Archive for May 20th, 2011

Cayman businessman ordered to find US$14million

| 20/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(Jamaica Gleaner): A Jamaican judge has ordered businessmen Delroy Howell and Kenarthur Mitchell to account for and repay any shortfall from US$14 million that a Turks & Caicos Islands-based firm – First Financial Caribbean Trust Company (FFCTC) – claims was leaked from its coffers when Howell and Mitchell were in control of it. In the summary judgment, Justice Patrick Brooks has also ordered that First Financial Jamaica, one of a slew of companies controlled by Howell under the First Financial banner, repay over J$146.36 million that was conceded to a debt to FFCTC and "any other monies found to be due to the claimant".

Howell, Mitchell, First Financial Jamaica as well as three other defendants – First Financial International Group, First Financial Caribbean Limited and First Financial Caribbean (Holdings) – were also ordered to pay profit/rent, the amount of which is to be the subject of mediation, for use of FFCTC resources and property that was transferred to them.

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Miller: EIA reveals dangers

| 20/05/2011 | 23 Comments

(CNS): The independent member of the Legislative Assembly for North Side, who has been a vocal critic of the proposed East End commercial sea port, says the environmental impact assessment clearly shows that the project is far too risky given that there is no need for it. Ezzard Miller says the dangers admitted by the authors of the report will not be so easily mitigated as the EIA claims and the potential damage to the marine environment, in particular the reefs, along with the risks or flooding and many other negative impacts are too great when it is clear there is no necessity for a new cargo port in the district of East End.

“There is nothing in this EIA that surprises me as it has identified the same concerns that I have — except how easily the authors seem to think they can mitigate the dangers and risks that they admit the project would pose,” said Miller. “I do not see, for example, how the replacement of a 45 foot natural cliff with a man made 12 foot barrier could possible offer better protection from flooding. I also have concerns about how they could possibly move corals as easily as they claim.”

Miler pointed out that his fundamental objections remained the same, that there is no justification for the proposal and the developer does not have a proper business plan.

“Given the dangers and risk of damage that they admit, despite their claims at mitigation, when there is no justifiable need, how can this project possibly be allowed to go ahead?” he asked.

He noted that as Joseph Imparato has stated on several occasions that it is his intention to create the basic port structure, while government will be expected to complete the full infrastructure and roads. If government was to allow this now demonstrably risky project to go forward it would be the public purse that would have to find the money to compete the cargo port facilities, he said.

With so many commercial ports in the region being re-developed and news of a commercial port in Cuba, Miller said that Imparato’s claims that the country could tap into the transhipment industry are unconvincing.  But he noted this was because the commercial port has always been and still is a red herring.

“We have always known that this project is about digging a quarry and then selling fill for other anticipated projects, such as the Shetty hospital or the latest Hon development proposal,” Miller said.

The EIA which was conducted by a private sector firm based in Florida was published by the developer in full on his website yesterday. The document reveals a considerable number of significant impacts on the land and marine environment, to the local community and to the water lens.

In each case, however, the EIA attempts to put forward a mitigating proposition such as collecting seeds and transplanting trees in response to the removal of five hundred acres of mature terrestrial environment, supporting an array of Cayman’s indigenous and endanger flora and fauna. It also speaks about moving live coral heads from the six acres of reef which will be destroyed if the project is given thego ahead by government.

Go to www.eastendseaport.com to see the EIA.

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Mac declines to talk to CNS

| 20/05/2011 | 105 Comments

(CNS): As the current administration marks its mid-way point today, CNS had asked the premier if he would consider answering six questions about the last two years of his administration and the next two years ahead. Despite CNS’ best efforts to persuade him, McKeeva Bush declined as he said that CNS was erroneous and biased (as a boat jib) and there was too much hate from the bloggers. However, even though the premier decided not to answer us directly, over the last few weeks he has made a number of statements that suggest what he might have told CNS readers.  (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

We had asked the premier what he considered his greatest achievement since taking office to be, his biggest challenge, if he would do anything differently, what he was looking forward to most, what he expected to be the toughest issue over the 2nd half of the term and how he felt this time in office compared to his time as leader from 2001-2005. Even though he did not answer, over the last few weeks the premier has made a number of statements that suggest what he might have said.

