Archive for September 21st, 2010

Government buy-in and public participation needed

| 21/09/2010 | 3 Comments

Coming from a country where FOI has been in place for over a decade provides me with a unique vantage point from which to observe how Cayman is implementing the law, coping with new responsibilities and openness and how the public is embracing (or not embracing) these new rights.

The two most prominent points that come to mind as I think about writing this article are government “buy in” and public participation, both of which are necessary for the law to work properly and be meaningful.

What do I mean by government buy in? I mean a genuine effort by those who run the show to provide support for FOI processes, respect the timelines prescribed in the law and respond as openly and completely as possible to requests no matter who has made them and no matter the perceived reasons for the request. During my time here I have seen a dedicated commitment to accomplishing the goals of the law from a large number of civil servants. In some other cases, unfortunately, I have also seen a good amount of apathy from a small group of others who hold key positions within government. It is disheartening to see this when they are the ones that should be champions of the law rather than neutral or, in some cases, negative. Now, this is not to say that Cayman is unique in these attitudes as I have experienced similar trains of thought back home. The uniqueness here, I think, is the fact that some of the negative attitudes come from some of the highest places in government and in such a small community this can have serious ramifications on the acceptance and continued use of something as potentially controversial as FOI.

The other piece of the puzzle which has to be in place for this system to work, and with which I have seen and heard some issues, is public participation. So far, I believe the trend has been that the media and a few savvy, interested members of the public have been responsible for making a large number of the requests so far. This is evidenced by the news stories coming out in the media and the appeals that have been received by the ICO. This is not necessarily the case when it comes to all the public authorities as I know that a large number of separate individuals have requested their files from the Immigration Department. For other public authorities, however, the trend that a few are responsible for the most requests seems to stand firm. While the media does have the responsibility of conducting investigative journalism and informing the public of what they find, the public should not solely rely on them to keep the government on its toes.

I know there is still a large number of people that know little or nothing about FOI. While it is true that some people will just never be interested in the topic, I get the sense that many are at times reluctant to learn about or use the FOI system in fear that they may be singled out. A fear of repercussions if they do not make their requests anonymously may in some cases be well founded. Anonymity is especially important in a community as small as the Cayman Islands and efforts should be taken not to erode this protection or an increase in public participation may never be possible. People have a right to know what their government is doing. The culture has to change so that questioning the government and the answering of those questions should be the norm rather than the exception.

Of course change does not take place overnight. In a short period of time the government has been forced to at least partially open its doors to a level of public scrutiny that it never experienced before. For some this scrutiny can come across as threatening and, in a sense, unnatural. Change will take time. While I have picked on perhaps a couple of the more negative aspects of the Cayman FOI arena it does not mean that I have not seen other very promising aspects as well, especially from some of the very hard working Information Managers whose job it is to keep the FOI system running. The cultural change will be gradual and over time, hopefully, FOI will become more mainstream. Inevitably there will be dissenters and people that will say FOI is too much work and too costly. These people’s voices will fade, believe me. I just hope the cultural change will come before any possible negative legislative changes can be made, such as the inability to make anonymous requests or an exorbitant increase in fees, which are within the government’s power to make happen.


Cory Martinson is a former appeals and policy analyst with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

Continue Reading

Caymanian game designer hits global apps stage

| 21/09/2010 | 38 Comments

(CNS): Local games designer Garth Humphreys has made history by becoming the first Caymanian to have a game application he designed published and distributed by Apple iTunes. His game Wubble is now available in the iTunes App Store and Humphreys says he feels like he has hit the big time. The game is a simple, yet fun word challenge for all ages and it has placed Humphreys on the world stage of game applications. While Humphrey’s says he’s not expecting to be rich beyond his wildest dreams yet the satisfaction of getting his game published is a pretty good reward.

