Time to set priorities

Letter to the Editor

The membership of Cayman United has been arduously reviewing information contained within The Appropriation (July, 2012 to June, 2013) Bill, 2012 since it became available to us on 21 August, 2012. In the interest of full disclosure we must first state that we are yet to gain access to detailed budget documents, which explain how such appropriations have been determined. We must therefore rely only on our interpretation of the individual appropriation names within this bill. Despite this, over the coming days we shall make public our many critiques of the Appropriation Bill 2012 in an effort to inspire other members of the public to seek further information and determine for themselves whether or not the proposed spending plan is in the best interest of Cayman. 

Our initial review of the Appropriation Bill 2012 has identified 26 line items, aside from the Nation Building Fund, which we deem to be in line with the idea of nation building as put forth by the Premier. These include initiatives such as national disaster preparedness and response, scholarships and other educational assistance programmes, youth and sports programmes and preservation of national heritage, arts and culture.  

Despite the tough financial circumstances related to our budget crisis, some of these programmes have received increased funding when compared to the appropriations dictated in last year’s Appropriation Bill, The Appropriation (July, 2011 to June, 2012) Bill 2011. Cayman United understands the importance of nation building, and therefore has no objection to such increases. Examples of which include line items TP51 (Other Educational Assistance), which has increased by 54 per cent, TP49 (Youth Programmes) – up by 33 per cent and NGS58 (Elite Athletes Programme), which saw a modest funding increase of $22,000. 

Conversely, and perhaps understandably, the majority of these nation building programmes have seen reductions when compared to the Appropriation Bill 2011. Cayman United has consistently advocated that government spending should be cut; however, we have always maintained the belief that such cuts should be made responsibly and therefore feel some of those proposed in the Appropriation Bill 2012 may be a bit extreme. Line items that concern us include IEA25 (National Disaster Preparedness and Response), which has decreased by nearly 30 per cent and NGS47 (Mentoring Cayman Programmes), NCF9 (Training and Support for Artists) and TP27 (Pre-School Educational Assistance), which have all been cut by roughly 13 per cent 

These 26 initiatives fall under the responsibilities of five separate government departments. With the exception of the Ministry of Education, Training and Employment all of these departments have been asked to reduce their nation building activities. Considering the summation of cuts and reductions across these 26 initiatives, the five affected departments have been asked to reduce their nation building activities by more than $500,000.  

This is a sharp contrast to the 50 per cent increase awarded to line item TP52 (Promotion of Nation Building), which is also known as the Nation Building Fund. This fund has in fact been awarded an additional $1.5 million when comparing this year’s Appropriation Bill to the Appropriation Bill, 2011. 

Although each of the 26 initiatives we have identified is different in their own right, collectively they have several commonalities. Firstly, they are aimed at nation building. Much more importantly however, each has its own specific way of achieving this goal. For instance, one would never ask how the Miss Cayman Scholarship promotes nation building. Nor would this be asked of cultural programmes, sports programmes, visual art exhibitions and collections or tourism scholarships. Each of these initiatives has a clear and defined strategy when it comes to the nation building ideal. Additionally each initiative has the support of a dedicated ministry to assist in achieving that goal. 

Cayman United therefore wishes to ask the sitting government why it believes the ideal of nation building is best achieved through the Office of The Premier and an ambiguously titled fund. Would it not perhaps be more productive to proportionately distribute $4.5 million across the various initiatives that strive for this same ideal? 

 

Cayman United 

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