Archive for October 28th, 2011

Gender equality comes to British throne

| 28/10/2011 | 29 Comments

(BBC): More than a thousand years of royal history will have to change to give daughters and sons equal rights to become Britain's monarch.What's more, all 16 countries which have the Queen as head of state must change their legislation too.Government experts admit they are still examining just which laws need to alter.They have drawn up a list of nine dating back 1689 – but they admit it may not be exhaustive.One problem is that male primogeniture – which gives younger brothers the right to become monarchs ahead of their elder sisters – is based on many centuries of common law rules of property, not anyone piece of legislation.

Legislation being looked at includes: the Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701, the Coronation Oath Act 1689, the Act of Union with Scotland 1706, Princess Sophia's Precedence Act 1711, the Royal Marriages Act 1772, the Union with Ireland Act 1800, the Accession Declaration Act 1910 and the Regency Act 1937.

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First corruption charges filed

| 28/10/2011 | 54 Comments

(CNS): A spokesperson for the police has confirmed that a member of the RCIPS support staff has been charged under the anti-corruption law. The woman is the first person in the Cayman Islands to face charges under the new legislation and is now on bail and bound over to appear in court next month. The female staffer, who has been replaced on required leave, is accused of abusing confidential police data and faces two counts of abuse of public office and two charges of misconduct in a public office. The police have not given details of the crime but said the charges result from an investigation by the RCIPS’ own anti-corruption unit.

“Following an investigation launched by the RCIPS anti-corruption unit in relation to allegations of misuse of confidential police data systems, we can now confirm that a member of RCIPS support staff has been charged in connection with the enquiry,” a spokesperson for the RCIPS stated on Friday afternoon (28 October).

“She was charged earlier today, with two counts of abuse of public office, contrary to section 17 of the anti-corruption law 2008, and two charges of misconduct in a public office. The woman is currently on bail and it is anticipated that she will appear in court on Tuesday, 8 November.”

 

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Anti-tax groups ask Congress to stop paying OECD

| 28/10/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS):  A group of activists campaigning for lower taxes in the US have written to the American congress asking the, to cut the USD100m taxpayer subsidy paid to the Organization for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) because of what they claim is the agency's opposition to tax competition. In a letter released this week the Coalition for Tax Competition said they had “long been disturbed” about what they said was the OECD’s  'harmful tax competition' project that seeks to hinder the flow of jobs and capital to low-tax nations.

The authors of the letter which include representatives from Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, the Sovereign Society, the Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights and the National Tax Limitation Committee, wrote that the United States is the world's biggest beneficiary of international capital flows and tax competition and described the contribution made by the AUS government from the public funds to the OECD as “the height of folly.”

Signed by 16 people from various think tanks and taxpayer organizations the letter also criticises the OECD for its trend in supporting certain domestic policies such as 'stimulus' spending, cap-and-trade regulation, and a value-added tax in the US, which the authors say means the US taxpayers are subsidizing further advocacy for bigger government and higher taxes which they claim are against their own interests.

“US taxpayers should not be funding an organization which works against their interests by promoting 'a statist agenda,” the letter states.

Andrew Quinlan, President of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and Coordinator for the Coalition for Tax Competition argued that OECD bureaucrats have lived a fat and happy life using the US taxpayer dime. Meanwhile, Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute said that the OECD is “in love with higher taxes,” and called for the US government to stop sending US taxpayer dollars to the Paris and keep it at home.

See letter here

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World bank blasts abuse of company registration

| 28/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(The Economist) : A new report by the World Bank called “The Puppet Masters” has investigated some 150 cases of what it calls “grand corruption”, with a total of $50 billion in illicit assets. Nearly all involved use of companies in which the real ownership was concealed, and of bank accounts, often in respectable countries . The United States is “by far the worst performer” of the countries reviewed. As a test, one of the authors set up a firm in Nevada with a nominee director based in Panama, complete with an American bank account. All he needed was an unnotarised copy of a driving licence (which showed an out-of-date address) and $3,695.

