Archive for August 13th, 2009

Brothers & sisters fundraiser

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Big Brothers and Big Sisters’ committee says that it has received a considerable amount of support from Cayman’s corporate community for is forthcoming fundraising event — Evening of Jazz, Pasta and Fashion as businesses donate both cash and kind. Cayman Airways and Jamaica’s Island Outpost company were the most recent donors, giving an exotic weekend-getaway package including accommodations and airfare for two to the luxurious Geejam Resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica for a prize.

The event is planned for Thursday, 20 August at the Grand Ole House and will combine , soothing jazz, with food and wine and an exciting fashion show featuring the latest in designer wear from NKY & NKY Collections. Attorneys from at least six of Cayman’s law firms will grace the runway along with the former Miss Cayman Rebecca Parchment and other specially invited guests.

So far Big Brothers Big sister says they have had support from dms Broadcasting, Diamonds International, Pappagallos, The Westin Hibiscus Spa, Digicel, Progressive Distributors, Al La Kakeb, Tips & Toes, Guy Harvey, Vampt Motors and Touchof Thai.  Local artist, Al Ebanks, has donated a beautiful abstract impressionist piece called “Sumting Fishy” for the silent auction.

All profits will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters which manages mentoring programs for children, ages 5-14, who usually grow to become more caring and confident with the individual attention they receive from their adult role models or “Bigs”.

Tickets cost only CI$30 and the evening begins at 6pm with the fashion show kicking off at 7.Tickets are available at Deckers, Abacus, NKY of Caymana Bay or Grand Old House or from any board member of BBBS. Corporate Sponsors can contact Therese Pallares at (345) 525-8808 or Stacy Parke at (345) 547-9873 for information on how they can become a part of this great event.

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CUC claims fuel rates are competitive

| 13/08/2009 | 41 Comments

(CNS): In the face of considerable criticism from consumers and more recently government, Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) says that a regional survey of electrical rates places Cayman’s power generator in a competitive position. However CUC rates are 8th from a list of 13 firms surveyed and consumers here will be feeling the power pinch even more when government cuts the current fuel rebate. Some of Cayman’s greener residents have also been criticizing the firm’s CORE programme.

The survey carried out by the industry umbrella body for regional utilities, CARILEC, CUC said, indicated its rates were competitive while its service is arguably one of the best. CUC claimed that a number of the companies which have lower rates have more than 100,000 customers offering relative economies of scale. However, there were a number of power suppliers in the region that have lower customer bases and lower rates.

“The results of this survey demonstrate that the investments CUC has made over the years have not only delivered one of the most reliable electricity services in the region, but also resulted in efficiencies which have brought regionally competitive rates to our customers,” said President and CEO of CUC Richard Hew.

The survey also revealed that Cayman has a comparatively large residential consumption level of around 1000 kWh compared to a Caribbean average of around 400kWh.Cayman’s lack of environmental awareness when it comes to fuel consumption is not helped a number of critics say by the firm’s CORE programme.  Last month the new government passed a law in the Legislative Assembly to amend make-up of the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and CNS understands that government now intends to amend the CORE agreement that requires homeowners to pay CUC for electricity privately created by alternative energy sources.

CUC is also facing competition for the first time as it goes head to head with Jamaica Energy Partners for a multi-million-dollar project to install 32 megawatts of new generating capacity for 2011. The amendment to the ERA board is significant as the decision for this lucrative contract will be made by that body and not the Central Tenders Committee.

Hew insisted that CUC is a good corporate citizen, having invested millions of dollars in developing its people, its physical assets and the Cayman community over the years.

A recently released but very dated report (2003) from the Auditor General’s office about CUC however, accused the power company of excessive capital investment or gold platting. Many of the AG’s other concerns were addressed in the new license agreement which was negotiated with CUC under the previous administration.

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Group to analyse civil service pension freeze

| 13/08/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Following the announcement by Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush of a freeze in pension contribution’s for civil servants, the Chief Secretary’s Office which has responsibility for civil service matters, has established a working group to implement the temporary suspension chaired by Deputy Chief Secretary Franz Manderson. The group comprises representatives from the Portfolio of the Civil Service, the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association (CICSA), the Legal Department, the Public Service Pension Board and the Portfolio of Finance.

A government statement released on Wednesday said that before the end of this month the group will advise Cabinet regarding the implications of suspended pension payments, as well as any legislation changes that will be required to implement the suspension measure. Manderson said that he wanted to make it clear that the proposals being developed do not include adjustments to the benefits of existing pensioners.

