Jamaican activists have criticized the £42,000 (JMD$8 million) price tag linked to taxpayers’ money Prince William and Kate’s recent visit as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
A freedom of information request filed with the Office of the Jamaican Prime Minister (OPM) by members of the campaign group Advocates Network found the expense funded the controversial two-day trip, which was marked by protests, calls for slavery compensation and the announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness was that the country will depose the Queen as head of state.
Disaggregated details sent to and seen by activists The Independentincluding £21,000 (JMD$4 million) for a lavish state dinner that lasted just a few hours.
It is agreed that £42,000 in total is not an expensive amount for a state visit. For example, former US President Barack Obama’s visit in 2015 cost taxpayers around £1.3 million (JMD 270 million).
However, some citizens have argued that the money could have been used to alleviate problems in Jamaica, which is grappling with rising poverty rates, inflation and socio-economic devastation caused by the covid-19 Pandemic. At least 400,000 of the country’s three million inhabitants live below the subsistence level.
“The Advocates Network believes that the government’s decision to prioritize using more than $8 million of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to host the royal couple rather than addressing many of our country’s urgent needs is a sign of gross insensitivity . said a spokesman for Advocates Network.
For example, activists argue that urgent action is needed to mitigate the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children, which is exacerbated by pre-existing problems.
In addition, $8 million could provide 8,000 children with school breakfasts for at least a month and guarantee running water or flush toilets for rural schools that thousands of students now attend without those amenities, they argue.
While the Duchess of Cambridge is passionate about early childhood development, activists say the money that funded her trip to Jamaica could have supported around 1,056 early childhood education institutions that don’t meet the standards needed to ensure children’s proper development to guarantee.
It may also have helped some of the more than 30,000 missing school children, many of whom are forced to resort to criminal activity to support their impoverished families, they say.
Novelette Grant, retired Deputy Commissioner of the Jamaica Police, said: “Our children are in dire need of psychosocial support stemming from a range of negative experiences during the Covid pandemic.
“$8 million could have helped some of them adjust and cope with mental health and behavioral issues when they returned to school.”
The broader context of the visit — such as the legacy of colonialism and the call for Jamaica to become a republic amid persistent poverty — raises legitimate concerns, others said.
“For most Jamaicans, the royal family represents the enslavement of their ancestors, and our Constitution still binds us to the Queen of England. That alone is a bitter taste in our mouths and there were aspects of the visit that also left a bad taste in our mouths and received bad international press coverage,” wrote one commenter, Michael, on Twitter.
“Add all the negatives that most Jamaicans who want to abandon our Westminster Constitution add to an $8 million dinner for the royals during a pandemic when most people lost income with no compensation from the government .”
Lawyer Kenyatta Powell tweeted, “When minimum wage is less than $500,000 a year, $8 million is a lot of money to spend on two of the world’s most useless people in just over 48 hours.”
“This is money Jamaica could spend on its citizens,” said another online commenter.
Meanwhile, questions remain about the total cost of the Cambridges’ Jamaica trip.
In the run-up to the royal visit, Information Secretary Robert Morgan made this known to the government would not pay for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge but would be responsible for some cost, namely security.
However, security costs were not revealed through the FOI response, nor were the paving of new roads in the run-up to the trip, the refurbishment of the Spanish city hospital that the royals were visiting and charges related to other aspects of the royal visit.
“Every Jamaican citizen should be concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent, especially now in the turmoil of the Covid pandemic when there are so many urgent needs,” said Professor Rosalea Hamilton, founding director of the Law and Economics Institute The Independent.
“These are not normal times; it cannot go on as usual. Full transparency and accountability for every dollar spent on the royal visit is important for Jamaicans to assess if they have received value for money in the face of other pressing needs. This includes monies spent by the tax-funded office of the governor general.”
The office of Jamaica’s governor-general Patrick Allen – who represents Queen Elizabeth – is said to have partially funded Prince William and Kate’s trip to the island nation.
A political source has pointed this out The Independent that Mr. Allen’s office was involved in expenses. However, his position remains exempt from the Freedom of Information Act despite taxpayers’ $407 million obligation to fund it, just as the royal household in the UK is also exempt from freedom of information legislation.
The Independent has reached out to the Jamaican government, the opposition and Buckingham Palace for comment.
https://www.independent.co.uk/world/kate-william-jamaica-cost-b2070504.html Jamaican activists slam £42,000 cost of Prince William and Kate visit