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Civil Service to Restrict Hiring

LoGB Hon D. Kurt Tibbetts, JP

In a pro-active move the Cayman Islands Government has taken steps to minimise the potential impact of the global financial crisis and economic slow down on the government budget.

In a special meeting with chief officers on Thursday, 23 October, Cabinet advised senior civil servants that present projections by the Budget Management Unit indicated that government revenue would fall short of predictions by some CI$15 million in the 2008/2009 fiscal year. As a result, Cabinet requested chief officers to restrict hiring of new staff and the filling of vacant posts to the absolute minimum required.

The measures will apply to all public service entities, including statutory authorities and Government owned companies. Chief Officers were also instructed to take measures to reduce their approved operational expenditure by 6% over the course of the present financial year.

"This Government is committed to fiscal prudence, particularly in these difficult and unpredictable times," said the Hon Leader of Government Business D. Kurt Tibbetts, JP.

"By law, the Cayman Islands Government cannot incur a budget deficit and we are taking steps early to ensure that this does not occur. We are doing so not in a reactive way, but by restricting the growth in the size of the public service and by reducing operational expenditure."

Chief Secretary and Head of the Civil Service George McCarthy, OBE, described the measures being taken by the Government as "prudent action". He said: "Although it is hard at this stage to predict the full impact of the global financial crisis and economic slow down on the Cayman economy and specifically on Government's finances, early action is the key to minimising its impact."

Acknowledging that a total ban on all government hiring is not possible or advisable, Mr McCarthy noted that "inevitably there will be instances where recruitment is still necessary."

In order to address these exceptional situations, appointing officers will have to make application with detailed justifications to the Head of the Civil Service who may authorise recruitment on behalf of Cabinet in their ownership role, if justified. Statutory authorities and government companies will make submissions to Cabinet via their respective ministers.

Mr McCarthy reiterated that the restriction on government hiring will not inhibit the appointment of necessary and essential personnel such as policemen, doctors, nurses and other specialised positions. He also gave the assurance that this measure is not a precursor to job cuts in the civil service.

The Head of the Civil Service stated: "I encourage all chief officers, appointing officers and managers to find creative ways to minimise expenditure and conserve Government's strong cash position. As such, I have tasked the Portfolio of the Civil Service and all other government agencies to identify ways in which the public sector can reduce operational costs."

Addressing the government's substantial capital works programme, the Leader of Government Business gave the assurance that all major government construction projects which are underway will continue. These include the new Government Administration Building and the new schools. Mr. Tibbetts noted that "in times like these it is important that government takes the lead in ensuring that the economy continues to be stimulated. These major government construction projects are providing employment to hundreds of workers and are injecting millions of dollars directly into the local economy on a monthly basis."

In relation to capital works projects for which contracts have not yet been awarded, Mr. Tibbetts said the government is currently reviewing its capital works programme and prioritising which projects go ahead based on importance, affordability and their potential positive impact on the local economy.

The Leader of Government Business is confident that with continued careful management and enterprise the Cayman Islands will successfully navigate these troubled times. He concluded: "The Cayman Islands has a proven track record of sound financial management. We have every reason to be confident that with God's grace and our own efforts we will weather the present global storm and emerge from it stronger than ever."

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver