The Progressives-led government is seeking to revive a holiday season roadside garbage pickup program that began in 2009 under the former United Democratic Party government.
The program provided paychecks for several weeks to unemployed people who picked up trash, cut down bush and generally tidied up, particularly in high-traffic tourism areas along West Bay Road.
The effort, which took place in 2009 and 2010, cost government about $1 million each year. Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden said Thursday that he hoped to have a Christmas cleanup program this year throughout Grand Cayman.
Minister Bodden said government intended to run its roadside cleanups a bit differently than the former government did, to “ensure that it is properly managed” and to “see which [people] really want to work.”
“Some signed up for that [program] and didn’t hit a lick and then come collect at the end of the week,” Mr. Bodden said. “We won’t run it that way.”
Minister Bodden’s comments came during a Legislative Assembly debate on a private members’ motion filed by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, which asked government to consider putting more cash into social assistance programs.
Mr. Bush noted that in previous motions to the House, he has suggested that the government revive the annual roads cleanup effort, which the Progressives had not done since taking office in May 2013.
“What a bunch of copycats. How can a cleanup not work last year, but it can work [in 2015]?” Mr. Bush asked. “They’re stretching things out until they get closer to the election.”
Mr. Bush slammed the government for donating US$500,000 this summer to hurricane-ravaged Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean, a move that the opposition leader said had “everything to do with political expediency.”
He opined that the money could have been used for a number of local issues, including mortgage rescues, poor relief and school lunches. “Burglary is on the rise, people are eating out of the garbage … this can’t be seen as progressive under any administration, and they hide it,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bodden said that while government appreciated the intention of Mr. Bush’s motion, it already had 6,000 people on record as receiving some assistance from government’s Needs Assessment Unit this year. The minister said there is a limit to what the public sector can do to assist these people and how long “it can afford to carry them.”
“This is a 40-, 50-year-old problem,” Mr. Bodden said. “Our people were not being developed as the country was developed. There were times when education simply wasn’t a big deal. Even when we get educated now, we still have problems in the country.
“We have to pinpoint our scholarship regime, look at where our people are really needed and put our funding behind [them].”