“It won’t make me rich, but just seeing Wubble take off, gives me great satisfaction. Being picked up by a global company is a big feather in my cap and shows that perseveration pays off. This is abig break for me,” Humphreys explained, adding that he loves animation and games and has been working on perfecting a game of his own for some time. Gizmoko Games is the studio owned by Humphreys where he works on developing games, interactive websites and animated commercials with Adobe Flash. 
As with many big ideas, Wubble had a rather obscure start. “It actually came from discussing a puzzle game with an underwater bubble theme with my fiancé in a restaurant, hence my tag line ‘burst their bubble with the highest score in the game called Wubble!’” Humphreys revealed.
The game challenges players word skills as they must try to unscramble as many six-letter words as they can in order to be crowned the champion wordsmith.
Wubble is now available for download for the iPhone and iPad for $1.99 ( ).

Continue Reading

Small hedge funds head for closure say experts

| 21/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): As much as 20 percent of hedge funds globally may be liquidated by the first quarter because smaller managers are starved for fees and new capital, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. Hedge fund managers overseeing less than $100 million may be the worst hit, said Justin Fredericks, New York-based head of introductions, a prime brokerage team that brings together hedge funds and potential investors. Hedge funds globally returned on average 1.65% according to Hedge Fund Research Inc., headed for the third-worst annual return since the Chicago-based company started to track data in 1990 on concern that the recovery in economic growth may falter.

About 93 percent of the $9.5 billion net inflows into the industry in the second quarter went to managers overseeing $5 billion or more, said HFR.

 “Going into the year-end, there will be significant closures and we estimate it could be as high as 20 percent,” Fredericks said in an interview Sept. 17 in Hong Kong. “A large portion of managers are still below high-water marks. Performance is flat and money hasn’t been flowing to smaller managers.”

Continue Reading

Health insurance in recovery

| 21/09/2010 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Insurance firms will no longer be able to cherry pick who they insure as a result of amendments to the Health Insurance Law passed in the Legislative Assembly recently. The road to recovery for the country’s health insurance regime is likely to be a long one but the health minister has made a number of amendments to provide for increases in fines, improve the administration of the law, as well as bring wider and more comprehensive coverage for all. The first step in what Mark Scotland said would be a comprehensive overhaul of the system and improvements to the basic health package, the changes will hopefully address the myriad complaints received about the sector. Scotland said that in the last year alone the Health Insurance Commission received over 1400 complaints.

Eventually, the minster will be introducing a standard health insurance policy that will provide more adequate coverage and meet the actual costs of care as part of the regulations that will go with the law. The minister explained that a final figure on the value and premium of the basic package had not yet been confirmed but the goal will be to balance an affordable premium with adequate cover.
The amendments are a first step on the health insurance regime’s road to recovery and provide for increases in fines to both employers and insurance providers who break the law and hold violators more accountable. Importantly, the changes will also close some of the loopholes which had allowed insurance companies to refuse coverage to people for one reason or another.
“Government has been working diligently to improve the delivery of health care,” Scotland told the Legislative Assembly as he presented the amendments. He said the amendments would improve access to health care in particular, for those in lower income brackets and those at higher risk.
One of the many problems surrounding the current outdated law, the minister said, was that it allowed for too many people to fall through the cracks and be under or uninsured. This in turn had led to higher incidences of chronic diseases.
Scotland said that, aside from improving access to health care coverage for a greater number of people, it would reduce the burden on government, which has been picking up the slack for failures in the private sector. He revealed that government spent just under $20 million on health care for under and uninsured people locally and overseas over the last twelve months, a level of expenditure which, he said, was unsustainable.
“The number of uninsured persons will decrease and level of under-insurance will improve significantly … as a result of the amendments,” Scotland added. He stated that amending the legislation had not been an easy process and acknowledged that work on the amendments started back in 2007 but what he believed were objections from the industry had delayed their implementation.
“There are numerous loopholes in the law that allow insurers to cherry pick and deny insurance to various individuals. These amendments propose to eliminate these,” he said.
He warned, however, that when the new and improved basic coverage was set it would mean monthly premiums would increase but in return policy holders would have far better health benefits and the country could move toward a healthier population.
Scotland admitted to the LA that the amendments won’t make the law perfect but would go a long way to improvie the current situation. Scotland pointed out that getting health insurance laws and coverage right was not a simple process, as demonstrated by the continuous battles over the subject in the United States.
The amendment bill received wide and welcome support from both sides of the Legislative Assembly and the amendments past unopposed.