The report recommends tightening the definition of “beneficial ownership” to focus on the control exercised over a company and the benefitderived; the end point should always be a human being, not another legal entity. Banks and companies providing registration services should widen their due diligence to include this. Nominee directors should disclose whom they report to. Complex structures with more than three layers of ownership should arouse especial scrutiny and have to explain themselves. Other recommendations are that company registries should be searchable online and operators should make an effort to verify the information supplied.

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Local accountant’s body backs push for professor

| 28/10/2011 | 0 Comments

CNS): The Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants has thrown its support behind the International College of the Cayman Islands' fundraising initiative in order to allow the college to hire a full-time professor in accounting. The college described the goal as a strategic move to raise the bar in higher education and attract more corporate sponsors. CISPA is committing to an $18,500 sponsorship over a three-year period to help fund the academic chair — a university designation given to a professor for specialized knowledge and research.

A driving factor behind CISPA’s sponsorship was sending a message that investing in college education, even in a shaky economy, is a smart investment in the skilled labour force and will help the Cayman Islands stay competitive in the long run, explained CISPA President Jeff Short.

“This sponsorship will further enhance and allow the International College to grow its high quality accounting programme,” said Short. “Given the International College’s importance of training accountants for our financial services sector, CISPA has helped promote sponsorship from other organizations and companies. With this new initiative, as well as their new business building, it is a very exciting time at the International College. We wish them great success."

Student enrolment among high school graduates and mature adults is growing in the accounting, finance, banking and management programmes to meet the demands of a competitive business environment, explained International College President John Cummings, PhD.

“Having CISPA’s support in hiring a full-time professor who understands the dynamics of the financial services sector will bring our business programme to a new level,” Dr Cummings stated in a release. “The timing for hiring a professor couldn’t be better as we just opened our new business building for the fall term, which will enable us to accept more students into our business programmes.”

As a non-profit, private institution, the International College has made it a priority to offer affordable tuition to both Caymanians and residents and still maintain its international accreditation, which undergoes a rigorous review every few years.

International College Dean Scott Cummings expressed his gratitude to CISPA for their three-year sponsorship commitment to the academic chair.

“CISPA has been incredibly generous with their professional advice and financial support,” said the Dean. “Providing this level of corporate sponsorship for the academic chair is invaluable in providing the best possible opportunity for success to our business and accounting students.

“CISPA has always stood ready to assist us with the growth and development of our business programme and this academic chair is the next step in the evolution of our programme,” he added.

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Olympus paid mystery Cayman Islands firms

| 28/10/2011 | 1 Comment

(Techeye): Japanese camera manufacturer Olympus has found itself embroiled in a controversy with some mysterious Cayman Islands-based companies. The Wall Street Journal says that Olympus paid much of the $1 billion it spent on three Japanese start-ups to mysterious businesses in the Cayman Islands. The WSJ saw an independent 2009 panel report by auditors for Olympus' board.  A company executive said he hasn't a clue about the companies, claiming the only information is the name of them along with their bank account details. After Olympus gave them the money, it's reported that three companies were either dissolved or shut down.

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CNS launching new website

| 28/10/2011 | 13 Comments

(CNS Business): Cayman News Service will be launching a new website next week dedicated to business news, both local and international, as well as the comments, viewpoints and forums that have become the hallmark of CNS. On Launch Day, Friday 4 November, the popular news website is partnering with the Cayman Islands Brewery, a local company that produces one of these islands’ most successful exports, to offer readers a 100% made-in-Cayman brew to celebrate the occasion, and vouchers can be downloaded from the new site. CNS has also announced that well-known local journalist and editor Lindsey Turnbull, will be joining the CNS team to write the business editorial content.

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Drivers face phone ban

| 28/10/2011 | 71 Comments

(CNS): Although presumed missing in the Glass House for some time now, the long awaited traffic bill has finally reappeared and was approved by Cabinet this week. The new traffic law is scheduled to reach the floor of the Legislative Assembly during the next meeting,due to start on 16 November. Among the many changes the new act covers, it introduces a ban on mobile phone use while driving. Under the new law it will be an offence for drivers to use their phones without a hands-free unit or making a 911 call. Another change to the law is the licensing of driving instructors, a written test for holders of foreign licences, a ban on wheel clampers and, at long last, the use of electric vehicles on the road.

