Archive for April 9th, 2010

Bermuda looks at shipping prisoners to the US

| 09/04/2010 | 25 Comments

(CNS:) Following the recent announcements by the Cayman Islands premier that he would be approaching other leaders of overseas territories about creating a regional high security prison, an article in today’s edition of Bermuda’s Royal Gazette indicates that country has been considering sending its prisoners to what are perceived to be tougher jails in the United States. The UK has reportedly said prisoners from Bermuda could be moved to the UK or other OTS but has said nothing about the States. A number of people in Cayman have also been calling for serious offenders at HMP Northward to be sent abroad to serve their time.

At a meeting in West Bay last month McKeeva Bush announced that he would be speaking with leaders of other OTS about collaborating on a project to either rent, buy or build a facility outside of their respective jurisdictions but where their collective, high security or capital offenders could be sent to serve their sentences.(See CNS article)
Although the Gazette makes no mention of Bush making any approaches to Bermuda it suggests that the UK has said that prisoners from there can be sent abroad to the UK and Overseas Territories, according to the Deputy Governor.
Discussions between Bermuda and the US Consulate as to whether prisoners can be shipped to American prisons, however, have yet to take place. The country’s Public Safety Minister David Burch said that a number of US prisons are willing to take Bermudan prisoners if governments pay the right price indicating that it was anticipated that sending them to the US would still be cheaper than the cost in Bermuda.
According to the Denver Post it cost an average of $23,876 to imprison someone in the US in 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available. The cost varied widely between states with Rhode Island spending $45,000 while Louisiana spent $13,000. In Bermuda it costs $80,000 to incarcerate someone.
The country’s deputy governor David Arkley said there were existing legal mechanisms in place in Bermuda which permit the transfer of prisoners to other Overseas Territories or to the UK.
“The legal, technical and financial aspects of any other schemes would have to be resolved satisfactorily and further discussion is required on the issue," he said.
Not unlike public sentiment in Cayman towards HMP Northward the Bermudan premier said Westgate had been accused of being less than a prison.  “And we often hear people in the legal community say that prison in Bermuda is not as difficult as it might be in some other locations. And the thought is that some of our people would benefit while incarcerated in other jurisdictions," Dr Ewart Brown added.

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CIMA and US SEC partner to offer regional training

| 09/04/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have joined forces to provide training for regional and local financial supervisors in the investments and securities sector. CIMA stated that the aim is to enhance participants’ understanding of the funds and securities industry and increase their skills in market oversight and enforcement. The training will focus on supervision of investment advisers, funds, and broker-dealers.

The agencies will run the intensive three-day course on regulation, inspection and enforcement from Monday to Wednesday, 12-14 April, at the Grand Cayman Marriott. Senior SEC officials and regulatory subject matter experts; local accounting, legal and administrative professionals, and CIMA officials, will lead a series of lectures, small-group workshops and panel discussions.
Participants are expected from the Securities Commission of the Bahamas, the Securities Commission of Barbados, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission, the Central Bank of the Netherland Antilles, as well as the Cayman Stock Exchange and CIMA.
CIMA’s Managing Director Cindy Scotland, explained that the programme came out of the Authority’s focus on ensuring that staff keeps abreast of the latest regulatory techniques and issues and was part of CIMA’s ongoing commitment to international cooperation.
”We recognize that we are a part of an international financial services industry that is constantly changing and deeply interconnected,” said Scotland, “Our ability to regulate effectively is dependent, not only on the knowledge and skill of our own staff, but also on the knowledge and skill of other regulators. It is in our mutual interest to cooperate with, and draw from, each other.”
Ethiopis Tafara, the Director of the SEC’s Office of International Affairs, through which the Commission’s involvementwas arranged, agreed with Mrs. Scotland: “We are very pleased to co-sponsor this regional training program with the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. Among other things, the recent crisis has highlighted how important it is for securities regulators to gather in programs such as this to exchange best practices and to build the bridges necessary to coordinate market oversight and enforcement across international boundaries. We greatly value this partnership with our fellow regulators.”
Aspects to be covered during the course include: the state of the hedge fund industry and the infrastructure and operating environment of hedge funds; the supervisory process; techniques for examining broker dealers and investment advisors; investigating market manipulation and insider trading; safety and custody of investor assets; conflicts of interest; valuation practices; compliance and control best practice; marketing issues; money laundering and the securities industry, and cross border cooperation.
The SEC facilitators were obtained through the Commission’s Office of International Affairs, which runs a technical assistance programme that pulls expertise from throughout the SEC to assist other regulators in capacity building. The Commission and CIMA worked together to identify topics that would be most relevant to local and regional markets. CIMA extended the programme to its regional counterparts, identified local speakers and handled the event logistics.
The overseas presenters are Thomas Biolsi, a principal in the Financial Services Regulatory Practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers; Assistant Director of the SEC’s Office of International Affairs Dr. Robert Fisher; Assistant Regional Director of the Enforcement Division in the SEC’s New York regional office Bruce Karpati, and Associate Director – Chief Counsel John Walsh of the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations.
Local presenters include Walkers Hedge Funds Partner Ingrid Pierce; Maples and Calder Partners Jon Fowler and Martin Livingston; PricewaterhouseCoopers Partner David Walker; RBC Dominion Securities Global Limited’s Managing Director Andrew McCartney; Ernst & Young Partner Michael O’Donnell, and Admiral Administration’s Managing Director Canover Watson. Local regulatory perspectives will be provided by Financial Reporting Authority Director Lindsey Cacho; CIMA’s Head of Compliance RJ Berry and Deputy Managing Director – General Counsel Langston Sibblies, QC.  Scotland and Tafara will open the programme.

