Archive for May 23rd, 2011

Bush leaves for Trinidad for regional bank meeting

| 23/05/2011 | 19 Comments

(CNS):With no budget to deliver to his legislative colleagues yet, the premier left the country Monday afternoon for a meeting in Trinidad & Tobago. The Premier's Office said that McKeeva Bush set off for the 41st Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in Port-of-Spain. The meeting takes place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week (May 25 and 26). Bush is currently the chairman-elect of the CDB Board of Governors and Cayman will be hosting next year's meeting. At this year's meeting the Cayman premier will be delivering the closing remarks at the end of the two day meeting.

The British Overseas Territories of Cayman Islands, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands are collectively regarded as one member of the Board of Governors.

The CDB was established in the late sixties and opened in 1970 to assist member countries with socio-economic development programmes and to reduce poverty in the region.

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Where are the “bean counting” police?

| 23/05/2011 | 46 Comments

The following will show that 46% of Caymanians do not have jobs. Last week the ESO (Economics and Statistics Office) released employment figures based on the recent Census 2010, although they claim this is a preliminary report because the final results of the census will not be known until the end of 2011. According to the ESO, the current unemployment rate in Cayman is 6.7%.

That doesn’t sound too bad until you see how they used “creative license” in arriving at this figure. The 6.7% figure just seemed too low and too good to be true, which caused me to do some digging. Here’s what I found:

ESO reported the following numbers (I rounded them off to make this easier):

The total population is 54,400 people.
The total labour forcein Cayman is 35,860 (people ages 15 and up).
The number of unemployed is 2,400.
Therefore the unemployment rate is 6.7% (2400 divided by 35,860 = 6.7%).

This all seems okay at first glance. However, don’t forget that there are 21,000 work permit holders (foreigners) who are wrongfully included in the labour force figures. Remember, the total population figure includes foreign workers (work permit holders) as does the labour force figure. By definition, work permit holders cannot be counted as unemployed when they lose their jobs because they must leave Cayman if they are no longer are permitted to work.

In other words, they are not hanging around to be counted as unemployed. They are gone. Since work permit holders cannot be counted amongst the unemployed, it is only fair not to count them as employed either. It is unfair and dishonest to count them on one side of the employment equation and not on the other. This skews the data in ways that mis-represent the truth and make the unemployment rate look better than it is. Therefore, I propose that to arrive at a realistic unemployment figure we exclude the 21,000 work permit holders, which leaves us with an all Caymanian work force figure of 14,860.

Now let’s calculate the unemployment rate of the Caymanian work force.

Total Caymanian Labour Force = 14,860
The number of unemployed = 2,400
The unemployment rate is (2,400 divided by 14,860) = 16.2%

Also shown in the ESO report was a figure of 8,000 people of working age who were not included in the labour force figures. I eagerly await an explanation as to why people of working age are not considered a part of the labour force when the term “Labour Force” is defined by the ESO only as people greater than 14 years old. It does not say people who chose not to work or are unable to work or gave up looking for work. Therefore, it is only fair to include these 8,000 people of working age in the labour force figure. Look what happens when we include them:

Caymanian Labour Force (14,860) + (8,000) = New total Labour Force of 22,860 people.
Unemployed = the original (2,400) + (8,000) = New unemployed figure of 10,400 people.
Total unemployed Caymanians (10,400 divided by 22,860) = 46%

WOW! Imagine that, 46% of all Caymanians above age 14 do not work. This is a fact!

It doesn’t mean the unemployment rate is 46%, it just shows that 46% are not presently working either by choice or other circumstance. The 16.7% unemployment rate amongst those willing and able to work is reasonable. Another way to justify the exclusion of work permit holders (foreigners) from the employment picture is because they are taking jobs that Caymanians either don’t want or are unqualified to fill. These jobs are not available generally to the local work force. To include these jobs in the labour force picture only gives results in a lower unemployment number. In the ESO report, comparisons were made between 2010 and 2009. Similarly, 2009 figures included foreign labour which should not have been done.

In hindsight, it is beginning to look more like politics as usual rather than giving the public a true picture of how dire the situation is here. I would like to know the reason ESO presented such a rosy figure at this time and who ordered it to be done when the report states that the final 2010 Census figures won’t be finished until the end of this year.

