Archive for November 7th, 2010

Mac hints at stimulus

Mac hints at stimulus

| 07/11/2010 | 28 Comments

(CNS): The country’s premier has offered some future hope for the construction industry in the coming months as he says he will be introducing a range of incentives, which include reducing and deferring planning fees and rebates on work permit fees for senior staff. McKeeva Bush said that he will be announcing full details of what will amount to a stimulus package for development in the next week or so but hinted in the Legislative Assembly on Friday afternoon that the government was discussing some incentive proposals for developments starting in the first half of 2011. He said the construction industry was of particular importance to the local economy and he wanted to kick start projects.

The premier suggested that he was considering one off reductions for new or renewed work permits for senior and specialist technical staff, such as architects and engineers, in the construction industry working on projects that would be underway and employing Caymanians before June 2011.

He said a stimulus package for the construction sector would be like a stimulus package to the whole economy as once projects were underway they would fuel consumption, not just for the developments but those jobs created by the projects would see the employees spending in the local economy. He said duty waivers would also be available for certain goods and materials relating to new developments.

Bush said he was limited in what he could do because of the commitment he had made to the UK for the three year budget plan, but he said the construction industry was an important place to start to offer a stimulus package and he was going to impress upon the UK the need to give the sector assistance. The premier said once the analysis and research was complete, he could be more precise about what size reductions the government could give on the various fees and duties associated with the business of developing.

“We need to jump start our economy now,” he told the Legislative Assembly, and said there was reason to be cautiously optimistic that things were improving. “It is going to start to get better and we are going to pull ourselves out.” Bush warned that government had to be careful, however when it started there would be jobs again for Caymanians.

The premier raised the issue of the stimulus package in what was a heated debate regarding a private member’s motion on duty waivers brought by the independent member for North Side. Ezzard Miller had asked government to make it a requirement that duty waivers could only given on goods bought at local merchants to ensure the locally economy benefitted. However, government proposed an alternative motion which suggested instead that where waivers were given government would give a higher percent to good’s bought on island.

The debate is set to continue on Monday when the Legislative Assembly meets again.

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Politicians call meetings over East End Seaport

Politicians call meetings over East End Seaport

| 07/11/2010 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The opposition member for East End, Arden McLean, and the independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, will be hosting public meetings in their constituencies next week regarding Joe Imparato’s proposal to government to develop a commercial port on land he owns in the High Rock area of East End. The elected representatives have said that they believe there is significant opposition to the idea in their districts, which will both be affected by the potential development should it go ahead. McLean and Miller stated that the meetings would allow people to air their feelings, share information and enable the MLAs to ensure that they are representing their constituents fairly.

The developer of the proposed project, which he says will include oil storage, cruise home berthing and a mega yacht marina as well as a cargo port, will be given to government to manage once he has finished it. The developer has admitted that he will make the return on his investment from the fill or marl which will need to be removed in order to create the facility.

Although Imparato has said he also intends to hold a series of public meetings in the districts, dates for those meetings have not yet been released and it is not clear if he will attend the meetings to be hosted by the MLAs, though they said that an invitation has been extended to him.

As one of Grand Cayman’s most pristine and undeveloped areas, there has been opposition to the proposal from outside the district as well, especially from divers. CNS contact CITA and a spokesperson said that members had not yet been polled regarding their feelings but the organisation would expect that any such development would undertake a thorough environmental impact assessment. The spokesperson said that until the members had seen the full plans it was unclear how many and which dive sites were at risk and how much of a negative impact that would have on the tourism industry.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Premier McKeeva Bush ridiculed the member for East End for voicing his intentions to lay “in front of the bulldozers” if the development went ahead, as he offered government’s backing for the proposal. Bush told the House that his government was pushing hard to kick start the local economy by going ahead with projects to advancethe country’s infrastructure and included the cargo development in his list.

All members of the public are invited to attend the meetings, which will be hosted by Arden McLean at the civic centre in East End at 8pm on Monday, 8 November, and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller will host his meeting at the civic centre in North Side at 8pm on Tuesday, 9 November.

