Archive for June, 2008

Cayman Islands Desperate for more animal welfare officers

| 29/06/2008 | 0 Comments

Animal cruelty is the act of unnecessary harm and suffering upon an
animal. The US Humane Society supports the fact that animals can be
used for human purposes as long as it is not inhumane or causes any
pain to the animal. The Cayman Islands, compared to other countries,
are quite fortunate when it comes to animal cruelty. There is no
forcing of animals to fight or race, for example, pit-bull fighting.

Yet, this doesn’t mean these islands go without animal cruelty
completely. In fact, terrible abuse goes on that is over-looked.
Abuse, no matter what it’s acted upon, isn’t something that should be
left unattended. Is this the society we are to be living in and
representing? What pride comes out of causing weaker species to
suffer?

Some see animal cruelty as quite innocent or just an act of fun for
young children. Animal cruelty, like other forms of violence, can
happen because of a person feeling distressed, powerless, unnoticed,
or under the control of others. Some who are cruel to animals copy
things that they have seen or have had done to them. For whatever
reason, there is a disturbance going on in their surroundings and
mind. It’s strange and alarming to think these types of people and
cases are being overlooked by police or animal welfare offices.

Studies have consistently shown that those who abuse animals have
alsovery often been abused or abuse those in their family. This could
possibly mean that every overlooked case of cruelty towards an animal
is a case of human abuse overlooked as well. It has been frequently
shown that serial killers have tortured or killed animals as children.

Many organizations see animal abuse and cruelty as a serious disorder.
They’re not just animals, their God’s living creatures. People are
ignorant to torture those that were here on Earth before us. It’s a
serious case.

Aside from effects on society, think of the animals. The Cayman
Islands is known to be a peaceful, safe, and crime-free country.
People visit and move here because of the security. Yet what kind of
security do these islands have when pets and Cayman’s living wildlife
is being maimed? I, myself, have seen numerous letters written to the
local publications from residents and even visitors about the
unnoticed cruelty in the Cayman Islands. Why is it being allowed to
continue?

I have done some investigation and the Cayman Islands have two animal
welfare officers – two animal welfare officers for three islands that
contain tremendous amounts of animals. This makes no sense to me. Why
isn’t the government striving to make sure Cayman’s living creatures
are protected? To go into more detail, on Cayman Brac there was a
serious case of a dog being burnt alive. There are many speculations
as to who the person is, and I am hoping questions are being asked and
a full investigation is being done. This case, if overlooked, can turn
into something serious.What if the perpetrator is being abused? What
if the perpetrator is abusing others?

Despite the beliefs that certain people may have that animals are just
animals, this should not be an excuse for abuse. There is violence and
torture happening in our islands. How can our islands take pride and
reassurance in this? The islands need more animal welfare officers.
Something must be done.

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Freedom of Association

| 29/06/2008 | 0 Comments

Article 20 of the Universal Declaration is the one that in effect
declares the right of all peoples to self-determination.  It
freed all the European colonies after the Second World War, and it
guides the United Nations’ Decolonisation Committee today.

It approves Cayman’s current constitutional arrangement with Britain,
and Puerto Rico’s with the US, and Quebec’s with Canada. Equally, it
would approve any changes in those arrangements, as long as the
changes were fully agreed by both sets of peoples. In theory, it
approves of any community’s struggle to be free of an oppressive
central government. In practice, the problem is to decide exactly who in a community has the authority to exercise the right to
self-determination.

In Cayman, for instance, who gets to vote on the terms of its
arrangement? Who are “the people of Cayman”? Suppose the people of
Grand Cayman wanted one thing and the people of the Brac another.
Suppose one of those Islands followed the European Union’s policy of
allowing immigrants to vote and the other followed Britain’s colonial
policy for Cayman of limiting the vote to members of one particular
ethnic group.

What Article 20 says is, Everyone has the right to peaceful
assembly and association
and No-one may be compelled to belong
to an association
.

There is no guidance on how to interpret the words. As usual, that is
left to the signatories’ common sense and sense of fairness. It would
be silly to allow casual visitors to participate in a community’s
decision, and unfair to exclude long-term immigrants. In Britain, six
months’ residence entitles you to vote; in Cayman, the period is
upwards of fifteen years.

Article 20 was used in the USA in the early 1960s in support of the
argument that Black Americans should have access to full civil
rights.  Fortunately for the civilised world of the day – and for
the cause of fairness ever since – the argument won out, as it must
some day win out in Cayman.

The Universal Declaration is a set of ideals based on the doctrine of
fairness. It is only fair that an association of people have access to
the right to self-determination.  But it is also fair not to deny
long-term immigrants the right to belong to that same
association. 

The national interest (of real nations, that is) is the most important
factor in deciding which community is entitled to self-determination
and which isn’t. The US would not allow the US Virgin Islands to go
independent, or Hawaii; Britain might allow the British Virgins to go,
but not the Isle of Wight. Cayman? Cayman is in too strategic a
location for either Britain or the US to let it run wild – whatever
assurances we are given regarding our freedom of action.

An association is an organised joining-together of persons for a
common purpose. In most of the world, this includes employees, and
Article 20 covers their right to organise themselves into labour
unions. Employers too have the right to band together; our Chamber of
Commerce and the various trade associations are witness to our
governments’ recognition of that right. Labour unions are a different
proposition here.

Our status as a British colony allows the Foreign & Commonwealth
Office to adopt the premise that labour unions in Cayman might not be
in Britain’s national interest. The Immigration Law, in the general
power it gives to the Work Permit Board and similar, provides for the
deportation of migrant workers who might seek to start up a labour
union, or to join one. 


 Carlyle G. Corbin, St. Croix, Virgin Islands: Permit a
few clarifications on several points. The article indicates that
the United Nations Decolonisation Committee is guided by
Article 20 of the Universal Declaration (on Human Rights). In
fact, the Decolonisation Committee was created by General Assembly
Resolution 1654
of 1961, which states that its purpose was to
implement the Decolonisation Declaration of 1960. There was no
reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
There is, however, an organic link between a process of self-
determination and subsequent decolonisation, but it is not associated
with the Decolonisation Committee.

Earlier UN resolutions have addressed the issue of self-determination
in relation to non self-governing territories. As far back as
1952, Res. 635 makes reference to self-determination provisions
of Articles 1 and 55 of the UN Charter of 1945. The resolution states
that members of the UN should “recognize and promote the
realisation of the right of self-determination of the peoples of the
non self-governing and trust territories who are under their
administration and shall facilitate the exercise of this right by the
peoples of these territories according to the UN Charter.”

 There have been other resolutions to this effect, in recent
years on the universal realisation of the right to self-determination.

Finally, the article states that “the US would not allow the US
Virgin Islands to go independent, or Hawaii.”
  It is
important to note, however, that the USVI is not an integrated part of
the USA, as is Hawaii, which has achieved (albeit through
questionable means)
political integration with the US. Thus, the
USVI, and the six UK overseas territories in the Atlantic/Caribbean
have the inalienable right to self-determination under the UN Charter.
If the rule of law is to be respected, it is not for any of the
cosmopolitan countries which administer territories to “allow”
a legitimate self-determination to take place. It is for these
countries to facilitate the process, according to the internationally-
recognised standards.

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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Cayman Electricity Choices

| 26/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Dr Donald Hardy – Posted Thursday, 26 June 2008

4 comments

Clearly, the Grand Cayman people are asking for electricity changes.
People want a new, and better, approach to making and delivering
electricity. The key question is this: what might such changes be?

When we were students in school, copying from our neighbors was
frowned upon. However, in public policy, borrowing good ideas that
work elsewhere can be a sign of wisdom. Whatever is decided and done
will bear the mark of the Cayman community. Ideas borrowed from
elsewhere will be adapted to the unique goals and lifestyle of the
Cayman Islands.

With these thoughts in mind, what has worked well elsewhere? Certain
newer approaches to electricity encourage more competition, more
innovation, and more environmentally friendly utility operations.
Let’s not forget that Eco-Tourism is popular. Years ago, wind turbines
in Palm Springs California were opposed, but now are used to promote
local tourism and symbolize a region changing to energy independence.

Based upon success at many other locations, in general I recommend the
three types of Electricity Freedom listed below. Such freedom would
apply to and be for the benefit of the Cayman Islands electricity
consumers and new producers.

For clarity only, I will use CUC as an example of the key local
electric utility to better illustrate these ideas. These are the three
basic types of freedom that encourage more competition, more
innovation, and more environmentally friendly utility operations:

(1) Freedom to connect with the grid and to self-generate electricity,
without any discrimination from CUC.

(2) Freedom to connect with the grid and to sell electricity to CUC on
a fair basis.

