(CMR) The Ministry of Tourism has confirmed in a press release issued yesterday the PPM led Unity Government has spent over CI$55,000 of the public purse to fight the Cayman Port Referendum (CPR) group with it's ‘Support our Tourism” campaign.
The campaign was spearheaded by a local communications company – Foundtainhead – who have been contracted at CI$5,000 per month to manage the campaign for the Ministry. Additional monies have been spent on print media ads, a website, Facebook page and radio adverts.
The heavy media campaign appears to have been “wasted money” according to several sources; as CPR indicates that they are now close to submitting the petition to government nearing the threshold for a people imitative referendum.
Mario Rankin, who is one of the main organizers of the grassroots movement admitted that CPR made the FOI request. The press release was a direct result of that FOI query. He noted that he was shocked that government had to engage an external PR company to fight the CPR advocates and proper information is still lacking. Questioning the effectiveness of the rather expensive contract Rankin commented:
“There have been numerous questions that this public campaign has refused to answer. At $5,000 per month I would have expected more. A single public meeting? Misleading radio and print ads? In my opinion this is simply a poorly organized expensive propaganda campaign geared at scaring the voters to be in favor of cruise ship berthing”.
In an oddity the Tourism Ministry’s Chief Officer, Stran Bodden added that the Ministry of Tourism only has one staff member who handled all PR, PR, communications and speechwriting for all of the Ministry’s portfolios.
On this point Rankin also noted that this was poor management:
“Imagine they are spending $5,000 per month for half a year for a SINGLE campaign to this foreign owned PR company. A company that appears to have preferential access to government contracts. With that budget they could have well afford to pay a Caymanian PR professional to work in the ministry to assist with overall workload.”
Other sources have indicated that they suspect government has spent more than that on fighting the public on this issue and further FOI requests would be forthcoming.
CPR has confirmed that they have over 4,000 signatures with more than 40 books still out as active and have not yet been counted. Each book continues 100 signatures.