Archive for March 10th, 2010

CUC chases deposits

| 10/03/2010 | 46 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, CUC(CNS): Following a number of reports to CNS that customers were being asked to give financialdeposits, CUC have confirmed that a review of their customer accounts has led to some people being requested to supply a deposit or increase the amount held on account with the power supplier. One person complained that although they had been a customer since the 1970s and had never once missed a payment, the power firm had written to them demanding a $2,000 deposit, which they found excessive and unnecessary.  In a statement to CNS, CUC said it had a policy of requiring deposits from all commercial customers.

“CUC has a longstanding policy which requires its commercial customers to pay a deposit which covers forty-five days of service,” the power firm stated. “A review of our commercial customer accounts that have hit the delinquency list in the recent past found that there were approximately 200 customers who did not have a deposit on file, or whose monthly bills exceeded their deposits.”  

Some CUC clients had raised concerns that the firm was asking for far more than would cover one month’s billing, which was confirmed by the statement that makes it clear the requirement is closer to six weeks. Moreover, many of the complainers said they were long standing customers who were not delinquent.

The firm said that it was writing to several customers who did not have a deposit on account to regularize the situation but did not state if those customers were only those who were late with paying bills or whether all commercial customers were being asked for the up front money, regardless of their payment record.

“The company has written to these customers requesting that they place a security deposit on their account. The deposit will earn interest at the going rate for certificate of deposits at local banks which will be credited to the account on a monthly basis,” CUC stated.  

The firm went on to say, “Unlike other businesses where payment may be demanded before the good or service is provided, the manner in which our service is metered gives the customer up to 45 days of credit from the time that the electricity is used until a bill is received.”

Independent MLA for North Side Ezzard Miller said the move by the monopoly power was highly inappropriate given the circumstances. "It is terrible for CUC to extort more deposits from people during this tough economic time when they are already struggling with the cost of living," he added.



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Construction starts on 7MB’s latest condo project

| 10/03/2010 | 3 Comments

Cayman Islands news, Grand Cayman business news, Cayman  property development (CNS): On the drawing board for a considerable amount of time, the next luxury condo development on Seven Mile Beach has taken a serious step towards becoming a reality as the WaterColours development team has formally begun the structural pile testing process. A significant milestone of construction on the 39-unit residential development, this signals the real start of the building work. The developers have also announced that the general contractors on the project will be Arch & Godfrey Cayman Limited.“Arch & Godfrey have been long time partners of the development group, working on past projects such as Water’s Edge,” said Steve Henderson of The WaterColours Development Team.

“Although we tendered out The WaterColours project, it became apparent that the Arch & Godfrey team would be a natural fit and bring the quality and experience necessary to make The WaterColours Condominiums successful. We are delighted to partner with them on this exciting new project, and welcome them once againto the team,” said Henderson. The WaterColours is also working with local architect Michael Meghoo of MJM Design Studio and Matthew Manning of Cayman Engineering and Partners (CE&P).

Kim Lund and James Bovell, owners/brokers of RE/MAX Cayman Islands, are the men behind the sales and they believe the progress of this project will have an affirmative impact on Cayman. 

“There is much excitement around The WaterColours as it is the only new development, in the foreseeable future, being constructed directly on Seven Mile Beach. It will undoubtedly contribute to the economic growth of the Island and is a testament to the resiliency of our resort real estate market,” said Lund, who added that The WaterColours will challenge the standards of construction on Seven Mile Beach and feature an extensive list of amenities comparable to five star hotels but within the privacy of a luxury residence.

Some of the amenities include; beachfront owner’s conservatory with wine storage lockers and full chef’s kitchen, owner’s guest suites, concierge services, valet parking, state-of-the-art beachfront fitness studio with private massage room, underground parking and storage, and 24-hour discrete security.

“The quality of The WaterColours will be incomparable as the developers continually strive to build on the highest specifications, with a focus on safety and security within luxurious and private living quarters,” Lund. “Simply put, it will exceed even the highest of expectations.”

