Archive for March 24th, 2011

TCI civil servants strike over pay cuts

| 24/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(TCI Sun): Civil Servants in the Turks and Caicos Islands went on strike early Thursday morning, in a move that shut down the country’s main gateway, Providenciales International Airport, and forced some schools to close early. The public workers decided to strike because the Interim Government did not meet a March 18th deadline to respond to their demands for the reinstatement of full salary to all Civil Servants as it was prior to April 2010. Early Thursday, the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority issued a press statement saying it suspended operations into and out of its aerodromes due tothe absence of adequate coverage from the Royal Turks and Caicos Fire Service.

“We are working assiduously to resume operations, and apologize for any inconvenience caused,” the release said.

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Hurricane experts say science has saved lives

| 24/03/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): While the science of predicting hurricanes is still difficult, experts have revealed that the technological improvements in predictions and warnings in recent years have reduced the number of fatalities caused by hurricanes. Speaking at a special presentation, the first to be held in the brand new government building, visitors from NOAA’s hurricane centre in Miami revealed that their ability to predict the path of a hurricane was improving all the time, but when it come to intensity, hurricane forecaster Dr Lixion Avila said things had not really improved in the last two decades. NOAA’s director Bill Read (left) said the forecasters were hard on themselves and intensity prediction was not bad.

The real challenge, he said, was predicting sudden increases in intensity far enough out to help people take action.

Read explained that forecasters can predict that a tropical storm will, over a given period and track, gradually reach a certain category of hurricane, enabling them to give warnings 48 hours out, but what science has not yet been able to do is to predict those very sudden increases in intensity. When the weather experts say that a tropical storm formed on Sunday and it will be a hurricane category one by Tuesday based on the conditions it’s travelling through, they cannot he admitted know that a sudden change inside the storm could in fact push it to a category three.

Avila and Read were part of a team that were visiting Cayman on Wednesday as part of a regional tour to promote hurricane awareness. They arrived in Cayman on world meteorological day and during a regional tsunami drill, on board one of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the Hurricane Hunters of the Air Force Reserve. These are the planes that fly into the eye of the storm and collect the data that Dr Avila and his colleagues use to help them predict hurricane paths and intensity. (Photo Dennie WArren Jr)

The information from the hunters is among the most important, Avila explained, but information comes from various sources and is pulled together to create the forecasts, which are distributed across the region as a tropical storm forms moves towards the region and grows in size and intensity.

He explained that the science of tracking had improved enormously and that there were lots of good models that forecaster use to predict where the storm is likely to go. He said they were also hoping to improve it even more, helping to shrink the width of the areas that are placed on watches and warnings to reduce evacuations and the impact on communities.

However, Avila said it was the intensity models that still presented the problem for scientists. There are fewer of them and they are still not as accurate as they would like. “It has not improved much in twenty years but we are working hard,” Dr Avila said. “There are lots of very smart people who are gathering and examining data to give us a better computer model but we are not there yet.”

The weather experts have, however, improved their predictions over the years sufficiently well to save lives with the fatalities trend going down. (Read noted Katrina in 2005 was an exception but the death toll there was related directly to the failure of the levees.)

Read pointed out that the dollar losses continue to increase as houses built in hurricane zones get bigger and people acquire more stuff, meaning there is far more to lose when the major storms come through.

Another major challenge for the hurricane experts, Read said, is the awareness issue. Many people who live in the hurricane belt still don’t know their level of risk when it comes to flooding from storm surge or the category of hurricane which their homes are actually built to withstand.

Read said that throughout the US the building codes are often increased in the wake of a major hurricane but as the years pass buy the construction lobby manages to negotiate the standards back down again. He pointed out that a 2% increase on the cost of building the home can massively improve the ability of a house to withstand the most powerful of storms.

The visit of the hurricane experts and especially the hurricane hunter created considerable interest in the local community, as people queued up to tour the specialist aircraft at Owen Roberts InternationalAirport.

Cayman was one port of call on the tour, which each year stops off at a number of different places in the region that face the threat of hurricanes between June and November to promote awareness in the community and cooperation with local weather officials.

