Archive for July 12th, 2010

Planning changes cause alarm

| 12/07/2010 | 46 Comments

(CNS): The proposal by government to remove the need for approval by the Legislative Assembly to future changes to the planning regulations has met with considerable opposition. The independent member and the opposition members have all pointed to this particular amendment as being a dangerous move and one which will prevent them supporting the proposed amendments to the current planning law. Arden McLean said the amendment would circumvent the rights of the people and questioned whether it was the first step towards changing the land use in East End in order to facilitate the East End cargo dock.

The East End opposition member said that for five people alone to be responsible for deciding how land is used without consultation with the people was unthinkable and warned that if the law passed with this amendment the first people may know about changes to their neighbourhood would be when a garbage dump appeared by their homes. He said the importance of land use was such that the people who created the planning law had written in the need to consult parliament over any changes to it.

“The original architects of this law knew what they were doing,” McLean told the Legislative Assembly on Monday morning, as he explained that by bringing regulation changes in the planning law to the House they would be public. “I believe the provision was deliberate. There is nothing more important than land use. It is necessary that the people are made aware when there are changes.”

While other laws do have regulations changed in Cabinet, McLean pointed out that planning was the exception because of its wide impact on everyone in the community. He said there was no reason to remove the provision for the planning regulations to be approved by the Legislative Assembly and he wondered at the real motivation.

“I have been reliably informed that this government was going to change the zoning to allow for the cargo dock,” he said, referring to proposals to move the George Town cargo operations to his East End constituency, to which McLean has said he and the people he represents are opposed.

“Is this the first step in trying to circumvent the legislation so no one will know until it has been gazetted?” he asked rhetorically. “That is a very dangerous thing,” McLean added.

He said government could not dictate to people in a democracy and just change people’s way of life without consulting them, and only in Russia would governments do such things. He pointed out the need for people to have a say on such important matters and that was why there was an opposition. “You think opposition is just for opposition sake,” he questioned, pointing out that, while the government may never listen, at least the people get to know what government is proposing when things are discussed in the Legislative Assembly.

He explained that all of the people’s elected representatives had to know when changes to land use were being planned, not just the five Cabinet members.

The East End representative went on to implore the press to tell people what government was planning to do. “The people need to know that theirrepresentatives will be circumvented,” McLean said of clause 12 in the proposed amendment to the current Development and Planning Law.

Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts said that, while there were many things in the law which he and his colleagues could support, he agreed that unless this proposed amendment was removed the PPM would not support it.

Ezzard Miller, the member for North Side, also said he could not back the law, despite supporting a number of the proposed changes, because of this particular amendment. He also objected to clause 15, which would allow the governor in Cabinet to waive any requirements under the law if it was in the public interest.

Pointing to the need for the public to be informed of any changes to planning regulations, Miller said the use of land could be changed in his district and his constituents may never know until it was too late. He used the example of the current proposed National Conservation Law when he said that his constituents had been trying “to fight off environmental zealots” who could cause land use to be changed rendering land worthless without public knowledge.

The debate on the amendments is set to continue this afternoon.

Continue Reading

Police arrest suspected mugger in George Town

| 12/07/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police confirmed today that a 36-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in police custody on suspicion of robbery and possession of an offensive weapon following a mugging last week. At about 2.10 am on Thursday 8 July a man claiming to be in possession of a gun threatened another male in Fairbanks Road, George Town. The suspect then tore a necklace from around his victim’s neck and ran off towards nearby bushes.

The victim said he did not see a gun during the robbery and no-one was injured in the incident. At about 7.55 pm on Sunday night (11 July) USG officers carried out an operation in relation to the robbery. As officers approached the suspect in Diaz lane, George Town, he produced a knife. The officers quickly disarmed the suspect who was then arrested and taken into police custody.

None of the officers involved in the incident were injured and police said the enquiries are ongoing.


Continue Reading

More fee increases coming

| 12/07/2010 | 32 Comments

(CNS): When the Legislative Assembly resumes this morning (Monday 12 July) the members will be deliberating amendments to the Planning Law in which the government has proposed increases to the infrastructure fees and to introduce a significant daily fine for those who do not maintain their property. Speaking in the LA on Friday as he presented the bill, the premier said he expected to be criticised but he believed that Cayman would see another development boom and when it came he wanted to ensure the country benefited from it. “I know these fee increases may seem heavy and I will be criticised for stifling development, but they are better than property and income tax,” McKeeva Bush said.

