Archive for July 29th, 2010

Tourist arrivals up at year’s half way stage

| 29/07/2010 | 11 Comments

(CNS): While the tourist industry worldwide may still have some way to go before it recovers from the impact of the global recession, passenger arrivals in the Cayman Islands are at the 2010 halfway mark showing improvement on 2009. More passengers arrived on the islands both by air and by boat this year than last. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Tourism at the end of June well over 126,000 cruise passengers had visited Grand Cayman in the first six months of the year compared to last and over 30,000 more passengers had passed through Owen Roberts International Airport. 

The DoT website states that in 2009 between 1 January and 30 June 739, 562 passengers came on cruise ships while in 2010 866,340 have visited in the same time. Meanwhile at the airport 162,070 people have visited by air since 1 January 2010 to the end of June compared to 132,905 last year over the same time.
According to a recently published report on the region’s tourism industry the Caribbean experienced a mixed start to 2010, with sharp differences between countries in terms of tourist arrivals. The report states however that in general, the picture was positive, with several countries posting increases in tourist arrivals, following a year of overall decline in 2009.
However, experts warn with the 2010 hurricane season forecast to be heavier than 2009 arrival figures in all Caribbean destinations are likely to slow again before picking up in the pre-Christmas high season.

Figures released this week also revealed that travel by Americans to the Caribbean increased in the first quarter of this year. The US Office of Travel and Tourism Industries said air travel to the Caribbean went up two percent in April, the last month of reporting, and five percent over the year to date.

Caribbean figures from Europe were less encouraging, down 43 percent in the first half of the year, which was probably as a result of flight interruption from Iceland’s volcanic ash.

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Cayman may get EU cash to help small businesses

| 29/07/2010 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Local small business could soon benefit from a share of a European Union grant earmarked for UK and Dutch overseas territories. Although it is unclear exactly what for or how much Cayman may receive, the European Development Fund (EDF) has earmarked €15million for a regional programme to focus on strengthening the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s). Representatives from the Department of Commerce and Investment (DCI) and the Cayman Islands Small Business Association (CISBA) met with their regional counterparts in Tortola earlier this month to find a way to allocate the funds.

According to a statement from the DCI (formerly the investment bureau) the money is intended to “reduce social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities of SME’s” and during the meeting participants from the various governments spent time “brainstorming” how to use the money.
The DCI said ways to drive enhanced cooperation and competitiveness that should eventually lead to increased employment within the sector, a growth in market share and an extension in the lifespan of small businesses were the topics of discussion.
“Tactical solutions presented included developing a regional database to increase market access, sharing best practice, and securing technical support for the capacity building programmes of SME intermediaries to facilitate the on-going provision of training opportunities in the areas of business planning, resource optimization, ICT, marketing and management skills,” the release stated without giving any idea what that would actually mean for local business here in Cayman.
DCI Business Advisor, Charmaine Moss, spoke highly of the workshop. “DCI and CISBA benefitted immensely from attending this session,” she said. “Not only were we able to use the peer-to-peer exchanges to gain insights into what other territories were doing but we were also able to share challenges re policy constraints and actively participate in forums geared towards finding effective mechanisms to create strong linkages within the region’s OCT’s.”
According to the DCI The consultants are expected to submit a draft report to the EDF in August summarizing the meeting outcomes and a decision will subsequently be made on the distribution of funds based on the findings and each country’s needs assessment..

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East End shelter managers wanted for this season

| 29/07/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): With over five months of what is expected to be a very busy 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season the Shelter Operations Sub-Committee of Hazard Management Cayman Islands says it needs volunteer managers for the three East End hurricane shelters. Government officials said that previous experience in the role is not necessary. Training sessions for recruits will take place on Saturday, 14 August from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00pm at the East End Civic Centre.  Anyone interested in doing their bit to help the district through the season is asked to let the department k now by 10 August.

Volunteers are being asked to contact the Department of Children and Family Services Disaster Services Coordinator Lynda Mitchell on 949-0290 or 925-5346, or visit the DCFS office at1st Floor, BritCay House, 236 Eastern Avenue.

