UDP: PPM out of touch on poverty

The Opposition United Democratic Party has blasted Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts’ assessment that the number of people living in poverty in Cayman is marginal.

Speaking after the draft National Assessment of Living Conditions found Cayman had the lowest level of poverty in the English speaking Caribbean, Mr. Tibbetts told the Legislative Assembly last week the report stood in sharp contrast to the ‘doom and gloom picture of living conditions’ painted by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush.

‘What the study is effectively saying is that, overall, life is far better in the Cayman Islands, notwithstanding a few pockets of poverty which government will now target for relief,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

In a statement Friday the UDP said: ‘This further demonstrates the disconnect between the PPM administration and the reality of the Cayman Islands economy under their administration and the many Caymanians who are suffering.’

The NALC report put the poverty line at $3,983 per-person annually, and said only 1.9 per cent of the population fell below that threshold. By household, it said the average Caymanian family of 2.48 people would need about $10,000 a year to meet basic food and non-food needs.

But while the report said levels of poverty were low, interviews carried out by the NALC team revealed ‘that men, women and family are increasingly facing economic, social and psychological pressures that are causing families to rupture,’ the report stated.

It added: ‘While absolute poverty may not be a major issue in the Cayman Islands, relative poverty and social depravations are contributing to stigmatisation and discriminations against certain groups in the society and to the sense of social exclusion.’

The UDP said Mr. Tibbetts’ statement contradicted ‘the reality we see in our districts throughout the three Cayman Islands; the increasing number of applications from born Caymanians for permanent financial assistance as reported by the Director of Children and Family Services, Mrs. Deana Look Loy on 7 May, 2008; the findings of the National Occupation and Wage Survey; and most importantly with what our constituents say to us on a daily basis.’

Speaking at a National Consultation on the NALC survey Friday, Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin was more circumspect in his response to the report.

‘The findings were not surprising at all,’ the Education Minister said.

‘Indeed, they are what anyone might expect of a country the size of Cayman that has undergone such rapid development. It may even be said that we appear better than many.

‘Despite this good news, however, in a society as affluent as Cayman, it is troubling to hear of the situation in which some of our citizens live and the effect that this has on them.

‘Anyone that has been a representative of this country will know firsthand the circumstances under which far too many of our people live and exist,’ Mr McLaughlin continued.

‘This situation needs to be addressed promptly and effectively. While over the years government has weighed in heavily to provide support and assistance to people that live below what we would consider to be a decent standard, clearly what has been done in the past, and what is being done now, is inadequate.’