While the government brags about a surplus budget, it is failing to meet the needs of the people of East End, the district’s elected representative Arden McLean said during his contribution to the budget debate in Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
“A surplus budget at the expense of whom?” he asked. “I am not as optimistic or convinced as [the government members] are that a surplus budget represents value for our people because on a daily basis I am experiencing from the people of this country how much they are hurting.”
Mr. McLean said in many cases, the loss of homes or the loss of jobs can be attributed to the government’s actions or inactions, and if government has a surplus budget, the people should be seeing a benefit of that surplus.
He said all the legislators were well aware of the many people who were finding it difficult to survive.
“People are knocking on our doors every day because living is out of reach for them,” he said, noting that the roughly $8 million earmarked for various forms of poor relief in the budget was a clear indication of the needs of the Caymanian people.
He said the government often spoke about many initiatives to support businesses but didn’t talk about supporting people.
Mr. McLean said the government needed fortitude to stand fast with proposed amendments to the Labour Law, which among other things would create a minimum wage in the Cayman Islands for the first time. He said that two times before, the members of the Legislative Assembly had agreed that significant changes affecting employees were needed, but the government backed down when pressured by businesses. He warned that “lobbyists” will approach government again.
“They will come out of the woodwork like lice … like dragons breathing fire,” he said. “They’re coming. I’ve seen it happen twice. They come in the middle of the night cloaked in black. Sometimes they come bearing gifts, too.”
Pursuant to section 47(3) of the Cayman Islands Constitution, which allows for a member or members of an electoral district not represented in Cabinet to attend a Cabinet meeting every three months to make representations with respect to matters affecting their district, Mr. McLean said that he has attended Cabinet five times since the Progressives-led government came to power. He said that each time he has asked for some basic upgrades to two public facilities in particular, but as of yet, the government hasn’t acted to address the items.
One thing he believes needs to be done is deepening the area around the boat ramp at East End Heritage Park so that bigger boats can use the ramp. Now, Mr. McLean explained when later asked for clarification, the area is too shallow to be useful and even some of smaller boats are damaged when they try to use it. The problem has been known for many years, Mr. McLean said, and the government has gone so far as to put a project to rectify the problem out to tender, with the lowest bid coming in just under $30,000. However, even with government finances improving and a surplus budget forecast, the government won’t fund the project.
“You can’t find $30,000 to deepen the ramp at East End? Is that fair to the people of East End?” he asked.
Other than budgeting money to maintain the existing public buildings in East End, the government is spending nothing in East End, Mr. McLean said.
“There are no capital works going on in my constituency,” he said.
Another point of contention for Mr. McLean is the government’s failure to construct changing rooms and toilets at the Donovan Rankine Play Field in East End, despite years of requests. Later responding to a request for further information, Mr. McLean said it was unacceptable for the sports facility, which is sanctioned for tournament football, not to have any toilets or a changing room.
“Yet they can spend $100,000 on public bathrooms in Bodden Town,” he said, adding that the sports facilities in Cayman Brac all have changing rooms as well.
During his budget debate, Mr. McLean said the minister of sports [Osbourne Bodden] had told him, hand on heart, that funding for construction of the changing room was in this year’s budget. However, the funding was later “chopped” from the budget.
“What kind of people are you anyway?” he asked of the government. “You must practice what you preach. You’re worse than the [United Democratic Party]. That’s the kind of government we have; a government that brags about a surplus.”