Archive for March 11th, 2010

Public sector to keep benefits says memo

| 11/03/2010 | 92 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman civil service(CNS): Civil Servants will not be forced to make a fifty percent contribution to their health care, according to a memo from the Deputy Governor’s Office. Despite the announcement by the premier that he would be looking to reduce health benefits, freeze pensions and cut salaries of public sector workers in order to address the country’s forecast deficit, a memo sent to senior civil servants on Thursday indicates that the pension freeze isbeing deferred, and health care benefits will now not be pursued. The Cayman Islands civil service still faces uncertainty regarding earnings, however, as the memo indicates, salaries will not be cut in March but the pay reduction is still on the table for April.

On Tuesday evening some 700 public sector workers met at the Mary Miller Hall in George Town to hear that they could be facing salary cuts, starting at 5% for those earning $3000 per month, from this month’s pay cheque, as well as reductions in their employee benefits.  The meeting followed Bush’s address to the nation on Monday evening, in which he said that, although he did not want to cut salaries, there was little option.

The premier first made the announcement in the Legislative Assembly last week, stating that it was as a direct result of the need to drastically cut operating expenses in order to balance the 2009/10 budget after revenue predictions for the year have fallen some $70 million on estimates made in October.

Bush is currently in the UK discussing the contents of the Miller-Shaw report with the FCO, as well as the difficulties the Cayman Islands Government now faces over its revenue and expenditure.  

The memo offering a reprieve to public servants was sent to senior staff by Franz Manderson and also focused on the need to cut the remaining appropriations of each department by 15%.

“These reductions are utterly essential in order to reduce the projected net deficit for the year to 30th June 2010 by the entire public sector of CI$61 million,” the memo stated. The chief officer said that any acute negative impacts as a result of the reductions needed to be reported but that could not be used as a basis for not cutting and where possible departments needed to look for cuts over and above the 15%.

Manderson stated that the considerations for the 15 percent cuts would be made by Cabinet on Tuesday of next week.

The premier is expected to return from the UK early next week following his discussions on the Miller-Shaw report, which he has said he will make public on his return. Although the report has been kept under wraps, a combination of reliable sources have indicated that the report focuses on the need to drastically reduce the size of government administration and avoid imposing further taxes on the private sector. 

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CITA calls on cops to act

| 11/03/2010 | 25 Comments

(CNS): The local tourism industry has raised its voice against the rising crime in the islands and called on the police to do more to stop the criminals and gangs, which the industry says are seeing the Cayman Islands as a land of opportunity with inadequately checked borders and few consequences to their actions. The Cayman Islands Tourist Association Board of Directors has called on the RCIPS to try harder and asked both the police and the governor, at what point will they realize that taking the same action will yield the same result and move towards a more aggressive policing policy?

“As the responsibility for policing and the criminal justice system rests with the Governor and RCIPS, we ask them both:  At what point will you concede that taking the same actions will yield the same results and so crime will continue to climb until ourtourism economy becomes yet another fatal victim,” the CITA board said in a written statement .

"The harsh reality is that the time has come to take aggressive policing measures to bring back the Cayman we all know and love. We have reached a tipping point in recent times that has brought us to a critical point where action is required. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association firmly supports our Premier McKeeva Bush’s request for the establishment of a ‘Special Task Force’ to ensure that law and order prevails in our beloved Cayman Islands.”

The non governmental organisation said that the Cayman Island’s single greatest economic asset is its tourism industry. The members said that the reputation of Cayman as a wonderful, safe family destination was built and nurtured by thousands of hard-working and dedicated people over the years and the great reputation we have earned must remain intact.

“Neither Cayman’s tourism industry, nor our people, must ever be allowed to come under threat,” the board said. “We therefore recommend and will strongly support all efforts to stamp out all elements of crime. We recognize that the RCIPS is trying harder and harder, but it is not enough.”

If left unaddressed, the association warned that the future of the sector would be about guarded perimeters around the islands’ resorts, turning the authentic visitor experiences into a compound of distractions in the hope that our tourists don’t get to see what is going on outside.

CITA said that everyone would suffer in the long run if crime was not controlled, with declining air arrivals as the typical family orientated visitor looks elsewhere.

“Cayman was once a destination where many of our visitors turned into repeat visitors and eventually a significant number of whom would or have purchased a beach front vacation home or condo. The ability to rent out these vacation homes and the impact crime has on real estate values will also send a crippling wave through our entire economy that many businesses and Caymanians have thrived on for the last three decades,” the CITA went on to say.

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Another quake hits Chile

| 11/03/2010 | 0 Comments

(AP): The strongest aftershock since Chile’s devastating earthquake rocked the South American country Thursday as President Sebastian Pinera was sworn into office. The 7.2-magnitude aftershock was stronger than the quake that destroyed the Haitian capital on Jan. 12. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries but the temblor — and at least three other aftershocks — strongly swayed buildings — shook windows and provoked nervous smiles among the dignitaries attending Pinera’s inauguration at the congressional building in coastal Valparaiso. The biggest aftershock happened along the same fault zone as Chile’s magnitude-8.8 quake on Feb. 27, said geophysicist Don Blakeman at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado.

