your cheque to those of your subordinates’/ colleagues’ that fuels your sense of credibility/authority/confidence/ego that allows you to do your job and not the fact that it was the popular vote that has given you that very right to make decisions, then we, as a country, are in much bigger trouble than any of us imagined.

Simply put: it is the integrity of our elected representatives and their ability to make tough decisions for the betterment of the country which is of concern and of highest priority to a great many voters in this country. That said, representatives can, while taking on such a duty to serve, make a proper living wage so that they can devote the necessary time to the responsibilities of the post and also not be easily swayed by special interests with deep pockets. This is a safeguard of the democratic process. At no point was that safeguard intended to hold a nation for ransom.

Put aside the usual arguments of how those who are elected to serve the people are meant to be there to serve, not profit. That argument has been exhausted of late, even if it has yet to sink in.

The original arguments in favor of increasing the MLAs’ salaries was to make it comparable to those of CEOs, executives, and other such prestigious posts, and to bring the remuneration of the representatives up to par to some perceived status which the post (supposedly) unequivocally requires.

If that rationale is to hold water as to why this level of remuneration should be maintained then the expectations normally attached to those CEOs and execs who make those six figure salaries must also stand.

What CEO, pray tell, who has failed to make his/her company a substantial profit would not only keep his/her job but also continue to pocket his/her hefty paycheck?

What CEO, pray tell, suspected of being responsible for enacting policies which contribute to the hemorrhaging of the company’s money (or failing to enact policies to prevent it) would continue to not only keep his/her job, but pocket his/her hefty paycheck?

This latest redirection to “how the people will feel” serves to add insult to a string of injuries that the residents of these Islands have been feeling. A six figures salary is something which most will dream of making, but few will ever earn. It is proving to be fiscally imprudent for the country in these difficult times to maintain such standard. Why, one asks, must we make the sacrifice on our measly to modest salaries, where an extra $100 a month truly makes a difference, in order to maintain someone else’s $100,000+ lifestyle?

Yet there is another question that needs to be asked: what can you know of our economic struggle when your paycheck is equivalent to three/four/five of ours? How do you continue to represent us when your reality is increasingly removed from ours? The premier freely stated that over the course of the past 34 years his home has undergone 10 renovations. That is one renovation every 3.4 years. Who can afford that?

The bottom line is simple: stop deflecting, backsliding, recanting and just do the right thing for the country. The response to the declaration that a motion would be introduced to put the original cuts back on the table for a vote should be an indication of how the people feel. How readily and greedily we grasped at the proposition is proof of how desperate we have become for even a smidgen of hope that someone, anyone, will step up to the plate for the greater good.

Do not dismiss it for lack of sophistication on our part for failing to see that the opposition is playing politics, as it was stated on Friday. Both parties have underestimated us for far too long. The introduction of the motion is merely a first step and we are watching to see how it will all play out, make no mistake.

For the record: a 20% cut of a $120,000 salary is not a sacrifice. It is not even a reality check. It is a modicum of respect for those you represent. The real sacrifice is made every day by those who are living on a salary equivalent to that 20% with which you are so unwilling to part.

"Money often costs too much" (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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  1. nittygritty says:

    Would it be so terrible if EVERYONE working for government – top civil servants – and the Premier, Opposition and all the MLAs earned no more than $80-120,000 – how much would that save? I’m sure all of those salaries appropriately distributed are a very nice sum of money to have to live on. If people can earn more in private enterprise then let them go and let people who have a vocation and not just $$$ in their eyes serve.

  2. peter milburn says:

    As Always Carolina well said.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chief Officers earn already more than elected officials. There are also a few civil servants who earn more than the Premier.

  4. Anonymous says:


    Should MLA’s be left and trusted to control greed and bribery which they are exposed to after having their salaries drastically cut?


    Should we be wary of cutting their salaries to avoid corruption?