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Property experts assess Cayman’s declining market

| 10/03/2010 | 16 Comments

Cayman Islands News Grand Cayman business news, Cayman property market(CNS): Although the Cayman Islands real estate market is continuing its four-year downward trend, analysts say this year’s fall in value was, at least, not as much as had been expected.  Although transfers fell by around 9%, Charterland Ltd chartered surveyors said it could have been a lot worse. Simon J Watson, the firm’s director, said there has been much speculation as to how the Cayman property market was impacted by the economic environment of 2009. The decrease was expected but it was actually less than many property experts had predicted, he observed.

Watson noted that, although the market in Cayman is small and the data on which any analysis depends is small, it is still possible to discern certain trends in the local market. As a result of that, his team has conducted a full and comprehensive review of the property market in the Cayman Islands in 2009 to help investors make more informed decisions.  

“At Charterland, we believe that you should make property-related decisions based on the best possible information; with this in mind we present our second annual review of the Cayman Islands property market,” he added.

Watson also explained that the review was conducted based on data from transfers from investment sales only and not those known as ‘Natural Love and Affection’ or nil consideration transfers.

The report, which can be found on the Charterland website, revealed that 2009 saw a continuation in the decrease in the number of property bought and sold in the Cayman Islands, with only 1,444 properties being transferred, down by just over 9% from 2008. This is the fourth year that transfers have fallen from an all-time high in 2005 of 2,640 — a total drop in transfers of 45%

“Whilst this continued decrease in the size of the market was expected by most property professionals in the Cayman Islands, the 9% decrease was actually less than many predicted,” the report said. “The total value of the number of transfers also demonstrates a continued slow-down in the property market in 2009, with a total value of all transfers of CI$404 million, a decrease of over 16% from 2008 and by 33% from the high of CI$606 million in 2006.”

The authors said that the continued down-turn was not unexpected but the trend in the average value of the properties being transferred is much more stable, with only a fall of just under 2% from an average value of CI$285,000 in 2008, to an average value of CI$280,000 in 2009.

“This relatively small decrease in average value is all the more significant when compared with average property values in Florida, which have fallen on average by 14% overall and with some areas experiencing a decrease in average values by as much as 17%.”

With only a single sale over CI$5 million, compared with 6 such sales in 2008, the report found that the market for high-end properties in particular was impacted by the downturn.  This highest sale in 2009 was Starfish Point property at the end of Water Cay Road, Cayman Kai, which was acquired by Kenneth Dart in December for CI$10,500,000.

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Not while racism exists

| 10/03/2010 | 87 Comments

(The Guardian): Standing at a hotel bar in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a few years ago with an unreconstructed Afrikaner and a white Briton whose racial politics I trusted even less, I was approached by a local, black hustler who put his arm around my shoulder, smiled and asked: "How’s my nigger?"

I turned swiftly, pointed my finger in his face and said: "Don’t you ever ever, call me that again." He walked away looking both baffled and upset and leaving me feeling both conflicted and annoyed.

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Sea Turtle Tastes Like Veal

| 10/03/2010 | 3 Comments

(reason.com): If sea turtle tasted like chicken, I’d fess up, but it really does taste like veal. I grew up occasionally eating mud turtles pulled out of the ponds on my family’s farm. And mud turtle does taste like chicken. (Legs from freshly butchered mud turtles also writhe when you toss a bit of salt on them, as my startled mother once found out.)

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how delicious well-prepared green sea turtle steak tasted with a port wine reduction sauce at the Over the Edge restaurant during a recent visit to Grand Cayman Island.

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Chamber warns of coercion over pension holiday

| 10/03/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Following the recent move by government to remove the mandatory obligation for employers and employees to pay 10% of earnings into pension funds the Cayman Islands Chamber Pension Trustees have raised their concerns that employees may be forced to agree to employers stopping their pensions even though the new law says it must be voluntary.  The Chamber has also warned that regulating and managing this change in the law will prove problematic increasing the costs of pension administration as well as allowing more non-compliance.

 In a public statement the Chamber trustees said the move was not endorsed by them.

“It is our fear that the average worker may be coerced into taking the pension holiday without being properly educatedon how their decision may impact them financially. Although the election is discretionary and to be made by the employee, it is imperative that he or she is made fully aware of the fact that they are giving up the employer match of 5% of their income along with negatively impacting the growth of their retirement nest egg,” they stated.