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Sand Bar re-opens but marine unit urges caution

| 11/03/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Officers from the RCIPS Marine Unit said the Sand Bar has re-opened today, Friday 12 March. Even though winds were high across Grand Cayman conditions at the popular tourist spot had improved and police said it was safe to reopen the area. The unit however is urging all people on the water to use caution, Inspector Brad Ebanks, officer in charge of the Marine Unit said that during this type of inclement weather the unit faces increased demands as more boaters find themselves in distress. “RCIPS has been working with the Water Sports Operators for a number of years now in efforts to ensure safety for people who use the water and marine life alike,” he said.

“It’s a fact that during this time of the year we experience unsuitable conditions bringing high winds and rough seas that cause unstable “in water” activity as the Sand Bar is situated near one of the channels. These conditions mean that we do receive a higher number of calls about people being in distress – either because they have ventured too close to the surf or intentionally gone surfing and ended up in difficulty,” he added.

While the marine cop said he knew that rough seas might be entertaining for some sailors they can easily be misjudged.

“We would remind people to exercise caution in this type of weather and stay safe. Always check with the local weather forecast before venturing out to sea in boats or personal Watercrafts,” Ebanks warned.

“Parents should try to ensure that their children do not venture out during these times of inclement weather conditions. When my officers respond to calls in this type of weather they are also being put at risk – so please think carefully about what you’re doing when you go into the water and be extra cautious in this weather.”

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Burglars’ getaway not so clean after all

| 11/03/2010 | 5 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Brac local news, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service(CNS): Following reports of two burglaries in Cayman Brac that involved heavy goods, police say they have made an arrest in connection with the strong-arm burglars who might not have had such a clean getaway after all. Police confirmed that the washing machine and drier, which had allegedly been stolen from an unoccupied residence in the Watering Place area on Monday 22 February, were recovered from a house in the Alta Vista area yesterday. A 33-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman have now been arrested on suspicion of burglary and released on police bail as enquiries continue. Area Commander Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay said the two were arrested following a local police operation

“We are pleased that we have traced the stolen property and have arrested two people in relation to the incident. However, I would urge home and business owners to remain vigilant and not to be complacent when it comes to securing their property. Always make sure that your doors and windows are secure and that valuables are kept out of sight.” said Kay.

“if anyone is offered items for sale in unusual circumstances or a prices that’s just too good to be true – then it is probably is too good to be true and it may be that the property is stolen," he said. “My officers and I are always available to provide crime prevention advice to anyone on the island.”

Anyone with information can contact Cayman Brac police station on 948-0331 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Don’t cut CS pay, say MLAs

| 11/03/2010 | 41 Comments

(CNS): Inflicting hardship on civil servants is no way to help Cayman out of the recession, the PPM has stated and called on government to cut operating expenses and downsize the public sector over time. Moses Kirkconnell pointed out that cutting pay will be disastrous for Cayman Brac’s economy, which is dependent on public sector workers, and called on the government not to take the money from the pockets of his constituents. During the public meeting on Tuesday evening, the PPM team all spoke in support of a need to reduce operational expenditure but said cutting salaries was not the way forward.

Kirkconnell said the reduction in salaries for civil servants on Cayman Brac would have a direct detrimental impact on the livelihoods of everyone else as the small economy of the Sister Islands only had tourism and government to rely on to generate their income.

Alden McLaughlin admitted that there was a problem with the size of government, which he said had grown significantly during the previous PPM administration. The former Cabinet minster said that, while they had to take some share of the blame, the introduction of the Public Management and Finance and the Public Service Management laws had decentralized government systems and was the root of the growth. McLaughlin explained that the changes resulted in an increase in the number of accountants, human resource staff and other posts in order for each department to manage its own finances and personnel matters.

“This meant we had to duplicate and triplicate the staff as the central body of government was removed to meet the requirements of the new laws,” McLaughlin said, adding that while the elected government is always blamed it did not have control over how many and who was hired in the civil service.

McLaughlin said that the PFML and the PSML may both need to be reviewed to help reduce the constant growth. But he said that to simply cut the salaries of hardworking people was not the way to resolve the problem.  The former education minister warned of future unrest if the government suddenly cuts 400 or 500 Caymanians from public sector jobs when there are more than 20,000 work permits. McLaughlin called for a long term carefully structured reduction. The decision to cut civil service pay was as a result of whatever was contained in the Miller report, he speculated, and said although the opposition had not been told what was in it, the government needed to reveal its contents and discuss the problems faced by the country with the opposition.

The PPM leader agreed with McLaughlin when he took to the podium and said that the government had to consult with the opposition given the dire circumstances. He pointed out that there were four former experienced cabinet ministers on the opposition benches as well as a talented and very experienced businessman. “We don’t want to be in a constant fight with government but if things are not right then we as the opposition must speak out,” Kurt Tibbetts said. “All 15 MLAs should be involved in these discussions.”  