(3) Freedom to buy non-CUC electricity delivered through the grid,
without any hindering from CUC.

The three types of Electricity Freedom above could be quickly
implemented by the new Cayman Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA),
but a consumer friendly ERA would be needed. Perhaps the present
single ERA manager could be changed to become a Board of three elected
Cayman persons, with three staggered ERA Board Member term expirations
(e.g., 2008, 2009, and 2010).

The Cayman ERA could have open public meetings, e.g., at least every
three months, with ample opportunity for on-the-record comments from
Cayman electricity consumers and from experts. Any costs of CUC
participating might not be charged to the electricity consumers, but
rather be paid by the CUC shareholders. A community Consumer Advocate
and Ombudsman could be created and related costs paid by the
Government.

Several types of laws are successful in establishing Electricity
Freedom, such as the following:

Net Billing. Under Net Billing a home or business gets full money
credit, against their electricity bill, for all self-generated
electricity. Any such electricity exceeding home or business
consumption usually is credited to the next month’s utility company
electric bill. The right to interconnect with the utility and to
receive non-discriminatory utility service (no extra utility fees)
usually is included within Net Billing regulations and/or laws.

Electricity Feed Law. Electricity Feed Laws exist in Germany and
California. Such laws require the utility to allow grid connection of
nonutility generating equipment under fair and reasonable terms, and
also require the utility to buy all renewable electricity offered for
sale, at fair and reasonable purchase prices. Larger non-utility
renewable electricity projects (bigger than homes or typical
businesses) use Electricity Feed Laws to justify their investments in
non-oil generating systems.

More than half of the 50 states in the USA have Renewable Portfolio
Standard (RPS) laws. An RPS requires electric utilities to achieve an
increasing percentage of their total electricity from renewable
resources. Utilities can either invest in renewable generating
equipment or buy renewable electricity from non-utility sources.
Failure to achieve the Government required RPS quota usually involves
a substantial annual financial payment paid by the utility
shareholders (but not paid by the electricity consumers).

Seeing what can be done is more useful than reciting reasons why
things that are not working cannot be changed. It is the difference
between the “can do” and the “never happen” attitude. Businesses and
Governments get to choose the attitude they present to the people.

CUC might begin to see that renewable energy is not so bad. Utilities
far larger than CUC have invested Billions of US dollars into
renewable energy. The fastest growing energy business in the world is
renewable energy. Maybe CUC is falling behind, or missing out on
something good.

Something more may be needed. After implementing basic Electricity
Freedom, a phased program of special incentives to CUC might be
started. The purpose would be to encourage rapid expansion of
Electricity Freedom.

If Electricity Freedom were resisted or defeated, there would be no
benefit from offering or paying any incentives. Perhaps CUC might be
paid a modest fee, approved and controlled by the ERA Board, for
simply moving renewable electricity from non-CUC renewable electricity
producers to the retail customers. Studies have shown that the actual
(system incremental) cost is very small.

CUC recently sold approximately 540,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh)
annually which is 540,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity
annually. Thus, an incentive fee of US$2 per MWh paid for moving
100,000 MWh of non-CUC renewable electricity to Cayman consumers would
total US$200,000 as an incentive paid to CUC.

For comparison, under present 2008 Government policies, the allowed
CUC annual profits (‘earnings’) were approximately US$23,760,000 for
the fiscal year ended 30 April 2008, up 29% from the year before. CUC
spent US$112,879,000 for oil, which is almost US$4,700 per CUC
customer annually for oil.

Yes, CUC has largely created its own problems. Yes, CUC is both a
monopoly (the only seller of retail electricity) and a monopsony (the
only buyer of wholesale electricity), giving the Grand Cayman
electricity consumers and new electricity producers no choice at all.

Yes, the cost of the public grid is charged to the Cayman electricity
consumers. CUC also gets an assured profit on “its” investment in the
public grid. The cost of oil CUC burns is charged to CUC customers.
The electricity consumers are charged for the cost of oil-dependant
generating equipment that CUC buys. CUC also gets an assured profit on
“its” investment in the oil-dependant generating equipment. And in the
business world, getting an assured profit, administered by the
Government, is like shooting fish in a barrel.

But maybe, as an incentive to do what needs to be done, CUC might be
paid a modest amount per megawatt-hour to move non-CUC renewable
electricity. Such payments could be used year-by-year to change the
basis of CUC’s profits. Profits from oil-dependant generating
equipment could be reduced. Over ten to fifteen years, the CUC profits
from oil-dependant generating equipment might be reduced to roughly
20% to 40% of the total CUC profits allowed by the Government, with
roughly 80% to 60% of CUC’s profits coming from moving non-CUC
renewable electricity to Grand Cayman customers.

There is another possibility. After implementing basic Electricity
Freedom, electricity restructuring similar to US reforms in 2005 might
be done. This would take longer to finish. Electricity Freedom would
make the wait more bearable. Business ownership of electric generation
could be separated from ownership of the public grid, by divestiture
of CUC assets into two separate and independent companies. In addition
to separate company ownership, new rules might require that no
Directors, Officers, or Managers could be the same in both companies.
The concept would be that no divided loyalties and no conflicts-of-
interest would be allowed. CUC might be given the choice of being in
either (a) the electric generation business or (b) the electric retail
delivery and sales business, but not in both.

CUC is an IOU company. That does not mean that you get to handle your
monthly electric bill by just sending a note that says “IOU” to CUC.
An IOU is an Investor Owned Utility. The investors are the utility
shareholders. The business goal of an IOU typically is to maximize
profits for the shareholders (and company management) who own the IOU.
The dominant shareholder in CUC is the Fortis group, a global
insurance and banking company. After Hurricane Ivan, apparently
related to CUC being under-insured, Government gave CUC approval to
add a Hurricane Ivan Cost Recovery Surcharge to consumer electricity
bills. Ironic, isn’t it, that a global insurance company would under-
insure one of its utility companies.

As another alternative, ownership of CUC might be changed to ownership
by the Cayman voters or residents like the electric utility company
owned by the city of Austin, Texas. The Austin utility is a non-
shareholder organization. It is responsible to the citizens of Austin.
It is controlled by the city government of Austin. The Austin city
electric utility is also a national leader in the use of renewable
electricity. Austin Energy (www.austinenergy.com) also leads in
innovative energy efficiency programs that actually help the people of
Austin reduce electricity consumption and lower their utility bills.

Other US examples of community utility ownership are the Public
Utility Districts (PUDs) in the Pacific Northwest, the Rural Electric
Cooperatives across much of America, the many city-owned Municipal
Electric Utilities like Austin, and also the federally owned electric
utilities including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Western Area
Power Administration (Western) and Bonneville Power Administration
(BPA).

In one entire US state, Nebraska, electricity comes mainly from one
citizen-owned utility, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). NPPD
is a political subdivision of the state of Nebraska. The NPPD electric
utility is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors, elected by the
people from NPPD’s chartered electricity service territory.

More information about the 2,000 US community-owned electric utilities
can be found at the American Public Power Association (APPA) internet
site (www.appanet.org).

The new CUC license was announced in early April 2008. Cayman
Government negotiations with CUC on the question of extending the CUC
electricity license were very slow. Little or no community input
concerning alternative policies and laws was included. The Government
may say, or CUC may say for the Government, that the Government’s
hands are now tied. They may say that that a new license was issued.
That nothing can be changed.

Such a position could be taken, but it would be, I think, scandalous.
The anguish expressed by Grand Cayman electricity consumers is a cry
of despair. What Government or business wants to be seen as heartless
and thoughtless?

There may be a positive role that the Crown couldplay in facilitating
the possible reform of the electricity sector in the Cayman Islands.
You, the Cayman people, would know better than I. After all, the UK
has extended the Kyoto Agreement, for international action to combat
Climate Change, to the Cayman Islands. Renewable energy is essential
to achieving Kyoto objectives. CUC apparently has failed to
significantly use renewable energy.

Furthermore, CUC’s only apparent plans are for more fossil fuel
generation (as summarized in CUC public documents like the 2008 annual
report). Thus, reforming the Cayman Islands electricity sector appears
to be essential. However, perhaps there are other solutions
satisfactory to the Cayman people.

Chris Randall: Dr Hardy makes frequent reference to the
situation in various places in the USA vis-a-vis the practices or
policies of CUC and the Cayman Islands.  It is a common failing
of US nationals that they believe whatever is good for, or works in,
the USA should apply to the rest of the world.

While no-one would sensibly propose a continuation of the status quo,
the solution must be one developed specifically for the Cayman
Islands, or Grand Cayman in the case of CUC, and not something copied
in toto from a different society.

