Cayman Islands Cut Beauty Contests Amid Deficit

The Cayman Islands is sacrificing beauty for bucks.

The government is telling beauty pageant participants that all contests have been postponed until the economy improves.

The move is expected to save some $120,000 — a small windfall for one of the world's largest tax havens, but which is struggling with mounting debt during the global economic crisis. The British territory reported a $100 million deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30 and has requested $465 million in loans.

The six women vying to represent the Caymans at the upcoming Miss World and Miss Universe contests will have to put their ambitions on hold, tourism official Patricia Ulett told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Ulett, who represents the Tourism Ministry on the Miss Cayman Islands Committee, noted the decision is not without precedent: Officials suspended beauty pageants in 2005 after Hurricane Ivan barreled through the Caribbean, killing dozens and causing extensive damage.

"It's not an unusual thing that countries don't attend," she said.

Trinidad and Tobago also canceled pageants this year after its government slashed the budget and requested that the contests seek private funding.

Caymans contestant Mysti Bush told a local newspaper she respects the move as a bid to save government employees' jobs, but she questioned why funding was not sought from the private sector.

"The committee should have funds in reserve for emergencies such as this," she was quoted as saying by the Caymanian Compass.

Ulett said beauty pageants in the Cayman Islands are not popular enough to attract significant private funding.

The winner of the Miss Cayman Islands pageant would have received a $70,000 prize package including an educational scholarship and a new car, the Caymanian Compass reported.

Current queen Nicosia Lawson will continue her reign until next year, Ulett said.

The territory was unable to pay all its bills last month, and Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office urged the local government to impose property and income taxes to increase revenue. Government leader McKeeva Bush has rejected such measures.