Government’s US$2 billion fiscal package came under fire Wednesday as Opposition Leader Arden McLean knocked what he called an election budget.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, McLean lamented that despite the large spending planned, government was “out of touch” with the needs of the ordinary person.
“A government cannot deprive the people of the most basic requirements and then, just when an election is around the corner, come bearing gifts that they hope will get them re-elected,” McLean said in his contribution to the budget debate in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday evening.
The East End MLA picked apart the government’s financial plans, saying he was concerned by what he has been noticing, which is “whenever an election is around the corner, the government of the day becomes reckless with the finances of the country”.
He lamented that the Opposition was excluded from the process of putting forward its budgetary needs.
McLean said that on 11 Sept., he wrote to the premier to exercise the entitlement to attend a meeting of Cabinet.
“I am yet to have the courtesy of a reply,” he said. “As you are aware, the Constitution under section 47 entitles members whose electoral district is not represented in Cabinet to attend Cabinet once every three months to make presentations on behalf of their constituents and, in particular, when appropriations are being prepared.”
Drilling down on some of the points Premier Alden McLaughlin made in his budget statement, McLean took issue with the plans to deal with Cayman’s traffic woes. Those plans include widening of key roads and the expansion of the East-West Arterial.
“Like the premier, I too believe that further development of road networks may ease the woes we are currently experiencing but until other measures are put in place, the road works relief will be short lived,” McLean said.
He added that, unless work is done to correct the circulation and parking problems in the capital, the problem will only escalate.
He said, when he was minister responsible for roads, he identified the need for other means of transportation and control of vehicle importation.
“I was ignored and told it was not the right time to restrict importation of vehicles by demographics. It has now come back to haunt us. In the absence of bold decisions on public transport, vehicle importation, driver education, enforcement of the traffic law and the introduction of mechanisms to control people’s behaviour, we will forever be in gridlock in this country,” the Opposition Leader said.
He welcomed plans to revive the National Housing Trust Government Guaranteed Home Assisted Mortgage programme.
However, he said, more needs to be done to control rising housing and rental costs.
“Housing is an essential part of nation building and if government does not take a leadership role in assisting those who would otherwise not qualify through the usual process, then our nation will suffer. Mr. Speaker, we have allowed the price of land and home to be driven up so high that the possibility for our children owning their home has become bleak,” McLean said.
On Thursday, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, in his contribution on the debate, also took issue with the planned road works.
Miller said he was not comforted by expansions planned by the government and he was doubtful they “will provide any real relief for those who live in the eastern districts”.
He suggested that if Dart wanted to do something iconic, instead of building an ‘iconic tower’, it should build a monorail system from the eastern districts.
“That’s iconic, and that would really help my district,” he said.
Debate on the budget continued Thursday.