It is, perhaps, unfortunate that the CUC shareholders, in their
collective wisdom, opted to sell a majority of the shares to Fortis as
a means of raising needed capital for expansion.  For the
ownership of an essential utility company to fall into foreign
hands is undesirable to say the least, raising questions as to whether
it’s policies and practices are calculated to best serve it’s
customers or overseas owners.

The solution here would be by an act of the Legislative Assembly, in
the form of a law stipulating that no more than 49% of the shares of a
utility company may be held by persons not of British Overseas
Territory (Cayman Islands) nationality; with a provision excluding
exemptions such as are obtainable under the Local Companies Control
Law. This would be preferable to simple nationalisation which has been
proven to be a grossly inefficient method of ‘ownership in the public
interest’.

All of which will become irrelevant when the cost of oil becomes too
high for small economies to bear.  The time will come when the
only places in the world able to maintain an electricity supply
will be those with access to nuclear energy, hydrodynamic power
(either tidal or rivers) or aerodynamic (wind) power.  None of
these will be economic or practicable for places having
small populations and thus there will be a major shift in population
distribution throughout the world.  Larger countries will have to
change their immigration rules so as to permit these movements; or,
they may decline to do so, condemning large areas of the world to
regress to a pre-industrial revolution existence, using animal-fat oil
lamps for lighting and horses or camels for transportation.

For the Cayman Islands, nuclear and hydrodynamic power are both
impractical.  Nuclear is too expensive; the tidal range is
only about 12 inches and there are no rivers.  (Thermal energy
from temperature gradients in the deep ocean costs more in power to
operate the pumps than can be derived from the technique).  Wind
power has yet to be proven in the C.I., but it seems unlikely that
there is sufficient sustained wind to provide continuous
reliable power.  Wind power is a useful supplement to an existing
electricity system, but cannot function as the sole source of power
generation for a town, industrial complex or whatever, as there is no
economic means of storing unused energy and then accessing it when a
surge in demand occurs.  There is also the question of direct
current/alternating current where the technicalities are beyond the
scope and intent of these comments.

So what is the answer? 

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Cayman renewable energy: Is there hope?

| 24/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Dr Donald Hardy – Posted 24 June 2008

8 comments

Over twenty-five years ago I founded a company to do renewable wind
energy. We have operated in the global wind industry ever since. Two
or three decades ago, very few people in the world believed the
widespread use of renewable energy now happening would be possible.

My company was retained by Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) in 2001
to do a wind power study of Grand Cayman Island. In 2003 we submitted
our report. Much has changed since then. Oil prices have more than
tripled to US$120 per barrel. Cayman electricity prices have greatly
increased.

Commercial wind turbines have continued to improve. The UK has
extended the Kyoto Agreement, for international action to combat
Climate Change, to the Cayman Islands. However, as of May 2008
renewable (e.g. non-oil) energy still was not used significantly in
the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Government negotiations with CUC on the question of extending
the CUC electricity license were very slow and involved little or no
community input concerning alternative policies and laws. In the new
CUC license, fuel (oil) costs will be ‘passed through’ and thus paid
100% by you, the Grand Cayman consumers, according to Reuters. CUC
apparently has no incentive to reduce oil usage.

Faced with record high oil prices, CUC took action. CUC announced (30
April 2008) that it will install a new US$24.3 million diesel oil
burning generator to begin operating in summer 2009. This is a new 16
MW diesel generator. CUC customers will pay for the new US$24.3
million oil burning generator, plus an assured profit to CUC on this
US$24.3 million, plus the cost of all oil used no matter how costly
that oil is. Since 2000, CUC has installed over 60 MW of other fossil
fuel burning generators.

CUC uses perhaps 40,000,000 US gallons of oil annually. This is like
filling 5,000 home swimming pools with oil, and then burning it all
each year. You, the Grand Cayman consumers, get to pay for it all.

The public summary concerning the agreement reached between the
Government and CUC (the Joint Media Release December 2007) does not
describe specific incentives or programs for renewable energy. It does
mention special tariffs “to protect other customers” concerning small
customer-owned renewable systems, without saying why (if at all) other
CUC customers might need ‘protection’.

Several non-oil electricity programs now in use outside the Cayman
Islands are quite successful: Net Metering, Electricity Feed Laws, and
Renewable Portfolio Standards. As far as I know, these programs are
not now approved by the Cayman Islands Government.

Climate Change is driven largely by the continued burning of fossil
fuels. Every barrel of oil CUC burns for electricity contributes to
Climate Change problems. Expensive oil makes very expensive
electricity. Do Cayman businesses, or the Cayman Government, or the
Cayman people have a Climate Change plan? It would seem better to have
a plan than to drift.

Whether or not the Government and CUC are willing to talk about it,
Climate Change is a serious issue for the Cayman Islands people.
Climate Change needs to be countered, now. The Cayman people need
affordable electricity, now. Renewable energy achieves both goals,
now.

What are the problems of doing nothing to reduce the use of oil and
other fossil fuels? Problems caused by Climate Change are several and
significant. Coral reefs are among the first areas to be destroyed.
Hurricanes now are more frequent and more destructive. Sea levels are
rising. The highest Grand Cayman broad land area is approximately 15
feet above the current 2008 sea level. Land will be lost. What will
happen to George Town and to Grand Cayman landowners as the sea level
rises?

Given these CUC decisions to use increasing amounts of oil, and Cayman
laws that do not support renewable or self-generated electricity, what
can the Cayman people do?

Olivaire Watler: As the Chairman of the Government
Negotiating Team (the “Team”) who negotiated the new licences with
CUC, I feel compelled to respond to Dr Hardy’s article. This should be
taken as my personal response and not an official response on behalf
of the Government.

First, let me state publicly that I felt honoured and privileged to
lead a Team of highly competent, committed professionals possessing
such a diverse skill-set, and I am proud of the accomplishments of the
Team in what were always vigorous, and sometimes intense,
negotiations. As Grand Cayman electricity consumers, most of the Team
also had a strong personal motivation to serve the consumers’ best
interests. It is quite simply unfounded for anyone to suggest that
consumers’ interests were not the paramount consideration of the Team
at all times.

Second, I never ceased to be amazed that there are persons who are
willing publicly to disparage the negotiations and the new
licensing arrangements but have simply not made the effort to read and
understand the new licences or the Electricity Regulatory Authority
(Amendment) Law, 2008 (the “Law”), or at least ask questions first.

Third, it is remarkably ironic and pointless that someone who
criticizes the negotiations as “slow” and “involving little or no
community input” would write articles three months after the
new licences were signed to give his view as to how the electricity
industry should be re-structured supposedly prompted by his
concern for Grand Cayman consumers and the effects of climate change.

The article is inaccurate and misleading in a number of respects. I
will not attempt to catalogue all of them but I believe the following
will suffice:

1. Dr Hardy mentions his 2003 Report, but what he fails to disclose,
and which is critical for this discussion, are the results of that
study. Instead, he leaves the reader with the incorrect impression
that wind-power in Grand Cayman is a viable alternative to diesel
generators to supply continuous, reliable power.  The fact of the
matter is that generally wind-power is variable and intermittent, and
Grand Cayman in particular because of its relatively low elevation
does not register the high-sustained wind-speeds needed.  Wind-
power will always need a reliable backup and therefore the consumer
pays both for the wind-power and the backup alternative.

 2. “In the new CUC license, fuel (oil) costs will be ‘passed
through’ and thus paid 100% by you, the Grand Cayman consumers,
according to Reuters. CUC apparently has no incentive to reduce oil
usage…CUC uses perhaps 40,000,000 US gallons of oil annually. This is
like filling 5,000 home swimming pools with oil, and then burning it
all each year. You, the Grand Cayman consumers, getto pay for it
all
“.

The diesel burned by CUC directly reflects the electricity consumed by
consumers. It is not about extravagant waste for CUC’s own purposes
from which you derive no benefit that Dr Hardy seeks to depict by
references to swimming pools full of oil. Clearly, whether a utility
treats its fuel costs as a direct ‘pass-through’, or whether they are
included in its rates, these represent major operating costs which
are, and must be, paid for by the consumer. The increases in the price
of diesel could not possibly be absorbed by CUC for any significant
period and it is simply unreasonable to expect that. There is no such
thing as a ‘free lunch’. 

Incidentally, fuel costs as a ‘pass-through’ was also required under
the Heads of Agreement negotiated by the previous Government.

Had Dr Hardy bothered to read the licences before approaching his
keyboard, he would have discovered that CUC will be subject to certain
performance standards going forward and these will include such
matters as fuel efficiency in generation.