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TV show reveals tips on tackling obesity in kids

| 29/07/2010 | 2 Comments

(CNS): With rates of seriously overweight children increasing locally the government is continuing in the fight against childhood obesity. The Ministry of Health has partnered with Cayman based non-governmental organisation, AMF Partners, to air a television programme that examines the problem of overweight kids. The programme focuses on how parents can get kids excited about family exercise time and how schools can be part of the solution by banishing unhealthy snack options and offering fun physical activities. This is the second show in a two part series which will air on Monday evening at 8pm (2 August) on Cayman27. 

The issue of obesity among young people presents a serious problem for the Cayman Islands. Data from the Health Services Authority reveals that almost a quarter of all school children are overweight and another 14.8 percent are at risk of becoming overweight. In1987 18.8 percent of children aged between three and seven were already obese when entering the school system by 2005 the figure had increase to 45 percent and it is believed that the figure is even greater today among children in that age group.
Children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely to be obese adults and 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 has serious implications for the future.
 “The sad reality is that overweight children face the same health problems as overweight adults—high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problemsand high cholesterol. Moreover, overweight children are far more likely to experience sadness, loneliness and nervousness,” Mark Scotland the Minister of health stated. “To my mind, these provide more than enough compelling reasons to take a stand against unhealthy choices. Parents who want to change can start by watching The Biggest Generation.”
Aside from offering advise to parents and schools about healthy lifestyles The Biggest Generation is described as an inspirational programme as it shows how a group of youngsters takes charge of their health by combating school lunches and vending machines.

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Hospital makes profit

| 29/07/2010 | 30 Comments

(CNS): For the first time since its creation the local Health Service Authority has ended a financial year in the black. The chair of the HSA board revealed that the Cayman Islands hospital took in $2.3 million more in revenue than its operating costs for the financial year 2009/10 to 30 June, marking a significant turning point in the hospital’s financial difficulties. However, both Canover Watson and HSA Chief Executive Officer Lizette Yearwood were at pains to stress that the figure would have been $14.3 milllion if all of the patients treated at the hospital had paid their bills. Yearwood listed a catalogue of services and improvements that could be made at the HSA if the outstanding debt was repaid and reinvested into the facility.

Speaking at a special briefing to announce the launch of the hospital’s new five year plan at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, Yearwood stressed the good news that the hospital was finally more than breaking even. However, the CEO pointed out that the people in the community could help improve matters further by paying their bills when their insurance coverage fell short.
With $12 million in bad debt at the hospital for this year alone (part of an accumulative total of around $40 milllion) Yearwood said if the HSA could get that money it could cover the cost of a cat lab, bring in a cardiologists, expand oncology, improve the hospital’s ICU, to name but a few improvements. “The medical team is literally bubbling with ideas about things we could do if we were able to collect on the bad debt,” Yearwood added.
With around 15% of the hospital’s revenue currently being lost in bad debt, it is still a major priority for the hospital to focus on collecting the money owed for services delivered.
However, Watson, the board chair, said the hospital had achieved a major turnaround in its finances and that it was on track to meet the Public Accounts Committee’s September deadline to have all of its financial statements up to date and annual reports ready for the Legislative Assembly.
After years of losses, which were subsidized by government, the hospital is now on track for a much brighter future. The board chair said a new five year plan had been approved, which the members hope will see the facility go from strength to strength. Watson also announced that fees would be increased to reflect the real costs at the hospital, as he said in some cases it was providing services to the public at far below the real cost.
Talking about the turnaround at the facility, Watson said the HSA was still too often the subject of negative reporting that was not always based in fact but he believed that was a legacy of the past disarray and turmoil. “That is behind us now and there are many success stories and we would like the media to spread the new message,” he said.
The board chair said he believed people do not appreciate the complexities of a health care system that provides care for everyone that graces its doors but at the same time has to remain financially viable. However, as a result of a major effort on the part of everyone involved at the hospital and the board, they had achieved that goal. Watson also paid tribute to the previous board and in particular the former chair, Pastor Al Ebanks, who he said had begun the work to turn the hospital around.
Watson said that the new five year plan was all about what was in the interest of the patients, and the goal was to deliver the highest possible quality of health care to the people of the Cayman Islands.  Watson also spoke of the importance of continuing to improve the quality and level of services available at the hospital in order to reduce the very expensive overseas referrals that cost the public purse significant amounts ever year. He explained that the more the hospital could improve and expand its clinical provisions the more it could reduce the money spent athospitals abroad.
The new five year plan is made up of four main goals. The first of which is to decrease the incidences of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and obesity; the second  is to implement evidence based practice in all areas of clinical care by 2015; the third is to have collections match expenses by 2015 and to have at least 90% satisfaction rates from patients.
Watson described seven strategies which he said would help the HSA achieve the objectives, from working with local partners to encourage healthy lifestyles and adopting patient friendly process to recruiting and retaining the best medical staff.
Watson also pointed to the pressing need for legislative change, which the ministry was supporting, in particular the need to improve the basic health care plans offered by local insurance providers as it was far below the coverage required in order to provide care to patients.
“Our progress has been remarkable but no one at the HSA or the ministry believes success is guaranteed,” Watson said, adding there was more work to be done to ensure the hospital provided the best possible care for everyone who came through its doors.