Continue Reading

New local gong created for architects and designers

| 21/09/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS):  Hoping to encourage innovation and sustainability in the Cayman Islands construction industry, the Cayman Society of Architects, Surveyors & Engineers (CASE) and the Cayman Contractors Association (CCA) have teamed up with the governor to create an award for architects and designers. Duncan Taylor, launched the new national gong –  Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence in the Cayman Islands – at a reception on Friday.  Taylor encouraged members of the industry to submit their work for consideration and get the awards off the ground.

“I am delighted and proud to be the Patron of this Award,” he said. “On my arrival here in the Cayman Islands I was immediately struck, not only by the incredible beauty of our natural assets; but also by the obvious quality of the built assets. CASE and the CAA are to be commended for taking the initiative to launch this national award, and I encourage members of the industry to enter their project; to support the Award’s ideals, growth and success and to demonstrate their commitment to excellence in design and construction in the Cayman Islands.” 
Any member of a project team, including the developer may submit a project for consideration. Submission deadline is 5 November, 2010 and entries will then be short listed and judged by the governor and a panel of judges on the following criteria; Design Excellence, Creativity and Innovation, Sustainability and the Environment, Value, Buildability and Cultural Response.
The winner of this prestigious award will be announced at a ceremony at Government House on 2 December, 2010.
Garth Arch, Chairman of CASE said the award presented an opportunity to raise the profile of the construction industry and recognition of the hard work. “It is our hope that this award will not only acknowledge the many projects of high quality and creative design in Cayman but will also be a catalyst of inspiration for our industry to embrace,” he added.
Chairman of the CCA,  Rayal Bodden explained that the award is open to all projects small or large. Projects only need to demonstrate why it is special in any one or more areas of environmental friendliness, Caymanian style, uniqueness, or any other aspect that the team feels is important. For example, a small renovation that embraces Caymanian design, is LEED certified and has a unique automation system, could win the award over a multi-story building that lacks real Cayman design elements and environmental friendliness.
“There are so many outstanding projects built here in Cayman and we encourage you to showcase them by nominating them for this prestigious award,” Bodden said.
Individuals and teams interested in finding out more about the Governor’s Awards and entering should visit The website further outlines the criteria and entry requirements as well as provides an editable PDF version of the nomination form for download.

Continue Reading

Action group gets WISE to waste debate

| 21/09/2010 | 24 Comments

(CNS): A cross section of people from the Cayman Islands community have come together to trigger debate about the future of the country’s waste. Hoping to gain support for a sustainable approach about how Cayman will deal with its current waste management problem and how rubbish can be managed in the future, WISE will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday evening to encourage the community to start talking about the solutions. Although government is pressing to begin a waste-to-energy programme to tackle the George Town Landfill in the short term, WISE believes that the problem is far greater and needs a holistic long term approach that includes cutting down on the generation of waste in the first place. (Photo by Kerry Horek)