3. Unlike the previous licence, there is no guaranteed rate of return
for CUC under the new licences. For example, under the old licence if
CUC earned an 11% return on rate base (“RORB”), it would be entitled
to a 4% increase in rates that would permit it to earn a 15% RORB.
Accordingly, there was an incentive to over-invest in its rate base.
Under the new licence there is no such incentive. Instead, if CUC
earns the same 11% RORB it will not be entitled to any rate increase.
If CUC wishes to increase its RORB over that level it must do so, not
by raising rates, but by lowering costs, creating efficiencies and
increased growth. Indeed, if CUC by these methods increases its RORB
to 13% then it must give the consumer a rate
reduction.        

4. It is preposterous to state that the Law does not support
alternative or renewable sources of energy (“renewables”) or self-
generated electricity. The Team was mindful of these issues throughout
and this is reflected in the Law in the following respects (amongst
others): 

a) for the first time, there is a separate category of generation
licence available for renewables under which power could be supplied
on an energy-only (rather than capacity) basis. If Dr Hardy has a
renewables source he wishes to sell to the Grand Cayman public he can
make application to the ERA and obtain a licence; 

b) if Dr Hardy’s renewables source can provide firm, reliable power
(as he suggests) then it can compete in the next solicitation process
which is about to commence. If, as he intimates, it will supply power
at a fraction of the cost of a diesel generator, then no doubt it will
win the next solicitation;

c) contrary to Dr Hardy’s statement, the Law does provide for net-
metering whereby the consumer may sell back to CUC power generated by
its renewables source; and   

d) the Law provides that anyone can generate power for self-supply
without a licence, and further that CUC is required to provide backup
supply if requested.

Dr Don Hardy: Mr. Olivaire Watler has written as the
Chairman of the Government Negotiating Team (the “Team”) who
negotiated the new licences with CUC. He took exception to the idea
that the Government negotiations were “slow” and involved “little or
no community input”.

Perhaps Mr. Olivaire Watler could direct all of us to the Government
Internet site where the transcripts of the public meetings are posted.
These would be the open community meetings that were held on the
question of extending the CUC electricity license, where alternative
policies and laws were freely discussed.

As to the Government negotiations being “slow” it was reported on
Radio Cayman by Jay Ehrhart in March 2007 (yes, in 2007 not 2008) that
“the licenses negotiations between Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC)
and the Cayman Islands Government will conclude in less than 3 months”
and that “Mr. [Arden] McLean has been very tight lipped on the subject
of the negotiations before today, saying he could not divulge details
as it would be a breach of protocol.”

Prior to that, in June 2004 (yes, 2004), there was a Joint Media
Release by the Government and CUC saying “After extensive and
intensive negotiations, the Cayman Islands Government and Caribbean
Utilities Company, Ltd. (CUC) have reached agreement on a plan that
will allow competition in the electricity industry and grant new
licences to CUC to operate in the Cayman Islands for 20 more years
from 2004.”

Perhaps I am missing something, but these events seem to be slow and
to lack community involvement.

Mr. Olivaire Watler also refers to the “Team” who negotiated the new
licences with CUC. Perhaps he could identify the persons who comprise
the “Team”. It would be courteous and respectful of the Cayman
community if Mr. Olivaire Watler would let us know if any of the
“Team” members are involved with CUC, e.g. as CUC shareholders, CUC
ex-employees, as employees or partners of businesses doing business
with CUC, etc. Such involvement (if any) would not necessarily be of
any concern, but disclosure by the Government is customary.

Clearly, the Grand Cayman people are asking for electricity changes.
People want a new, and better, approach to making and delivering
electricity.

Olivaire Watler: It appears that Dr. Hardy was unable
to address any of the various substantive points that I made in my
letter in response to his inaccurate and misleading article, including
the conclusions of his 2003 Report. Accordingly, he has failed to
establish any deficiencies in the new licensing arrangements.
 Instead, perhaps in order to divert attention from his lack of
credibility on the licensing arrangements, he has decided to impugn
the integrity of the Negotiating Team. This is unfounded, reckless and
irresponsible, and I do not propose to dignify it with a response, nor
do I intend to engage further in an unproductive exchange with Dr.
Hardy.

Alan Roffey: Dr. Hardy is right when he says the negotiations
with CUC were slow. I don’t believe that Dr. Hardy’s opinion was
intended necessarily to be critical of the Government. I read it as a
call for action to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. However, Mr.
Watler’s urge to defend his role is a more interesting phenomenon to
contemplate.

In June 2004 I was a member of the Team negotiating with CUC. The Team
was appointed by the previous Government, but, apart from its Chairman
and one member, Messrs. Cline Glidden and Rolston Anglin respectively,
it was not politically appointed and didn’t operate as if it was.

I too was honoured and privileged to serve and was not paid to do so.
I did so because it was obvious to me that by 2002 or so CUC was
“overegging the pudding” by gold plating its plant and equipment, in
order to maximize its guaranteed 15% return on its asset base. It is
submitted that it had also become obvious to CUC that as the value of
those assets depreciated then the contribution to revenue of those
assets would become proportionally less each year.

CUC approached Government for a new license several years early,
suggesting to the Government of the day that it would benefit
consumers if it was to cap its rates to stave off inflation whereas
the true effect of the cap would allow CUC to avoid the reduction in
revenue that its depreciating assets was already causing under its
then existing license.

Another way for CUC to avoid the depreciation trap was to retire older
equipment, not because it had become worn out, but because it had
reached the end of its depreciation schedule. Some of those older
engines, whilst smaller, produced more kilowatt hours of electricity
per gallon of diesel than the newer machines. But because they had a
book value of CI$ 0.00 they no longer earned a profit for CUC.

The 2003/2004 team also had an excellent cross section of “highly
competent, committed professionals possessing a diverse skill set”. By
June 2004 it had put in hundreds of hours of work over a period of
months and, with the assistance of an excellent financial report from
the Auditor General, was able to expose many of the inefficiencies of
the old license that put money into the company’s pockets at the
expense of the consumer.

It had also exposed that CUC’s overhead power distribution lines were
not insured by the company and that its Hurricane Reserve fund, then
only CI$ 1/2M, was hopelessly inadequate, especially when compared to
the dividends paid out to its shareholders each year.

CUC’s view was, that it’s power lines were built to very high
standards and that they would prove robust enough to withstand a
strong Hurricane. When they fell down during Ivan, uninsured, the
consumers of the Cayman Islands had to pay a hurricane surcharge to
have them put back up, and then again 15% on the new lines’ un-
depreciated value through the old rate structure for three years.

Whilst it was devastating to its infrastructure, Hurricane Ivan also
saved CUC from having to conclude a negotiation with the 2003/2004
Team that was not turning out as well as it had hoped. The storm
necessarily took the Government’s eye off the ball, but CUC was still
audacious enough to blame the Government for the “breakdown” whereas
in fact, it had been saved by the bell.

In its recently concluded negotiations the independent statutory body
called the Electrical Regulatory Authority (“ERA”) was much mentioned.
However, it was not revealed that the ERA has not met since the change
of Government in May 2005. It’s Chairman was asked to resign, which he
did, and has not been replaced. Neither has any proper funding been
provided by the Ministry so that the Board can operate. The ERA was
therefore prevented from continuing with the line of negotiation set
out by the 2004 Team.

There are no new ideas in the 2008 license that were not already put
forward by the 2004 Team. Wind power and other alternative solutions
were strongly supported. It was always recognized that it isn’t, and
can never be, a prime source of power, but for every 16 or so kilowatt
hours generated by the wind, that is one less gallon of diesel burned
and a significant reduction in Cayman’s carbon foot print. We ought to
develop it.

We also ought to find ways to fund installing our electrical
distribution underground, where it will not be destroyed again by the
next Hurricane that hits us.

The Government has too many important issues to deal with at Cabinet
level. This is one area that can be delegated. The ERA must be
reformed and funded urgently and allowed to do its work. I have
indicated to the Minister that I am still qualified and willing to
serve. I believe that by doing so I will have the opportunity to pay
back some of the good things that these Islands have done for me. The
ERA should not be a politically appointed Board and must be allowed to
do its work without being interfered with.

Olivaire Watler: It is interesting that a member of the Team
appointed by the previous Government (now the political opposition)
would come to Dr Hardy’s defence and seek to favourably
mischaracterise the nature of Dr Hardy’s article and
unfavourably mischaracterise my response. My responses have
nothing to do with an “urge to defend (my)
role”. (Ironically, it is Mr Roffey who apparently has an urge to
defend his role without being attacked). Instead, there
were a number of inaccurate or misleading statements made by Dr
Hardy which were identified and addressed by me. It was entirely
appropriate to do so. It is also entirely proper for me to defend my
reputation when it is unfairly attacked.