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Schwarzenegger declares California fiscal emergency

| 29/07/2010 | 0 Comments

(Reuters) – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency over the state’s finances on Wednesday, raising pressure on lawmakers to negotiate a state budget that is more than a month overdue and will need to close a $19 billion shortfall. The deficit is 22 percent of the $85 billion general fund budget the governor signed last July for the fiscal year that ended in June, highlighting how the steep drop in California’s revenue due to recession, the housing slump, financial market turmoil and high unemployment have slashed its all-important personal income tax collection.

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Privy Council says judge misbehaved

| 29/07/2010 | 64 Comments

(CNS): The UK Privy Council has found that the Cayman Islands Grand Court Judge, Justice Priya Levers did misbehave and should be removed from the bench. The judicial committee’s judgment, which was posted on the court’s website Thursday, states that “fatal flaws in a judicial career that has had many admirable features” led to the committee’s conclusion to recommend her removal. The Privy Council said that Levers made comments in court “which ranged from the inappropriate to the outrageous about those who appeared before her, and to her own colleagues.”  The governor’s office said Thursday afternoon that it had the report and the governor (who is currently off island) will make an announcement shortly.

The court said it was most concerned that Levers had given the appearance of racism, bias against foreigners and bias in favour of the defence in criminal cases.

Based on the findings of the tribunal that was held in the Cayman Islands in May last year and its report, which came before the Privy Council in June of this year, the senior judges found that one comment Levers had made about her judicial colleagues did constitute misconduct and comments in court were misbehaviour. But the judges also criticised the tribunal for its comments about Levers before the Privy Council had reviewed the case.