    • tired says:

      Your "question" should be;
      Have the current salaries prevented corruption?
      I think not! The marl road is rife with talk of backdoor payouts and deals etc.  While I would not say we live in a full fledged regime please don’t assume that because there have been no "successful" investigations, court cases and or convictions that this is proof that corruption does not exist!
      Integrity cannot be bought and greed can’t be stymied.


    • Anonymous says:

      A corrupt politician will be corrupt regardless of salary. A person of integrity will not be tempted to wrong doing because a reduced salary.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Carolina so eloquently supports and defends the average Caymanian on this important issue in a way that all of the opposition and independant MLAs have not been able to do so. By electing officials we are paying them to act in the best interests of the people and the Cayman Islands.  This means if the MLA of our choice does not make it into the cabinet/governing party, and remains in opposition/independent, it is their job to hold the governing party accountable for (among other things) attempts to mislead the people or deviate from their elected mandate.  Despite the educated bunch that many of the opposition members and independant(s) are, none of them were able to articulate the same argument Carolina makes on this very important point.  "Survivor’ who also posted on here makes an excellent point when she talks about her experience with social services and asking what she is doing to improve her position.  Next election please can all voters remember do not vote for the policitians who sound good on the podium, because all talk and no action isn’t going to get this country anywhere on fiscal issues, or get the people better housing for our children or a job that allows one to be self-sufficient.  Vote for people who have a respectable career history and who have lived honestly and achieved success in their career by intelligence and good old fashioned hardwork.  Running for election is a job application.  They are applying to you the people for a job, please "interview them" and carefully review their credentials to do the job for you.  Treat them the same way a bank or a company treats you when you apply for a job, or like social services treats "survivor" on this post.  You wouldn’t hire a plumber just because they happen to be your second cousin’s husband who you love to sit and listen too, you want someone who actually knows plumbing even if they are not necessarily the most charismatic person you ever met.   Always remember in positions of authority it is more important to be respected than liked.  Over time earning the respect of someone for doing a job well-done will improve one’s ‘likeability’ factor but it is a rare thing to find someone well-liked who will keep their likeability factor if they do things that earn the disrespect of the people.   The people of this country have seen for themselves that some of the elected MLAs have made bad decisions in their past "job history" for the country but they elect them back in anyway because of their "likeability" factor.  Don’t vote for people you like – vote for people WHO CAN DO THE JOB.  

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just a point for thought. Personally, I think that the upper eschelons of the Civil Service are overpaid. The salary bands could certainly be lowered. However, the argument that an MLA shouldn’t make less than Senior Civil servants, particularly the highest positions (Chief Officers and their Deputies) doesn’t wash for me.

    What qualifications does one need in order to be an MLA? They must be of a certain age and hold only Caymanian citizenship. That’s it. They don’t need any educational background, specific work experience or special qualifications. Anyone can run. Which is great, because in principle it supposedly allows anyone with the desire to serve the country in that position the chance to state their case and allow the people to decide. However, as we can certainly note, with the lack of oversight in elections and campaigning, all one really needs be be a "qualified" applicant is enough money to buy lots of washing machines.

    On the other hand, take a look at the qualifications necessary to even be considered for senior positions in the Civil Service. One must hold degrees, usually advanced, and (though sometimes, but very rarely, or) have very significant work experience and a proven record of quality work. It is a pinnacle of work in the Civil Service, meant to be occupied by those who have consistently put in high quality work and shown soundness of mind over a long period of time. Very few, if any, of our current or past MLAs are qualified to occupy, let alonebe considered as applicants, for senior positions in the Civil Service. They do not hold the requisite skills, education or experience for the post(s).

    This is why it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if average, or even all, MLA salaries were actually less than those of the senior Civil Service. Frankly, it takes far more effort to earn a senior Civil Servant position than it does to become an MLA. While I feel both MLA and senior Civil Servant salaries should be lower, I have no qualms if MLAs end up making less than Chief Officers. In fact, given our crop of MLAs, I would highly encourage it.

