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Brown calls London’s Cayman budget move a ‘retrograde step’

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Opposition Leader –Craig Cannonier

Bermuda should not be concerned that the UK Government has taken over the management of Cayman Island’s budgeting process, according to One Bermuda Alliance Leader Craig Cannonier.But ruling party candidate Walton Brown says the development should worry those who value democracy, and is indicative of the “neo-colonialist proclivities” of the current UK administration.Mr Cannonier is concerned, however, about who would bail Bermuda out if “we go broke”.UK Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham gave conditional approval to Cayman Premier McKeeva Bush’s proposed budget for the 2012/13 fiscal year on Monday.The conditions included enshrining into law a Framework for Fiscal Responsibility guidelines for the handling of the country’s finances drafted by the UK - prohibiting supplementary budgets for the 2012/13 fiscal year; assisting the UK appointed economic adviser in up to four budget reviews a year; establishing a “budget board”, to be headed up by the Deputy Governor, which would assist the government in setting longer term fiscal plans and policies between now and 30 June 2016.The changes effectively strip the country’s Finance Minister, currently Mr Bush, of his budgeting responsibilities, and gives the UK even more direct control.The Royal Gazette asked a series of questions including whether tightening the colonial ties on another Overseas Territory should be cause for concern in Bermuda, and whether the same could happen here.Premier Paula Cox declined to comment on the development yesterday. And there was no response from the Progressive Labour Party a party which officially supports sovereignty for Bermuda.But Mr Cannonier noted that Britain has no power to interfere in Bermuda’s financial affairs under the constitution.“As to whether it is a warning to other overseas territories, His Excellency the Governor was quoted here a short time ago as having said the British Government has no intention of interfering in Bermuda’s financial affairs,” Mr Cannonier said.“Under our particular constitutional arrangements, he indicated, there is no specific British power to do so, unlike Cayman’s.“In one sense, we must be relieved, for as we all know, Bermuda’s financial affairs are far from what they once were. In my view, they call attention to the Government’s inability to manage debt, particularly, in the way it should be managed.“Running up debts of $1.4 billion in a country which just ten years ago barely had a tenth of that is quite a feat.“But in another sense we must be alarmed, for as my colleague Bob Richards pointed out some weeks ago, Bermuda’s situation and the Cayman situation have points of similarity, if not degree. If the Caymans go broke, there is some possibility, apparently, that the British Government would be liable for their debts.“But if we go broke, who would help us?”Mr Brown, a long time advocate of sovereignty has altogether different concerns.He described the move as a “retrograde step, an infringement of democracy and should cause grave concern to all who value the principle that the people should have power to decide who governs them.”He said: “The UK government, since the publication of the White Paper on OTs has sought to gain greater control over its colonies. This is a clear manifestation of that direction.“The issues of the Caymans are for the Caymanian people to resolve.”Mr Brown added that the UK was obligated to promote self-government by the UN Charter, but was failing to live up to its commitment.“This current UK government has a less muted colonial ambition than the previous Labour renditions and there is an effort to focus on asserting more, not less control,” he continued.“The current UK government takes clear pride in its OTs and wants to showcase them to the world as some sort of prized possession. But it is inconsistent with a commitment to democratic principles.”Asked whether he was concerned that Bermuda could be subject to similar measures - given the UK’s contingent liabilities for its colonies, Mr Brown said that he had been concerned about British encroachment on the Bermuda Government’s constitutional powers.“British actions have shown there is little regard for the constitutional responsibilities held by our elected representatives.“I would vigorously challenge any further eroding of the constitutional powers held by our parliament and would encourage all Bermudians who value democracy, who value the right of the people to decide who runs our country to resist the neocolonialeo-colonial proclivity of Prime Minister Cameron’s government.”Mr Bush did not return e-mail and phone messages seeking comment. He has in the past complained bitterly that the British Government was “micromanaging” Cayman Islands’ affairs.

PLP candidate for Pembroke Central, former Senator –Walton Brown
Cayman Islands Premier –McKeeva Bush