Archive for April 13th, 2011

Local bank to supply gov loan

| 13/04/2011 | 16 Comments

(CNS): FirstCaribbean International Bank (Cayman) Ltd has been awarded the contract to provide government with a loan of CI$155 million to meet its long-term financing needs, in respect of the 2010/11 fiscal year. Government has decided to take the full amount, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly last year, despite more recent indications that government may not need all of it now. In a release from the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday morning it was revealed that the loan will be over a 15-year period and the precise rate of interest will be established on the date that the loan funds are drawn by government and will remain fixed at that rate over the loan’s 15-year term.

The tendering process commenced and concluded with the review and scrutiny of the Central Tenders Committee (CTC), the ministry said.

“I have been informed of the outcome of the tendering process and from the information presented to me after the decision was confirmed by the Central Tenders Committee, I am satisfied that the government went through this process,” Premier and Minister of Finance McKeeva Bush said. "Cost minimisation is paramount to my government and me. The keenly competitive terms submitted in the bids demonstrates that the government of the Cayman Islands continues to be regarded as a high-quality sovereign.”

During the first round of tendering for the government loan last year the decision by the ministerial technical team, which was approved by the CTC, was understood at the time to be for FirstCaribbean. However, it was overruled by the premier in a controversial move, when he told the country he could get a better deal from the New York based firm, Cohen and Company, saving some $24 million, and that he could also get re-financing for Cayman Airways.

Nevertheless, in February Bush announced that the deal was off and said the 4.5% interest rate cap which the firm said it could get had not materialised. “Government has now been advised that the 4.5% Interest Rate Cap cannot be obtained at the price previously represented to government. The increase in the price of the Interest Rate Cap is of such magnitude that it would wipe-out the cost-minimisation advantage that had been agreed,” he told the people..

He said that government would now reconsider the need to borrow the full CI$155million because it was no longer expected to incur a deficit in this financial year.

Speaking in North Side this week, he said that government finances were still in good shape and that there would bean anticipated surplus at the end of this financial year of around $13 million. At the start of the financial year government has anticipated a deficit of more than $14 million.

The money which government will now borrow will be the last loan it will be able to access until the country’s finances returns to compliance with the Public Management and Finance Law. Although the money will be used to pay bills on government’s capital projects, it is understood that government will also need to pay back a temporary bridging loan which was arranged by Cohen and Co. The current outstanding amount is US$92.5 million but the interest rate and and fees for which, have not yet been revealed.

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Are we able to blog for the better?

| 13/04/2011 | 19 Comments

As a series of town hall meetings kicks off across the islands and information is piped into every orifice of our collective being, the blaring question remains unanswered: will there ever be a new generation of Caymanians able to change our islands for the better? Anyone who absorbs the information of the day, and now by the hour, will understand the notions that swirl around our heads.

We are a 21st community stuck with 19th century leadership. The rhetoric is so stale, so uninspired that we are all becoming apathetic to its scalding presence.

There is an outward shell of discontent, confusion and anger present daily on our social network mediums; CNS and Compass blogs have become the marl road of the past, Facebook has replaced our village shop step debates, and the community outreach of our churches are now featured in the Tweets from the vibrating and ever adapting façade of our varied and plentiful social watering holes.

But our leadership, the actions of our governance remains cripplingly “off-line”, unable to adjust or even demonstrate its adaptability to what is now a community of better educated, adequately exposed and questioning minds with far reaching intellects. The young people of today are not like the young people of the past. There is a greater confidence to challenge, to question, and assess opinions and information that can foster a community of independent yet connected social thinkers.

Our leadership embarrasses us and it shows and is evident daily in our use of social media to connect with our respective social communities. We crave anonymity in our blogs, not because we are scared but because we are embarrassed as our leadership no longer represents who we want to be or who we would want our children to emulate. It’s a sour pill to swallow, to be truthful and honest, but democracy with its worst clothing only produces the leadership which a community allows.

If you can ever brave the air of monastic egoism and enter our parliament on a day in session, the odour of mediocrity is over powering. On critical examination, the reason is easily identified for the state of our affairs. With the exception of a few, the majority of our elected officials have never ever achieved any success, social or economic, outside of their locally rewarding and increasingly isolating political careers.

We are naturally dammed with the consequences we now all suffer. Out the window has gone the notion of achievement paramount, service first, and self last. As we watch the luxury cars file out of the LA parking lot, some MLAs driving others being driven, one cannot help but feel disturbed, as the same individuals out of elected office present a much more humble demeanour and much more shallow pockets.

We have a massive problem here, as we have created a Tammy Fae and Jim Baker type PTL (“pay the leader”) culture. Do we have the strength to reverse our mistake, accept responsibility that we, the voters, have encouraged and allowed our democracy to develop in this direction? Or will we continue to turn a blind eye, hide our true dismay and accept the consequences, which a disillusioned society brings?

We need leaders who can inspire us to be respectful of our past, grateful of our present and hopeful of our future. Not just those who can only reflect to us the failures of our collective sense of shock and sorrow for what we have allowed ourselves to become.
 

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Premier says crime not as bad as public thinks

| 13/04/2011 | 32 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands’ premier said that crime was now falling and the public perception that it was out of control was incorrect. The truth, McKeeva Bush said Monday, was that crime figures were down and things have improved as there had been no murders this year and overall crime was down 26 percent, with the only serious exception being robbery. He called on people to give the commissioner a chance and emphasised the need for people to speak up about who is committing the crimes. Bush said he did not believe that people didn’t know who the “young punks” were and that the people needed to stop blaming others and go the police and tell them what they knew. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Speaking at a public meeting in North Side on Monday evening, the islands’ premier stated that the robberies continued to cause concern for the police and the RCIPS was carrying out robbery patrols and conducting intelligence led arrests. But the premier revealed that the police were challenged because as soon as it was under control in one area it appears again in another. Despite those challenges police were working with business owners and banks to make sure their security measures were sound, Bush added.