  7. Mactator Hater says:

     I have lost faith in some of the people I would have voted for. For they choose not to stand for something and to be counted one ought stand for SOMETHING. Mark, Mike people I once respected I no longer have respect for as instead of standing up and speaking up for what is right and instead of representing the people that put them in power, they allow the dictator (mactator) not even worth capitalizing .. to do foolish things. Where is the leadership where is the trust in the elected representatives. They people need to look at change. Instead of the opposition looking to call for a vote of NO-CONFIDENC we the people need to stand up and tell the government that we DO NOT HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOUR LEADERSHIP. I hope that some of the young persons from YUDP or YOUNG PPM can look and see that the parties they support are worth nothing. Stand on your own. Forget the party lines and stand together for the betterment of these Islands. Stand for Something and don’t allow your self to fall for nothing. We need a new Party with wiser thinking and with people who will truly represent these Islands within thinking of self gain. 

    • Anonymous says:

       i’m sure carolina has at least 8 friends who are equally as passionate, educated and community minded who would provide a new option in 2014’s ballot. just a thought.

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent submission and not a single "thumbs down".

  8. Anonymous says:

    Integrity is like virginity – you can only lose it once.. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately, in some parts at least, the timely dispensation of appliances seems to provide a type of absolution for those who appear to repeatedly misplace their integrity.  

  9. Anonymous says:

    The first thing the new cabinet of the UK did after being elected was take a pay cut – throughout all senior members of government. They are now being paid that lower salary, which was effective immediately. From this standpoint, they are tackling the fact that some senior civil servants earn more than the Prime Minister. This too will change – see the link below for more details. Maybe McKeeva Bush could take a leaf out of David Cameron’s playbook. Shame on him if he doesn’t.

  10. Survivor says:

    Well said Carolina! That was well put together. Yes I do agree with the other bloggers Chief officers need to take a pay cut as well and especially the civil servants that are on leave with pay! What are you paying them for?

    We need representatives for this Island who are ready and willing to make sacrifices to make this Island, our Island a better place and to fix our financial crises.

    Please take the below sentence and really read it:

    "For the record: a 20% cut of a $120,000 salary is not a sacrifice. It is not even a reality check. It is a modicum of respect for those you represent. The real sacrifice is made every day by those who are living on a salary equivalent to that 20% with which you are so unwilling to part."

    We need to remain focus on how to get the budget back on track which is the very important thing. Not what you are carrying home in your pockets.

    I am not ashamed to say I went to Social Services for assistance. I work hard to make ends meet. I am a young single mother of 4 kids, 2 teenages, 1 pre- teen and a young child. They told me they didnt have much money to work with, they would help but they can only help for so long and no more. So the question was "what am I doing to change my situation so that I dont need further assistance form government."

     I understand that but I can’t  change the fact that I have four kids and all the expenses that come with that. Mind you I can’t afford to spoil my kids. I havn’t traveled since 1997 and that was to have my child because of a pregnancy difficulty, so I did not travel to shop. I am not one of those people who take advantage of S.S. and live life. I am one of those mother’s who got pregnant young and didnt get to finish school. So I dont have half of the certifide qualifications to apply for a higher paying job.

    My response to the intake officer was I am seeking employment that will offer me a higher wage. I will deffinately need a little training but that is all it takes and I am willing to work.

    I want to make it clear that I am not saying this seeking pity or goods. Trust me I feel bad enough knowing that I can’t offer my kids more and I dont like going to Social Services and I dont like asking for that kind of assistance from anyone. But I cant make my kids suffer because of that. I do only what I have to do.

    The point I am trying to make is that we all have to make sacrifices. Here they find it hard to cut their pays when so many of us out here are barely making it. So many. Not just your chosen few. I dont know who wants representatives like that? Surely not I. Yes the question I want anwered is this –

    "Yet there is another question that needs to be asked: what can you know of our economic struggle when your paycheck is equivalent to three/four/five of ours? "

    Yes what do you know of our struggle? Or do you care to know?

