A freedom of information report has revealed that the Cayman Islands government has spent more than $130,000 in public money in promoting the proposed cruise and cargo port project.

The government had previously revealed that it had spent $55,000 in support of the project between the start of 2018 and 15 Oct. last year. The most recent FOI response showed that additional funding of $15,280 was spent between 16 Oct. and the end of 2018 and $60,333.50 had been spent by 6 July this year. That comes to a total of $130,610.

Part of that funding has been $5,000 a month to marketing company Fountainhead for the purpose of developing and running the ‘Support our Tourism’ campaign. The Compass previously reported that the government had entered into a six-month agreement with Fountainhead worth $30,000.

The pro-port campaign by government includes running advertisements on radio, TV, cinema, print newspapers, online news sites and Facebook, according to the FOI response from the Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport.

Government stated in July that the proposed cruise port will cost just under $200 million to build.

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The project will be carried out by a consortium called the Verdant Isle Group that consists of Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean in conjunction with McAlpine and Orion Marine. It will be funded by a loan from FirstCaribbean International Bank, as well as capital from the two cruise lines.

Meanwhile, a people-initiated referendum into the proposed cruise port project is moving closer to fruition, with the Elections Office stating on Friday that 95.9% of signatures in a petition calling for the public vote had been verified. Now, just 218 signatures need to be verified before the required 5,292 signatures – equal to 25% of Cayman’s 21,116 registered voters – trigger the referendum.

According to the Elections Office website, as of Friday, 30 Aug., the total number of verified signatures stood at 5,077. Of the total 5,795 signatures received, 120 people declined to verify their signatures. The statement also revealed that three people have since requested to have their signatures unverified.

The construction of the cruise berthing facility has sparked a national debate and polarised the community.

Cruise Port Referendum Cayman has championed the anti-port discussions. The group began collecting signatures a year ago, and on 12 June presented the Elections Office with a petition containing 5,438 signatures. As of 28 Aug., a further 357 signatures had been submitted.

Premier Alden McLaughlin and members of his coalition ‘Unity’ government have expressed their desire to see the construction of the cruise berthing facility, as well as an upgrade to the current cargo facilities. McLaughlin has said that no contract would be signed until the process to verify a petition calling for the referendum had been completed. If the threshold is achieved, Cabinet would be required to put forth the referendum for a vote. Cabinet would have to choose a date and decide the wording of the referendum along with its question.

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