Bush said he had discussed them with the industry and the changes had been drawn up with the help of a locally appointed committee.  He added that he did not believe it was right that people used the country to make money but the government got “a pittance for it” when the country was giving up the environment to developers. He said he was in favour of people developing to help with Cayman’s standard of living but there had to be fees paid for things.
Bush brought the amendments to the House in his role as minister for development and planning. The considerable number of amendments to the law include a $5,000 per day fine for ordinary property owners that allow their properties to become derelict or unsightly, and $25,000 for those in hotel zones – a fee likely to directly impact the owner of the former Hyatt hotel which has been deserted since Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Proposed changes to the law include a reduction in the radius developers need to poll from 1500 feet to 1000 feet, and it removes the need for government to bring amendments to the planning regulations to the Legislative Assembly, placing the power directly in the hands of Cabinet. Bush said that many of the other changes merely legislated policy that was already been followed.
Some fee increases in zone A are almost double, moving the infrastructure fee from $2.50 per square foot to $4.50 for major developments. Although Zone C remains at 50 cents, most other categories are increasing and some properties are being re-zoned, such as the coastal property along South Sound, which will now become Zone A, while some areas of Bodden Town currently in A will move down to B.
However, the introduction of phased payment rather than at the point of application will offset the increases, Bush noted, making them easier for property owners and developers to bear as they can spread the cost. He also noted that the money raised would be used in part to properly fund the country’s affordable housing plans.
Bush pointed out that the planning law had been drawn up in the 1970s and was in desperate need of modernisation, and this was one of the issues he has campaigned on.
Check back to CNS this evening for more details on the law and the ensuing debate in the Legislative Assembly.

Continue Reading

Dangers of permitting gambling in Cayman

| 12/07/2010 | 116 Comments

The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has always opposed gambling. This is principally because it is contrary to our Christian beliefs, but it affects all of society, with the evidence that gambling leads to a deterioration of the social fabric as it exploits human weaknesses, undermines work ethic, leads to increased crime, is destructive of family life and promotes personal and institutional greed. It exploits the most vulnerable in society and represents a major transfer of resources from the very poor to the very rich.

The United Church understands that government needs to broaden its revenue base. Various proposals for a national lottery and casinos have been brought up in the past, giving similar reasons, namely that government was running out of options to raise revenue. However, the country has managed to get by and find ways to keep the country prosperous without resorting to legalised gambling. It can continue to do so. An editorial on the subject in the Christian Science Monitor said it well: “A nation that fosters a reliance on chance and officially endorses a culture of irresponsibility all in the name of increased revenues and free enterprise is certainly playing games with its moral foundations.”

Crime is a serious, escalating problem in the Cayman Islands. Statistics from around the world substantiate that gambling increases crime. The poor and the youth are most vulnerable but the problem of gambling can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or social status. The Commonwealth nation of Australia, that has long advocated gambling as a national pastime, is now reviewing its policy because of the growing rate of addiction and the impact on the social fabric of the nation.

It is estimated that 10% of problem gamblers and two thirds of those who are receiving counselling have committed a crime because of their gambling. The first gambling-related crime is often perpetrated in the same year as, or just a few years after, starting regular gambling.

Gambling crime can be divided into four categories: illegal gambling, crimes committed to support a gambling habit, crimes that occur around the gambling locations, family abuse.

The major reason for gamblers to commit crimes is to fund their gambling activities. Gambling crime includes theft, forgery, embezzlement, fraud. It can also include domestic violence, assault, child neglect, suicide, prostitution, vandalism, breaking and entering, and home invasion. A significant amount of the crime related to gambling is not reported to authorities.

Organised crime has a big stake in the gambling industry. One former Florida gGovernor has said, “The Mafia follows gambling like sharks follow blood.” Casinos are particularly attractive to organised crime. Casinos present ideal opportunities for the skimming of profits as well as the laundering of moneys already earned through crime. Related crime such as loansharking and prostitution follow closely.