Dr Hardy’s overall message was that renewables generation can and
should immediately replace diesel generation as a source of
continuous, reliable power and this would immediately slash
electricity prices, but the new licensing arrangements have failed to
make provision for this or for self-generation. While Mr Roffey
knows that this is inaccurate he has instead chosen to state that Dr
Hardy was merely saying that we need to reduce our dependence on
fossil fuels, and to suggest that I am in disagreement with this
objective and that specific initiatives should be developed to
accomplish this.  My initial response concludes: “In
closing, I believe the escalating costs of fossil fuels will mean that
more research and development is put into renewables so that they
can indeed provide reliable power at a lower cost. We will all
welcome that. However, we may rest assured that the new CUC licences
and the Law already make provision for that, and that the ERA has the
necessary authority to develop incentives further”. The Law is meant
to provide an enabling framework not to spell out in detail
specific initiatives. It provides for an energy policy (including
renewable energy) to be developed by Government and implemented by the
ERA after a public consultation process. I am all for that. 

I have to admit I am flummoxed by the suggestion that a team
appointed by Cabinet which comprised two MLAs of its own
party (with one as chairman) is not political, but one
appointed by another Cabinet that comprises no politicians or (to
my knowledge) party members and includes members who have a
record of voluntary public service under successive governments
somehow is.      

Alan Roffey: I didn’t seek to defend Dr Harvey, or his report.
I merely said that he was right when he said that the Government’s
negotiations with CUC were slow and then went on to provide some of
the reasons why they were slow. I did try to highlight the fact that
the ERA, of which I am still a member, has not been active since May
2005, because it is leaderless and unfunded.

It seems you agree with me that statutory boards ought not to be
politically appointed and ought not to be interfered with. I have no
political affiliations although it appears to me from your comments
that some became attached when I was asked to serve on the ERA by the
previous Government.

And therein lies the rub because, if it is automatically assumed by
the public that when a person is appointed to a statutory board a)
they must be politically connected and b) they must be enjoying some
hidden benefit, then I can see why we have such trouble obtaining
better functioning statutory boards.

Unfortunately, the current Government’s decision not to provide
funding to the ERA, and its decision not to appoint a new Chairman
after it had asked the then current Chairman to resign, effectively
prevented the ERA from continuing to do its job. Instead a completely
different team was formed to do the work for which the statutory board
was formed. The reasons for such action, or lack thereof, are a
mystery. Perhaps you could enlighten us Mr Watler.


Don Hardy: The key issue now is the future of
electricity on Grand Cayman Island. This is discussed, in some detail,
in my Cayman Electricity
Choices
 letter, published in the Cayman News Service.
However, Mr Olivaire Watler, who was the Chairman of the Government
Negotiating Team (the “Team”) that negotiated the new 2008 licences
with CUC, has written again, twice.

Let’s take a deep breath and relax. My presumption is that Mr.
Olivaire Watler is a very competent and respected Cayman attorney. I
would think that he devoted many hours to the activities of the
Government Team. And he may have received little thanks or recognition
for his efforts.

As to the 2003 PanAero wind study report itself, my understanding is
that CUC is treating the PanAero report as confidential. Apart from
the prior PanAero report, I believe that renewable energy, including
wind power, is feasible for the Cayman Islands. Much has changed
between 2003 when the PanAero report was sent to CUC and now, July
2008. These changes arelisted in the very letter (Cayman Renewable Energy: Is There Hope?) that Mr
Olivaire Watler says he is discussing. For example, since 2003
renewable energy technology has continued to improve and Grand Cayman
electricity prices have greatly increased. Circumstances today are
quite different than conditions years ago. These factors make
renewable energy more desirable and more necessary than ever. The
world moves on, and we must adapt to the priorities of the present.

Open community meetings where alternative policies and laws are freely
discussed are (a) commonly done, and (b) very effective in developing
public policy. Defining policy usually comes before and precedes
creating specific regulatory details. As one of many examples, please
see the California Energy Commission’s Website at www.energy.ca.gov where information is provided about community
meeting announcements, Energy Commission Hearings, available policy
papers, public staff reports, renewable energy facts, and climate
change programs.

While Mr. Olivaire Watler still calls for more research and
development on renewable energy, the future has passed by him. The
first commercial wind power facilities (projects using multiple wind
turbines selling electricity into the grid through a substation) were
built in the U.S. in the early 1980’s. That was 25 years ago. For
perspective when considering today’s existing global large-scale
commercial use of renewable energy, it is helpful to know (see the CUC
April 2008 annual report) that the total CUC generating system peak
load was only 93 megawatts (MW).

*At the end of 2007 commercial wind power installed in over 70
countries around the world totaled 94,123 megawatts (MW). Global wind
power in 2007 was over 1,000 times larger than CUC’s peak load*

The UK has large commercial wind power installations. The European
Union has large and expanding use of renewable energy. Spain installed
3,522 MW of wind power in 2007. As another EU example, Germany uses
large amounts of solar photovoltaic (PV) power, as well as wind power.
India is an important manufacturer of wind turbines and is among the
top five countries for installed wind capacity, with 8,000 MW in 2007.
China installed 3,449 MW of new wind power in 2007 alone, an
investment worth over US$ five Billion in just one year. Global wind
power sales were approximately 25 Billion EUR (36 Billion US$) in
2007. Wind power by itself, in 2007, was nearly one-third of all new
US electric generation installed. In 2007 5,244 MW of new U.S. wind
turbines were installed.

Renewable energy is an essential part of combating Climate Change.
Burning fossil fuels for energy is not sustainable. Without
sustainable energy resources, we can not have sustainable economic
systems. Without sustainable economic systems, society as we know it
today unravels.

In defense of the 2008 Government Team, the responsibility is
primarily with CUC for Grand Cayman oil-dependence and related very
high electricity prices. CUC always has been free to be more
innovative and more environmentally friendly. The Government Team did
not order in April 2008 a new US$24.3 million diesel oil burning
generator in disregard of record high oil prices. CUC took that
action. It is odd that, concerning these issues, we have not heard
from Mr. Richard Hew, the CEO of CUC. Is Mr. Hew perhaps off-island
now?

The Government Team is not even the new Cayman ERA, the Electricity
Regulatory Authority. The work of the Government Team presumably is
over. Neither Mr. Alan Roffey nor I are using scapegoat tactics and
blaming the 2008 Government Team, when the fundamental responsibility
lies elsewhere.

I will mention, however, that Mr Olivaire Watler is not correct in
saying that I “decided to impugn the integrity ofthe Negotiating
Team” or that my comments are a “campaign of disinformation to
disparage the negotiations including a personal attack upon the
members of the Team”. Mr Olivaire Watler also attempts to speak for
me. Doing that is wrong. For example, I did not advocate the immediate
end of all diesel oil generation. Realistic change includes a
transition period. The Cayman people are smart enough to know that it
is pointless to read what Mr. Olivaire Watler wishes I said, rather
than reading what I actually did say.

It is unproductive for Mr. Olivaire Watler to keep using “shoot-the-
messenger” tactics. The problem is not caused by those who bring the
message. The Grand Cayman electricity problem is this: an oil-
dependent utility company, lack of genuine competition in electricity
supply, and lack of consumer electricity choices, e.g. choices about
how and from whom consumers get their electricity.

In public policy matters, I recommend transparency. I also recommend
the involvement of the Cayman community. The collective wisdom of the
Cayman people, nurtured in an open exchange of ideas, knowledge, and
experience will produce the electricity solutions needed. I am
confident that this will occur.

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Freedom of speech

| 17/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Gordon Barlow – Posted Tuesday, 17 June 2008

3 comments

The term “freedom of speech” doesn’t actually appear in the Universal
Declaration.  Instead, “Everyone has the right to freedom of
expression [and] to hold opinions without interference and to receive
and impart information and ideas…
”  [Article 19]

“Freedom of expression” is a much wider term than “freedom of
speech”.  Freedom of expression is what those young men and women
were practising in the Youtube “dirty dancing” video that scandalised
everybody last week. 

Freedom of expression is protected in the US Constitution, which
explains why it’s not illegal there to burn US flags as a protest.
Freedom of expression is what allows Christian extremists here to wave
rude placards at Gay cruise ships – and it’s what allowed The Gay Kiss
at Royal Palms.

The composers of the Declaration were well aware that freedom of
expression would be taken advantage of by troublemakers. However,
rudeness and offensiveness must be allowed, if freedom is to mean
anything.

Most individuals belong to some religion or class or caste or other
group that fixes rules of behaviour for its members and takes offence
at outsiders’ transgressions – double-offence when those
transgressions are deliberate.

But the Declaration says, in effect, “too bad: live with it.”  By
all means disapprove of an outsider’s discourtesy, but remember that
he probably disapproves of something you do. Judge not, that ye be not
judged. 

As with freedom of religion, freedom of expression is all about
tolerance. And, unfortunately, tolerance is not a quality that most
religions set any store by.  Gods tend to be jealous gods. The
ancient Israelites were not the first tribe to realise that.

