Archive for June 15th, 2010

Taylor talks good governance

| 15/06/2010 | 7 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island headline news(CNS): There is still work to do to ensure the efficient functioning of the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution, the governor said Tuesday, as he delivered his first Throne Speech in the Legislative Assembly. Duncan Taylor said good governance and human rights were the key themes of the country’s new Constitution. Although much has been done, the UK’s representative noted that there were various bodies and committees that needed to be established to prepare for the introduction of the Bill or Rights, which he said was rightly referred to in the Constitution as “a cornerstone of democracy in the Cayman Islands”.  (Photo By Dennie Warren Jr)

The Human Rights Commission, a Commission for Standards in Public Life, a Constitutional Commission, and a National Security Council have already been established, the governor noted, but the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy and the Advisory District Councils, as well as the office of Director of Public Prosecutionsall needed to be done.   

“The Constitution provides the core foundation and structure for our society. We need to draw strength from it to build a better and stronger Cayman Islands,” the governor said.
Outlining government plans over the coming year, he said there were three key themes.
“We need to adapt public finances to the new reality … we need to provide security for our people … (and ) … we need constantly to work to promote and ensure good governance and respect for human rights,” he said, adding the importance of ensuring the independence of the judiciary and other checks and balances in the Constitution.
 
He said the Auditor General’s Office would continue to carry out its mandate to provide assurance on government’s activities, ensuring value-for-money and the avoidance of waste, and the Complaints Commissioner would encourage government to serve the public better. He further noted that the Information Commissioner’s Office would encourage wide participation from the public in exercising their rights to information as well as hear, investigate and rule on appeals and review the Freedom of Information Law.
 
He said government would look for a Private Finance Initiative for the new court building but that the work of the Grand Court would be facilitated in part through the recent increase in judges for the Financial Services Division and the soon-to-be completed court for that division. The governor also noted that the Drug Rehabilitation Court would be seeking its own funding and  the community’s support in the area of job provision.
 
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office will prepare for the eventual increase in the size of Cabinet while the portfolio of the civil service will introduce e-learning and undertake amendments to the personnel laws in order to enhance efficiency and accountability.
 
Taylor said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service would continue to strengthen its crime-fighting capabilities by hiring suitably qualified staff, training and developing personnel and complementing existing resources. He said it would be developing its intelligence capabilities, in order to better secure our borders against the illegal entry of people, guns and drugs.
Immigration would also work to secure borders and reduce immigration-related crime with the help of the Advanced Passenger Information System and the fingerprinting of all work-permit holders, which will begin in late 2010.
 
There will be more education at the prison, the governor announced, with inmates being encouraged to take more courses, including adult literacy and it will expand rehabilitative opportunities for drug and alcohol abusers. In support of the Alternative Sentencing Law, the governor said 911 Emergency Communications will expand its electronic monitoring function, to provide the option of tagging as a condition of bail. “The department will also implement a closed-circuit TV monitoring centre for the National CCTV Programme,” he added.
Speaking about the various plans in the ministries, the governor announced the establishment of a National Scientific Research Council “to ensure that our natural resources are preserved and protected,” he said.
 
Taylor also announced the move of gender affairs from the Ministry of District Administration to the Ministry of Community Affairs and confirmed that the premier had informed him that Members of the Legislative Assembly would be taking the same 3.2 percent rollback as civil servants but that his salary and that of the Leader of the Opposition would be cut by 10 percent.

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Teen charged in BT robbery

| 15/06/2010 | 27 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news(CNS): Following the armed robbery at a Bodden Town gas station on 11 June and the related police operations over the weekend, a sixteen-year-old boy has been charged with robbery and firearms offences. Police said they had arrested two men shortly after the robbery at Mostyns Gas Station, Bodden Town Road, on Friday night after giving chase to the getaway car and had been fired on by the suspects when they fled the vehicle. On Sunday two other men were arrested after an operation in Prospect. The teen has been charged with one count of robbery and two counts of possession of an unlicensed firearm and is expected to appear in court tomorrow morning. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Police have not yet said if any of the other men will be charged or if any further charges will be brought against the teen regarding the shots that were fired at the police during the chase. Police did confirm however that one of the men that was arrested has been released on police bail but another two remain in custody as police enquiries continue.
Anyone with any information about the crimes should contact Bodden Town police station or call Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Premier predicts further cuts

| 15/06/2010 | 39 Comments

(CNS): Full update 6pm – In his budget address this morning (Tuesday 15 June) the country’s premier has predicted more public sector cuts over the next three years as well as increases in customs duty. For 2010/11 McKeeva Bush confirmed there would be an immediate 25 cent increase on fuel from 1 July and announced an 11 percent cut in public spending this year with more to come in the next. With an estimated core government deficit at the end of 2009/10 fiscal year of around $45 million, he said he would reduce that to less than $32 million by the end of the next financial year. He also confirmed the government’s debt would be increased to almost $624 million with additional borrowing now approved by the UK. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