Tibbetts acknowledged the call for solutions from the PPM but he said that without the information they could only offer so much, which he said all along had been to take a longer term approach to dealing with the deficits and to borrow more in the short term. The opposition leader said his team had not supported the last budget because they knew that it would not balance and that there was a serious problem with the government’s long term economic predictions as the revenue had been over estimated two years in a row.

Tibbetts said the country needed to extend its borrowing to give government time to make sensible alterations in expenditure and examine the revenue. Tibbetts said he agreed with comments made by the government’s education minister in the Legislative Assembly recently when he said you cannot save yourself out of a recession. 

“If you say you want to improve the economy, how in the next breath can you take money off the people?” Tibbetts questioned, and warned the government that frightening people and saying the country would go belly up without the cuts was unreasonable. Government, he said, had no choice but to negotiate an increase in the net-debt ratio until the economy was back on track.

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PPM rejects Chuckie’s demo

| 11/03/2010 | 61 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news , Cayman politics(CNS): The planned public protest against government which was scheduled for Saturday, 13 March, has been cancelled. The demonstration had been organised by Charles Clifford, the former cabinet minister, who now says he has lost the support of his colleagues in the PPM for the march because of government’s turnaround on the sale of the new government building negating the need to protest. Clifford, however, states that what he sees as the damaging changes to immigration policies must still be protested, but without the organisational support of the party the demo won’t go ahead.

“This has always been a non-partisan all inclusive protest march consisting of PPM members and non PPM members, and the PPM has, up to recently, publicly supported the effort,” he said. “The … decision not to continue to support the protest march has removed a significant part of the organizational support and resources … and this will prevent us from achieving success with respect to the other part of the reason for the march, which is the reversal of the UDP Government’s damaging changes to our Immigration policies.”

Although the PPM has raised some concerns about the planned and already implemented policy changes, they have stated that the designation of key employees is not significant enough to justify a protest march.

However, Clifford insists that these changes will result in the designation of thousands of immigrant workers as key employees, starting in the financial services industry and extending into other industries, such as tourism, as members of the UDP stated at the recent Cayman Business Outlook.

“This will place these key employees on the path to permanent residency and ultimately Caymanian Status. The negative issues which we all know will flow from these policies are obvious and are not in the best interest of Caymanians or expatriate workers,” he said.

“I am disappointed in the PPM’s position on this matter given the significant negative impact that these Immigration policy changes will have on young Caymanians and Caymanians who are already working in these major industries.”

At the PPM public meeting this week, Denise Miller, President of the Young Progressives, the party’s youth arm, also raised concerns about the impact the immigration changes would have on young Caymanians entering the work place.

Taking aim at what has been a corner stone of PPM policy, Clifford said the changes to immigration would undermine the education reform efforts and pleaded with his former Cabinet colleagues to think again.

“I encourage the PPM leadership to reconsider their position on this matter,” Clifford added. “To ignore it will undermine the PPM’s focus and credibility on Educational Reform because these Immigration policy changes will certainly emasculate the Educational Reform efforts …”

He said that as a result of the planned march and public pressure government decided against selling the new administration building and he said people could be satisfied that they had won 50% of the battle. Clifford also noted that the irrational decisions and announcements of the UDP Government are now being more aggressively challenged.

However, despite that, he said there was a need to now prevent the implementation of damaging immigration policies He said it was important to have the correct balance of Caymanians and expatriates in the workforce.

“This issue is important, not just to Caymanians but to everyone living and working in the Cayman Islands because if these policy changes are allowed to stand the ultimate result will be a deterioration of our social harmony, which is a significant part of the foundation for our success and attractiveness as a country,” Clifford warned. “This effort is about allowing everyone living and working here to continue to succeed and ensuring that our economic pillars of financial services and tourism continue to flourish.”

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Civil servants work on alternatives to pay cuts

| 11/03/2010 | 11 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman Islands civil service(CNS): Following an emergency meeting that brought together around 700 public sector workers on Monday, the president of the Cayman Islands Civil Service Association said that he and his colleagues would be spending Wednesday evening putting the finishing touches to their collective thoughts regarding government’s proposed salary cuts. James Watler told CNS that Monday night’s meeting went well but raised more questions than answers for many public sector workers. He explained that for some it was the first time they were really hearing the details of the proposed salary and benefit cuts, which caused genuine concern.

Watler said he could not yet reveal the full content of the document that was being submitted to the Deputy Governor, as required by protocol, but once it had gone through the first official member to the premier, the president said he would be happy to reveal what the membership had suggested and their thoughts on the cuts.

The meeting had provided his membership with an opportunity to question both the premier, who was there for a short time, and senior officials. I believe people conducted themselves in a professional manner as they raised their concerns and questions,” Watler said. He said it was a difficult time for his membership as it would be for anyone who was confronted with a threat to their earnings. “Civil servants are moderate people, but they are being asked to bleed from a three way cut,” he said, referring to the proposal to reduce their earnings, cut their health benefits and freeze their pensions.

Watler said that during the previous discussions that had taken place last year when the public sector was faced with possible salary and benefit cuts, civil servants had tended towards the idea of taking unpaid leave each month which would have the same effect on government expenditure but at least offer something back to staff for their loss of earnings.

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