In fact, most religions these days say there is only one god, and it
belongs to them alone, and it is blasphemy not to credit it with every
good thing that happens in life.  Rival belief-systems are not
only wrong but evil, and freedom of expression should be denied them.

Obeah ladies are sent to prison in Cayman.  Some of our Christian
extremists would ban all other religions from making public
statements, and the thought of a mosque in Cayman gives them the
heebie-jeebies.

Our MLAs are about to pass a new law restricting private lawyers’
freedom of speech.  Most of our public commentators in recent
decades have always hidden behind aliases, for fear of being punished
by the authorities.

Our main instrument of censorship is the Work Permit system. 
Migrant workers and their families know pretty much from Day One that
criticising government policies, or offending any person of influence,
can result in deportation.  Caymanian employers are warned to
keep their workers in check, and their spouses too.

Two years ago, six migrant construction workers were deported in a
blaze of publicity for claiming the right to freedom of
expression.  By publicly protesting to the Labour Office that
they had been cheated of some wages, they broke our unwritten
censorship code, and the Immigration Department punished them for it.

The publicity ensured there has never been a similar protest
since.  Nor has anything been heard of the nascent labour-union
of a few years ago.  Even the International Labour Organisation,
the world’s greatest protector of exploited migrant workers, is
powerless against the combined authority of the British Foreign &
Commonwealth Office and our own MLAs. 

Gordon: Chris – you rather miss the point.  The
purpose of the Universal Declaration is to urge governments to
permit freedom of expression as a basic human right, even in the
face of opposition.  Of course there will sometimes be rudeness
– some of it deliberate – but that usually lies in the eye of the
beholder.  The Nazi Government in Germany punished people
for saying, writing and doing things that were anathema to that
government.  The Declaration declares the basic human right to
offend a Nazi Government and its supporters, or (for instance, and
equally) a Christian Government and its supporters.

The right to freedom of expression is an ideal for governments to aim
for.  Sometimes exercising the right will be offensive to some
readers or onlookers – just as those readers’ or onlookers’ objections
and criticism will presumably be offensive to the original
offenders.  In practice, there will usually be local laws
allowing offenders to be arrested for “creating a public nuisance” or
some such.  Maybe that was the Nazis’ excuse for prosecuting some
of their critics. The ideal is worth protecting.  Indeed,
any government that fails to protect it cannot be trusted to protect
any other fundamental human rights.


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Time for a new message

| 17/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger – Posted Tuesday, 17 June 2008

George Town (CNS): The Cayman Islands is no stranger to
criticism from the international press and NGOs, or from governments
and law enforcement agencies – the country has always been portrayed
as a safe haven for theworld’s less than orthodox financial
transactions. And while the days may be long gone when bags of cash
allegedly fell from departing aircraft and bounced down the runway at
Owen Roberts International, the image is enduring.

US Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s interest is Ugland House, for
example, is perfectly understandable. To those with little knowledge
of what offshore finance is all about, asking how one ordinary and
relatively small office block can house more than 12,000 companies it
is not an unreasonable question. And asking what these companies do is
not an unreasonable question either. However, as a jurisdiction we
have been exceptional poor at answering it.

The mantra for the last decade has simply been: “We are more compliant
thansome onshore financial centres, so leave us alone”.  In
fact, Cayman has done a tremendous job at signing on the dotted line
for everything and before anyone else. We stick to the letter of law
and comply with numerous international regulations. However, in recent
times the criticisms have changed and we are failing to recognize the
new direction they are now taking and failing to see the potential
consequences.

While Cayman has stuck to the same PR message of how the jurisdiction
is more compliant, better regulated and even more insulated against
money laundering than many onshore jurisdictions, the critics have
switched the focus from the way we do business to what business we
actually do. Issues of legitimate tax avoidance, the preservation of
wealth, facilitating the business of Trans-National Corporations
(TNCs) and the secrecy that surrounds it all are now the key issues
for those who promote the idea that what we do is not questionable
from a legal point of view but from a moral one. US and European
politicians, international commentators, global organizations and, of
course, the media are increasingly pointing the finger at us, not for
helping drug barons hide their ill-gotten gains, but for enabling
global business to evade its responsibilities.

Perhaps one of the most critical reports for some time is Death
and Taxes
written by Christian Aid, an international non-
governmental organization that focuses on global poverty. This report
looks at how various tax avoidance schemes, legal and legitimate ones
as well as those that are questionable, keep the world’s lesser-
developed nations in poverty. While it may be easy to dismiss it as
just one insignificant publication penned by a global institution that
has a strong socialist agenda, its message is one that is being
listened to and repeated around the world. The report’s message is
gaining traction on the international stage and, as Obama begins the
race for a presidency that he is very likely to win, he is certainly
not dismissing the points raised in it, and the powers that be in
Cayman’s Financial Services sector would be wise not to dismiss them
either.

Moreover, there is something more disturbing about the criticisms now
being thrown at the offshore world and as noted by Stephen Hall-Jones
in his letter to the Net News editor, it could even spell the
beginning of the end. Support is growing around the world to address
tax equalisation, and should there be a concerted effort by Western
governments to do so, Cayman could find itself up the proverbial creek
without a paddle.

There is no doubt that the ostrich position will not serve this
jurisdiction well, particularly if the world’s leading nations make a
concerted effort to undermine the way OFCs work. What Cayman needs to
do is begin explaining far more eloquently how what it does is
beneficial to the global economy. As the international symbol of ‘tax
havenism’with better regulation than most, Cayman is ideally suited to
lead the charge on the global education campaign about OFCs.

If we wishto preserve our golden goose we need to start justifying
its existence, as well as explaining how it lays those golden eggs
and, above all, why those golden eggs are good for everyone and are
not killing Third World babies.

One person who has consistently tried to remove Cayman’s ostrich-like
head from the sand and justify our position on the global stage is
Chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Tim Ridley, who says
that while this recent report is unjustified he recognises its damage
potential.

“The figures thrown around in the report are highly speculative and
without factual support. The danger is that the figures then become
accepted,” noted Ridley. He explained, too, that the development of a
successful offshore sector here is what prevented Cayman from being
one of the countriesthe report writes about. “It is ironic that
Cayman and other small financial services centres are now being
vilified for bettering themselves and providing competitive products
and legitimate services. If we are driven out of business and reduced
to poverty again, are the rich countries of the OECD, EU or G7 and
Christian Aid going to support us? I doubt it, and I doubt they have
even thought about this possible outcome.”

Ridley also noted that the historic abuse of financial services by
criminal elements, including tax evaders, has made life difficult for
OFCs and their role is constantly misunderstood. “There are strong
arguments that OFC’s provide a good neutral and tax efficient platform
for routing investment capital in a beneficial way to the Third
World,” he said, adding that corrupt governments and ineffective aid
programmes rather  than the world’s OFCs are the most significant
problems for lesser developed nations.

A staunch advocate of tax liberalization, low taxation and free market
global economics, Ridley notes that it is more important than ever to
make the argument that OFSc are a positive force. He also believes
that the report and the growing global antipathy to tax avoidance,
legitimate or otherwise, all underscores how imperative it is that
both the public and private sectors in Cayman elevate the campaign to
better inform the world as to what we do and how we do it.

“Cayman simply acts as the facilitator for the most efficient and
frictionless use and investment of funds. We are not depriving anyone
of their just tax take,” he said. In a recent presentation at a
specialist conference in Miami, Ridley noted other serious threats
that all OFCs are facing from onshore economies. While addressing a
number of them, he emphasised the pressing need for a more proactive
approach, with both political and media campaigns to educate and
inform people and to counter the constant negative media image, though
he was seeing some signs of progress.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, when speaking in the Legislative
Assembly during the budget debate recently, suggested that envy was
the root course of international criticism. “For many years now, this
tiny jurisdiction has been feeling the wrath of the rest of the world,
mainly because of our successes as a financial centre,” Bulgin said.
“It’s all about jealousy; they are deeply jealous about the success of
these islands.”

We can parade our regulatory credentials until the cows come home, but
unless we can convince more of the world’s leading powers that OFCs
offer a benefit to them and their economies they will still find ways
of making things difficult for us. The recent absence of Cayman on the
European Union’s latest AML ‘white list’ (of countries deemed to have
satisfactory controls against money laundering) will make life tougher
than necessary for our financial institutions. If Obama gets his way,
there will be a change to US law to make it extremely difficult for
American citizens and corporations to function offshore,which would
be even more worrying. 

