Premier McKeeva Bush defended his government’s decision to give those receiving ex-gratia payments and poor relief $100 extra this year, rather than the extra full payment they received from the People’s Progressive Movement administration the previous two years.
‘There is limited money to do anything,’ he said. ‘There is just so much we can do.’
The $100 holiday bonus will be paid to those receiving ex-gratia payments or poor relief in January, in addition to their regular payment. With more than 2,000 recipients of the extra payment, the holiday bonus will cost the government more than $200,000.
Mr. Bush said the government had to make a decision on how best to help the community with limited resources. They decided the clean-up work programme – where they paid unemployed people to clean up Cayman’s beaches and roadsides – was the best thing they could do.
‘We had many people who were unemployed,’ he said. ‘We thought the clean-up work programme was the most judicious and healthy way of getting money into the most people’s pockets for Christmas.’
Mr. Bush took offence to comments made by Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts, who claimed that since the government didn’t provide for the bonus in their budget ‘they could not have considered it important enough’.
‘Kurt should be the last one to speak on this matter,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘He opposed [ex-gratia payments to seamen and veterans] from the very start. How can he come at this time and accuse us of not putting it in the budget, when they didn’t put it in the budget either? They had to make a supplemental allocation; it was an afterthought.
‘They complain and say we should have given more [to the ex-gratia recipients]. Sure, I would have liked to have given more. I was the one who started this thing for seamen and veterans. Kurt Tibbetts should remember how much he complained about that; him and [former legislator] Edna Moyle.’
Mr. Bush said the PPM was to blame for much of the economic situation in the first place.
‘The last government left us in a big mess,’ he said. ‘They destroyed the finances of this country. Only a blind Bartimaeus can’t see that.’
Mr. Bush said some people don’t seem to believe that the Cayman Islands government is in a difficult financial bind right now.
‘I know there’s some PPM propaganda saying it’s not so. But they doggone full well know how bad it is.’
The new year will bring some light on how the current budget is progressing. Mr. Bush said the performance of the budget was being closely monitored and that a report on the first six months of the financial year 2009/10 will be forthcoming in January.
That report will form an important element of the briefing package for new Governor Duncan Taylor, who arrives 15 January.
Many of the new revenue measures that were required to balance the new budget have already been implemented, but others are scheduled to take effect in January.