The pension payments holiday, as it was described by Bush, could save the government around $40 million in expenditure for the 2009/10 financial year and make a significant impact on the expected operating deficit.

Bush has also said he has asked the ministry with responsibility for labour to look into a pensions payment holiday for the private sector to release compliant employers temporarily from their legal obligation to pay pensions for staff, which while not impacting government’s deficit  but would stimulate the economy, Bush said .

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Counter productive?

| 13/08/2009 | 3 Comments

After seeing the story about the arrest of two teenagers for growing ganja I can’t help but ask myself how helpful that really was in terms of addressing the violent crime. Taking out the home-grown source of ganja will increase the importation of drugs and the associated guns and gang violence that goes with it.

These youngsters were clearly engaged in a little cultivation of what is the most widely used drug on the island. Although we have no idea what the quantities of ganja and plants were, we can guess that, as the police have not provided numbers, they were small. Hence, we can jump to certain conclusions — these two ‘ganja teens’ were probably growing for their own use and that of friends or neighbours and unlikely to be involved in a wholesale operation fuelling the current gun and gang violence.

Like it our not, and despite the islands zero tolerance of drug use, a significant portion of people in the Cayman Islands use ganja, and no matter the associated legal risk people will continue to indulge. As a result, they will seek and find that drug somewhere. The choices are limited — grow your own, buy from a local friendly grower or buy from the hardened dealers controlling the importation of narcotics and guns.

Although we cannot say with any certainty what the real cause of the recent increase in violence and shootings is – not least because the communication from the police service always seems so limited — we all know that the islands are awashwith guns. As there is no gun factory here (not even in East End soon set to become the industrial heartland of Grand Cayman) we know the guns are being imported, and rather like the slave trade triangle of old, the guns are linked in with narcotics and violence.  

So by taking the local produce out of circulation we will see those young men’s customers turning to the imports (a zero sum gain for the authorities as they won’t even reap any import duty) – further increasing the coffers of the really bad guys and the expansion of their business interests.

The police were certainly justified taking these two young men into custody, not least because they also seemed to have helped themselves to some expensive power tools as well, and of course as far as the police are concerned growing ganja is illegal. However, it doesn’t mean that it is going to be in any way helpful with regards our current problem.

Outward investors, financial markets and tourists are not likely to turn their back on the Cayman Islands because two Bodden Town teenagers are developing their horticultural skills. However, they may well do so because of the regular weekend shootings that Cayman seems to be enjoying.

I have no doubt that the zero tolerators will be chomping at the bit to rip a strip off me for writing this little missive and that is their democratic right, but I wonder how many of those that think zero tolerance works have ever really sat down and thought it through logically or whether it’s just an ingrained emotional reaction?

Zero tolerance would be fine if we could get people off drugs, but while the country has made a decision to use incarceration for users as well as dealers we have virtually no investment in demand reduction and education at all. We have a very small rehabilitation centre that still doesn’t even cater to women, the only drug education programme in the schools is run by the police and discredited worldwide, the drug court does not even have a cent of its own funding, and the National Drug Council doesn’t even seem capable of printing an anti-drug poster without having a serious of strategic policy meetings and producing meaningless 1,000 page documents.

So while we take away the home grown sources of ganja and fail to address the level of drug use in the community we end up with users depending on the gangs who import their drug of choice, be it as arguably benign as ganja or as worrying as crack.

While the debate about decriminalisation of ganja has not even started here, I expect any attempt to argue the case for full legalisation will only muddy the waters of the one tiny point in this huge subject that I am trying to make. In the end, is shutting down the local growers really going to help? I suggest not and believe that every ounce of our law enforcement muscle should currently be aimed at the port and the islands shoreline in order to stop the influx of firearms.

Zero tolerance towards drugs is one thing but violence and gun crime is quite another and I genuinely believe that the majority of sensible people here would agree which has to take priority.

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Swine flu vaccine expected as cases level off

| 13/08/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although health officials are reporting that the prevalence of flu cases in the Cayman Islands seems to be leveling off, they are warning of a possible surge when schools open at the end of the month. Preparing for that possibility they are focusing on an education campaign to limit the spread and a vaccination programme that they say will roll out as soon as an H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccines become available. Medical Officer of Health Dr.Kiran Kumar said people can be vaccinated for the seasonal flu and the pandemic H1N1 flu at the same time.

