Archive for December 10th, 2009

Bahamas Pursuing Renewable Energy Projects

| 10/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(Bahamas Pundit): The Bahamas Electricity Corporation is inviting proposals for renewable energy power purchase agreements in several technologies, officials have told Tough Call. Although there has been lots of talk before, this marks a dramatic policy shift. It is driven by fear that escalating oil prices and supply problems could disrupt the Bahamian economy. International concerns about pollution and climate change are also a big factor. The pending Request for Proposals follows the appointment of a special committee at BEC to research the most viable renewable energy technologies for the Bahamas at utility scale.

One technology that the committee did not explore was the production of energy from garbage. But at least two firms are already pursuing multi-million-dollar waste-to-energy projects with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for landfills and solid waste collection and disposal.

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Recommended reading from The Tribune: Bahamas looks at $60m solar/wind proposals

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Bahamas looks at $60m solar/wind proposals

| 10/12/2009 | 14 Comments

Cayman Islands Business News(The Tribune): One of the six renewable energy bidders shortlisted by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) yesterday said its solar/wind power project would require a $60 million investment and generate 50-60 construction jobs, collectively generating 24 megawatts (MW) of power per day – equivalent to one of the gas turbines the Corporation currently employs. Thomas Schneider, the Bahamas Renewable Energy Corporation’s chairman, said the company had targeted projects on three separate islands where BEC’s power needs were greatest – New Providence, Abaco and Eleuthera/Harbour Island.

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Recommended reading: Bahamas pursuing renewable energy projects (a commentary from the Bahamas Pundit)

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Bigger penalties on way for the UK offshore cheats

| 10/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(London Evening Standard): Offshore tax evaders face even bigger fines once the current amnesty for them to declare their overseas bank accountants runs out on 4 January. "I would encourage anyone concerned about their offshore tax affairs to take advice as soon as possible and certainly before the deadline expires on 4 January," Paul Harrison head of tax investigations at KPMG said. "There’s an even bigger stick on the horizon, and time is running out." Under the amnesty, anyone who declares their offshore bank accountants and pays the tax due on them faces a fixed penalty of an extra 20% of that tax.

Under new proposals put out by HM Revenue & Customs, people either declaring offshore accounts voluntary or found out by the authorities after the amnesty ends face much stiffer penalties of up to 100% of the tax due.

Harrison said: "In effect they are treating this as deliberate and therefore the worst kind of offence. HMRC will be receiving information from as many as 300 financial institutions which will lead themto those individuals with offshore bank accounts."

In another tweak to the regulations, anyone who opens a new bank account in one of the "high-risk" countries like the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands will have to declare it to HMRC within 60 days. Failure to do so could result in a fine of twice the tax which has been evaded.

Tax avoidance schemes also face even greater tightening after HMRC outlined five new measures encouraging accountants and advisers to reveal such schemes more quickly and in more detail.

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Facebook faces criticism on privacy change

| 10/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Digital rights groups and bloggers have heaped criticism on Facebook’s changed privacy policy. Critics said the changes were unwelcome and "nudged" people towards sharing updates with the wider web and made them findable via search engines. The changes were introduced on 9 December via a pop-up that asked users to update privacy settings. Facebook said the changes help members manage updates they wanted to share, not trick them into revealing too much. "Facebook is nudging the settings toward the ‘disclose everything’ position," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the US Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic).

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Bush says IMF report shows Cayman’s high standards

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(CNS): Despite the list of recommendations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding their latest assessment of the Cayman Islands regulatory regime, the premier, McKeeva Bush, has said the government welcomes the report. Speaking from London, where he is attending the Overseas Territories Consultative Council, Bush claimed the report was evidence of the county’s commitment to solid regulation. CIMA’s new chairman, George McCarthy congratulated the authority on their work to meet the IMF standards and said the report reflects the high standards that CIMA strives to meet and the seriousness with which the Authority takes its role

However, he acknowledged there was work to do. “As the report shows, there is no room for complacency, as we recognize the importance of the industry we regulate,” McCarthy added.

Bush believed the IMF findings showed that Cayman was in line with the best international standards. “We voluntarily participated in this assessment and welcome any others that are objective as we are confident that our financial industry and the supervisory regime can stand up to any scrutiny. The government broadly accepts the recommendations and it is our intention to give priority to implementing them in a timely manner, as far as best serves this jurisdiction and contributes to the stability of the global financial system,” he added.

The financial service sector and Cayman’s reliance upon it was one of a number of subjects which Bush reportedly discussed with FCO minister Chris Bryant while attending the OTCC. Although no official statements have yet been issued about Bush’s discussions with Bryant, it is believed the reviews of the civil service and possible revenue generation have caused conflict between the two parties.

