Although January’s National Heroes Day celebration was kept within government’s stated budget, a new bronze statue made to honour Caymanian women unveiled as part of the celebration pushed the total costs of the event over CI $630,000.
Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, whose ministry is responsible for funding the event each year, estimated the costs for this year’s Heroes Day at $400,000 after last year’s celebration cost the islands nearly $650,000 and drew the ire of opposition party members.
Spending for this year’s National Heroes Day event has been revealed under an open records request made by the Caymanian Compass.
The largest single expense in the Heroes Day budget went for the Brass Band of Battle Creek, a favourite act at the event. Government spent CI $91,560 for the band’s contract, about $20,000 for airline tickets, and just under $30,000 for the band’s hotel accommodation among other costs which totalled just more than $150,000.
Another $148,000 went to pay for design and decorations at the Heroes Day event, held in Heroes Square in downtown George Town.
The remaining $100,000 or so paid for items like entertainment, audio visual services, refreshments, awards, advertising and other miscellaneous expenses. The total Heroes Day expenditure was $403,338.35, well under the government’s budgeted amount of $450,000.
However, the government spent an additional $233,150.19 on the creation of a bronze statue known as ‘the Aspiration monument’ now set in Heroes Square.
The bronze shows a younger woman holding the world in her hands, supported by an older woman standing to the side and just below her on the dais. The countries on the globe are inlaid with caymanite.
Alongside the monument are the names of all but eight of the 358 women who signed a petition demanding equal rights to vote in 1957. The other eight names were lost in a fire at government house in 1972.
Government paid more than $120,000 for the bronze statues’ and plaques’ design and construction. Another $110,000 went for shipping and other construction and installation-related costs.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has previously been critical of the government’s spending on Heroes Day events.
‘There are people going to social services for money because they can’t pay their light bill,’ he told the Finance Committee of the Legislative Assembly last year. ‘We have to be cognizant of that.’
Mr. McLaughlin agreed to keep costs for the Heroes Day event lower this year, but refused to hold what he considered to be any ‘substandard event’ for the national celebration that recognises the achievements of Caymanian people.