Archive for March 15th, 2009

Foot steps in as IMF leaves

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(CNS): As Cayman waves good-bye to the assessment team from the IMF it will be greeting yet another team wishing to ’review’ the financial services industry. Michael Foot and a team from the UK Treasury arrived in the Cayman Islands this weekend and will beginning its own assessment of the jurisdiction, as announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling in last November’s UK Budget review. Cabinet will meet Foot and his team on Monday morning and government said it will take an active role in the visit.

At last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister with responsibility for policy with regards to international financial service Alden McLaughlin said Cayman welcomes any objective and independent review that would been seen as constructive. “Over the years the Cayman Islands has been inspected by a virtual alphabet soup of organizations and we do not fear this or any other review,” he said.

The minister also stated that they had met with Michael Foot in London while they were in the UK for the constitutional talks last month. “We have good grasp of what he will be doing here. He will meet with the governor and then Cabinet as well as entities such as the CIMA and representatives from local law and financial firms.”

McLaughlin explained that his review will depend considerably on the conclusions of other agencies and will be looking at the sustainability of offshore and the UK’s contingent liabilities. “This is different to other inspections, such as the one under taken by the IMF, as the UK is looking to find out what would be the consequences if it had to step in here as a last point following an economic problem.”

Former chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Tim Ridley recently said that thisvisit should be welcomed as it provides an opportunity to present the facts of Cayman’s case.

"This is particularly important as Cayman’s financial services industry has shown remarkable resilience during the recent global financial crisis. Others could learn a few lessons from us! After all, no local banks or insurance companies have failed; no depositors or insurance holders have been left with empty pockets.”

He added however the devil is in the details of the review, how it is carried out  and what the UK Treasury does with it. ‘It is vital that the Government and the private sector in Cayman engage with and inform the review team fully.”

According to the UK Treasury, the review team will be looking at the immediate and long-term challenges facing British offshore financial centres in the current economic climate,including financial supervision and transparency; taxation, in relation to financial stability, sustainability and future competitiveness; financial crisis management and resolution arrangements and international cooperation.

The UK government has said that the existing constitutional arrangements in place across these territories will continue to be respected, including their independence in fiscal matters and the setting of their own rates of taxation. Foot,  who is Chair of Promontory Financial Group and will be leading the review, has said that after working as a financial regulator in the UK and overseas he has direct experience of the achievements of the Overseas Territories. “I am looking forward to working with them to see how best the important contribution of their financial sectors can be underpinned and strengthened for the future in these challenging economic times,” he said.

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Gardeners to save local trees

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(CNS):  Much more than a garden centre the opening of the Native Tree Nursery at the Botanic Park at the weekend signals the start of a concerted campaign to get Cayman’s gardeners and landscapers growing local. “As development increases across Cayman and natural habitat is lost, then gardeners become increasingly more important in the drive to save our endangered endemic species,” said Mat Cottam (left with Governor)  from the DoE. “More than ever we need gardeners to propagate the trees and plants which are unique to Cayman and save them from extinction.”

Aside from the over riding need to preserve local species there are also a number of other good reasons for gardeners to grow local, not least the fact that they are far easier to grow than plants or trees which are not native to the islands. Having evolved here Cayman’s endemic species are perfectly adapted to our climate and environment so even those with less green fingers can enjoy the fruits of their gardening labour if they choose local species. And many native species have been here so long they too have adapted to the geographical and climate conditions and therefore flourish without the constant tending of exotic species.

Officially opening the nursery, which was a three year collaborative effort between amateur conservation groups, the Botanic Gardens and the Department of Environment, the Governor commended the hard work and offered his support to the project. “This is a very important and worthwhile contribution towards preserving the local environment and I thoroughly encourage all our gardeners to go Caymanian,” the governor, who has contributed to the nursery project through the FCO Governor’s fund, said.

The nursery is selling some thirty different species of plants, shrubs and trees under the Cayman Collection label from white fiddlewood to black mastic and staff at the nursery say, growing your own tree even from seed, will only take a couple of years something which is more difficult with non-native species.