It would be helpful in future reporting to break down the work force figures into detailed sub categories in order to show Caymanians the truest picture of their employment and how the sliding economy is affecting this country.

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Budget painful says governor

| 23/05/2011 | 171 Comments

(CNS): Full story – Delivering the government's Throne Speech this morning, the governor described the budget for 2011/12 as a “painful process". Addressing the Legislative Assembly Monday morning, Duncan Taylor said that government was facing challenges in its efforts to cut costs in order to bring government finances back to a sustainable level while still delivering quality services. He said government's planned surplus this year was brought about as a result of not paying into the pension liability and thatin reality government was still spending more than it earned. Against the backdrop of the UK's request that civil service costs be cut, the speech was delivered by Taylor in isolation without the fiscal plans for 2011/12.

The Legislative Assembly was adjourned by the premier shortly after the governor left the parliament.

“I am praying I will have a budget to present next week,” McKeeva Bush told the House as he moved the adjournment for a date to be fixed.

The delivery of the actual spending plans and revenue expectations has been delayed as a result of concerns raised by the UK government that the personnel costs for the public sector are still too high. However, Bush has stated he does not want to cut salaries or benefits to civil servants and therefore cuts must be made elsewhere.

Delivering his second throne speech in his role as governor, Taylor said far more needed to be done when it came to government expenditure. He added that the  past year had been a challenging one for the Cayman Islands because of the continuing recession and the impact of this on public finances.

“We are still feeling the impact of the global financial crisis and the recession which it provoked.  Like most countries around the world, we are having to take difficult decisions to cut costs, in order to bring government finances back onto a sustainable track.  It is a painful process,” he said. 

With the UK still having the last word on this year's government spending, Talylor described the process of setting this budget as “stressful and prolonged” as he thanked all those who had worked on it. He added that the Portfolio of the Civil Service would continue supporting the steering group and teams that are carrying out the public sector reviews looking for spending cuts in government, but gave no more information on the most recent results of that team's work.

The governor also revealed that the Auditor General's Office intended  to provide the Legislative Assembly with the six financial and performance government audit reports, which are currently outstanding, in the coming financial year and stated that the AG would make a difference by “holding government accountable for its spending and for providing value-for-money in publicservices,” but did not refer to the current empty chair on the Public Accounts Committee.

Although government was not in a position to reveal  the actual numbers for the next financial year, the governor delivered a broad outline of the plans by the UDP administration and the official arm for the next twelve months.

He spoke at length about the implementation of e-services across government, from on-line training for civil servants to e-tickets being delivered by police. 

Tackling crime would be a key objective during the next year to secure borders and prevent organised crime from gaining a foothold on these islands, Taylor said but noted the challenges. Although crime figures were down, he said, just one crime was one too many and the increase in robberies was of particular concern.

'Public confidence remains an elusive goal,” Taylor said.  'The RCIPS recognises the key benefits of having officers at neighbourhood level, known and trusted by those they serve and key to the securing of public confidence.  This year, resources permitting, the RCIPS will increase the number of officers working with and at the heart of our communities.”

He also said that the new crime prevention strategy would soon be released to the public and that phase one of the national CCTV programme public surveillance camera system would be rolled out in the near future.

The governor listed a number of further policy plans and legislative changes that would come before the country's parliament in this financial year. These included necessary changes because of the Bill of Rights, which would be implemented in 18 months. He also pointed to planned amendments to the Judicature Law to widen the list of people eligible to serve on juries, and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law, as well as a new law  for the Commission of Standards in Public Life Bill. He also said there would be a new traffic law coming but there was no mention of the national conservation law, merely a policy intent to have EIAs conducted before developments begin.

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Hedge fund exit requests up in wake of oil rout

| 23/05/2011 | 1 Comment

(Reuters): Investors asked for more of their money back from hedge funds in the immediate aftermath of this month's commodities rout, data from hedge fund services firm GlobeOp (GO.L) on Monday shows. The firm's monthly snapshot of hedge fund redemption requests was taken on May 17, less than two weeks after oil lost as much as $13 a barrel on May 5, causing heavy losses at a number of funds.The GlobeOp Forward Redemption Indicator — a snapshot of clients giving advance notice they want to pull out their cash as a percentage of GlobeOp's assets under administration — rose to 3.92 percent from 2.45 percent.