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Magistrate says childcare should be human right

| 24/03/2011 | 33 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands chief magistrate has called for better childcare provision funded by government and the private sector to pave the way for more women to attain senior positions in the community. Speaking passionately about the rights of women at last week’s UCCI conference on Leadership, Governance and Empowerment in the Caribbean, Margaret Ramsay-Hale said that even today, women’s worth, both in the work place and the home, was undervalued. She warned that not having women in strong positions of power detrimentally hit the bottom line of business, as she suggested care should be a human right.

“In the private sector participation by women in senior roles has been shown to translate into greater financial rewards: the top 500 multinational firms which had at least three women on their boards saw a 16.7 per cent return on equity; average companies saw just 11.5 per cent. The greater the number of women, the greater the difference; those with the greatest number of women on their boards had 53 per cent greater returns on equity than those with the fewest,” Ramsey- Hale revealed.

A solution to getting more women in senior positions would be to make care, in particular the care of children, a human right. With women still the primary caregiver in the family, that role reinforces the idea that women’s place is in the home, she noted.

“The role of caregiver is something to be honoured but it is not currently honoured by many in power in the work place as it can affect the caregiver’s ability to perform well,” she said. Ramsay-Hale called for free and accessible daycare to all families who need it provided by government as well as businesses for their own employees.

“Are these your employees’ children or the children who are our country’s future?” she questioned to a packed audience during the special lunchtime presentation.

She pointed to Scandinavian countries with generous parental care schemes, which could be a role model for countries in the Caribbean.

The magistrate pointed out that despite Caribbean seats of learning being filled by women, they still struggle to hold positions of real power in both the public and private sectors of the region. Statistics reveal that across the Commonwealth only 13.1 percent of professors in universities were female and only 9 percent of managers were women.

While study show women are more likely to succeed as registrars, librarians or heads of personnel, women deans and professors are a minority and women chancellors a rarity, Ramsey-Hale said.

Numbers in the workplace have not translated into having a voice where it counts, as only 3 percent of law firm partners and executives in publicly traded companies are women, she said. Women were also not proportionally represented in government, even though they make up half the voting population.

As she pondered the question why despite women’s attainments in education they still remain socially and politically handicapped, she pointed to the issue of care and saidthat was the key to the advancement of women to positions of greater power.

She also lamented those women who had reached powerful positions but had done nothing to assist other women’s struggle for equality. Ramsey-Hale pointed to the former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who infamously after eleven years in office did nothing at all to advance the cause of women. She joked about Madeleine Albright’s comment that “there is a special place in hell reserved for women who do not help other women.”

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Delays at Miami airport as fuel tanks catch fire

| 24/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): A false bomb scare and a fuel tank fire disrupted operations at Miami International Airport on Thursday and dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed. Planes were landing and taking off on Thursday, though fire-fighters were still investigating the blaze that broke out about 11 p.m. local time Wednesday at a fuel tank farm on the airport perimeter."The fire was extinguished by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue at 1:20 a.m.," fire spokeswoman Cristina Armand said. The fire was not near the runways or the terminal but the fire reduced the available fuel supply, disrupting operations. Hours after the fire was extinguished, an explosives-sniffing dog gave the alert to a suspicious package in a luggage carousel area, Miami-Dade Police Detective Ida Fina-Milian said.

Police evacuated the area while a bomb squad checked out the package. "It was nothing," Fina-Milian said. "The situation was resolved and everything is back open again."

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Bermuda minister says debt low compared to Cayman

| 24/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(Royal Gazette): Bermuda’s national debt is “manageable” and “sustainable” when compared to other modern and developed economies, according to Junior Finance Minister David Burt. Senator Burt made the statement during a debate on the Government Loans Amendment Act 2011 in the Senate, where he said Bermuda’s debt levels remained low compared to places like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Barbados and Bahamas. He said as of the end of this month, the net debt would stand at $1.175 billion, approximately $75 million below the $1.250 billion ceiling. And net debt, excluding guarantees, would stand at $964.4 million, approximately 17.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Government Loans Amendment Act 2011 will amend the 1978 act so that only Government guarantees that become due and payable can be charged against the statutory debt ceiling, explained Sen Burt.

“This is a manageable and sustainable figure for a small country where the GDP is estimated at $5.6 billion,” he said, adding that other countries, which Bermuda is often compared, have a much higher debt to GDP ratio.

