Constitution review budget grows

If figures contained in Cayman’s proposed budget are close to what the government actually ends up paying, the country will have spent more than $1.7 million on its Constitutional Review Secretariat before that review process is over.

Meetings hosted by the secretariat to gather public input on constitutional reform are drawing to a close this week. However, the government proposes to spend another $631,560 over the next fiscal year on the secretariat to ‘coordinate and manage the entire constitutional review process.’

A supplemental appropriation of $300,000 was approved in the 2006/07 budget to get the secretariat going. The total budget for the secretariat in the current fiscal year is now estimated at $800,000.

That brings the spending total so far to $1.1 million, with another $631,560 planned in the upcoming budget.

The figure for the current year includes a supplemental appropriation of $200,000 which was approved by the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee on Friday.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the additional payments this year were made to help complete public involvement strategies that were begun ahead of the referendum on constitutional changes. Mr. Tibbetts said more money was needed because the original time frame for the vote was extended beyond May.

Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin asked Mr. Tibbetts during the committee’s hearing to state what particular strategies were employed to involve the public in the review process.

‘It involves print media, television and it involves radio, as well as the hosting of planned public meetings,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘There’s nothing that is specific and new, there is just an increased value.’

Opposition MLA Cline Glidden, Jr. wondered whether the government would make any money available for the opposition United Democratic Party or the Non-Governmental Organisations involved in the constitutional review process.

Mr. Tibbetts said if he received a specific proposal from either the opposition or the NGO’s he would consider it.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said the People’s Progressive Movement was using the ‘same old basket of excuses’ as to why it was not providing funding to get the opposing political party’s views out.

‘If we were going to have gone about this process to educateā€¦the country would have been educated about two positions at the start of the process,’ Mr. Anglin said.

Mr. Tibbetts said he expected the referendum date would be announced within the next week. The government has previously said the vote would be held in the second half of 2008, but before September, leaving only the months of July and August open as possibilities.

An additional $119,000 was approved by the LA’s finance committee for the Chief Secretary’s office in this year’s budget for the ‘planning of a referendum.’ The money was taken from the budget earmarked to support Cayman’s Electoral Boundary Commission.