The pension overseers also stated that the enforcement and regulation of the holiday would negatively contribute to the already growing issues of non-payment that are rampant within most plans on island. “Administration of such a change in the law will be challenge to say the least and in our opinion, could lead to much greater administration costs, therefore negatively impacting pension plan costs in general,” the trustees warned. They did however welcome the fine of CI$10,000 for those convicted on non-compliance.

“We urge plan members to educate themselves before rushing to any decision and to consult the Chamber Pension office should they have any questions,” the trustees added.

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Pelican flies free after emergency care

| 10/03/2010 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Wildlife Rescue volunteers have successfully released a juvenile Brown Pelican that was rescued in Pease Bay. The pelican was found by a concerned member of the public in February during rough weather.  When the bird did not fly away when approached, it was apparent it was suffering as a result of the weather and needed emergency care. Volunteers captured the pelican and took it to Island Veterinary Services where the vet said the bird was slightly underweight and dehydrated.  The Pelican was taken to the Cayman Wildlife Rescue facility, where a dedicated band of volunteers ensured that he was fed sprats twice a day. 

He was also sprayed with fresh water everyday to keep his feathers waterproofed.  This is the second pelican received this winter season into the programme, the first was rescued in December, exhausted from its migration it had struck a power line. 

“It’s quite common that migratory birds will be suffering from exhaustion, in this state they are prone to injury and in the past have collided with power lines or have been struck by cars,” Alison Corbett Project Manager of Cayman Wildlife said. “Fortunately, pelicans do very well in care and have a very high success rate.  We were very pleased to see these pelicans recover quickly and successfully released.”

As a result on Saturday March 6, after a short week in care, the latest pelican guest of therescue centre was taken back to the area in which he was found and where several other young Pelicans were frequenting.  He immediately took to the water and began bathing and preening.  Shortly after the release the Pelican was joined by four others; the five Pelicans then proceeded to fly together, catching small fish in the shallows.

“Wildlife rescue is a lot of hard work and it was very nice for the team to be able to observe the group of Pelicans in their natural habitat.  It’s releases like this that make all our hard well work worth it,” Corbett added.

Most residents of Grand Cayman are familiar with winter visits of the Brown Pelican.  According to Patricia Bradley’s “Birds of the Cayman Islands” (Caerulea Press, 1995) the brown pelicans that visit Cayman are casual short-stay visitors, although some birds, usually immatures, occasionally overwinter.  They can be found in small groups close inshore in marine sounds.

With spring approaching Cayman Wildlife Rescue is now turning its attention from pelicans to protecting the islands baby birds that fall from their nests and volunteers warn they may not need rescuing. “It is very important that the public take a moment to observe baby birds before assuming they need to be rescued,” Corbett explained.

Concerned members of the public are encouraged to first identify whether the bird is injured, as fallen nestlings and fledglings often are attacked by cats and dogs.  If the bird is injured Cayman Wildlife Rescue should be contacted at 917-BIRD as the bird will require emergency veterinary care.  If the bird is not injured, but is unable to fly it must next be determined to be either a nestling or a fledgling. 

Nestings are bare or covered in downy feathers.  When you have found a nestling on the ground, look for a nest nearby.  If there is a nest, the bird can be gently placed back inside the nest and then it should be monitored at a safe distance for the parents to return. 

“Birds do not have a developed sense of smell,” Corbett said.  “There is no truth in the old wives tale that a bird will reject their young if you handle them – in fact most birds have a very poor sense of smell.”

She said however, if there is not a nest nearby or the nest is destroyed, one can be fabricated out of a basket or plastic container drilled with drainage holes.  CWR has a tall ladder to assist with restoring fallen nests and nestlings, the public can call 917-BIRD (2473) for help with this effort.

Once nestlings have been restored, the nest should be monitored for up to 3 hrs for the parents return and people are reminded to never offer a wild animal food or liquids unless instructed.  Great care should also be taken at this time of year when pruning trees, shrubs and palm trees so as to not disturb nesting birds.

Corbett also explained that when people find a fledgling, meaning it is a baby bird learning to fly, it probably won’t need to be rescued.  These young will be alert and hopping around on the ground as they learn flying skills.  Their parents will be nearby, offering them food while they are on the ground.  “If you find a baby bird, well feathered, hopping on the ground the best thing a person can do is watch from a safe distance.  If you have a cat or dog bring it inside and watch for the parents to return,” she said.