Local proponents of gambling emphasise the supposedly tremendous employment benefits but have not published hard facts to support this contention. In the US, there have been, instead, reports of the grave economic difficulties faced by many employees of casinos. We certainly cannot afford to have any more people in Cayman being employed in poverty creating jobs. A study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis summarised that: “The employment effects of casino gaming are difficult to quantify. A casino may draw labor from outside of the local area, thus leaving local employment conditions unchanged … It is possible that casino gaming may reduce employment in other local industries… The net effect of gaming could be positive or negative depending upon the degree to which casino gaming substitutes for or complements consumption at other local businesses.”

That possibility should not be overlooked here, where existing businesses are struggling to maintain their individual share of the tourist’s wallet. With casino gambling now so readily available in the US and our neighbouring islands, surely the question must be asked as to how will Cayman outshine their gambling industries that would cause tourists to incur the higher expense of a Cayman vacation to do what they can do at home or in one of our lower-cost neighbours. Certainly it seems basic to ask how will gambling differentiate our tourism product from that of our competitors where it is already available. It is widely suggested that this blurring of our tourism product in recent years has been a major factor in its relative decline and instead we must seek to recapture the differential advantage we previously offered.

The Cayman Islands has traditionally been known for its friendly, hospitable, Christian, hard working people. Crime used to be almost non-existent. We must all work together to restore that reputation. Introduction of legalised gambling will not do this. Government has a moral responsibility to enact laws which do not undermine or weaken the moral fabric of society. Let us clearly convey this to our elected representatives as they seek to hear the will of the people. Cayman can learn from the serious problems encountered by other countries that have extensive gambling and not follow down that same path. Any potential short term gain does not justify the long term detrimental effects that gambling will have on our society.

Continue Reading

Kurt hits out at Mac comment

| 12/07/2010 | 42 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island headline news, Cayman Legislative Assembly(CNS): Following comments by the premier to the Jamaican Gleaner last week, the leader of the opposition has criticised him for making mischief on the international stage. In an interview with the paper during his visit to Jamaica, McKeeva Bush said he expected the opposition would not be happy about any moves he made to remove the Cayman visa requirement for visiting Jamaicans already holding a US visa. However, Kurt Tibbetts pointed out that while in office his administration had made efforts in the same vein but they were stalled as a result of issues with the Jamaican government. Tibbetts also noted the visa requirement was imposed at the requests of Cayman’s law enforcement agencies. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

“The premier has not had any discussions with us (the opposition),” Kurt Tibbetts said in the Legislative Assembly on Friday afternoon. Tibbetts added that if he had, Bush would have known what the situation was. “It is wrong of the premier to make such sweeping statements on the international stage about a local issue that he knows is very emotive.”    
The leader of the opposition asked permission of the Speaker tomake a statement as the House was adjourned to express his displeasure and asked the premier to desist from such “mischief“, as he said it looked bad on the country. He said the premier should have consulted with the various interdiction agencies in Cayman regarding this issue before he made such a public comment.
Tibbetts pointed out the opposition would not object if something could be worked out and Bush should not have presumed to know how the PPM would have reacted or that it would not have been well received.
The premier said he expected that the opposition would have come to the LA using “inflamed language” about the situation and criticised the former PPM government of mistreating people from Jamaica and introducing immigration laws that ruined business.
He accused the opposition of keeping any talks about the visa secret when they were in office and asked why was this the first time he was hearing about any such talks they had supposedly had with the Jamaican government.

Continue Reading

Search on for the next Miss Cayman

| 12/07/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Having missed the competition in 2009 as a result of financial problems the committee has announced the return of Miss Cayman for 2010/11. Members said the pageant is back on track and will take place on Saturday, 25 September at the Lion’s Centre when the new ‘face’ of the Cayman Islands will be selected to represent the country at Miss World, Miss universe and as a tourist ambassador for the destination. The competition is open to women between18-25 and those interested in entering are invited to attend the preliminary Meet & Greet session scheduled for 14 July at Abacus restaurant in Camana Bay, starting at 6 pm.