He pledged the support of the elected government for the police with funding for the equipment and manpower they need to control crime and he would push and agitate on the National Security Council, but he said the elected government could not tell the police what to do. He referred to a medium to long term plan which had been drafted by the council to tackle the causes and said government would continue to advocate for measures that it believed would combat crime.

“But we can’t order police to take any specific action,” Bush stated. “That’s the kind of constitution we have. Law and order is not under the control of the elected government.”

Criticising the people for getting on radio and the blog, Bush said it was so one sided that if it was a boat it would sink, as he said they were “looking seats themselves” to get elected and that was why they blamed government for the crime problem. Government was doing everything it could and was asked to do, he noted. Pointing out that the increase in crime was a phenomenon across the Caribbean; he said it was connected to the poor economic conditions. Being poor, however, was no reason for anyone to go out and steal, the premier stated.

“The truth is there are some young punks running around this country that cause all these problems, so we have to make sure our social programmes work. Years ago, when you were criticising me for being a communist, saying I wanted birth control when I said children shouldn’t be having children, it’s those children that are doing the crime,” Bush declared.

He said it was the community’s job to support the police and the people must do their part. Bush told the audience that if they had information they must take it to the police as they can’t win the battle against crime if the public is not willing to give the information they need. He said people had been too willing to blame someone else. “People say it is Jamaicans and then when the catch them, who they are?” he asked. “Those are our own young punks committing those crimes.”

These young men “lived in somebody’s yard, and somebody knows when they got money to spend,” the premier said, as he called on the people to stop blaming someone else or someone else’s child. While not all police were perfect, Bush said, the people should support them and stop pointing fingers. “Understand that the people who are robbing banks and stores and grabbing bags live somewhere and somebody knows something,” he added.

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PPM backs one man, one vote

| 13/04/2011 | 24 Comments

(CNS): The opposition leader says that when the PPM is returned to office, one of the first things it will do is introduce one member, one vote and single member constituencies on Grand Cayman. In the face of the current government’s position that it will be retaining the same four multi-member districts and adding seats, despite public opinion, Alden McLaughlin said the PPM backs one man, one vote and any government he leads will introduce it. In retrospect, he said, he wishes that the previous government had insisted on one man, one vote being in the constitution. However, it had offered a compromise to the then opposition during the negotiations in order to maintain local political unity during the UK talks. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

Given the UDP’s failure to support the constitution in the end, however, McLaughlin said he regretted that decision, adding that he often regretted many of the concessions the PPM made in order to try and get the UDP’s support during the process and present a united front to the FCO.

“When we came back from London, they told people to vote against it anyway,” the opposition leader said, adding that the concession was made in vain. He explained that the compromise led to the constitution leaving the mode of election up to local legislators and merely called for the increase in size of the parliament from 15 members to 18.

The PPM leader said he believed that the premier’s decision not to introduce one man, one vote is because he perceives that the current system offers some political advantage.

But, McLaughlin stated, the more members in a constituency the more inequitable the system becomes. Echoing comments made by the independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, he pointed out that with six members of the parliament coming from George Town, the capital will have a powerful influence on the Legislative Assembly. The opposition leader said the voting system should not be about how members think it will impact their own political future. “What we need is a fair political system,” McLaughlin added.

Although MLAs were set to debate the issue on Monday, further concerns by government of the language of the draft order has seen the critical debate delayed again with no date now set for when the members will discuss how Cayman Islands voters will choose their next government.

Given its clear majority, the position taken by the opposition members and the independent member for North Side for single member constituencies is unlikely to sway the government, although the debate will allow the opposition to put the case, which is believed now to be widely supported across the islands.

Speaking at the North Side meeting on Monday evening, the premier said he supported the current system because Cayman was too small for one man one vote and single member constituencies. He argued that it would lead to greater expectations from the people on government. McKeeva Bush said every constituency would demand its own fire station, school, hospital and other public infrastructure, even though there would only be around 900 voters in each district. He said this is what people from other jurisdictions had told him happened when they introduced it.

“There is nothing wrong with how we elect members now. If it works well, if it’s not broken, why fix it?” he asked rhetorically. “They only want this because they thought they could defeat me.”

Bush said he did not think there was that much support for a move to one man, one vote. However, in its report published last year after a public consultation exercise the Electoral Boundary Commission said that public opinion was in favour of one man, one vote as that was what they were told at every public meeting they attended on Grand Cayman.

Comments during Monday night’s meeting by local attorney Steve McField that there were only nine people at the Boundary’s Bodden Town meeting which he attended, does not take account of the fact that other meetings had much higher attendance. The commissioners also received direct representations for the democratic principle of one member one vote.

A survey by the Chamber of Commerce among its members during the constitutional modernisation process also reflected significant majority support for single member constituencies. Since then commenters on CNS and other web sites and radio talk shows have all expressed support for the need to introduce one man, one vote.

Arguments that this is a vocal minority no longer seem to stand up as there has been very little public support for the current system and the move to give George Town’s constituents six votes while other electors have only one. The decision by government to have six seats in the capital will not only offer those voters far more representation than their fellow countrymen there is also much greater scope for manipulation of the election result as voters use their six votes tactically, an option not open to those in other constituencies. 

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