 If the bird is not in a safe area, Corbett recommends moving it to a shrub nearby and continue to monitor.  Often fledglings become victim to cats and dogs, if they are injured they will need emergency veterinary care and Cayman Wildlife Rescue should be notified immediately. 

“We strongly encourage responsible pet ownership, cats and dogs should not be allowed to roam freely for their own safety and also for the safety of our wildlife.  One of the most common reasons we see animals come in for care is due to being attacked by cats or dogs,” the bird expert added.

Cayman Wildlife Rescue’s Hotline 917-BIRD (2473) is operated 24/7 to provide support for wildlife in trouble, when a baby bird is found CWR should be contacted for further instruction.    Members of the public should not attempt to care for a baby bird, as they require special diets and have demanding feeding schedules.  CWR should be notified when a baby bird is deemed abandoned so an experienced Wildlife Rehabber can resume its care. 

Cayman Wildlife Rescue is a programme of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.  This project is staffed entirely by volunteers with other full time jobs, and is financed 100% by donations from the public.  If you would like to help by donating funds or volunteering time, please contact Alison Corbett at caymanwildliferescue@gmail.com or visit  www.caymanwildliferescue.org for more information.

If you come across a wild animal that needs rescue, call the LIME sponsored emergency hotline, 917-BIRD (2473).  For your own safety and that of the animal, members of the public are requested to not attempt to rescue or care for the animal themselves – rather call the hotline and trained volunteers will attend to the animal.

 

  

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Businesses face implications of latest shooting

| 10/03/2010 | 4 Comments

(CNS): The small business owners in Barnes Plaza, where a woman was shot in the face last Friday afternoon, are assessing the impact on their future livelihood. Some are concerned that the gangland attempted murder on their doorstep could drive customers away, while others have told News 27 that the shooting was all about the people involved and not the location. The concerns of many of those in the area mirror those of residents throughout the island — it’s not where, they say, but how many — that is, the problem with shootings or major criminal incidents seeming to take place almost daily.

New 27 reported that the woman was sitting outside the plaza’s bar when a man wearing a hooded top literally walkedup to her shot her in the face before walking away.

See News 27 report.  

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PPM: “Mac’s big budget lie”

| 10/03/2010 | 74 Comments

(CNS): The former education minister has said that the premier knew that this year’s budget was over ambitious and would never balance. Alden McLaughlin said McKeveva Bush had presented a “pretend budget” to the Legislative Assembly in order to ease the pressure from the UK. Accusing him of lying to both the people and the UK about the expected revenue, the opposition MLA said at a public meeting last night that the leader of the country had placed the Cayman Islands in an even more precarious position so that he could beat up on the PPM. McLaughlin said Bush had put too much pressure on business with fee increases and undermined confidence with his false declarations of the country’s bankruptcy.

Turning the tables on the UDP, the party seen as supporters of the business community, McLaughlin said that Bush had driven business away. Speaking at a public meeting in Savannah, McLaughlin told the audience that Bush’s drive to blame the PPM for everything that was wrong in the world had seen him declaring the country bankrupt to the detrement of the islands.

“When he took office he shouted from every possible platform that the country was bankrupt,” McLaughlin said, adding that, as a result, investor confidence was eroded. A few month later, however, the premier had “magically” produced a budget with a $5 million surplus, which McLaughlin said was fudged and it did little to reduce the expenditure side of the equation but got the UK off the premier’s back.

“He told a monumental lie and produced a pretend budget,” the opposition MLA told the crowd. “He pretended the government would get revenue that they knew they could not and would not get.”

McLaughlin stated that, given the world economic climate, the revenue predictions made in the 2009/10 budget could never have genuinely been generated. “Our premier can be a bit careless with the truth,” he added. “He has perpetrated a big lie … and thrown the country into panic.”

He also noted that because the government had only cut expenditure by a fraction and then told the country that revenues would be sufficient to balance the budget, by implication Bush had fostered an environment of relaxation in the public sector when it came to costs reduction.