The premier announced that government would focus on five overall key strategies in order to restore the country’s finances. These will include public sector reform, limits on borrowing, a broadening of revenue base, government expenditure review and the development of public private partnerships. Bush warned of further contractions in Cayman’s economy before the long awaited recovery would start towards the end of 2010.
Although the government is working on restoring fiscal prudence over a three year period, Bush revealed his expectations for revenue and spending for the next financial year, which he said was predicted to be in deficit to the tune of $32 million.
Although he said he was only introducing one new revenue raising measure, which was the 25 cent increase in duty on a gallon of fuel, he said that after working hard with the public sector and statutory authorities he had managed to reduce operating expenditure to $507.75 million — over $68 million less than the civil service had said it would need, and some $25 million less than the original spending predictions for core government in 2009/10.  
The premier confirmed that the government will borrow a further $155 million this year, bringing public debt to a total of $623.7million. “This is not where I want to be and I will take steps to rectify this dangerous path, this year,” Bush told the Legislative Assembly in an address that lasted more than three hours.
He said that government would spend over $108 million on capital projects, including John Grey High School and the Government Administration Building. However, there were no funds allocated to the Frank Sound campus, which government implied would be not be completed in the next fiscal year as it opted to phase down the construction of the school projects.
He said government would invest a further $18.54 million in statutory authorities but subsidies would gradually be reduced in government companies.
The premier said that government expected to end the 2009/10 financial year with a cash balance of $77 million, some 24 million better than expected, and by the end of the 2010/11 budget year government would still have around $66.6 million in the bank.
While other economies around the world were showing improvements as a result of financial stimulus packages by government, he said Cayman was showing signs of improvement as a result of financial prudence, and this would continue over the next three years when spending reduction and divestment would play a key part in government’s plans. By the end of 2010/11, Bush said his government would have reduced the deficit from $81 million when it took office to $31.89 million.
“We have worked assiduously to trim operating expenses in government, fully conscious of the need to maintain morale among staff while choosing the path of least negative impact on the gross domestic product. This is why the non-wage components of expenditure have been tackled more vigorously than the components which have an immediate human face,” Bush stated.
He warned the economic recession was expected to persist for the rest of 2010 with GDP forecasted to fall before growth turns around by the last quarter of the year. “Gradual economic recovery is expected to start in 2011 as two consecutive quarters of positive growth are required to make the recovery official. And this is premised on a strong rebound of tourism-related services, the start of a number of new construction projects and a modest recovery of the financial services sector,” the premier added.
He predicted gradual improvements from the unemployment lows of 6% in 2009, to 4.3% in 2010 and around 3.2% in the next three years.
However he noted that the population was declining and was expected to be cut further by 3.5 percent in the 2010 calendar year, but a definitive population count would be provided by the October census.
“Assuming a modest improvement in expatriate labour employment beginning in 2011 as key industries show signs of recovery,the current estimate is that population size may settle at fifty-three thousand four hundred and thirty-six (53,436) by 2013,” Bush said. The shrinking population will have an impact on local demand for goods and services.
“Housing, which comprises the largest component of the local consumer price index basket, experienced declining prices at an average rate of -5.1 percent in the last three quarters of 2009. With the outflow of foreign workers, it is not expected to reverse in the 2010 calendar year, a downward trend in housing rentals is also likely to continue,” he added.
With an increase in gas and other imported items, average inflation rate would be 2% in 2010 from the negative 1.3 percent in 2009.
Over the next three years, the premier said, government would pursue a limited borrowing policy with no more than $25million or 1% of GDP spent on new capital projects each year as well as further cuts in public spending. He said with the 11% cuts made to the expenditure predictions for the next financial year, government had already made an encouraging start to further cost cuttingin public sector expenses.  
According to the government’s three year plan, it intends to cut core government expenses down to operating to under $480 million in 2011/12 and to just over $462 million in 2012/13 through cuts and divestment.
Once again emphasising his government’s rejection of direct taxation, he said new revenue would come from consumption-based fees. “This type of fee has the benefit of spreading the burden across the wider community while minimizing the impact on businesses,” he said. “The government will therefore be examining the full list of tariffs under the Cayman Islands Customs Law with a view to adjusting some of these rates.”
As VAT would be expensive to introduce, Bush said the alternative of restructuring the current import duties would be a more efficient and cost-effective way to achieve the result of broadening the revenue base.
Bush said that the theme of this budget speech was “Partnership for Recovery” and emphasised the need for a private sector led recovery.
“There must be a new emphasis on the public/private sector partnership to drive our economic recovery. There must be a renewed emphasis on the partnership between the government and the people to deliver social cohesion,” he said.
Concluding his presentation, Bush said his government was advocating that, as the economy is driven by private-sector led growth, the government’s relative share of the economy would naturally decline, leaving government to concentrate on doing what it does best — the provision of services to the public. Warning anyone who was offering opposition instead of a helping hand, Bush said the work would still get done as, he said, he had a job to do.