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New project hopes to fight childhood obesity

| 09/04/2010 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Almost a quarter of Cayman’s school children are overweight, according to statistics from the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, but government hopes to fight the problem by supporting the Children’s Health Task Force (CHTF) Pilot Project. Medical Director and Ministry Liaison Dr Sook Yin said the aim was to develop a comprehensive and successful programme to promote and support healthy lifestyles for all children, in and out of school. The health minister described the weight problem among children as “a grave national concern” that could impact the Islands’ development by increasing health care costs and incapacitating the future workforce.

Dr Yin described the recent child obesity data from the HSA as alarming. “Annual screening confirms that some 22 percent of school children are overweight and another 14.8 percent are at risk of becoming overweight,” she said, explaining that in 1987, 18.8 percent of children aged between three and seven were already obese when entering the school system.
However, that figure had risen to 45 percent by 2005. “Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to be obese adults,” the doctor added. “Given that obesity in adults is associated with increased risks of premature death, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and many other health problems, it is critical that we prevent obesity and overweight in childhood before the onset of such chronic problems.”
Accepting a cheque from Health Minister Mark Scotland for the pilot health project, Dr Yin said CHTF would begin at the George Hicks High School but would eventually be replicated across schools. The project will enhance healthier lifestyles by facilitating increased nutritional services, offering additional physical activity for students, and improving knowledge and skills of teachers, parents and students.
“Government is committed to being proactive in dealing with childhood obesity before it becomes an unmanageable national crisis here,” Scotland said. “Health officials tell us that obesity and overweight are risk factors in a range of diseases. Many of these are chronic and costly to treat and residents’ health also impacts national productivity.”
This comes in the wake of news from the World Helath Organisaiton that teenagers in the Cayman Islands are among the most sendentry youngsters in the world. In a study of some 70,000 teenagers in 34 countries, WHO found that 58 percent of boys and 64 percent of girls in Cayman said they spent three hours a day in sedentary activities.

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Squeezing economies

| 09/04/2010 | 0 Comments

(Economist): Across much of the rich world an era of budget austerity beckons. Government debt is rising faster than at any time since the second world war. By 2014 the public debt of big rich countries will reach an average of 110% of GDP, up by almost 40 percentage points from 2007, according to the IMF. How to alter this bleak trajectory will be policymakers’ most difficult task over the nextdecade. Financial markets are already forcing some into drastic action.

Greece plans to cut its deficit from 12.7% of GDP in 2009 to 3% by 2013, using spending cuts, tax hikes and heroic growth projections. Portugal has rushed out plans to cut its deficit from 9.3% last year to 3% by 2013. Britain’s election will be fought over the contours of future austerity.
But so far less than half of the OECD’s member countries have detailed medium-term plans to reduce their deficits. Their choices will have huge implications for the growth and structure of their economies. Worryingly given the stakes, economics offers surprisingly little certainty about either the optimal goal or the best way of getting there.

