$30M in extra spending

Nearly $30 million in supplemental spending was approved Wednesday in the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee, the lion’s share of which will go to support the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority.

The HSA portion of the supplemental appropriation included $7.7 million to cover operating losses which Health Minister Anthony Eden said had been built up over some time.

The HSA’s Acting Chief Officer Lizzette Yearwood told the assembly committee the $7.7 million was for old payables dating back as far as 2004. Ms Yearwood said $4.8 million was owed to various Cayman Islands government departments; another $1.2 million was owed to overseas vendors.

More than $5 million will go for tertiary health care at overseas institutions for indigents and other overseas medical assistance. Another $1.6 million was set aside for additional medical care for indigents.

Public testing for communicable diseases, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria along with other health care education and services will cost an additional $1.2 million.

More than $8.5 million in extra spending on four road projects was also approved. Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean said the additional cash was needed for projects like the East-West Arterial Road because work was progressing faster than expected.

‘This road is travelling like a river,’ Mr. McLean said.

He said he hopes the East-West Arterial will be substantially completed by the first week in September.

Lawmakers also approved $625,000 in additional spending on legal aid services after a lengthy debate. The money is given to those who are unable to afford their own lawyers in various criminal or civil court cases.

The finance committee also reviewed a $3.1 million loan to the Cayman Turtle Farm to help cover operating losses at the tourist attraction. This money is in addition to $3.74 million already loaned to the facility earlier this year.

The loan amount was approved Thursday in finance committee after a contentious debate.

The full Legislative Assembly later gave formal approval to the entire supplemental appropriation.

The spending has raised some eyebrows among the opposition party.

‘This is the fifth supplemental budget they’ve dealt with for this year,’ said Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush. ‘And this is not a small amount. The bottom line is getting smaller.’

The additional spending will reduce government’s operating surplus for the current budget year, which ends 30 June, to $33.59 million. The surplus was previously $47.33 million, a reduction of just under $14 million.

Cayman Islands Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said the spending was well within legal limits, although it will reduce the government’s total cash reserves.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he presented the supplemental budget before the committee began debate on next year’s spending plan because he wanted assembly members to know about the country’s finances.

‘We want these matters to be approved before they are spent,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Mr. Bush said Cayman Islands law actually requires that approval before government allocates supplemental expenditures.

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