Cottam said local trees and plants require less water and fertilizer and are often suited to our challenging environments and are both salt and drought tolerant. Moreover, they are also stress adapted and tolerant to disease. Above all they attract local wildlife such as birds and butterflies and will contribute to preserving the bio-diversity of the islands.

“Native trees make for hardy, inexpensive and low maintenance landscaping,” Cottam said. “Gardeners can play a significant part in saving many species which are becoming increasingly rare by planting them in their gardens and letting them grow.”

Preserving local plant life is also about preserving Cayman’s heritage as many of our unique species have cultural significance as they were used by early settler for medicinal purposes and other practical purposes as well as in construction and boat building.  

The amatuer gardener’s role as well as the professional landscaper can never be under estimated and their assistance in preserving species on the brink is demonstrated by the revival of Cayman Sage. Only a few years ago Cayman Sage was believed to be extinct however, it was rediscovered by chance by a local gardening enthusiast who drew it to the attention of the DoE and the Botanic Gardens. As a result the team at the nursery has been able to save the species and bring it back to life. Now the nursery is in a position to sell seedling s for only $3 and help spread this traditional plant back into the kitchen gardens of Cayman.

Most experts agree that biodiversity is critical in maintaining the ecological balance of our wider environment and the more we can protect the diversity of local habitats the more we are able to save the critically endangered species. Efforts to preserve the blue iguana for example would be in vain if we cannot also preserve the wider habitat which supports it.

For more details of the Native Tree Nursery visit

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Burned to the ground

| 15/03/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): A 76-year old house on Cayman Brac was destroyed by fire Saturday night. Two adults and a baby who were inside the house when the fire started escaped out of a back window and are unhurt. The old home of Captain Edward and Mary Foster, built in 1933 in The Rock area and now owned by their descendents, contained much of the original furniture, as well as family photographs, artifacts and jewelry. Nola Bodden said that among the family treasures in her grandparents home were the baby clothes of her father, the late Nolan Foster.

However, she said she was relieved that the occupants were safe, though they had lost all their possessions, including important documents. Three cars in the yard of the house were also destroyed.

Faith Foster, who lives close by, said her daughter heard what sounded like a gunshot at around 11:15 pm Saturday, which alerted them to the fire. “The flames were huge,” she said, adding that people had said they could see them from the Coral Isle Club on the south side of the Brac. Hearing screams from the direction of the house, her husband, Eddie, and their son went through the bushes to the burning house to rescue the three occupants, who had managed to climb out of a back window but were then cut off from the road, she said.

The Fire Service apparently arrived approximately 11:30. On the scene Sunday were officers from the Brac station and an officer from Grand Cayman investigating the fire. No official reports have been released at this point.


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Travers to head up taskforce

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(CNS): Veteran of the offshore financial services sector, Chairman of theCI Stock Exchange and a former partner of Maples and Calder Anthony Travers will be chairing a newly convened Cayman Islands Financial Service Association (CIFSA) taskforce which will work in tandem with government to tackle the increasing opposition to offshore financial centres. The formation of the force was announced on the eve of the G20 Finance Minister pre-summit meeting at which a list of uncooperative nations drawn up by the OECD was discussed which includes Cayman.

The creation of the new task force was announced at a televised press briefing on Friday afternoon by government ministers and CIFSA representatives when the Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said he was happy that the private sector wanted to collaborate with government in the effort to get Cayman’s message out.

 “We in government welcome the opportunity to partner our existing efforts and resources with those from CIFSA to augment and diversify our voice on the international stage, particularly in relation to the strength, stability and contribution of the Cayman Islands financial services sector,” he said.

Minster Alden McLaughlin who has responsibility for policy relating to international financial services said that the collaboration was recognition of the seriousness of assault  that the Cayman Islands is currently under and was part of ongoing process to continue to send message that Cayman is well regulated.  “The world will not end on 2nd April,” the Minister added referring to the G20 summit. “We will continue to face these international issues and the more effort that is made both by government and the private sector the better. We are delighted about this partnership. This not just some superficial arrangement but the CIFSA is actually prepared to put money where its mouth is and is investing significant sums.”