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Three-year plan goes to UK

| 09/04/2010 | 37 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): The governor has confirmed that the government’s three-year budget plan to get the country’s finances back to a surplus position has been submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for consideration. Duncan Taylor said he expected there would now be some negotiation between the UK and the Cayman government over its content before the OT minister is contacted about the need for further borrowing. The governor also noted that no guarantees have been given by the FCO concerning borrowing this year and that the minster may still want new revenue raising measures introduced before giving approval for the CIG to increase its debt. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Speaking directly to the media at a session to review his first ten weeks in office, Taylor said that along with the spike in crime the financial situation had taken priority since he arrived in the Cayman Islands. He said that in the short term finances would continue to play a key part in his work as revenues were much lower than anticipated, creating real difficulties in government.
The governor also noted that there was little time left to settle the negotiations over the three-year plan with the FCO as the government planed to present the 2010/11 budget to the Legislative Assembly by 30 April.
Taylor confirmed that no guarantees on borrowing had been made, despite the fact that the government would need significant funds at the end of this budget year to bridge the deficit gap and that at present the financial situation meant that the current capital projects — the schools and government officer building — were being deferred.
The governor said the access to more borrowing was still down to the Overseas Territories minister, Chris Bryant, and he had not offered a decision on extending the CIG debt as he had not yet been asked. Taylor acknowledged that the UK was still interested in the Cayman government introducing new revenue raising measures but he said the UK would not necessarily press for direct taxation before offering borrowing approval.
“The UK understands that government has decided to cut operating expenditure,” the governor said, adding that the Miller report had indicated there is more tax in Cayman than people imagine because of the fees paid by companies and the work permits. Taylor also said that the recent meeting in the UK between Premier McKeeva Bush, the Overseas Territories Director Colin Roberts and himself had gone very well and the FCO had listened to the CIG position.
However, the governor acknowledged that Roberts was arguing for a broader base of revenue measures as he believed this would make Cayman more resilient to the ups and downs of the world economy. While he said the FCO may be content with just cuts, Taylor said he could not speak for the OT minister, and despite recent comments by the premier, the issue of borrowing was still in question.
“I don’t recall a specific commitment from the FCO that it would agree to additional borrowing if there is no tax in the budget but nor was there a statement that you must do it or there won’t be any borrowing,” he added, explaining that the borrowing hinges on the feasibility of the three-year plan and what the minister, Chris Bryant, thinks of it.
Decisions regarding the country’s finances are expected to come to a head over the next few days. The CIG hopes to persuade the UK that its plan to set a specific operating expenditure budget, which has been reduced significantly, attract inward investment and divest government assets and services will, over the next three years, reduce the borrowing levels and bring in a surplus for government.
The premier has made a commitment that his government will not introduce any direct taxes.

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Veteran taxi driver loses job over literacy skills

| 09/04/2010 | 106 Comments

(CNS): A local man who has been driving taxis in Grand Cayman for three decades has been denied a taxi license because he cannot read and write.  Richard Hydes told News 27 that for nearly 30-years he’s been on the job making a living with tourists but he is now unemployed after his specialist license expired recently. When he tried to renew it the Public Transport Unit refused to help him do the required test orally as he has done in the past because the Traffic Law states that drivers must be able to read and write. Hydes says that after all these years he knows no other job and is upset that the PTU is not prepared to made an exception for him and offer him the chance to do the test orally.

“Give me the questions and I’ll give them answers,” the veteran driver said. “Anything they want to know about the island, if they ask me I can tell them.”

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Catboats add elegance to Easter racing

| 09/04/2010 | 4 Comments

(CNS): While the power boat princes tore up the wakes along Seven Mile Beach on Easter Monday, another altogether more peaceful event was also visible for the island’s most famous stretch of beach. Marked by less thunder than the Million Dollar Run, members of the Catboat club said the Catboat Race – Cayfest Kick-off – was more about graceful navigation. Sponsored by Dart Management & CaymanNational Bank, five traditional Cayman Catboats competed in a series of three races off the Public Beach. There was intense competition among the crews as they skilfully sailed their crafts around the set course with brisk winds prevailing. (Photos by Dennie Warren Jr).

The man whose name is synonymous with catboating, Captain Kem Jackson, took 1st place sailing in "Captain D", with Captain Crosby Ebanks in 2nd aboard "See Her Go", and Captain Jerris Millier made 3rd in "Chisholm Cat". Captain Philip Parchment in "Brac Cat" and Capt. Romel Ebanks in "Blue Bayou" came in 4th and 5th.