At the end of the council on Wednesday, Bryant said a lot of ground had been covered over the past three days. "Our discussions have been wide-ranging, open and, at times, frank. Above all, I think they’ve been constructive. I hope Territory leaders would agree with that," he said.

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Bankers face bonus tax

| 10/12/2009 | 0 Comments

(AP): British Treasury chief Alistair Darling has announced a one-off tax on bankers’ bonuses. The 50-percent tax unveiled in the government’s pre-budget report on Tuesday will be levied on 2009 bonuses of more than 25,000 pounds ($40,800). The charge will be imposed on the pool of bonuses, rather than individual payments. It will be paid by banks — not the employee. The government has sharply criticized bonuses paid to bankers — especially those paid by companies saved from collapse by taxpayers’ money — and the measure is likely to prove popular with the general public.

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School projects in limbo

| 10/12/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Over a month after his workers were laid-off by Tom Jones International (TJI) one local contractor is crossing his fingers and hoping his men will be back on the job very soon. Although the government’s new project manager has been meeting with the sub-contractors, no firm plans have yet been set in place, even though it is over two weeks since government issued the former general contractor TJI with a notice to quit work.  Alan Roffey, the owner of Androgroup and Caribbean Mechanical Limited, said it is time to get the men back to work.

As speculation mounts that government plans to take on the school projects without a general contractor but by co-ordinating the sub contractors under its own project manager, Roffey says he thinks that would be a sensible option. “We have met with David Benoit but no firm decisions have been made on the way forward,” Roffey told CNS. “We sincerely believe that we ought to be part of the solution and hope that solution is agreed quickly so we can get our people, particularly our Caymanian tradesmen, back to work.”

Several hundred workers have been laid-off among the various sub-contractors that were working on the two sites, many of them Caymanian, as a result of the works stoppage in early November when the impasse between TJI and the government reached stalemate.

Since then, Roffey’s firm, Caribbean Mechanical Limited, has sued TJI for over $2.2million for unpaid work, which he says government has already paid the general contractor. Following that, negotiations with TJI completely broke down and the government issued a seven-day notice to quit to the contractor just over two weeks ago. TJI then filedits own writ against government for $3million, which government has said it will defend as the money is not due.

The dispute surrounds a number of issues including more than $15 million in disputed change orders as well as TJI’s demands for surety. It has said on a number of occasions that it does not believe the government has enough money to pay the contractor to complete the two high school projects at the John Gray High School campus in George Town and the new Clifton Hunter site in Frank Sound.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly one week ago, Minister for Education Rolston Anglin said that it was government’s position that TJI had wrongfully abandoned the projects, breaching the contract. He said that plans would be announced shortly on the way forward. However, CNS contacted the ministry yesterday (Wednesday 9 December) and is awaiting a response.

Speculation has been mounting throughout the week that government may press ahead as its own general contractor on the Clifton Hunter site and possible delay the JGHS project until after that school is finished. Aside from the need to get the schools completed before 2010 to accommodate growing student numbers and changes to the education system, with unemployment on the increase and Christmas around the corner government is under pressure to get Caymanians back to work.

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MLAs seek costs from voters after failed challenge

| 10/12/2009 | 48 Comments

(CNS): The parties involved in the election challenge were back before Chief Justice Anthony Smellie on Wednesday, according to court listings. CNS understands that the closed door hearing related to an application by Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour, the UDP Members of the Legislative Assembly whose election to office was challenged by six Bodden Town voters, for costs incurred defending the challenge.  Sources close to the case said that Seymour and Scotland had said when they won the case they would not pursue costs against the voters who had challenged their election, but have now reversed that commitment.

The two MLAs who stood as UDP candidates in the May 2009 General Elections caused considerable controversy when they failed to publicly declare their respective interests in government companies before the deadline, as set down in the constitution. The two candidates gazetted their interests late and then continued to run for office.

After the election, the two candidates were then challenged by six voters from the district, led by Gordon Solomon and including Sandra Catron, an independent candidate in the election. Ironically, the challengers failed to make the legal submissions before the deadline imposed for an election petition.

As a result, they decided to continue with their legal suit as an originating summons in the Grand Court in order to uphold what many people saw as a valuable principle that the Cayman Islands Constitution was the highest law of the land and that politicians should not be allowed to flaunt it.

The UDP candidates, however, mounted a vigorous defence led by one of the UK’s leading QCs, Lord Pannick, who argued that any other remedy outside the Election Petition would be an abuse of process and succeeded in getting the challenge struck out by the chief justice.

It is understood that Seymour and Scotland are now wishing to claim costs for their expensive defence from the voters. With Pannick considered to be one of the ‘stars of the UK bar’ and listed in the top ten lawyers practising in the UK, he is reported to earn in excess of £1500 per hour.

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