Rejecting the idea that the formation of the taskforce was too little too late Eduardo Da Silva President of CIFSA said that the association had been working hard to change perceptions about the Cayman Islands for the five years since it was formed. He said that tax havens had been under assault for a long time and CIFSA had always been dealing with it and would continue to do so.

CIFSA Director James Bergstrom said the users of Cayman’s jurisdiction are very sophisticated and that deal flows had not necessarily been adversely affected by the growing rhetoric but the possibility of being blacklisted at G20 was very strong but not because of any fair or objective criteria.

He said there was a need to get to the decision makers to find out what their real concerns are and then try to address those concerns. Bergstrom added that whether Cayman was or was not on a blacklist the likelihood of new regulations emerging from G20 was very high and the taskforce would be ready to work with the international community. “If there is a silver lining about this,” he said, “with so much attention focused on us we can now go forward and assist with regulatory change and work with the international community to take reasonable steps to deal with any real concerns.”

Although no specific details of what the task will do in the first instance or who it is meeting were given Silva read a statement from Travers who was unable to e at the meeting stating the primary goal.

“We need first to understand better the real concerns of those legislators in the US whose opinions count.  We then have a clear obligation both to them and to the people of these Islands to assist with effective solutions and ones that are not counterproductive,” Travers stated.  “That will require a far better understanding by some of the benefits enjoyed by the US from capital that flows through the Cayman Islands to American financial institutions.  There is nothing new in this endeavour.  Co-operation of this sort has always been the accepted position of the Cayman Islands.  We see it as the primary function of this task force to ensure that if change is to be made, it should be made for the benefit of all interested parties.”

Initial members of the task force include: Anthony Travers, Chairman; Eduardo D’Angelo P. Silva, Vice Chairman; Dan Scott, Ernst & Young; Nick Freeland, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Conor O’Dea, Butterfield Bank; James Bergstrom, Ogier; Simon Whicker, KPMG; Stuart Dack, Cayman National; Gary Linford, AIMA representative.

The taskforce has identified a number of primary concerns and immediate objectives which will be to promote the clear water that exists between the Cayman Islands and those jurisdictions which are non-OECD compliant and a review be undertaken of Cayman Islands legislation and appropriate changes be recommended. I t will also seek to develop a better appreciation of the tax information exchange agreements and the unilateral disclosure of information mechanism already legislated by the Cayman Islands Government and recognition is given to the role of the Cayman Islands in providing trillions of dollars of funding to U.S. financial institutions and that the threat of extra territorial taxation is likely, as before, to reduce the tax base of the US not to increase it.

The taskforce will also be emphasizing the excellent history of cooperation in matters of crime, money laundering and tax evasion between the Cayman Islands and the U.S. and Europe and given the extraordinary stability shown by Cayman Islands financial institutions and the domestic economy throughout the credit crisis, that no credibility should attach to those who suggest that the Cayman Islands or its investment vehicles were in some way responsible.

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“Fish Your Style” on Cayman Brac

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(CNS): The Lions Club of Cayman Brac is hosting a fundraising fish food sale and family fun night at Scott’s Dock, West End, on Saturday 28 March, starting at 6:30 pm, with all proceeds going towards ongoing Lions community service projects. At “Fish Your Style 2009” members will be serving fried, steamed, baked, Cayman style, and roasted fish, served with your choice of rice and beans, festival, bammy and vegetables, as well as fish tea. Entertainment will be provided by Arlen Tatum & the Band, along with other local artists.

Raffle tickets will also be on sale, and can be purchased in advance from Lions members, for the grand prize of US$500, plus many other prizes. The Lions Club of Cayman Brac meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month, now tentatively in room 2 at the Cayman Brac High School.

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“All about me” students

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(BBC):The growing expectation placed on schools and parents to boost pupils’ self-esteem is breeding a generation of narcissists, an expert has warned. Dr Carol Craig said children were being over-praised and were developing an "all about me" mentality. She said teachers increasingly faced complaints from parents if their child failed a spelling test or did not get a good part in the school pantomime. Schools needed to reclaim their role as educators, not psychologists, she said. She told head teachers the self-esteem agenda, imported from the United States, was a "a big fashionable idea" that had gone too far.

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