GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, (CNS) – Governor Jane Owen has dismissed concerns that the UK might step in to oversee public finances after the PACT Government presents its last budget for this administration next month.
Six months after taking up her post, Britain’s representative in the Cayman Islands told CNS that she is “not worried” at this stage about the risk of Cayman falling foul of public finance legislation and the UK stepping in if, as expected, public spending exceeds CI$1 billion in both 2024 and 2025
Speaking to CNS this week, the governor said that budgeting was “always a challenge” and it was about “balancing priorities and resources”. But she said that the Cayman Islands now has a solid track record over its finances and she had no reason to worry because the UK has seen that Cayman has managed its finances well.
She also revealed that at this point, the UK and Cayman governments are not discussing changes to the Public Management and Finance Law. This includes the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, which sets the parameters for British Overseas Territories’ annual spending plans, such as net debt ratios and cash balances.
However, Owen said that she was not opposed to that potential conversation. She said she would be willing to facilitate the talks because conversations about these issues are worth having, especially in connection with the environmental challenges that Cayman will face.
In recent months, Premier Wayne Panton has broached the idea of renegotiating some of the FFR limits to help Cayman navigate the costly mitigation measures that will be needed to protect the islands from rising sea levels, rising temperatures and more potentially dangerous storms. The climate policy sets out ambitious goals that will not be easy to meet without significant investment.
“We need to balance development with environmental concerns,” the governor said, adding that this is not unique to Cayman and even the UK is facing challenges in the face of climate change.
Owen offered her full support to help this jurisdiction tackle the specific challenges it faces, “which you can see every day”. The governor said she appreciated the issues Cayman will have to deal with as it balances the needs of a growing economy with the consequences of climate change for these low-lying islands. But she said the UK was fully committed to supporting Cayman through the challenges.
Not all of that support will be financial, the governor noted, as the UK will be offering technical expertise as well. She pointed to the research work going on in the deep sea, support with risk assessments and the recent positive move by Cayman to join the Blue Belt Programme. Cayman has already benefited to the tune of more than $5 million from the Darwin Initiative for a variety of important research, she added.
The governor said that Britain will be taking a delegation of BOT representatives to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), which will take place from 30 November until 12 December in the United Arab Emirates.