“Earning the title of Miss Cayman Islands is a major accomplishment for any young woman fortunate enough to win it” said Lynn Bodden-Smatt, the recently elected Committee Chair. “That individual gains a fully paid educational sponsorship, a car and many other wonderful prizes in addition to having one of the most memorable experiences of her lifetime. Our competition is centeredon a “Beauty with a Purpose” theme so contestants select a charity as their platform and work with that organization to foster public awareness and generate private sector support for its cause.”
High school graduates between the ages of 18 and 25 who are single, of good character and possess charm, poise, personality, and have beauty of face and figure are encouraged to enter. Full details of the selection criteria are included on application forms which can be downloaded from or accessed through the Ministry of Tourism.
Other planned events on the action packed calendar include the Platform Launch on August 21 and the black-tie fund-raiser, known as the Minister’s Ball on 18 September.
The Ministry of Tourism holds the franchise for both the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions so the winner represents The Cayman Islands at both; the 2010 Miss World event on 23 October and next year’s Miss Universe.

Continue Reading

CIMA admits weaknesses in SIBL

| 12/07/2010 | 19 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Business News, CIMA, Cedrus Investments(CNS): Following questions by CNS readers about Cedrus Investments, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) has issued a statement indicating that it could be the law rather than CIMA which is at fault. OffshoreAlert, the Miami based newsletter, published an article this month raising concerns about the owner of Cedrus and asking if local financial institutions in Cayman doing business with it had done the due diligence. Explaining that the firm is registered as an ‘Excluded Person’ under the Securities Investment Business Law and is exempt from holding a license, CIMA indicated it could not refuse to register such an entity if the legal requirements were met. The authority also noted that the financial service providers are obligated to carry out the appropriate due diligence on their clients.

CIMA explained on Friday that there are four categories in which entities registered as Excluded Persons can fall as specified in the Forth Schedule of the Securities Investment Business Law  (2004 Revision) (SIBL): a company that is part of a group of companies and is providing services only to companies in the same group; an entity that is providing services to sophisticated or high net worth individuals or to legal entities whose shareholders are sophisticated/ high net worth; and entities serving sophisticated/ high net worth persons and which are regulated in respect of securities investment business by a recognised overseas regulatory authority in the country or territory (other than Cayman) in which the securities investment business is being conducted.
“As it currently stands, the SIBL gives CIMA full regulatory, supervisory and enforcement powers in relation to applicants for, and holders of, licences. This includes the responsibility for doing due diligence on applicants. However, the SIBL contains no provision for CIMA to refuse to register an applicant in the Excluded Person category once the applicant falls within the list of Excluded Persons specified in the Fourth Schedule and meets the requirement to submit an annual declaration to CIMA (set out in section 5(4) of the law),” officials from CIMA stated.
The authority added, however, that Excluded Persons are fully subject to the anti-money laundering/combating terrorism regulations.
“When the Securities Investment Business Law was enacted by the government in 2002, the intent of the Excluded Person provision was to provide a less onerous regime for financial service providers who exclusively serve sophisticated/high net worth investors,” CIMA explained. “This was on the basis that such investors understand and take responsibility for doing, themselves, the due diligence that CIMA does with respect to licensed entities.”
The statement from CIMA continued to explain that those doing business with the ‘Excluded Persons” have responsibilities under the law. “Financial service providers involved in relevant financial business are obligated under the Money Laundering Regulations to carry out the appropriate due diligence on their clients. The Excluded Person regime was built on the premise that these service providers carry out their responsibilities under the Money Laundering Regulations and that they take seriously their duty to protect the reputation of the Cayman Islands in choosing and doing business with clients,” it stated.
Although the regime for registration rather than licensing for certain categories of service providers is recognised and utilised by a number of other jurisdictions, CIMA admitted this was under review.
“CIMA has recognised weaknesses in the securities investment business regime and for that reason began a formal review of the regime in 2009, covering, among other things, the
Excluded Person provision. Proposals for enhancements to the regime have been submitted by CIMA to government for consideration,” the authority said, adding that it was limited in what it could say about this specific situation.
“Under existing law, CIMA is constrained in the manner and the extent to which it can publicly discuss the affairs of individual licensees/registrants and must act, as it has always done, in a responsible manner regarding disclosure of such information. Any further statement by CIMA with respect to Cedrus Investment Ltd., as with any other licensee or registrant, will only take place within the context of what is permissible under law,” CIMA said.

Continue Reading