For the Cayman Island’s this ratio is 25 percent of GDP; in Switzerland it is 37.8 percent; it is 84.5 percent in the United Kingdom and 94 percent in the United States; Barbados 73.3 percent; the Bahamas 49.7 percent; Qatar stands at 21.8 percent; and the UAE is 21.3 percent.

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Wealth industry relieved over new rules on non-doms

| 24/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): Britain’s private wealth industry, servicing the colonies of rich foreigners resident in London, was granted a boost after reforms of how their overseas money is taxed proved more benign than many had feared. In a budget speech on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne said people resident but not domiciled for tax purposes in the UK — commonly known as ‘non-doms’ — will have to pay more after living in Britain for 12 years. With the new coalition government grappling with deficits, many had feared a significant hardening of the non-dom rules, potentially damaging London’s burgeoning wealth management industry.

So called non-doms, who currently have to pay a 30,000 pounds annual levy after seven years, will pay 50,000 after 12 years but will not pay tax on foreign income or capital gains remitted to the UK if it is invested in British business.

"Everyone was worrying about the worst case scenario… It’s a lot better than it could have been," said Sophie Dworetzsky, a partner specialising in private client wealth management at law firm Withers.

Many had warned of damage to a competitive advantage enjoyed by London wealth managers, running money offshore for thousands of highly paid foreign financiers working in the City and less economically active residents who use London as a tax haven.

Campaigners against tax havens were disappointed. "Oh dear. It looks like the chancellor has let non doms off the hook," said John Christensen, director at Tax Justice Network, which campaigns against tax havens.

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Tech zone to bring 10,000 jobs

| 24/03/2011 | 67 Comments

(CNS): The private developers of the proposed technical and science zone say that if the project goes ahead it could create as many as 10,000 jobs in the Cayman Islands and generate some $500 milllion in revenue. According to an economic impact study by KPMG, the Cayman Enterprise City (CEC), a Special Economic Zone which will be constructed somewhere on Grand Cayman by Hon Developments, will contribute some 15 percent of the country’s GDP and over a three period and eventually generate some 5,000 jobs inside the park and a further 4,800 jobs outside the zone. At least 800 of those jobs, the developer said, would be created within the first year.

“New exciting careers will be created for Caymanians in the fields of IT, science, media, commodities, commerce and academia,” said Jason Blick from Hon and Chief Operating Officer for the CEC. “CEC is an entirely privately funded project and there is no investment being sought from the Cayman Islands Government.”

The proposed development was announced at the CBO conference in January, when the premier signed an MOU with the developers paving the way for discussions about concessions and specific legislation that would facilitate the creation of the commercial area.

Although the site for this special science and technology zone has not yet been revealed or which international firms or anchor tenants, if any, have agreed to move in once the CEC is completed, the developers say that it will host growing enterprises as well as giant global brands.

The Hon team will be visiting Dubai in the United Arab Emirates next week along with the premier to meet officials there to propose a working relationship that would benefit both Cayman and the UAE when Cayman Enterprise City becomes reality, Hon said in a release on Wednesday. McKeeva Bush is scheduled to meet the Hon team to lead the delegation to Dubai after his visit to Venice to examine a damn built by GLF.

Despite the unrest in the Arab world, reports from Bloomberg reveal that Dubai remains a safe haven as its financial markets continued climbing in the face of the regional problems this week. Home to a number of free trade specialist zones and currently planning an aerospace enterprise zone, Dubai’s wealth has stemmed from commerce because, despite being in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, the Emirate has no oil resources of its own.

“The achievements of the United Arab Emirates as a pioneer and global leader in the development of the world’s best Special Economic Zones are unprecedented,” said Bush. “We have identified great synergies between our jurisdictions and recognize that working cooperatively for mutual benefit can create enormous opportunities for both countries. As one of the world’s leading financial centres, the Cayman Islands seeks to partner with the best.”

The developers say that Cayman Enterprise City will expand the standard free zone model to offer flexible regulations and better incentives for international companies. The focus they say, will be on science and technology, research and academia, commerce and trade. Cayman Enterprise City will be the largest Technology, Communications and Commerce cluster in the Caribbean region.

