GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – The Cayman Islands 2022-2023 budget was passed in parliament on Wednesday, 8 December after a week of debate followed by a two-day finance committee deliberation.
Deputy premier and minister for finance & economic development Chris Saunders presented The Appropriation (Financial Years 2022 and 2023) Bill, 2021 to parliament on Friday, 26 November.
It was passed following the Third Reading of the Bill on Wednesday evening. The next legislative steps are for the Governor to Assent to the Bill and to Gazette it as an Act.
The deputy premier introduced the 2022-2023 budget as one that is “Investing in the wellbeing, resiliency, and sustainability of the Caymanian people and the Cayman Islands.”
Minister Saunders said: “It is a budget that my colleagues and I are proud to present to the country. … this budget extends support to our people through investments in education, healthcare, and various social programmes, while simultaneously defending and growing our existing economic pillars of financial services and tourism to ensure their resiliency and continued success, all at the same time protecting our environment to ensure a sustainable future for all Caymanians and those that call the Cayman Islands home. Simply put … this is a People-driven budget!”
He explained: “This budget delivers on many of the promises made during the campaign to invest in our people and their wellbeing. From free school lunches for our children to removing the duty on day-to-day essential items such as baby food, baby diapers and sanitary products for women.”
Minister Saunders underscored the government’s commitment to lowering the cost of living and referred to the Strategic Policy Statement delivered by the PACT government in July.
He said: “Broad Outcome No. 3, … in the government’s Strategic Policy Statement is a commitment to ‘Providing solutions to improve the well-being of our people so they can achieve their full potential.’ My colleagues and I in this PACT government take that commitment very seriously and it cannot be business as usual where many people are being taken advantage of with some of the prices being charged on essential items.”
He continued: “This budget is about providing our people with the opportunities and tools necessary to build the best life that they want to live for themselves and their families.”
Minister Saunders gave a summary of the main highlights of the 2022-2023 budget, including the government’s key fiscal policies and headline figures, “there are no new fees or taxes levied on the public,” he said. And also revealed that “Commencing 2022, the government will return to full compliance with the Principles of Responsible Financial Management as prescribed by the Public Management and Finance Act, or PMFA.”
He explained: “In order to meet all of the government’s planned capital investments over the Budget period, the 2022 and 2023 Budgets show borrowings of up to $349.1 million: $299.1 million in 2022 and a further $50.0 million in 2023. Therefore, none of the Government’s day-to-day Operating Expenses are met by borrowings – such costs are met entirely by government’s operating revenues.”
Further key features of the 2022-2023 budget were listed as follows:
Additionally, government plans to invest $30.4 million in its Public Entities during 2022 an a further $28.9 million in 2023.
“The PACT Government is committed to ensuring that the Cayman Islands maintains its financial independence and ability to control its own budget,” minister Saunders explained. “Over the next two years, the PACT Government intends to continue manoeuvring through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time, being financially prudent in order to deliver the programmes that it promised the people of these Islands.”
Minister Saunders highlighted some of the figures allocated for infrastructure, education and social programmes, including:
The deputy premier explained the rationale behind these provisions, saying, “while we cannot guarantee equal outcomes, we can guarantee equal opportunity for our people.”
Minister Saunders ended his budget address with a call for unity amongst members of parliament in moving the government’s agenda forward through the budget process by quoting a sermon by Rev Peter Raible, an American Unitarian minister and champion of social justice.
He read: “Together we are more than anyone person could be. Together we can build across the generations. Together we can renew our hope and faith in the life that is yet to unfold. Together we can heed the call to a ministry of care and justice. We are ever bound in community. May it always be so.”