While commending the government on its recent move to extend the pension holiday until the end of September, Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart has called on government to do much more to ease the hardship facing many Caymanians due to the cost-of-living spike, starting with extending the pension holiday even further.
“I had said that the pension holiday would be needed for at least the next six months – the government has decided to continue it for three months. I suspect that in the end, it will be continued to at least the end of the year,” he said. “But I congratulate them on their willingness to listen to us and the small businesses and families still suffering from a slow tourism sector as well as from rising prices.”
Mr McTaggart said the continuation of the pension holiday would not be enough to stave off hardship for many people.
“Again, I appeal to the government to put in place the other measures we have called for, namely: advise the government-owned Water Authority not to increase water rates for at least six months; speak with executives at Cayman Water and persuade them to do likewise; discuss with CUC the possibility to minimise increases in electricity costs to families and businesses; remove the import duty on gasoline and diesel for six months and ensure gas stations pass on the savings; and continue the Covid tourism stipends.”
He also called for government to increase the stipend to retired seamen, veterans, and those entirely dependent on financial assistance from government, including those civil service pensioners with pensions below what is provided to individuals receiving social assistance.
“These are some of the most vulnerable in our communities and will need the help to ensure they can keep their head above water financially,” he stated.
The Opposition also felt that the civil service would have ideas as to how the public could save money and ought to be consulted on this.
“I have said before, this cost-of-living crisis is not caused by the government. Still, the government must do what it can to help ease the burden that everyday people are facing. Individually, none of these recommendations will solve the problem – but collectively, they can help our people survive what is still an unknown storm,” he stated.
Mr McTaggart said the government has the reserves in place to help ease the financial burden for people living in Cayman as they had recently fully drawn down on the US$400M emergency line of credit that the last government put in place.
“That line of credit was intended to be used for just such a situation. In addition, the Government recently announced record government revenues of about $447M in the first three months of the year,” he said.
Government’s recent announcement that the entire public sector had a surplus of about $180 million, or $30 million more than they had planned for, was another indication that government had plenty of funds available to them.
“It cannot be right that Government benefits from the rising prices while the people suffer,” he said. “So, funding the relief measures I have recommended should not be an issue,” the Opposition Leader said, urging Premier Wayne Panton to “listen and act”.