The catboats, with their sails locally crafted by Monika Snow at Windward Sailing & Canvas, Spinnaker Square Red Bay, made a spectacular contrast to the modern power boats racing in the Million Dollar Run. Catboat Club members said that Monika plays a crucial part in preserving Cayman’s seafaring heritage and history.
The next Cayman Catboat Club event will be the upcoming Premiere’s Cup Race, which is scheduled to be held on Sunday, 2 May to coincide with the last day of the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament.  
“Catboat racing is back and growing ever stronger in the Cayman Islands,” the club said.
The weekend also provided an opportunity for more than two dozen students from Cayman Brac who visiting Grand Cayman to take catboat rides on Saturday, which club members said they thoroughly enjoyed despite the blustery winds. 

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Cost cuts equal service cuts

| 09/04/2010 | 27 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): Public sector workers should not become the scapegoats for the economic problems associated with the Cayman Islands budget, the Civil Service Association has said as it warned that cuts to resources will mean cuts in service. Civil servants have been handed the responsibility of deciding where massive expenditure reductions should be made for the 2010/11 budget, but the association has pointed out that it is the remit of the elected arm of government to make decisions about spending based on policy. In a public statement issued to all civil servants and the wider public, the management council said members face the dichotomy of being asked to make cuts on one hand and a demand for more public services on the other – something it says is impossible.

In the wake of an onslaught of criticism in recent weeks, the civil service has pointed out that it should not be the body making the decision on where cuts can be made when its members are being asked to provide more and more services every year by the elected arm of government.
 
Hitting back at its critics, CICSA raised a number of concerns about the findings in the Miller Report and the areas that it believes were neglected in the assessment of Cayman’s financial situation. In the public statement, the association said the authors had given little consideration to the negative impact the salary and headcount cuts it recommends would have on services, staff and the wider economy.
 
“Improving the state of public finances cannot be done by slashing expenses without consideration of the impacts,” the CICSA said. “We are concerned at the effects of significant layoffs, especially as the effects of such redundancies are not being planned in relation to the provision of government’s services to all citizens – which would inevitably be cut.”
 
Aside form the impact on the ability of the public sector to continue to deliver services, the association asks what consideration has been given to the members of staff who will be fired.
 
“The private sector will not be able to absorb into their firms the amounts which they are calling to be culled from the public service ranks,” CICSA said in the statement. “The private sector has and continues to cut back on personnel … this increased private sector unemployment has resulted in a swelling of the social service role.”
 
Redundancies among civil servants are expected to impact he government’s social assistance programme, which would undermine savings made elsewhere, the association argued. It also raised concerns that Miller had failed to fulfill many of the terms of reference given to the authors before they embarked on their assessment.
 
“The Report talked about problems but gave little to no practical suggestions as to how to overcome the challenges,” the CICSA said, adding that it was practical solutions that were called for when the Commission was asked to “make recommendations … for improving the current revenue base … for the Cayman Islands.”
 
CICSA suggested that the authors had approached the review from a specific political standpoint, which determined where they would go even before they began.
 
“Despite the eminence of the report’s authors and their consultants, it is clear that their pre-existing political and economic views coloured the report and its recommendations. A more unbiased report may have hewed closer to its terms of reference rather than trying to justify a predetermined conclusion,” CICSA said.
 
The association did, however, agree with Miller in one respect. It said his assessment of the public sector reform initiatives resulting in staff increases and decentralization of services was correct and that it had led to an increase in management positions as well as the double-billing caused by government agencies paying each other internally for services rendered, while also being paid by Cabinet for providing the same service to the government.
 
Facing pressures from the elected arm of government and criticism from the private sector, the association pointed out the essential role public sector workers have played in building the country’s financial and tourism industries, which in turn have built a vibrant world-class economy.
 
“Even though we are now a more sophisticated society, dependence on the state has reached an all-time high,” CICSA Management said. “There are ever-increasing demands for more infrastructure, such as schools, roads, health and social services as well as for essential services.”
 
Private sector operations depended on the public sector for a range of things, from staff to regulation, CICSA said. Pressure to increase the number and quality of services has not eased despite the needs for cuts to the service providers, something which the management council said was unachievable. However,the association said its members had been doing their best to make it possible.
 
“Throughout this financial year civil servants across government have been pursuing and implementing cost-savings measures, amounting to over $9 million in value so far and we are currently analyzing many new internal and external recommendations to affect even more savings,” CICSA added.
 
Well aware of the challenges facing the country, the management council pointed out that the civil service was and remained committed to being part of a solution that accommodates the needs of workers, their families and the economy of the country.
 

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