Archer tidies up UDP appropriations

| 05/09/2013

(CNS): Finance Minister Marco Archer led the Legislative Assembly's Finance Committee in a fiscal tidy up on Wednesday. Archer brought four supplementary appropriation bills to the LA to reshuffle the money that had been allocated during the four budgets presided over by the previous UDP administration. During the debate, which focused on what appeared to be personal grudges rather than the details of the bills, the magnitude of the break between the new PPM government and its former independent allies became apparent as the back and forth between the benches became increasingly prickly. Archer, however, pressed on as chair of the committee in an effort to straighten out the public books in accordance with the Public Management and Finance Law.

He emphasised that the exercise had nothing to do with new spending but to address figures in government spending over the last four years, comparing what was budgeted to what was spent and adjusting the lawful budget appropriation where necessary.

Objections were raised by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller as he pointed out that the bills did not meet the constitutional requirement of 21 days notice, even though they were far from urgent. The independent member noted how frequently the new premier had joined him in complaints when he was sitting on the opposition benches about the previous premier’s habit of doing the same thing. He urged the new government not to go down the road of abusing parliament during its tenure. He said that as these bills were unconstitutional, he was reluctant to take part in the cleaning up exercise.

East End MLA Arden McLean also noted that while the government had brought a budget tidy-up for the fiscal years from 2010 to 2013, the controversial year of 2009 — the last year of the previous PPM administration — which had allegedly ended with an $81 million deficit rather than the $29 million that the Cabinet had expected, was not among the bills. McLean said it was time to settle that issue and ensure that the true figure, good or bad, was revealed.

McLean said if the UDP leader was going to continue to use that to beat all those who had been a part of that PPM government, as he had been one of them, he wanted to know the truth.

During the very short debate on the bills the premier urged the opposition benches to work with the government. He admitted that government had failed to meet the 21 day notice period but members had had the bills for a week, which was considerably longer that they had enjoyed during the previous administration for most of that government’s proposed legislation.

McLaughlin said he would be striving hard to comply with the rules, but given the context and the issues of being voted into office just as a new budget was required, it was impossible for finance staff to have prepared the bills any sooner. But the tidying up exercise needed to be done before another full budget was delivered later this month.

“We could have ignored this as they let it go for four years,” he said, referring to the last government, “but given the state of government finances and the criticisms about management, we felt it was necessary to bring this to the attention of Finance Committee and the wider public.”

McLaughlin said it was easy for Miller to complain but the government was playing the hand it was dealt. Once the budget was sorted, he would be working on a legislative timetable and prioritising laws to get through, so they would not wind up with emergencies bills being short of the notice period. He said it may happen sometimes but he urged all members “not to abdicate” their responsibility of attending to the “people’s business” that they, as MLAs, were all asked to do.

McLaughlin admitted that he had objected to the management of the House many times but had never let that get in the way of his contribution or his duty to carry out the scrutiny of government business, which was the duty of all members. He urged the members not to fight over the technical issues and save it for the substantive matters.

“I believe in order, principle and procedure and we will do everything to operate within the rules but we are asking for indulgence on this occasion because of the situation,” he said. “The country doesn’t want to see this back and forth so I have striven up until today to have an inclusive government and give everyone here opportunity to make a difference.

“I will continue with the principle of the out-stretched hand to colleagues. If it is slapped aside, I can’t do anything about that, but this administration is not about that,” the premier said, accusing the independent members of sitting on talk shows and slagging government but not doing anything.  “The people have rejected that,” he said, as he urged members to “stop the bickering” that was already surfacing and put aside any self-interest and game playing.

During his contribution, the East End member was clearly outraged as he took aim at his former colleague, the premier. He said he had heard the cries many times from the previous premier and accused McLaughlin of using the parliamentary forum to put the blame on the opposition when it had been the government that started the games after the election.

His efforts had been to try and ensure the UDP could never rise again but he was “rejected”, he said, making it clear he was affronted by what happened in the wake of the election, when the PPM had invited Rivers to the Cabinet and when both he and Miller had tried to block the opposition leader’s appointment to the Public Accounts Committee. McLean said McKeeva Bush should have been cast out into the “political wilderness” and not placed on such an important committee as PAC.

He said he had tried to help, but in the end the responsibility lies on the government benches for the management of its affairs.

“It doesn’t lie here,” he said, indicating the opposition. He said he had a responsibility to do what was best for Cayman but not at the behest of personal likes and dislikes. He said he was not there to “cow-tow to anybody”, stating the Legislative Assembly building was not a church but a house of politics.

The East End member took umbrage with the premier, calling him selfish, as he (McLean) had given his entire life to the country. “I spent over ten years with him as a member of a party. You’d think he would pick up the phone and call,” he said, clearly angry over the PAC appointments.

“Selfishness? He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word … You accuse me of something that didn’t happen and when you say I am selfish, you can’t expect me to sit back asthough someone sutured my tongue to top of my mouth,” McLean added, during a  contribution, which exposed the real size of the rift between the two former Cabinet colleagues.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Still cleaning up Mac's mess. Thank you Marco. 

  2. Anon says:

    Good work Marco.

    Stay above the fray and diligently work to get the people's work done.

    So far you are proving to be the best Finance Minister Cayman has had in recent memory.

  3. J Salasi I. -111? says:

    When will they ever learn , they keep fighting for power but they know not the hour, any minute any day  it can be taken away. The more power they get the more power they want in this stupid game they play, while the people draw themselves a good picture of who not to consider in 4 Years unless there is a radical change of their principles a radical change  how they deal with our lives. Well what an example  they set in moving our country forward eh. well no one knows what the future holds.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank God for Marco Archer because he seems to be the most stable of the lot of these politicians. I was listening to Winston on Rooster yesterday morning and had to wonder if he was the same person who I heard on the campaign trail! His concern for rental properties that might be vacated by the 1500 guest workers was amusing at best and pathetic/disconnected at worse. I wonder if Winston lacks the foresight or good sense to understand that new workers would come to fill those properties. Very sad. Yes, thank God for Marco who has not wavered and who has the good sense and higher qualifications to navigate this ever so fuzzy landscape of ours. God bless you Marco Archer!

    • Anonymous says:

      Guest workers?  Pathetic/disconnected?  I think you're the one who is pathetic/disconnected if you think its all that easy that once an employee is forced to leave a job that their position will be automatically filled by someone with the same experience, knowledge and ability.  Your statement is incredibly naive.  I have to assume that you have never run your own business or employed people where skills and production actually matter.  Keep thanking God and praying because it appears you think thats all you need to do to put bread on the table.

      • Anonymous says:

        We're not talking about who the person is, we're talking about will they need a roof over their head. Please, try to keep up with the discussion.


        (And, at least in my buissiness, staff roll-over is just part of the bussiness. No one is irreplaceable and we haven't had a problem replacing staff with people who are just as good.)

  5. Anonymous says: