The National Heroes Day celebrations will cost $400,000 in 2009, down from $500,000 this year.
During Finance Committee last week, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush questioned whether the country should be spending that much money on the celebration during difficult financial times.
‘$500,000 for a celebration on a small place like this?’ he asked.
Mr. Bush said he had no problem with Cayman celebrating its national heroes.
‘What we can’t do is go overboard with it,’ he said. ‘We need to honour everyone who needs to be honoured… but we have to be careful about just how much we’re spending on it.’
Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin, whose ministry has responsibility for National Heroes Day, defended the expenditure.
‘It’s without a doubt the most important day to celebrate the achievements of our people,’ he said. ‘As long as I’m responsible, we’re not going to have some sort of substandard event.’
Mr. Bush pointed out that the UDP initiated the event and still supports it.
‘I’m not urging the minister to have any substandard party,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘I’m just saying that while we’re doing that, there are people going to social services for money because they can’t pay their light bill. We have to be cognizant of that.’
Mr. McLaughlin said the funding for the 2009 National Heroes Day celebration had been reduced by one-fifth from what was expended this year. He said the reduction was largely due to the fact that government now owns a lot of the resources used in the set up of the event.
Mr. Bush inquired how much it costs to bring the 31-member Brass Band of Battle Creek to Cayman to play during the celebrations.
‘We don’t pay them any big fee to come here,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘We pay… for their transportation and accommodation, and they come here with a lot of instruments, so [the cost is] not insignificant.’
Mr. McLaughlin said a ‘grand event’ was planned for the 2009 National Heroes Day event, which will pay special tribute to the contributions of Caymanian women. He said he didn’t want to go into details about the plans because he wanted some of it to remain a surprise.
In addition to funding the National Heroes Day celebration, Mr. McLaughlin said the $400,000 appropriation also includes funding for the maintenance of all of Cayman’s national parks, including Heroes Square.