“The castigation of the conduct of Madam Justice Levers in extreme terms in the executive summary of its Report was not appropriate as it might irreparably have damaged her reputation before her conduct had been appraised by the Board,” the committee said.
In its conclusion, however, the committee explained that while Levers had many “admirable qualities” and set “high standards”, those high standards were part of her downfall and the board was satisfied that comments made by the judge were enough to recommend an end to her judicial position in Cayman.
“Levers J has high standards and shows strong disapproval for those whom she does not consider measure up to them,” the committee said in it is conclusion of the case against Levers. “That disapproval has extended both to some who have appeared in her court and to her own colleagues. Unfortunately she has not kept that disapproval to herself.”
The committee said that Levers’ disapproval and inappropriate comments appear to have been directed predominantly against women, and particularly women from outside the Cayman Islands, but said it would not be right to deduce from those instances any race or gender bias on the part of Levers.
“By the time that the Chief Justice had prepared his memorandum of 24 May 2007 these comments had cumulatively amounted to misbehaviour justifying the removal of Levers J from the bench,” the judges said, adding that removal would have been justified by her comments in one court case alone. “Anyone who heard those comments could justifiably have concluded that a judge who behaved in this way should not be permitted to continue to sit.”
The Privy Council noted that the chief justice had not considered referring her conduct to the governor at that point but had sent the memo to the judge in the hope that it would lead her to avoid such behaviour in the future.
“Unfortunately this hope was not fulfilled. Levers J accepted that her comments … had been inappropriate, although she argued that they had been misconstrued, but she did not accept that apart from these two incidents the Chief Justice’s criticism was justified.”
The committee said Levers believed she was being unfairly victimized, which soured her relationship with the chief justice, who she regularly disparaged, along with other judicial colleagues, in private conversations to an extent that constituted misconduct.
“In the eyes of the Board, Levers J continued to behave in a manner that was unacceptable in the performance of her judicial duties,” the committee said in its judgment, adding that in three cases Levers’ behaviour amounted to serious misconduct.
“They have been fatal flaws in a judicial career that has had many admirable features,” the top judges stated in the conclusion, adding that they were satisfied that Levers was not fit to continue to serve as a judge of the Grand Court.
It will now be in the hands of Duncan Taylor, the Cayman Islands governor, to officially remove Levers from office.  The judge was first suspended in September in 2008 by the former governor, Stuart Jack.
Among the accusations made against Levers was that she wrote a series of letters published in Cayman Net News criticising the judiciary as a whole under a number of pseudonyms. However, Levers denied the accusation, and after hearing evidence the tribunal also concluded it was very unlikely that she was behind the correspondence.

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Catron beats crown again

| 29/07/2010 | 49 Comments

(CNS): Local activist Sandra Catron has once again faced down the power of the state in a court of law and had another case against her thrown out. The former political candidate for Bodden Town and one time radio talk show host was facing charges of theft and damage to property, over a lease dispute but her case was dismissed by the chief magistrate after Catron’s no case submission. Although Catron is not a qualified lawyer this is the second time she has taken on crown counsel without representation and the second time that she has had the prosecution case against her overturned. Catron said she was absolutely delighted that finally her cases were all over.(Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

“I am elated that I can finally put all these ridiculous charges behind me and move on to more positive things with my life,” Catron told CNS. “I am so happy it is over as while I knew there was no merit in the crown’s case it is still extremely stressful to have to deal with court procedures alone.”
She also said she was really pleased that the judge saw there was no case to answer and that the courts time and public money was not wasted anymore than it already had been.
In this case Catron explained that her former commercial landlord in West Bay had accused her of stealing items after she moved from the premises in November 2009 that Catron said she had purchased. She said that during the crown’s case the witnesses had admitted that they were not sure whether they had owned the items in question at all and even less so when Catron produced sales receipts for them.
The second count of property damage boiled down to a basic contractual dispute. The landlord had first instructed Catron to remove the upgrades she had made to the property an instruction she complied with despite a change of heart by the landlord who had later instructed Catron to leave the fittings. Tanya Lobban crown counsel had said Catron had deliberately caused the damage because she had not been compensated for the upgrades.
Catron said that Magistrate Margaret Ramsey-Hale said the crown had not proved any intent and as the landlords didn’t appear to understand the contract then the defendant could not be expected to either. She noted that it was purely a contractual dispute andshould not have been part of criminal proceedings.
In Catron’s previous courtroom drama she was accused by the prosecution of stealing a dog. Catron however, contended that she had found and made every effort to locate the owners of the lost animal and had offered to return it when the owners showed up once she was compensated for the medical expenses. When the owners did not pay, Catron did not give up the dog, by which time she had become much attached, and as a result the animal was seized taken to the pound and Catron was arrested and charged.
Following the crown’s case against her in those proceedings Catron made a no case submission to acting magistrate John Furness who also threw out that case.
Speaking about what was a difficult experience for a lay person Catron said, “The first case was certainly beneficial to me for my second court appearance. This time I was ready with my various court of appeal cases and authorities. I was certainly more confident and comfortable with the procedures but most of all I was not so emotionally involved as I was over the case with the dog.”
With so much court room experience now under her belt, Catron who has a law degree said she was contemplating taking the next step and going on to do her bar exam.

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