Government is not considering increasing the $1,500 tourism stipend at this time, however it may consider adding an extra sum in December, according to Finance Minister Chris Saunders.

Saunders, speaking on the 29 Sept. episode of The Resh Hour, said while a $147 million surplus in August left government finances in a “positive position”, revenue is dwindling and paying out a $2,000 stipend to tourism workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely.

“For each month, the deficit can be anywhere from $20 to $30 million in terms of cash because we collect most of our funds or most of our revenue in the first quarter from financial services, and then pretty much for the rest of the year, it’s primarily customs and stamp duty that drives the government revenue,” he said.

Saunders said the reality is the impact of the absence of tourism revenue is being felt all around and government has to maintain the ability to render assistance to all those who need it.

“We have to watch our cash position still. We don’t know what else may pop up, but what we need to do is make sure that we remain in a strong financial position, not just to weather the storm this year, but also to make sure that we can look after people next year and the years beyond,” he said.

- Advertisement -

Cruise tourism, the Deputy Premier said, will not return for some time so the stipend will have to be maintained for those affected by cruise tourism.

However Saunders said government would consider adding a little extra in the December payment to help those receiving the stipend, but it “will depend if the government is able to afford it”.

The stipend became embroiled in controversy last month after Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said the phrase “scare tactic” – to describe the government’s announcement and subsequent reversal of a decision to halve the monthly $1,500 stipend for displaced tourism workers – was a “poor choice of words”.

At the end of August, there were 3,396 people receiving the stipend and another 442 new applicants.

- Advertisement -

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now