This is the highest level so far this year and the second highest since last summer, though it is likely to have also been boosted by clients wanting to withdraw money at the half-year point.

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UK private jail owners send profits to tax havens

| 23/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(Daily Mirror): Private jail bosses paid from the public purse are putting profits offshore to avoid tax, MPs will be told this week. Firms making millions out of the privatisation of British justice are not paying their due, says a Prison Officers’ Association report. Taxpayers pick up the bills for land and buildings of these jails. But the people running them have parent companies which the POA has traced to tax havens. The report says: “Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being diverted from essential public service provision that could benefit society as a whole. Often those that benefit most are registered in tax havens.” POA general secretary Steve Gillan said it was “a national scandal”.

The report says: “Making a profit out of incarceration is morally repugnant. Companies have a vested interest in keeping the prison population high to maximise profits.” It says firms have no incentive to go along with Mr Clarke’s “rehab¬¬ilitation revolution” – aimed at cutting the ¬crippling expense of ¬prisons by ¬reducing the number of inmates.

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PWD has new tender criteria

| 23/05/2011 | 12 Comments

(CNS):The Public Works Department has overhauled its criteria for measuring the value and quality of bids submitted during tender requests for government jobs. The acting deputy chief officer at the ministry, Tristan Hydes, told CNS that the first tender request regarding the work for the Cayman Brac emergency centre was withdrawn as a result of changes made by the department as recommended by the Central Tenders Committee. The tender for the foundations was awarded on the second RFP as a result of the changes to the requirements, which Hydes said were more objective in order to attain “best value” for government. This objective approach, he added, introduces a more detailed scoring mechanism that was not just focused on price.

The tender was re-advertised in accordance with CTC regulations under the new rules after a letter had been circulated to bids already made. Hydes said that the same tenderers that submitted under the first advertisement, expressed interest under the second tender with the same dollar values, and the tender that won was clearly leading under the first evaluation as well.

“This new mechanism is now being used going forward on future PWD projects, and it is this ministry’s as well as CTC & PWD's intention to be fair and objective in all projects that will lead to government obtaining the best value for its project,” he added.

The first tender for the first phase of the $9 million Brac shelter project (nick-named Hurricane Hilton as a result of the various luxuries, such as en-suite hotel type accommodation that are part of the design) was won by Island Builders Co. The owner of the construction company, Dean Scott, signed the contract with Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly at a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month. Despite the changes to the criteria described by Hydes, Scott told CNS that his bid of $285,000 to build the 27,000 square foot foundation was still the lowest of the five bids when it came to dollars.

A letter cancelling the original tender was sent out by the director of public works to all those who had already submitted bids in early February, stating that a new RFP would be circulated.  The project was then retendered under the new criteria and closed in March.

The CTC and procurement process is currently under scrutiny by the auditor general, who is expected to publish a report next month. How government gives out contracts has been the subject of controversy for some time and the Commission for Standards in Public Life, created under the constitution, has also stated that it intends to look closely at the technical teams that advice the CTC and the make-up of the committee itself. 

However, despite being established in the immediate wake of the implementation of the country’s 2009 constitution, the standards commission has not yet begun any investigations of any kind as it says it needs specific legislation in place before it can fulfil its mandate.

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Jamaican drug suspects charged on immigration issues

| 23/05/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police have released pictures of the recent haul of 275lb of Ganja seized from a Jamaican drug canoe. Although the four men arrested have not yet been charged by the police for their attempt to land drugs in Grand Cayman, they did appear in court Friday charged with immigration offences. The Jamaican nationals, who were arrested following a police operation on Saturday 14 May, when a drug canoe was seized off the north coast, were charged in Summary Court with smuggling and illegal landing. The men were spotted at around 10pm on the night of their arrest by officers on maritime patrol. The police air support unit wasnotified and after a short pursuit the marine vessel intercepted the Jamaican canoe. (RCIPS Photos)

All of the men were arrested for illegal entry into the Cayman Islands as well as suspicion of importation of drugs when the significant ganja haul was discovered, which included some 10 bales of the drug. Police enquiries into the suspected drug smuggling are continuing and so far no charges have been brought against in connection with that crime but all four men remain in custody.