Expecting the usual uptake on the seasonal flu vaccine, Kumar said in an ideal world he’d like to offer everyone the new H1N1 vaccine. “Of course we would like to be able to vaccinate our entire population, and we have asked for sufficient stocks to do this. However, due to the demand, the vaccine cannot be produced for the entire global population at one time. We will therefore vaccinate vulnerable groups first, and others will follow as per the UK Health Protection Agency guidelines,” Dr. Kumar explained.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its advice for how long those who are sick with the novel H1N1 virus should stay away from others.”The CDC has shortened the time period, which may reduce some of the pandemic’s absence burden on businesses and schools,” added Dr Kumar.

The new CDC guidance urges people with influenza-like illnesses to stay home at least 24 hours after they are free of a fever (without using fever-reducing medication). A fever is defined as 100°F and above and in most cases lasts from 2 to 4 days.

Earlier recommendations urged peopleto stay home for 7 days after the start of their illness or for 24 hours after symptoms resolve, whichever was longer.

Besides businesses and schools, the guidance also applies to camps, mass gatherings, and other community settings, the guidelines read.

“However, the new recommendations do not apply to healthcare settings. People working or visiting healthcare facilities should still observe the earlier, longer-period exclusion guidance,” Dr. Kumar cautioned.

“The CDC also emphasized that more stringent and longer exclusions may be needed for sick people who will return to settings where they have contact with people who have underlying medical conditions, such as camps for children with asthma or daycare centers and schools that children younger than 5 attend,” he said.

Also, people who have had influenza-like illness and then return to work, school, or other community settings should continue to practice good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene and avoid close contact with people they know to be at increased risk of influenza-related complications.         “We will be reaching out to parents and teachers in the next few weeks, arming them with information on how they can help prevent the spread of the flu,” he added.

As such, the Health Services Authority (HSA) has boosted its public information resources with the addition of a flu email and message system – — which will allow the public to get direct responses to their flu queries.  This complements the 24-hour flu hotline (926-2812) manned by HSA staff.

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Bush vows to protect SMB

| 13/08/2009 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Although government says it does not have the luxury of time or money to conduct a full environmental impact assessment on the development of cruise berthing facilities in the George Town Harbour, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has told CNS that he will ensure the protection of Seven Mile Beach from the development. He said it was already well known what the situation was in the capital’s harbour and, provided no solid structures were erected that would impact the current, the beach would not be damaged.

In the face of ongoing community concerns over the development of cruise berthing facilities and Bush’s announcement that there would be no EIA, the LoGB emphasised to CNS on Wednesday evening (12 August) that everything would be done to protect the island’s beaches.

“There is no point is spending time and money, neither of which we have, to conduct an EIA on an area that is not an environmental zone and when we already know the answers,” he said. “But every precaution will be taken to protect Seven Mile Beach. There will be no solid concrete superstructures built  that stick out in to the ocean far enough to effect the currents, so neither the Seven Mile nor South Sound beaches will be damaged. But we have to be realistic — the harbour is not an environmental zone, there is nothing in the port to destroy and we don’t have 12 to 18 months to do a report that will tell us what we know.”

He said, however, that the socio-economic effect of port development was being done as that was part of theoverall national tourism plan, and it was that which was revealing the driving need for Cayman to begin this development as soon as possible.

“We need this for the future of tourism. We must be practical about the development of cruise berthing,” Bush told CNS. “If we fail to move then Cuba will open up and be ahead of us. The cruise lines have said we must have it and we are the only significant destination in the region without berthing.”

He said the people who were opposing the development really needed to understand how important this project is not only for the jobs it will create during the construction, but that it will protect the future of jobs in the tourism industry as a whole. “The truth is the people who are criticising this project are people that probably have jobs and don’t have to worry about a livelihood,” the leader of government business added. “The same people who burned down the fire station can’t stand around watching and criticizing government about how they are putting out the fire.”

At a recent meeting with the new Port Authority chair, Stefan Baraud, representatives from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) and the Association of Cruise Tourism (ACT) made it clear that their members were all for the development of cruise berthing and that they needed to do a better job of getting people to understand how intrinsically important cruise tourism was to the country’s overall product. Both bodies acknowledge the need to build support for the development of cruise berthing based on what they said was a very real and pressing need.

However, there has always been considerable opposition to cruise berthing facilities within the community, much of which came to the fore under the previous administration when the then tourism and environment minister, Charles Clifford, put forward proposals to develop a new cruise and cargo port in George Town. Considerable emphasis was placed on the EIA and the Department of Environment spent several months drawing up the terms of reference for any assessment. During a number of community and stakeholder meetings fears about the impact on Seven Mile Beach were at the forefront of the objections.

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