Members of WISE (Waste Initiatives and Sustainable Environments) say that the group’s goal is to find a comprehensive solid waste management solution that can work for the Cayman Islands. Committee members include Pilar Bush, Berna Cummings, Rayal Bodden, Jude Scott and Theresa Broderick
Speaking on behalf of concerned citizens from across a broad cross section of the community, the committee said it is now actively lobbying the Cayman Islands Government (CIG) to consider a sustainable approach to managing the country’s solid waste.
“The group is researching the array of options for dealing with solid waste to ensure that WISE Cayman’s position is informed and focused on the best, long term end result,” Pilar Bush said in a newsletter circulated to promote the planned public meetings taking place on Wednesday 22 September and again 29 September upstairs at AL Thompsons at 5:30pm.
“These options for dealing with solid waste include land-filling, incineration, recycling and composting amongst others,” she added.
She explained that an emerging idea which on early indications is receiving interest in the community is the concept of a purpose-built Eco Waste Recovery Park in a less densely populated area that will include a recycling centre, incineration, a composting facility and properly engineered and lined cells for non-burnable waste.
“Whilst a multitude of options are being discussed and debated, the common denominator for WISE Cayman supporters is that they all believe that the CIG must make this decision now so that it can address and mitigate against current and future environmental and health risks posed by the George Town Landfill,” Bush added.
 The coordinating committee said it has already met on two separate occasions with the government this summer and continues to have “a positive, cordial and open dialogue” with CIG.
WISE said that government backbencher Cline Glidden, who is spearheading the government’s landfill project, has indicated that government may consider receiving proposals that go beyond Waste to Energy (WTE) as a solution to the landfill. The action group acknowledges that government has a preference for WTE on the existing site.
The country’s premier reiterated government’s hopes last Thursday that a Waste to Energy project would be underway shortly. Speaking at a town hall meeting in George Town, McKeeva Bush had criticised the bureaucracy that he said was standingin the way of getting the project started, but that he hoped to have more details in a few weeks about how Mount Trashmore would be tackled.
Although government appears committed to the WTE, WISE hopes that the recent signal from Glidden means government may still be open to persuasion to take a wider approach if the action group can make a difference with the support of the wider public.
The WISE public meeting will take place on Wednesday 22 September at A.L. Thompson Conference Room at 5.30pm.

Continue Reading

Whistling-duck recuperated and released

| 21/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Woody the West Indian whistling-duck has been successfully rehabilitated and released to his home on Cayman Brac after being hit by a car last month, thanks to Cayman Wildlife Rescue, a program of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, and Marine Enforcement Officer Robert Walton. While Woody was lucky, CWR says that one of the major threats to West Indian Whistling Ducks in the Cayman Islands is traffic and that people who feed wildlife near roads are attracting animals into unsafe areas. Walton found Woody on 24 August suffering from a head injury and needing immediate attention. The bird was flown to Grand Cayman by Cayman Airways Express for several weeks of care.

The duck was nursed by long time CWR volunteer and “whistler specialist” Carolyn Perkins, and progress was slow to begin with, but soon Woody regained his motor skills, walking first and eventually flying.

“I thank all the parties involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of this duck. It indeed took many hours of volunteer care and the continued support of Cayman Airways has been an essential for our program to offer care for wildlife in the Sister Islands,” CWR Program Manager Alison Corbett said.

On 15 September Woody was finally ready to make his voyage home. The caring Cayman Airways Express staff facilitated a smooth process and Robert Walton received the duck in the Brac. Woody rejoined his flock, taking immediately to the water and seemed very relaxed and at home, CWR reported.

One of the major threats to West Indian Whistling Ducks in the Cayman Islands is traffic. Corbett said, “Hit by car remains one of the top reasons for wildlife injuries. This is further compounded by the issue of people feeding wildlife near roads. We strongly caution the public on feeding wildlife, especially near roads as it attracts them into unsafe areas and alters their normal feeding and behaviour patterns.”

If members of the public would like to support Cayman Wildlife Rescue, they can make a donation to Cayman Wildlife Rescue and mail to: PO Box 31116 KY1-1205 or purchase symbolic wildlife adoption kits available at the National Trust gift shop. For more information visit:

917-BIRD (2474) the Wildlife Rescue Hotline, sponsored by LIME, is available for the public to call for injured, sick or orphaned native & migratory wildlife.

Continue Reading

Cayman falls further in financial centres global index

| 21/09/2010 | 32 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands, along with most other offshore financial centres, has fallen down the ratings in the latest edition of The Global Financial Centres Index. The GFCI started in 2005 and examines financial centres from the perspective of those who use them as well as the instrumental factors such as the data and statistics about the actual business. The index authors examine 75 places with a financial services industry and this year all of the offshore centres have again lost ground in the ratings showing larger falls than average. The Cayman Islands lost 23 points and fell six places since the last assessment in the index to position number 38. When the survey started Cayman was in the top 20.