The situation was going to get worse, McLaughlin warned, as a result of the pretend budget because Bush had also lied to the UK, which would now be pressing for taxation. McLaughlin said many of the decisions made by Bush were done to allow him to continue demonising the PPM. The opposition former Cabinet Minister said that, while the operational deficit for 2008/09 was the responsibility of the previous administration, but this one belongs to the UDP.

When the opposition and PPM leader came to the platform, he too spoke about the premier’s relentless blaming of the PPM. Kurt Tibbetts explained that, while his government had certainly borrowed to improve the infrastructure of the country, which had said been neglected for over 15 years, the capital spending had little bearing on the deficit.

He said that Bush continued to tie in the deficit to the borrowing when the two were not connected, and even if the PPM government had not borrowed a single cent the 2008/09 year would still have ended in a deficit. “The operational deficit has nothing to do with capital expenditure, yet this government keeps trying to tie the two together to confuse the public,” Tibbetts stated.

When the PPM embarked on the schools project, the development of the roads and the construction of the new government office accommodation, there was no sign of the world recession, Tibbetts claimed. He said the country was earning revenue and they could not have known what was to come until much later when the projects were already underway. Tibbetts said his government was guilty of getting the timing wrong but they had not bankrupted the country but ended up with a debt that exceed the percentage of current revenue.

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Premier faces UK on finances

| 10/03/2010 | 31 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier will be meeting with the UK government this week to discuss the Miller Report and the state of the country’s finances. Following the revelations in his address to the country on Monday evening that the government will need to borrow again to balance the 2009/10 budget, McKeeva Bush will also need to seek permission from the FCO’s Overseas Territories Minister Chris Bryant. The last time Bush went to London seeking UK approval for borrowing he was told the UK wanted to see direct taxation, and while he was eventually granted permission, it was based on a number of conditions, including a balanced budget for this year. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

With or without the sale of government assets, the fall in government earnings for 2009/10 by at least $70 million means that operating revenue is far short of operating expenses, leaving the government with an anticipated deficit of $62 million, breaking the first rule of the government’s own guidelines for sound financial management. With the country’s cash reserves likely to be below the 90 day minimum of operating expenditure, an overdraft in the government current account and a debt of around $½ billion, giving a net-debt ratio of 106% well over the 80% limit, the premier will once again be in the hands of the UK government when it comes to resolving the government’s budget problem.

With the government goals of attracting inward investment, engaging in public-private partnerships, seeking private finance initiatives and utilizing government assets not yet coming to fruition, the premier is likely to face considerable opposition from the UK for further borrowing without broadening the country’s tax base.

Bush, however, has said he remains fundamentally opposed to that route and is heading to the UK armed with the Miller-Shaw Report, which emphasises the need to dramatically cut government rather than increase fees or taxes.  Speaking to the country Monday night, Bush said a delegation led by the governor, himself and the financial secretary, will present the report to the United Kingdom government this week, and Bush said he would not support the introduction of income or property tax and would resist any moves in that direction.

The premier said government had estimated that it will need to borrow a minimum of CI$112 million in the upcoming financial year 2010/11 and admitted that, as a result, the UK will be looking for some form of taxation.

“Because the government cannot comply with all the principles of responsible financial management at 30 June 2010, the UK Government will, once again, have to give its approval for the Cayman Islands Government to incur further borrowings or something like taxation from the 1st July 2010 onwards,” he said.

In order to tackle the stalemate over taxation that is likely to occur between the UK and CI governments, Bush emphasised the importance of reducing the predicted deficit of $62 million through salary and operating cuts. According to the financial secretary, however, the salary reduction and benefit cuts including the freezing of pensions would reduce costs by around $17 million in this financial year, leaving government with a further $45 million of cuts to make in operating expenses in the next three months to avoid an impasse with the UK.

In his letter to Bush on 8 October Chris Bryant agreed to extend the borrowing limits to CIG because Bush had presented a balanced budget to the Legislative Assembly. While he stated he had his concerns about how the UDP administration was going to achieve the fiscal year end surplus, he wrote:

“If you are genuinely confident that CIG can deliver the budget…..I will be prepared to approve the borrowing….”  But the UK minister went on to say that only under exceptional circumstances would he agree to further borrowing.


 

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