For years Cayman has consistently whinged about its overseas image,
with one government official after another wringing their hands about
the unfairness of it all. Yet each successive political administration
and the private sector have persistently failed to do anything to
alter the situation. Last year’s charm offensive, which involved
members of the Cabinet visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, was hardly
the success the government attempted to say it was. Not one of the
senators that the Cayman delegation visited was willing to offer a
single comment about the visit. The only comment CNS received, despite
badgering every senator that was visited, came to us in error: a
staffer erroneously clicked ‘reply’ instead of ‘send’ and revealed
that one of the senators was in no way convinced that activities in
the Cayman Islands were in the least bit benign.

Somehow, Cayman must find a way to convince the world that the
jurisdiction is fundamental in making the global money go round and
not that we are trying to rob it. While transparency is often
considered a dirty word in Cayman, it may in the end be our salvation.

Continue Reading

Unjustifiable gun ownership

| 13/06/2008 | 0 Comments

The recent revelations by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service
(RCIPS) surrounding the number of legitimate guns on the island and
how they are managed raises a number of questions, not least being why
any law-abiding citizen would need to own a gun in this community.

There are some 150 people who are members of the Cayman Islands
Shooting Association, who test their firearms skills in a sporting
environment and have a justifiable reason for owning some kind of
firearm. However, it seems rather difficult to justify the other 1850
or so owners of firearms here in Cayman. After all, there is no
hunting culture as there is nothing to hunt, and with no grisly bears,
mountain lions, coyotes or even foxes to shoot at, unless farmers have
an unfounded fear of the local agouti turning on them or their live
stock in a shocking unproved,attack, they don’t have much of a case
for ownership either.

In a community where some people seem to be getting their hands on
weapons more readily than any of us would like, it is incumbent on the
law-abiding members of our society to reduce the numbers of weapons
that the criminal element could get hold of. The recent incident
involving one so-called legitimate gun owner whose weapon just went
missing, demonstrates clearly the problem of having weapons in the
community that are not being used and really not needed. If this gun
owner was regularly hunting or shooting at the gun club, he would have
noticed the disappearance of his weapon immediately. However, as he
has no real use for a weapon it is apparent that he has rarely checked
his gun cupboard and that weapon is now more than likely in the hands
of someone we would all rather it wasn’t.

Guns or firearms, outside the sporting arena, have only one real
purpose – that is to kill or maim humans or animals. Consequently,
there can never really be any justification for owning a weapon unless
you are involved in sport. At risk of stating the blindingly obvious,
guns are extremely dangerous and according to the Untied Nations
Department for Disarmament, someone, somewhere is killed every single
minute by a gun. All guns begin life legitimately, there are at least
639 million firearms in the world today, of which 59% are legally held
by civilians, but many of these weapons end up being used to kill or
injure someone.

As Cayman still has a relatively low crime rate, there is little
justification for weapons to be held for purposes of personal
protection self-defence. Moreover, this is not the Wild West and
anyone shooting anyone else, regardless of the alleged circumstances,
will face charges. Proving self-defence is not always easy and can
still result in a manslaughter conviction.

With so little justification for legitimate gun ownership, it seems
that the police could easily remove a large percentage of the so-
called legitimately held weapons from circulation in Cayman with a
minor change to the law. Owners should be required to justify their
ownership as well as demonstrate their law-abiding nature before
getting a license. Owning a gun for protection is not a legitimate
reason, and as has already been noted, there are is not exactly a
litany of ferocious beasts to content with here in Cayman, leaving
only membership of the gun club as a legitimate reason to own
firearms. Considering how easily these firearms can and do enter the
criminal world, any owner who cannot demonstrate his active interest
in sports shooting should have his or her license revoked and the
weapon confiscated.

I think the real problem is that I don’t’ see any kind of correlation
between the amount of legal guns and illegal crime.  I
think it would shed some light on an always contentious issue if
we could some research to back up that assertion.  I propose
a study of police and court records on the subject. If
the facts are that legally purchased and registered
firearms are finding their way into the wrong hands and being
used for crimes, then I would say the argument is well
based.  Otherwise, I’m afraid I just can’t
see how restricting gun ownership any further will make
any difference.

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Preaching teen pregnancy

| 10/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Sonjia Keyna – Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Does going to church increase the chances of teenage sex? Does atheism
promote abstinence?  According to teen studies published in the
Journal of Religion
and Society
 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ absolutely.

“Increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with
increasing belief and worship of a creator, and negative correlation
with increasing non-theism and acceptance of evolution,” states
Gregory S. Paul in his article, Cross-National Correlations of
Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism
in the Prosperous Democracies.

Paul analyzed countries around the globe and found the least religious
societies also had the lowest rates of teen abortions and births.
Among all developed nations, Japan ranked #1 in both atheism and
lowest rates of teen pregnancy.  Over a hundred million people
reside in Japan, most don’t believe in God and most teens forgo
pregnancy in favor of college. 

So, remind me again why we think that sending Cayman teenagers to
church will discourage them from having sex!

Instead of preaching abstinence until marriage as “the Caymanian way”,
perhaps we should teach intelligence as the only way.  When
visiting a local morning radio show a few months back, every single
caller who didn’t believe in educating teens about safe sex also said
they got married after finding out they (or their partner) became
pregnant. 

Although the Cayman government will send just about any qualified teen
to college, why don’t more go?  Perhaps they are spending too
much time listening to adult role models, many of whom got married
only after having unprotected premarital sex, and then become
young parents without the time to go to college. Knowledge is power –
in this case the power to follow the path of education or a better
career rather than struggle as ayoung parent.

Most will agree that God is good.  Most will also agree that
President’s Bush’s decision to go to war after praying to God
was not good. It was dumb. Rather than change the world for the
better, his decision not to separate religion from national policies
was dumb and kids are dying every day as a result.  Death, of
course, is worse than pregnancy but the point prevails: mixing
religion with policy decisions is not smart and has a bad influence on
society as a whole.

Cayman youth have an opportunity to change the world by honing their
intellect through utilizing the amazing financial resources the
government allocates to advanced educational opportunities.  Kids
in Japan don’t have the same benefits, don’t go to church, and don’t
get pregnant. They get degrees.

Rather than preach to our teens about not having sex before marriage,
how about going to school to learn about not getting pregnant before
earning a bachelor’s degree? 

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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Conserving the real Cayman

| 08/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Wendy Ledger – Posted Monday, 8 June 2008

It may come as something of a surprise to many but there are currently
no legal protections in place at all for any of Cayman’s endemic
trees, shrubs or orchids. Not even our national tree, the Silver
Thatch Palm, or the national flower, the Banana Orchid, are protected
legally, and many of the country’s endemic animals, such as our unique
lizards, snakes, butterflies and bats, also have no legal protection.
 

It was against this background and the desperate need for a more
comprehensive framework for the protection and conservation of our
precious eco-systems that work began on a National Conservation Law
(NCL). On coming to office, the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM)
promised they would enact such a bill to protect the environment.
Three years later, the legislation is due to come before the House at
the end of this summer after what has been described as considerable
consultation.

Cayman’s environment is unique. Formed under a tropical sea some 10 to
30 million years ago, the islands are part of a reefal platform that
has submerged and emerged from the sea throughout geological time.
Emerging for the last time around 3 million years ago, the local flora
and fauna has evolved in relative isolation on unusual rock
formations, giving the islands an impressive number of endemic
species, many of which are now seriously endangered.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the Director of the Department of the Environment
(DoE), explained that some 46% of Cayman’s native flora is currently
threatened with local extinction. “Despite there being numerous
endemic species and sub-species of animals, only iguanas and non-
domestic birds have any protection locally,” she said.

“Every major decision point introduces the requirement for
notification and public consultation and there is an appeals
procedure,” she added.  “Section 38 provides for judicial review
of any act or omission of the Council, Director or any other persons
involved in administration of the law. There is no provision for
compulsory acquisition of land that is recommended for protection, and
the law provides mechanisms where land can be protected and managed as
protected areas, while still in private ownership. Alternatively, the
law provides means by which landowners may be fairly compensated for
voluntary sale or lease of areas recommended for protection. I see
this astransparent, equitable and forward thinking.”

Some activists have even suggested that the proposed NCL does not go
far enough and would not bring Cayman up to the standards established
by the United Kingdom in Cayman Islands Environmental Charter, signed
in 2001. Well-known local environmentalist, Billy Adam, suggests that
there are too many examples where our natural resources are used
unsustainably, and he raises concerns that even under the law some
exploitation of the environment will still take place in secret. He
also accuses the government of being the country’s worst polluter.

“The government is the largest polluter in the Cayman Islands. The
George Town dump, nutrient laden discharges from the water treatment
facilities and the Cayman Turtle Farm continue to be the largest
sources of land based sources of marine pollution,” said Adam. “These
polluting effluent discharges continue to take a toll on our
economically important natural marine environment. The Law must ensure
that government authorities and departments are in full compliance
with the law or suffer consequences.  If this is not done then
the law will be in violation to the letter and spirit of the
Environmental Charter.”