The report revealed that all offshore centre show larger falls than average, continuing a trend, authors say, since the financial crisis began.  “The Caymans and the Bahamas are just not places to be seen doing business right now – they still have (probably unfairly) a dirty reputation,” a Trust Fund Manager based in New York who took part in the survey said.
While London and New York remain on top of the GFCI 8 index Hong Kong is now in 3rd place and only ten points behind the two cities having been 84 points behind them eighteen months ago. “Hong Kong has joined London and New York as a genuinely global financial centre,” the report said. “Singapore may well join this trio soon.”
The authors also found that confidence amongst financial services professionals has fallen since GFCI 7, as shown by lower overall ratings – 53 centres have lower ratings in GFCI 8 compared with just 17 centres having higher ratings, while five have the same.
All of the Asian centres are climbing with Shanghai increasing its rating by 25 and Hong Kong by 23 points.
“Asia continues to exhibit enhanced competitiveness with Shanghai entering the top ten and Seoul moving into the top 25,” the report revealed. When asked which financial centres are likely to become more significant in the next few years respondents pointed to Shenzhen, Shanghai, Singapore, Seoul and Beijing.
The report stated that the business environment is still viewed as the key area of competitiveness and is now mentioned in responses far more often than people or infrastructure. “One of the themes that emerges from the GFCI 8 responses is the need for predictability and stability of regulation and taxation,” the report said.
Uncertainty over regulation and tax levels is the issue that worries those who were surveyed the most and changes in taxation, economic and business freedom, government support for the finance sector, transparency and predictability of regulation and the reputation of financial centres are all seen as key
determinants in their likely success.
The three centres with the highest reputational advantage were Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijingreinforcing the popularity of the Asian jurisdictions and China’s increasing importance on the global financial stage.
Formerly sponsored by the City of London Corporation for the GFCI 8 was sponsored by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority.

Continue Reading

Bermuda back in business as power restored

| 21/09/2010 | 0 Comments

(Royal Gazette): A "thankful, grateful" Bermuda will be back in business today — with flights and public transport running and most homes with power — after Hurricane Igor proved far less devastating than predicted. The 100 mph winds and torrential rain that lashed the Island on Sunday evening caused only minor injuries to a few, according to the authorities, and did not wreak disastrous damage, as feared. Public Safety Minister David Burch said yesterday that Bermuda seemed to have "dodged a bullet in a significant way". Igor — which weathermen warned could batter Bermuda with winds as fierce as Hurricane Fabian in 2003 — ended up being much less intense than feared.

But the weekend was not without drama or mishap, as boats were torn from their moorings and sent crashing onto the rocks, homes flooded, a utility pole crashed on a roof, trees and branches flew through the air and Bermuda Regiment soldiers carried out at least two rescue missions.

Go to article

Continue Reading

Lisa becomes season’s twelfth tropical storm

| 21/09/2010 | 3 Comments

(CNS): As Igor began to lose its tropical characteristics this morning, back across the Atlantic a tropical depression blew into the season’s twelfth named stormed. Tropical Storm Lisa is 530 miles west north west of the Cape Verde Islands and looks to be heading out into the mid Atlantic. Maximum sustained winds are currently 40 mph as Lisa slowly heads towards the north at near 5mph. Forecasters from the NHC said the current general motion is expected to continue during the next 24 hours before a turn toward the north-northwest with a slight decrease in forward speed on Wednesday. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the centre.

Tropical storm Julia has now also dissipated but closer to home showers and thunderstorms over much of the Windward Islands and the southeastern Caribbean Sea associated with a tropical wave are being given a slight 20 percent chance of cyclone formation by the NHC. The storm professionals said the environmental conditions appear conducive for some gradual development during the next couple of days as the disturbance moves westward at 10 to 15 mph.

Continue Reading