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Deficit change down to cuts

Deficit change down to cuts

| 07/11/2010 | 12 Comments

(CNS): Although government revenue did not increase significantly in the last financial year, reductions in operating expenses of around $17 million have resulted in smaller deficit for than government had predicted earlier this year. While the UDP administration had originally called for a $5 million surplus when it brought its first full budget, as the financial year drew to a close it revised those expectations and predicted a deficit of as much as $45 million. Unaudited figures now reveal, however, that as a result of spending cuts the actual deficit is going to be closer to $15 million. In the Legislative Assembly on Friday the premier said the results were taken from management accounts prepared by the Treasury.

“The financial results and positions reflect what ministries and portfolios have posted in their general ledgers for the years ended 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2009,” McKeeva Bush told his legislative colleagues following some speculation regarding the results. He said confirmation and discussions had been held with the various ministries and government companies and the results were both meaningful and robust.

Although the accounts have not been audited by the auditor general yet, Bush said the figures form the basis for the preparation of core government results that will be included in the consolidated entire public sector financial statements that are audited by the Auditor General’s Office.

The premier said although there would be expected changes during the process of auditing, he said government found it “desirable" to release the preliminary figures.

Setting out the latest figures, he did not outline where the cuts had been made but noted that the revised budget had anticipated that government would spend $502 million in this financial year but these figure suggest government actually spent around $485 million. He also said that the anticipated losses by statutory authorities and government companies of around $2.5 million turned out to be around $1.5 million.

Government revenue had been predicted to be $562 million when it brought its 2009/10 budget  but it revised that forecast down to $492 million, so the revelation that government earned some $502 million in the last financial year means government earned $10 million more than anticipated.

According to a written answer given to the opposition this week following a question submitted in the previous sitting of the House that was never answered in the chamber, most of government’s revenue earning routes took in less than anticipated. Earnings from duty, for example, reached only 85% of the expected revenue, while the mutual fund and securities sector both exceeded expected earnings.

Although it was not clear where exactly the cuts were made, Bush said this year’s personnel bill for civil servants in core government amounted to $228 million or 47% of the operating costs. In the original budget government had expected to spend $244 million on pay and benefits so had made savings of some $16 million even before the 3.2% rollback was introduced in July of this year.

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Hospital plans forge ahead

Hospital plans forge ahead

| 07/11/2010 | 26 Comments

(CNS): The health minister has denied any change regarding the government’s commitment to the proposed hospital developmentby Dr Devi Shetty. Mark Scotland said that the legislative changes required to the health practitioners and tort laws, part of the deal with the India doctor, would be brought to the Legislative Assembly in the next sitting and the organ donor law would follow soon after. He also said that Shetty and his local partners had identified a short list of possible locations and were examining them for suitability. Responding to a series of opposition questions in the LA on Friday morning, Scotland said he was meeting regularly with Shetty’s team and they had expressed no frustrations.

The minister explained that in its agreement with Shetty, the internationally acclaimed surgeon, to develop a health city in the Cayman Islands, the government had agreed to make certain legislative changes. This included changes to the law to enable doctors with qualifications from India to be able to practice here, creating an exclusivity period for Shetty’s hospital on medical tourism and a cap on damages claims regarding medical malpractice suits, as well as a new law to permit tissue and organ donation.

Scotland said the government was committed to the tort reform, not just because of the Shetty hospital but because of the problems it was causing for other local medical practitioners, such as Ob/Gyns, despite the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations against it. Scotland said the LRC was still in a period of consultation and was seeking input and had not concluded anything yet.

The minister added that government was fully committed to the venture and was moving forward on all the necessary work required to make it a reality.

Aside from having shortlisted the potential locations for his health city, Shetty’s team was preparing the designs for the first phase of the project, which would be a 150 bed tertiary care hospital, Scotland revealed.

“I can say with confidence, based on my discussions with Dr Shetty and his local team that he still remains fully committed to proceeding with all the phases of the project, including an integrated hospital and medical university and assisted-living facility,’ he said. “Government remains fully committed to this project, which we see as an important and integral component in not only creating a medical tourism industry in the Cayman Islands but also increasing local access to tertiary care.”

Scotland dismissed any allegations that there were problems on either the government or the developer’s side and that government was hard at work meeting its commitments under the deal.

Shetty will be in the Cayman Islands this week and will be answering questions at a special Chamber meeting on Wednesday afternoon before delivering a presentation at the country’s first ever national health conference, which opens on Thursday evening.

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