Heroes’ Day over budget

The Cayman Islands government spent 28 per cent more than it had planned for the islands’ 2008 National Heroes Day celebration.

Supplementary funding requests made earlier this month in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee showed that $641,960 had been spent on the 28 January event.

An exact spending amount planned for the event was never actually placed in the 2007/08 budget due to an oversight, according to Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, whose ministry has responsibility for the annual celebration. However, in the current budget, the event’s expense was estimated at $500,000.

The lesser, half-million dollar amount raised eyebrows at the legislature earlier this year when Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush questioned the expense.

‘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,’ Mr. Bush said in June (see Caymanian Compass 18 June, 2008). ‘What we can’t do is go overboard with it.’

Mr. McLaughlin told finance committee members this month that the entire $641,960 does not all go to the event itself. The money also pays for upkeep of Cayman Islands national parks, including Heroes’ Square in downtown George Town and the maintenance of various monuments.

Minister McLaughlin also said in June that he didn’t want to host any sort of ‘substandard event’ for what he considered the most important day in Cayman to celebrate the achievements of the Caymanian people.

Mr. Bush said he didn’t want the country to host a substandard party. But he said he was concerned about the level of expenditure for this event.

‘There are people going to social services for money because they can’t pay their light bill,’ he said in June. ‘We have to be cognizant of that.’

One of the major issues with the financing of Heroes Day is the inclusion of the 31-member Brass Band of Battle Creek, which has been flown in to play at the celebrations in the past. The government does pay a fee for the band and provides for members’ transportation and accommodation while they are in Cayman.

The budget for the 2008/09 Heroes’ Day event was reduced to $400,000 in the current year’s spending plan. Mr. McLaughlin has promised a grand event which will pay particular tribute to Caymanian women.

The Cayman Islands has two national heroes, James Manoah Bodden and Sybil McLaughlin.