It is reasonable to assume, given his recent public statements, that Bush would have pointed to the reduction in the deficit as one of his greatest achievements. With the global economic recovery still slow government revenue remains down and at the same time cutting expenses is still proving tough. Bush has, however, recently stated on a number of occasions that his government has managed to stabilize public finances and reduce the public sector deficit.

Although it is still unclear whether government will manage to end the year $15 million in the black after ending last year with a $50 milllion deficit, Bush has made it clear to civil servants that he needs spending cuts that will deliver that surplus.

He would likely have told us that government has balanced the public books without introducing any direct taxes, despite the large public debt and the pressure from the UK. If Bush had opted to answer CNS, he would probably have also taken credit for getting Cayman off the OECD gray list and noted it as a significant achievement.

With none of the planned public-private projects which the premier was hoping would kick start the local economy having materialized and unemployment in the local population continuing to grow, Bush would likely have pointed to the stumbling blocks to the projects,in both the public and private sectors as the most pressing issue that he has not yet addressed.

Getting some projects off the ground is probably what the premier would also have pointed to as the key developments he is most looking forward to over the next two years.

With rumours of an imminent announcement about where Dr Devi Shetty will be developing his planned hospital project, Hon Development committed to building a technology park in a special economic zone and a new potential Chinese partner willing to take on the cruise port, and two other infrastructure projects, development is where Bush sees the country’s economic recovery and in turn his political fortunes.

Asked what he would do differently, despite the many controversies that have plagued his administration so far, it is difficult to say if the premier has any political regrets. The Cohen and Co financing deal, the controversy over the costs of his and other ministers’ globetrotting, the decision to take his pension as well as his salary, the recent move to cease talks with the second cruise port development project, the opposition to his desire to sell or lease the new government building, his controversial announcement about Dart and the landfill only weeks after the contract was awarded to another company, are just some of the things that he may on reflection, regret.

While there are many things that could present challenges for the administration over the coming two years, from the continuing opposition to certain key projects to the need to raise new revenue, it hard to predict with certainty what Bush would have said. However, whether the premier thinks so or not, making the necessary spending cuts across the civil service, while keeping those public sector workers on side, may prove one of the most challenging of all.

The perceptions of a continuing rise in crime, despite the police commissioner’s claim, is also continuing to be an issue which has dominated the last two years, and while Bush’s government like others before him is limited by the division of power, the implementation of the 2009 constitution now offers the country’s leader more influence on law and order when it comes to crime. While Bush may feel he cannot control this aspect of government as premier, there is still an expectation on him to at least be seen to be addressing what is, according to anecdotal evidence, the biggest concern of both the wider public and the business community.

Tackling the ever sticky issue of immigration is also likely to be on Bush’s agenda for the next two years and the evident lack of significant change to the law over the last two years is clear indication that getting it right is not as easy as politicians like to claim from the hustings.

Every administration has been challenged with finding the balance between the need to recruit specific skills and talents from overseas, with jobs for the local people. However, with unemployment rising significantly among the Caymanian population, that balancing act is even more difficult.

And finally, asked to compare this first two years with his previous term in office, I think we can safely predict that Bush would have derided the increase in bureaucracy, rules, and greater press freedom. An open critic of the public management and finance law, freedom of information and the new online commenters or bloggers as the premier has named them – which has certainly stuck – these are all new factors that he has been forced to contend with since he left office as Leader of Government Business in 2005 and ones he has made no secret he dislikes.

Support for the current administration is waning since they were voted into office on 20 May and most straw polls on CNS are revealing an average 25 percent approval rating for the his and his government’s performance. (Vote in the latest poll here).

However, the only poll that counts when it comes to politics is the one on election day and one comment that Bush made to CNS when he declined to answer the mid-way point questions was that his opponents will have to “stew for another two years.”

The questions that CNS put to the premier that were not answered are:

Q1. What do you believe is your greatest achievement as leader since taking office on 20 May 2009?
Q2. What do you consider to be the most pressing issue that you have not yet managed to address?
Q3. If you could do these two years over what would you do differently (if anything)?
Q4. What are you most looking forward to in the next two years?
Q5. What do you think will be the most difficult issue that you anticipate facing over the next half of this administration?
Q6. How does the last two years of this administration compare to when you were at the government helm between 2001-2005?

Similar questions have been posed to both the leader of the opposition and the independent member for North Side asking them about how they feel they have measured up in their respective roles since being elected on May 20 2009 and both have agreed to answer. 

Watch out for those interviews which will be posted Monday.

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