"This is yet another example of how the RCIPS combined resources of the Air Operations Unit and our joint marine assets are successfully protecting our borders and preventing illegal drugs reaching the dealers and streets of the Cayman Islands,” said Superintendent Kurt Walton.  This latest intervention should send a very clear message to anyone thinking about bringing drugs or guns into our country."
 

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Miller battles party politics

| 23/05/2011 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Two years into this administration, Ezzard Miller has told CNS that being the only independent member today is very different from his previous times serving in the parliament because party politics has become more important than the people. Answering six specific questions put to him by CNS, Miller said he is striving to do what he can to represent his district, and is most pleased with the creation of the council, which offers his constituents a voice in the democratic process. Miller explained that he sees himself not as an opposition to government but as someone offering constructive criticism or alternatives, as he comes to the LA to represent the wants and needs of the people of North Side. However, if that is in opposition to government he said he won’t flinch to express those views. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

CNS -Q: What do you believe is the greatest achievement that you've managed in your role as an independent member for your constituents or even the wider community in this first two years?

EM: The North Side District Council, which has succeeded in uniting the North Side community in working to solve the social and economic problems of North Side. However, I cannot claim the total success for the achievements of the council as many persons and in particular the executive and the office manager of the MLA office have contributed in various ways.  The council facilitates my core political principle, participatory democracy, that is my conviction that the persons I am privileged to represent have a right to be involved in all decisions made by their government.

CNS-Q: What do you consider to be the most pressing issue you haven’t managed to tackle yet?

EM: The most pressing issue that I have not been able to tackle is the lack of hope in young people from primary school to age 25. This lack of hope combined with lack of enthusiasm for success in adult life is a ticking "time bomb" that I believe has the potential to destroy the "Cayman economic miracle".

These young people have no local heroes to emulate, mingle with or admire as I did when I was growing up as I believe my generation was the last to be raised by the village. We, the council and myself, have made some progress in this area by the introduction of "The Hard work and Determination" campaign launched in December 2009, however much is left to be done.

The failure to obtain any funding from government to assist with the planned after school programme has slowed things down considerably. However, we are now in the process of seeking funding from the corporate sector to launch the after school program in September.

These young people are discouraged when they see their family members who did not do well in school being unable to get adequate employment and even more discouraged when they see those family members who have completed university, obtained their degree and also unable to get employment. The first is easy to explain, the second much more difficult in a country with sixty percent over employment and the constant pronouncements of their government that leads to more work permits.

CNS-Q: If you could do these two years over, what would you do differently (if anything)?

EM: There is not much that I would do differently as most of what I did as a representative was done in full consultation with the people that I represent.

CNS-Q: What are you most looking forward to in the next two years?

EM: To continuing working with North Side District Council to achieve the following for North Side: repairs and deepening of the launch ramp in Old Man Bay and the conversion of the area into a local beach resort, the creation of a waste site for trash and white goods, some road repairs and street lights, as well as successfully tackling the problems of the young people.

CNS-Q: What do you think will be the most difficult issue that you anticipate facing over the next half of the UDP administration?

EM: The most difficult issue that I will face from the UDP administration over the next two years is the personal attacks that will be launched against me in the Legislative Assembly as I continue to offer constructive criticism to their laws, policies and programs from the ‘Southeast Corner’ as an independent member. I do not see my role as one in opposition to the government but rather to assist the government in doing what is best for Cayman and Caymanians, through constructive criticism. However, I will not flinch from opposing if the people whom I represent believe and express the view that opposition on some things is necessary, for example the East End Seaport.

CNS-Q. How does the last two years of this administration compare to when you were in the Legislative Assembly the last time?

EM: The greatest difference between when I represented North Side in the 80's and now is party politics, where the individual parties take precedence, then the party members, then Cayman and Caymanians and the absolute lack of camaraderie for the good of Cayman. This is followed closely by the level of debate and personal attacks which take precedence over debating the issues and anything seems to be right as long as they can blame someone else. While in the 80's we had heated debate on issues, Cayman and Caymanians always took precedence in the final analysis and collective solutions was common through working together in select committees. Today, it is far more important who does something than what is being done. The ruling Party the UDP must get the credit in their achievement list for the next election.

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