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From Kabul to Kingston

| 15/06/2010 | 4 Comments

(The Guardian): For two weeks, the Jamaican army and police have fought gun battles in Kingston. The many allegations of human rights abuses committed by the security forces – including extrajudicial killings and the disposal of bodies – have received almost no international attention. Nor have the linkages between the Jamaican crisis, the security establishments in the US, Britain and Canada, and the mutations of the "war on terror".

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Motorcycle smash kills rider

| 15/06/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Update 1:00 pm Tuesday – Police have now confirmed that a 26-year-old man has died following a motorcycle crash in George Town. About 6:20 pm last night, Monday 14 June, the man was riding his blue Suzuki motorcycle east on Linford Pierson Highway, close to Rankin Drive, when his vehicle left the road and crashed through a fence. Emergency services attended the scene and the rider was conveyed to the Cayman Islands Hospital suffering from multiple injuries, police said. A few hours later the rider passed away.  (Photos by Dennie Warren Jr)

Though two earlier accidents this weekend have not been confirmed by the RCIPS, CNS understands that on Friday afternoon, 11 June, a motorbike caught on fire following a crash on the same stretch of road as Monday’s fatal accident and that the driver, who is currently being treated at the hospital, may have slipped in something on the road surface. On Sunday a young driver escaped from a serious accident in George Town when his car crashed into a wall on Walkers Road.

Police enquiries into Monday’s fatal incident are ongoing and any witnesses who have not yet spoken to police should contact PC 158 Gilzeane, RCIPS Traffic Department, on 946-6254.

 

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Leaking rig used Cayman to cut tax bill

| 15/06/2010 | 19 Comments

(Bloomsberg Business): Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig leaking oil in the Gulf of Mexico, reduced its US tax bill by almost $2 billion since 1999 when it moved its headquarters to the Cayman Islands, a published report said. Tax Notes magazine, a weekly journal published by Tax Analysts, said Transocean’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show it cut its overall global tax rate to 16.9 percent in 2009 from 31.6 percent a decade earlier after moving from Houston. Transocean is seeking to limit its liability for the ongoing oil-spill that resulted from the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers.

 BP Plc, which owns the offshore oil lease and had contracted Transocean to drill the well, has primary statutory liability for spill clean-up and restoration costs that could top $23 billion, according to a June 2 Credit Suisse analyst report.

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Budget to reveal new tax

| 15/06/2010 | 42 Comments

(CNS): The government will be presenting its plans today (Tuesday 15 June) at the State Opening of Parliament on how it intends to get the Cayman Islands’ finances back on track. Although government has said it will not introduce any direct taxes, it may be hitting consumers at the gas pump and on CUC bills. Following the premier’s recent trip to the UK, where he gained approval for further public sector borrowing, McKeeva Bush has said he will not introduce any direct taxes. However, the Cayman public can expect to see a new fee introduced on diesel when the Throne Speech and budget presentation are delivered in the Legislative Assembly.

Government is also expected to reveal more about its three-year plan, which was presented to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as the blueprint for addressing the country’s mounting debt. The full budget debate is scheduled to begin on Friday, when legislators will examine the details of government spending in Finance Committee.
During the State Opening of Parliament’s presentations from Governor Duncan Taylor and Premier Bush, the broad outline of how the $150 million in borrowing that the UK has now approved will be spent, the full extent of the 2009/10 financial year deficit, expected revenue for 2010/11, details of operational cuts in government spending and new revenue raising measures are all expected to be revealed.
The government was forced to delay bringing its 2010/11 budget, which as due at the end of April, as a result of the need to gain approval from the UK for further borrowing and the need to make significant cuts in government expenses.
In the 2009/10 budget government had originally predicted a small surplus of around $5million. However, despite further cuts in expenditure in the last few months of the fiscal year, a continued decline in revenue has left government with a deficit of close to $50million.
The UDP administration then put together a three-year plan to present to London, which the premier has said does not include direct taxation, though CNS understands it does include a new tax on diesel. The plan was sent to London a few weeks before the UK election but government was forced to wait for a decision until the election was over.  Bush visited the new OT minister, Henry Bellingham, a Conservative in the new coalition government, last week and was given the go-ahead to extend the country’s borrowing. Bush had originally asked for $207million and has not yet said how the $52 million shortfall will affect the government’s plans.
The ceremonial State Opening of Parliament begins outside the Legislative Assembly this morning at 9:45am

