July 31, 2014

Cayman premier unrelenting in dispute with Britain

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush told the territory’s parliament on Monday that he plans to press ahead with legislation enacting a financial management agreement known as the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) in terms different from those previously agreed with Britain.

In a letter to Bush on Friday, newly-appointed British Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds told Bush not to bring a revised version of the FFR to the Legislative Assembly this week.

Bush disclosed earlier that he wanted Britain to take responsibility for any reputational or financial damage that adhering to the framework might cause Cayman and he has inserted a clause doing just that.

He also increased the value of projects that require UK approval from $10 million in the agreement itself to $25 million in the bill, without the consent of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Other bones of contention with Britain relate to whether the Cayman Islands should proceed with a port redevelopment project, and the respective roles of the governor and an appointed budget committee.

However, in a statement to the Legislative Assembly on Monday, Bush told lawmakers that his unilateral amendments to the terms of the FFR had been incorporated into a legislative enactment, which is due to be debated and voted upon in the current legislative session.

“I have instructed the legislative drafters and the draft will incorporate the terms as contained in the FFR and agreed with the previous of Minister [of Overseas Territories Henry Bellingham] in the UK, but it will contain two additional provisions which, in the government’s opinion, are extremely important for the peoples of these Islands,” Bush said.

“Unfortunately, the minister’s letter of 2 November does not provide any specific reasoning as to why these provisions may not be acceptable,” Mr. Bush told legislators, adding that he and his government were willing and available to discuss the issues relating to the FFR further with Simmonds.

“The minister indicated in his letter that by reason of the inclusion of these changes that I am disregarding good governance and I continue to be in breach of a series of commitments without any reference to what those commitments are. It appears that he is referring to these two changes in the FFR, which in my opinion are reasonable and accord with good governance, particularly in the light of the financial working relationship with the FCO which the document requires,” Bush said.

Opposition leader Alden McLaughlin said he feared that the Cayman Islands was “very close to the brink of some form of serious intervention by the UK government”.

“That is bound to create even greater uncertainty and further undermine investor confidence in the Cayman Islands as a good place in which to invest and do business,” he said.

McLaughlin said he had never seen diplomatic language as strong as that expressed in Simmond’s letter to the premier.

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