However, by far the most opposition to the NCL comes not from those
who suggest the law may not be effective enough, but from those who
say it goes too far and will herald in an era of compulsory purchase
in the name of nature and a clamp down on development. One area of
opposition has focused on the requirement under the new law for
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

“As the idea that environmental concerns need to be factored into all
decision making processes is one of the main tenets of sustainable
development, it is difficult to see how it will be possible for Cayman
to achieve sustainable development without the application of such
basic tools as EIA,” said Ebanks-Petrie. “There has been some concern
from individual members of the public that an EIA will be required any
time any animal or plant on any of the schedules is affected by any
proposed development. This is simply not the case. Such a law would
clearly be unenforceable, and would make EIA impossibly onerous for
both compliance and policing.”

She explained that the bill was not about stopping development but
ensuring the environment was factored into future development
decisions. The need to protect everyone’s rights to a healthy,
functioning environment, the retention of unique natural capital and
essential ecosystems, along with the concept of sustainable
development are all accepted considerations in most developed nations.
Moreover, Ebanks-Petrie added, protecting the environment means
protecting the economy.

“Desirable investors like to know that there is a level playing field
and that decision-makers are taking the long-term view. The NCL will
encourage and be good for genuine and beneficial investment. The
general trend worldwide is for property near protected areas or green
spaces to increase in value due to aesthetic and recreational factors.
Current thinking points to a failure to take adequate precautions to
safeguard the environment as one of the main factors likely to
negatively influence the global economy. Under current legislation,
landowners in Cayman have no inherent right to develop their land as
they wish.  If this were the case, a residential neighbour might
reasonably establish a quarry or industrial operation in their own
yard.”

To critics of the NCL who say it will retard development, Ebanks-
Petrie says not only is there more to Cayman than development, but
also that not passing the bill would undermine the economy because
tourism, which is dependent on a healthy natural environment, would
suffer, signs ofwhich, she says, are already apparent.

With so little protection for our unique and beautiful endemic
species, the law cannot arrive too soon for many people, and Ebanks-
Petrie believes that the recent increase in attention that
environmental issues are receiving is a reaction to the sudden
realisation that so much of the environment is so seriously
threatened.

“I think that locally people are starting to make the connection
between the loss of environmental resources and the erosion of the
Caymanian way of life and are becoming more acutely aware of the
pitfalls of not protecting the environment,” she explained, adding
that many were beginning to suffer the direct consequences of
environmental deterioration. However, her major concern is that this
is a reactionary movement rather than a genuine shift towards actively
promoting environmental protection.

“It is not until something is threatened, critically endangered or
lost that it becomes a concern,” Ebanks-Petrie said.” The virtues and
benefits of maintaining a ‘pristine’ environment or common beneficial
resource are rarely considered. For example, it makes more
environmental, social and economic sense to impose a modest limit on a
fishery when that fishery is abundant than a tough measure after the
fishery has collapsed.”

People are becoming aware that their quality of life is directly
linked to a healthy and functioning natural environment because of
triggers such as dust, noise pollution, seasonal flooding and traffic
congestion, but Ebanks-Petrie suggests people are still not embracing
a proactive approach by planning for a better future. “Perhaps there
is a false sense of security in Cayman, due to the early successes of
the Marine Parks Regulations, now some 22 years old, because many
people do not realize that marine protected areas are only one type of
management tool and we need more and better tools to meet today’s
challenges,” she said. “Twenty-two years later, Marine Parks are no
longer a novel measure. The sad fact of the matter is that Cayman has
slipped from being a world-leader, and has allowed other countries and
destinations to capitalize on more innovative and effective measures
to protect and conserve their natural environment, measures from which
they are now reaping the benefits and will continue to do so.”

The tantalizing promise of the NCL also sits alongside another recent
government initiative to include some environmental protections in the
forthcoming Bill of Rights, which will form part of Cayman’s future
constitution. Ebanks-Petrie pointed to some interesting examples
around the world, such as in the British Virgin Islands and South
Africa, where the right to environmental protection has been enshrined
in constitutions. She said the DoE has asked Cayman’s Constitutional
Secretariat to consider whether there is any scope to include
reference to the “precautionary principle”.

“Where there is a threat of serious or irreversible environmental
damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a
reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation,”
she explained. She also noted that the Secretariat needed to look at
whether the concept of participatory and procedural rights is captured
elsewhere in the “rights” expressed, or whether there is a specific
need to include some words about individuals having the right to
meaningful public participation in the decision-making processes as
far as they relate to environmental matters.

The issue of Cayman’s unique environment has gone under exposed for
some time. The recent campaign to save the Ironwood Forest in George
Town did a good job of raising awareness about some of the incredible
species that are found in these islands and their precarious position.
Anyone who has taken the time to explore that tiny piece of natural
environment in the very heart of George Town, which made its way into
the news recently, could not have failed to grasp what it is that
Cayman has already lost.

The forest is home to some 70 native species, many of which are
endemic and some of which are unique to that particular forest. The
beautiful Ghost Orchid, which totters on the brink of extinction,
flourishes only in that piece of woodland and in a small area off the
Mastic Trail. Found nowhere else in the world, experts admit that
little of its life cycle is fully understood, and the future of this
incredible flower hangs in the balance, offering a perfect example of
how easily our bio-diversity is undermined without proper
environmental legislation.

Cayman has for more than three decades worshipped at the alter of
rampant development, and while Ebanks-Petrie and other supporters of
this bill maintain that the law does not mean the end of economic
growth, future development must consider the environment before
everything that is the essence of Cayman, is lost forever.

 

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Teenagers and the real world

| 06/06/2008 | 0 Comments

By Nicky Watson – Posted Tuesday, 3 June

Back in the 1950s, the people of the Cayman Islands could have chosen,
Amish style, to reject the encroaching modern world and the more
comfortable life it brings and to stick with their donkeys and wompers
and mosquitoes. Of course, no one could possibly have known the
devil’s pact they were making or envisioned what the world would be
like 50 years later, but here it is and no amount of hand wringing can
change that.

When Cayman let in the world – and its people – they also let in other
cultures and invariably, as successive generations are removed from
the old Caymanian ways, young people will embrace global youth
cultures. The current round of clucking over a video posted on YouTube
(which has now been taken down) of young people showing off the
simulated sex of the dancehall culture was a glimpse into their world.
Like the parents of Elvis Presley fans, we are shocked by the raw
sexuality of it – could that be the point? – but it’s unlikely to
change until the next youth culture comes along to replace it.

Our task, then, is to help our young people deal with the real world
they face, not the world we would like them to live in. The teenage
years can be extremely difficult, but today’s young people face
additional challenges – a whole range of drugs we never heard of,
including date rape drugs, as well as the specter of AIDS, which
doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

For most of us, the dancehall and rap cultures are deeply disturbing,
with its misogyny, homophobia and promiscuity. But wait a minute.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? In many churches, young people learn that
women must subjugate themselves to men – the wrong lesson if we
want young women to take control over their lives and their
sexuality. And the homophobia that poured into the letters pages and
out of the airwaves from our god-fearing folk after the “gay kiss”
lays the foundation for violence against gays, which has reached
such a degree in Jamaica that homosexuals now seek asylum in other countries.

Even if we pretend that previous generations of Caymanians were
entirely chaste until marriage and faithful after that, the reality is
that a proportion of teenagers are sexually active, though we don’t
know how many because no one is keeping tabs. We don’t have a true
figure for teenage pregnancy or the rate of sexually transmitted
diseases in teens, something that should be addressed so that youth
policy is based on reality and not on wishful thinking (abstinence-
only sex education, for example).

Cayman must deal openly with problems of abuse, including the
pervasive practice of adult men having sexual intercourse with
underage girls (16 is the legal age of consent for sexual relations
including oral sex). In this week’s Special Report An education in sexual health, Women’s Resource
Centre Director Tammy Ebanks-Bishop  revealed that young women
are ‘groomed’ and exploited by their own family members in order
to reap economic gain from older men, an issue far more shocking and
pernicious than the antics of young people in Cayman’s dance halls.
And let’s not forget the dangers of ’grooming’ via email, a global
problem that the Cayman Islands is certainly not immune from.

When the Department of Education Services introduces sex education
into the curriculum in September, there will inevitably be resistance
by those who quite wrongly believe that increasing young people’s
knowledge will encourage them to have sex. But it is imperative that
such misguided (and often hypocritical) notions are not allowed to
endanger our children.

This is a precarious world for young people and they need all the help
they can get.

reply@caymannewsservice.com

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