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Crown drops clamp charges

| 15/06/2010 | 40 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island headline news, Cayman courts(CNS): A man who was facing a Grand Court trial for theft after his van was clamped in the Grand Harbour shopping area has been exonerated after charges were discontinued on Friday. Michael Lemay had been accused by the complainant – the clamping company — of stealing its two clamps after he deflated the tires on his vehicle to remove them and drove away. The prosecution told the court that there was no case against Lemay for theft and if anything charges could have been brought against the wrong party, as it was the clampers, in this case, that were a fault for immobilizing the vehicle unlawfully. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Acknowledging the public interest regarding the issue, Senior Crown Counsel John Masters explained the reasons for the prosecution’s decision to drop the case.
In the first of a number of cases where victims of clampers have faced the courts and drawn attention to what is a growing public concern about the legality of this immobilization of vehicles, the court heard that Lemay had not parked in a ‘no parking’ area after all but had been in a 15 minute parking bay for only 12 minutes before the firm clamped his van.
Masters told the Grand Court that the case should never have reached the courtroom. He said there was no evidence that the man had stolen the clamps that he had left by the roadside after removing them from his vehicle, which seemed to have been clamped illegally.
According to the complainant, the clamps had disappeared after the removal, but Masterson said this was not a question for the defendant, as he explained to the court the crown’s decision to dismiss all charges against Lemay.  He said in cases of theft there had to be evidence of dishonesty and in this case there was certainly no intent to deprive the clampers of their property. The crown prosecutor pointed out that it was the clampers who had interfered with the defendant’s van and therefore he had a legitimate right to remove them.
During his explanation regarding the discontinuation of the prosecution, counsel said that the dismissal should not be seen as a message than all clamping was in question. Masters said he was not talking about cases where drivers had unlawfully parked and each case had to be seen on its own merit, but he said it certainly raised the question of the legality of the behaviour of some clamping firms. Masters pointed out that they were not above the law and there was room for some examination of how these firms were operating.
In this particular case, the clamping firm had told police that Lemay had been parked in a fire lane. However, evidence later revealed this was not the case, and Masters pointed out that in any event, if the driver had been parked in an emergency lane there would certainly be questions about the dangers of clamping cars in such places.
Following the discontinuation by the crown of the case, John Furniss, who was representing Lemay, said he was delighted with the outcome on behalf of his client but said it was a pity the case had ever made it to the Grand Court. He was, however, grateful to his learned friend for researching the incident properly and discovering the realities of the case. 

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‘Vuvuzela’ resellers eye World Cup gold

| 15/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(AFP): World Cup fans may be split on South Africa’s vuvuzela, either merry fanfare or deafening din, but two German entrepreneurs who bought the resale rights for Europe hope the horn will spell gold. Cherished by South African football fans, the one-metre long plastic trumpet produces a drone like a giant swarm of bees when thousands are played at once, sparking a growing backlash from broadcasters, fans and even some players. But Frank Urbas and Gerd Kehrberg — who acquired the resale rights for the European Union from the vuvuzela’s South African maker Masincedane Sport in March last year, are betting business will be brisk despite the controversy.

Today’s Vuvuzelas are a modern spin-off of traditional instruments made from spiralling kudu horns — kudus are a kind of antelope.

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Scuba diver reunited with camera lost six months ago

| 15/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(The Telegraph): When Dick de Bruin lost his camera during a scuba diving expedition off the Caribbean island of Aruba, he held out little hope of seeing it again. The Royal Dutch Navy sergeant could only watch helplessly as it floated away while he and his dive team explored a wreck. Yet seven months, 1,100 miles later and one hungry turtle attack later, the camera is back with Mr de Bruin after an extraordinary ocean odyssey, and all thanks to the tireless investigative skills of a Florida coastguard. Paul Shultz spotted the bright red Nikon camera pounding against the rocks of a marina in Key West, Miami, on May 16. It was covered in six months’ worth of crusty sea growth and at first Mr Shultz mistook it for a rotting tomato.

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