    "How do you continue to represent us when your reality is increasingly removed from ours? The premier freely stated that over the course of the past 34 years his home has undergone 10 renovations. That is one renovation every 3.4 years. Who can afford that?"

    And here I am waiting diligently for my little social services home for me and my kids.

    Once again Carolina let me say that this is well said and I would love to hear the answers to your, wait, no OUR questions because certainly this letters speaks for ALL of us out here struggling to make it and only by the grace of God we do.

    God Bless you all. You are there, you have the power to  make a change. Now work together to make Cayman a better place.

    • islandman says:

      Wow! You truly are a "Survivor".

      You are very well spoken/written, especially for someone who did not get the chance to complete school.

      I have worked in both the private sector and the civil service and can readily attest to your command of the english language as being superior to many i have called colleagues.

      Please continue to be the shining example of the "Survivor" that you are…your children are surely blessed to have you as their Mom 🙂

    • Dennis Smith says:

      I’m very impressed. I’m not hiring right now but when I am please contact me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Surely the Speaker’s salary should be cut too. That’s an extraordinary amount of money for that position -no offence to the present Speaker, but really!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    To put the exact math out there using the exact figures released by the Government (see and comparing the original proposal to the current proposal through the end of the next financial year…


    Annual salaries:

    Premier – $177,816

    Speaker – $169,272

    Deputy Premier – $161,100

    Leader of the Opposition – $126,492

    Ministers (3) – $157,188

    DeputySpeaker – $120,396

    Former-serving backbench MLAs (4 Opposition, 1 Independent, 1 Government) – $111,792

    New backbench MLAs (2 Government) – $109,080

    Total amount spent per year for all 16 salaries – $2,115,552


    Original proposal:

    Premier 30% cut, other MLAs 20% cut, March 2010 through June 2011 savings = $587,856


    Current proposal:

    Premier 5%, other MLAs 3.2% cut July 2010 through June 2011 savings = $70,898.35


    Difference in savings = $516,957.65

    • Don't worry I wont stay says:

      A few years ago my goal was to raise revenue in my business by 20%. I broke this down to for goals of 5% and worked on the associated action plans.

      This last year my goal is to cut expenses by several 10’s of thousands of dollars. I am working on this a thousand dollars at a time. I refer to the fact I have left some thousand dollar bills lying around and I need to start to pick them up.

      In our government case they have some $500,000 bills lying around and we need to start looking for them and picking them up. We just need a hundred and we have a balanced budget.

      Heres an easy three for a start. The MLA salary cuts, repayment of the gas center thefts,  eliminate the need for the back entrance to the vehicle license office.

      Ninety seven to go!



    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for the breakdown which I was hoping someone would provide. It makes it obvious that McKeeva’s latest stance – that he will only take a 30% pay cut if the leader of the opposition will also take a 30% pay cut – is just a political ploy. Since the Ministers and the Speaker earn substantially more than the Leader of the Opposition why shouldn’t they also take a 30% pay cut?   

  13. Anonymous says:

    Update from the Premier.

    I was listening to the news at 8am this morning. Perhaps it was on last night as well but I was working so this morning was my first opportunity for some news.

    The Premier emphatically stated that he would not be taking a 30% pay cut while the Leader of the Opposition only took a 20% pay cut. He went on to say the Leader of the Opposition would have to take 30% as well.

    The actual percentage for the pay cut is somewhat immaterial, although it shouldbe sufficient and serve to "set an example" as originally stated. What I take issue with is the fact that the Premier stated that he would take 30% cut and the other MLA’s would take 20%. He later renigned on that promise and offered to take 3.2%, and no doubt will have another tale to tell if a motion for pay cuts is brought up in the budget meeting.

    While the office of Premier demands a certain amount of respect, it is becoming patently obvious that Arden’s moniker of "Liar" is becoming a hard one for him to shake, and that is a very sad thing for the entire country.