“This visit to the UAE is enormously important to Cayman and the CEC project,” said Barry G Hon Chairman of Hon Developments. “One of our primary objectives is to forge relationships with key SEZ stakeholders in the UAE, and communicate the advantages to companies who establish a presence in CEC. Cayman will also benefit greatly from the exchange of information gleaned from this trip.

The developers say they are confident that providing access to clients in the important markets of North America and the emerging giants of South America will facilitate the work of key stakeholders currently in the UAE. Hon said Cayman’s strategic location as a gateway to the Americas and its position as the world’s 6th largest banking centre, will make Cayman Enterprise City appealing to international brands in Europe and the Middle East who wish extend their global reach.

“Having the premier personally reach out to high ranking officials in UAE is an indication of just how dedicated we all are to making Cayman Enterprise City a reality, Blick stated. “Partnerships with successfully established SEZs such as those within the UAE are crucial to CEC’s success.”
Once Cayman Enterprise City is an operating Special Economic Zone, Hon expects it will quickly create jobs for Caymanians and immediately boost the local economy. CEC will also diversify the Caymanian job market to create opportunities for the next generation.

The developers say they have a 50-year proven track record in successful master planned developments. Cayman Enterprise City will be state-of-the-art campus of innovative and sustainable architecture, designed to complement and respect the local environment. It will include: Cayman Internet Park, Cayman Biotech Park, Cayman Media Park, Cayman Global Commodities Park and Cayman International Academic. There will be no manufacturing or engineering within the park and CEC will create a knowledge based society with no environment consequences and will be an eco-friendly development.

International businesses establishing within the zone will not be permitted to trade in Cayman outside of the zone nor will they be permitted to compete with local businesses. Local Caymanian businesses outside the zone will benefit from new customers and new opportunities will be created for Caymanian entrepreneurs to service those doing business within the zone. Local Caymanian contractors and sub contractors will be sought to build the five campuses which will be developed in three phases comprising 500,000 sq feet of Class A office space.

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Longer grouper ban needed

| 24/03/2011 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Fishermen on Cayman Brac are finding it hard to believe that the nine year ban on catching Nassau grouper at the spawning holes during spawning season has not resulted in a significant increase in groupers, but as Department of Environment staff explained to them at a meeting Monday night, replenishment of grouper populations is a slow process and an extended ban is necessary to ensure that the last viable spawning aggregation (SPAG) site in the Cayman Islands – in the West End of Little Cayman – does not collapse. The fishermen, on the other hand, say they have done their part to preserve the grouper population by observing the ban for nine years and are asking the decision makers to remove it and reintroduce catch limits.

Research at the Little Cayman grouper hole has shown that the groupers which gather together in great numbers to spawn live around that island – there are no great migrations of grouper from elsewhere for spawning. Scientists have also found that the larvae released are brought back by the current, and so repopulates the same island. We cannot, therefore, rely on SPAGs in other countries on the region to restock our grouper population, and they don’t have much stock left in any case, DoE’s Research Manager Phil Bush noted.

The grouper holes were first closed in 2003 in what was planned to be alternate years of being open for fishing. However, Bush told people packed into the conference room at the District Administration Building, it was determined that it was “mathematically impossible for the population to replenish itself if the large numbers of fish, especially the big spawners, were taken out.”

The Marine Conservation Board therefore imposed an eight year ban on all grouper spawning sites to give the Nassau grouper a chance to recover, which ends this year. However, the numbers of spawning groupers have grown only by about 500 fish. The average size is dropping and they are seeing more of the younger “teenage” fish, though there are still the larger fish, who, scientists have found, are needed to guide the younger fish to the SPAG.

Line fishing of grouper outside the spawning sites is allowed and Bush said that 20% of the tagged groupers had been lost outside the area, and they estimate that roughly this proportion of the total population is being fished this way.

Speaking for the fishermen, with whom he had had a meeting a few nights earlier, former MLA Lyndon Martin said they had agreed to a nine year ban in part because they had understood that this would result in the replenishment required. With no evidence that this has happened, Martin asked why this was so and wondered if loss of habitat was a factor rather than just the fishing. Martin also questioned whether the researchers counted the fish at both spawnings per season, and thought maybe they had missed some.

