I am pleased to share with the Bermuda public, a summary of the 2013/2014 fiscal year Budget Estimate for the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development.  The total allocation for this Ministry is eighty-six point four million dollars ($86.4) in Current Expenditure and a further one point one five million ($1.15) in Capital Expenditure.

In conjunction with our internal and external social partners, the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development plays a lead role in the social development of Bermuda, in particular, responding to the need to address serious social issues such as family dysfunction, economic hardship, and at-risk children and youth. 

The Ministry has been expanded to include the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Department of the Rent Commissioner, and has also assumed responsibility for the Bermuda Housing Corporation. It is hoped that these changes will create opportunities for synergistic action and collaboration, leading to more efficient and effective delivery of social services. The Ministry is committed to fulfilling its critical mandate notwithstanding an extremely challenging economic climate.

The Ministry supports the principle of fairness and equality – we are against discrimination in any form. We will strengthen Bermuda’s commitment to human rights for all, prohibiting discrimination in employment, goods and services and housing and where possible we will continue to support programmes to protect the most vulnerable in the community.

Our budget for the upcoming year is eighty-six million, four hundred and nine thousand, three hundred and ninety-nine dollars ($86,409,399) representing a minimal increase of one point three percent (1.3%), which is primarily attributed to a forty-nine point one percent (49.1%) increase in the grant provided to the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC).  I will point out that the other seven (7) Departments within the Ministry have reduced their cash limits. Overall, there is a three point one nine percent (3.19%) across the board decrease in Departmental budget allocations which has been achieved through realignment of programs and by marginally decreasing the amount of grants, awards and administration costs.  I will point out that over the last 2 fiscal years, there have been changes made to the Financial Assistance legislation, which has resulted in assistance payouts that are less per person.  This trend will continue for the upcoming fiscal year and that this budget represents an accurate projection of the assistance needs, based on our current data. 

The BHC’s grant of eight million, one hundred ninety-nine thousand dollars ($8,199,000) is forty-nine percent (49%) more than the five million, five hundred thousand dollars ($5,500,000) they received in 2012/13.  This increase includes the funding required to continue the HUSTLE Truck Initiative and to meet the interest payments for the Grand Atlantic Housing Development. 

As with most Ministries we must do “more with less”.  In that regard, four (4) Departments within the Ministry decreased their budgets by three point two percent (3.2%) namely the Department of Youth, Sports and Recreation received a budget allocation of eleven million, six hundred sixty-one thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two dollars ($11,661,852) as compared to their 2012-13 amount of twelve million, fifty-two thousand, eight hundred and forty-eight dollars ($12,052,848). 

The Department’s key funding amounts include grants to host major sporting events such as the NatWest Island Games in July 2013 and the International Cricket Council Pepsi World Cricket League Tournament in April/May 2013. The National Sports Centre (NSC) will receive an increased grant allocation of one point two five million ($1.25M) to contribute towards operational expenses, challenging the NSC to derive any shortfall through enhanced fundraising and/or revenue creation schemes. Nine hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars ($955,000) of this operating grant is targeted towards expenses associated with the new Aquatics Centre.

The Department of the Rent Commissioners’ budget for 2013/14 is five hundred and sixty-nine thousand, one hundred thirty-four dollars($569,134) as opposed to five hundred and eighty-seven, nine hundred and sixteen dollars ($587,916) in 2012/13.

The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs 2013/14 budget is three million, seven hundred and twenty-nine thousand, two hundred and thirty-eight dollars ($3,729,238) as opposed to three million, eight hundred fifty-two thousand, two hundred and fifty-three dollars ($3,852,253) for 2012/13.

The fourth Department with a three point two percent (3.2%) decrease in budget is the Department of Human Affairs. Their 2013/14 allocation is two million, two hundred and sixty-nine thousand, two hundred and ten dollars ($2,269,210) as opposed to two million, three hundred and forty-four thousand and sixty-eight dollars ($2,344,068) in 2012/13.

With regard to the Department of Financial Assistance, their 2013/14 budget allocation is thirty-nine million, four hundred seventy-six thousand, three hundred and forty-two dollars ($39,476,342) a decrease of zero point nine percent (0.9%) over their 2012/13 amount. 

Actual annual expenditures for that Department from 2001 – 2012 show a general increasing trend in expenditures and the numbers of financial assistance clients.  However, as previously pointed out, this year we will be continuing the trend of making changes to the eligibility requirements to ensure that those most in need get help, to make it more difficult to defraud the system, and to help and provide a way out for those in need.

Statistics show that the number of clients within the Financial Assistance Programme now stands at about one thousand seven hundred and fifty (1750) clients, the highest ever recorded since the programme began. Historically, the combined number of applicants who are seniors and persons with disabilities have accounted for at least two-thirds (2/3) of all financial assistance applicants.  However, able-bodied unemployed persons and persons with low earnings now account for approximately fifty percent (50%) of all applicants.

As this points out, it is IMPERATIVE that we get our economy and our people, working again. 

The biggest decrease in budget allocation is in the Ministry Headquarters budget for 2013/14, which is four point one percent (4.1%) decrease over its 2012/13 budget allocation.

Lastly, for 2013/14 the Department of Child and Family Services budget is eighteen million, one hundred forty-eight thousand, three hundred and sixty-six dollars ($18,148,366).  This important social services Department, charged with the responsibility of preserving and protecting the best interest and social well being of children, adolescents, adults and family achieved a budget reduction of two point eight percent (2.8%).

We at the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development are doing our part within the framework of the Sober Reality of the current state of affairs of our Islands finances.