  14. RogerJa says:


    We need ademocracy where the economy provides for a welfare net. You have to look out for those who make lower than you. They should be able to have a decent home, a living wage, affordable educational opportunities, good health care, and monies left over for savings. More every day the rich is getting richer, and are they looking out for the poor and needy?  Answer:  No – they are looking out for themselves! 

    To those well off – I have this to say:  It is the least of these who have helped you climb the ladder – now that you have reached to the top, what have you given back?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Cayman had many of its best and brightest MLAs when MLAs SERVED their country for virtually nothing. Now we have self-serving profiteering career politicians who are not serving the interests of the people at all. Now what we have is a bunch of politicians who look for ways to increase the pay of the senior civil service so that they can boost their own pay.

    If MLA’s pay is to be linked to anything, it should be linked to the average income of the voters – no more than 2 or 3 times that of the average voter at a maximum. That is the only way that politicians will act in the interests of the voters – when the politicians only benefit when the people do.

    The other thing that we need to do is to impose term limits so that we do not perpetuate a greedy bunch of self-serving world travelling politicians. All aspiring politicians ought to understand that public service is a privilege and that once they have had that privilege for 8 years it is time for them to step aside so that others with new ideas may also have the privilege.

  16. noname says:

    Great job Carolina! You have exposed our MLAs as the two-faced selfish fakers that they are.  

    • Anonymous says:

      agreed, in onearticle Carolina proves she is more educated and more intelligent than our ‘premeir’


  17. Anonymous says:

    This topic can be discussed to death and nothing will change. Unless somebody is going to figure out how to deal with the current situation and begins to hold the government accountable for their blatant lies, the country will continue to go bust.

    Caymanians – stop bitching about foreigners taking your jobs and deal with the people who are supposed to be representing YOU! Just for once, do actually take a stand for something you believe in.

  18. Scrooge McDuck says:

    While all that you say is very true Carolina, the one statement you made, that we are being insulted, rings truer than all else.  I am continually astounded that not only our elected representatives here, but all others, have not twigged to the idea that we are not a bunch of illiterate sheep.  Whereas in the past, governments could conveniently compartmentalize information, spin it and control it’s distribution, more and more, we are dealing with common knowledge and the free distribution of information.  The Premier’s recent rant and threats about "bloggers" should give us an indication of just how out of touch he is to this reality.  What the internet done, and one example is your finely written piece is to allow much more intelligent discussion than what takes place in the halls of government.  And more intelligent individuals allowed to begin them.  As well whenever this happens it becomes more obvious to us the people we elect are not that smart.  The limited choices we are offered in an election then become even more obvious and insulting.  Somehow politics seems to filter out the more intelligent amongst us.  Ultimately we are left with a group of stupid people getting paid way too much money and they don’t want us to explore that possibility, for if they were to get paid on performance….. they’d owe us.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The Chief Officers should also take a comparable pay cut!  Failing to slash the bloated CS is likely to be Bush’s political Waterloo.  Every other country on the planet is taking a scithe to their CS as the central core of their austerity measures.  Bush is clearly making decisions based on retaing the votes of the CS rather than on the needs of the country.

  20. islandman says:

    Very well said!…and we must also consider that these powers that be (both sides) have raised their own salaries 20 to 30% over the past five years…some of these raises done even when all knew full well that the economic crisis was upon us.

    So in effect they would only be rolling back what they should not have given themselves to begin with…had they been prudent people!

  21. Anonymous says:

    To see how ridiculous the government MLA’s position is, we should also keep in mind that some are also receiving pensions for previous "service" as MLAs which brings the total of their ripping off of the public to closer to $300,000 per year – and they are only talking about a 3.2% reduction of their current wage, not the tens of thousands that they pay themselves as "pensions" and other benefits. 

  22. Dred says:

    You have my deepest respect for that masterpiece.

    I could not have said it better.