The recruitment of new fish is very low, Bush explained, and very very few of them survive – a fact that has been demonstrated by scientists all over the Caribbean. His colleague, Bradley Johnson, explained that though there are two spawnings after the full moon in January and February, if there is an early full moon in January, then the major spawning is in February, but if it’s a late moon in January then that is the major spawning month. If the full moon is in the middle of the month, there is a split spawn.

Nevertheless, Martin produced a letter (which now has 59 signatures, including Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who was among those who signed at the meeting) that had been drafted by the fishermen, addressed to the members of the Legislative Assembly, the Department of Environment and the Marine Conservation Board, saying they “strongly oppose any further extension of the prohibition on fishing in the designated grouper spawning areas” but that they supported a catch limit of 12 groupers per boat per day.

If 15 boats caught 12 groupers per day for nine days, that would amount to 1,620 fish – a figure that is unsustainable, Johnson said. While the fishermen argued that this was the maximum and the actual figure would be far less, the researchers noted that a rule of thumb for sustainable lossof a species is 20% – and this was already being taken by line fishing.

“The board could open it up but then you might well lose the aggregations forever,” Bush said, but the fishermen did not believe him.

The Grouper Moon Project

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UAE boosts military pensions, seen pre-empting unrest

| 24/03/2011 | 1 Comment

(Reuters): The United Arab Emirates has ordered a 70 percent pension increase for military personnel, local media said on Wednesday, in a move that could stave off dissent in the Gulf Arab state as protests sweep the region. The order by President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, released by state news agency WAM and published in newspapers, includes bonuses for ministry of defence and armed forces staff and is effective in March. It appeared to be the latest in a string of moves by the world’s No. 3 oil exporter to pre-empt unrest that has hit wealthy Gulf Arab states that considered themselves in the past immune to political strife.

Last week, the US ally said it would hold its second-ever election to the advisory Federal National Council (FNC) in September, in a cautious step towards political reform in a federation run almost exclusively by its ruling families.

The FNC election in 2006 had 6,600 voters, including 1,160 women, and accounted for less than 1 percent of the population.

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$55k reward for info on Anna

| 24/03/2011 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Local business conglomerate dms Organization has added $50,000 to the existing $5,000 reward fund for information leading to the safe return of missing mother of five Anna Evans, or if it turns out that she is the victim of a crime, the conviction of those involved. Don Seymour, president of dms, made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon from his head office in George Town in the presence of Anna’s family some eight weeks since she disappeared from the George Town landfill, where she worked. Stating that he wanted to show some support for the family in their struggle, Seymour said Anna was a hard working mother from the community and the money may motivate people who have so far remained silent to come forward.

He said that a website sponsored by dms had also been created to focus attention on the continued search, which includes the police hotline and details of Anna’s disappearance on 27 January.

“Anna is from this community, she has five kids and worked every day to provide for them, she is a valued person, civil servant and Caymanian. We want to try and help find her and we want her to be appropriately recognised,” Seymour said. “Because of the enormous efforts the family have made not to give up I hope people will help.”

He noted that if the worst had happened and a crime had been committed the family still needed answers and justice for Anna.

Struggling to contain their emotions and thanking Seymour for the reward, Anna’s family spoke of the difficulties of not knowing what has happened to their loved one. Anna’s sister, Noreen, who is looking after her children, spoke of how hard it is to explain to them that their mother is not home and that they do not know where she is.

The family said they were convinced that someone saw something that day but for whatever reason they are afraid to speak out. Anna’s family all said that they believed that Seymour’s generous support may help to persuade those people who know something to come forward and help in some way, even if they do so via the crime stoppers anonymous tips line 800 TIPS (8477).

So far no calls have been made to the enquiry hotline on 526-0911 but the family said they remained hopeful that this reward may lead to someone making that first call with important information, even this evening as the news broke about the $50K that had been added to the reward fund of $5000, which the family had collected so far.

Although no members of the RCIPS were present at the press call to announce the reward, Anna’s sister reported that the police were keeping the family updated and that the search was not over. The police are still hunting for Anna and continue to follow up on statements and information that has been collected so far.

With Anna’s 38th birthday just a few weeks away on 4 April, the family said they were still hopeful that she may be returned to them to celebrate, but while they all hoped for the best, they said they were also prepared for the worst as they spoke of the anguish of not knowing. “There is someone out there that knows something and the reward could make that someone come forward,” the family echoed.

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