According to the law, anyone using a mobile phone will be required to have the phone affixed to the vehicle in a hands free unit which requires only one button to operate the phone. It is hoped this will prevent people from texting and emailing while driving, an issue that has been raising mounting concerns in the community as being the cause of many of Cayman’s road accidents.

Drivers will be able to use their phones once they have stopped their cars and pulled over from the traffic flow but the law makes it clear it will be an offence to use them when drivers are stopped at traffic lights or a junction.

The new law provides for mobile phone infractions to be dealt with through the ticketing system but has not defined the level of the fine. The mobile phone ban, which has been called for on numerous occasions by the police commissioner, does not apply to police officers on duty.

Electric cars, which are currently banned from the public highways altogether, will, once the law is passed, have access to roads zoned at 30mph or under. With plans to reduce the West Bay Road speed limit to 30mph, this means that owners of green vehicles will be able drive from West Bay to Red Bay, even if the rest of the island remains off limits.  However, the proposed closure of the West Bay road as part of government's ForCayman Alliance may create problems unless the planned Esterly Tibbetts Highway extension provides a 30mph lane for electric vehicles.

The law, which repeals the 2003 act, also provides for people to pay traffic tickets electronically as an alternative to paying at the court house. Containing over 140 clauses, it covers regulatory and safety issues, including the registration of vehicles, the licensing of drivers and instructors, public transport, the use of vehicles and related equipment, traffic control and road use, as well as the powers of the police under the law.

Check back for more stories on the law on Monday.

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Governor says law is ‘legal’

| 28/10/2011 | 34 Comments

(CNS): Despite the fact that the Immigration Amendment bill was not given the required 21 day public consultation period before it reached the floor of parliament, the governor is assenting to the law.  The independent member for North Side wrote to the governor after that bill and one for amendments to the National Pensions Law were passed in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month asking him not to assent to the bills because they were unconstitutional. But Duncan Taylor has stated in his response to Miller that because the law provides for the 21 day period to be suspended in an emergency, which is not clearly defined in the constitution, he would be signing the amendment to the immigration law. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

In his letter Taylor says it appears that government believed there was an “urgent and pressing need” to pass the immigration law and took steps to suspend the necessary standing orders. He tells Miller he said he did not think assenting to the bills was inconsistent with the constitution and also noted his reluctance to undermine a decision taken by the elected parliament.

"I am only too aware that any decision I might take, as Governor, to refuse to assent to legislation duly passed by the elected representatives would be an extraordinary one which should only be employed in the most exceptional and prescribed circumstances. I do not consider that such circumstances exist here," the governor writes to Miller.

On receiving the letter Miller said he was not entirely convinced, as the governor was, that it was an emergency. “While I accept the governor's decision to assent to the immigration law, I do have some difficulty in accepting his rationalization that ‘a case of emergency' existed at the time the bill was introduced or that the premier or the government made the case, given his included definition of emergency.”

However, Miller said he did find it much easier to understandthat any move the governor made to refuse to assent to legislation passed by elected representatives would be extraordinary.

The North Side representative said he was pleased that, if nothing else, his letter had influenced the government to start following the process as the last Legislative Assembly meeting has now been properly adjourned in preparation for a new meeting to start on 16 November and the bills which will be considered in that next meeting have been circulated to members.

While Miller’s move has not prevented Taylor from giving his blessing to the immigration law, and more than likely the pension’s law when he receives that, it does appear to have caused government to rethink its strategy towards parliamentary process.

“I am pleased that the government has terminated the second meeting of the Legislative Assembly and called the third meeting to start on November 16, which will make all the other bills intended for the second meeting compliant with section 77 (2) of the Cayman Islands Constitutional Order 2009 and there will be no need to suspend Standing Orders to allow the first reading,” the governor writes in his letter to Miller.

Government had decided to close that last sitting of the Legislative Assembly sine die, which means when legislators return they will continue with the same meeting, preventing the opposition and the independent member from submitting any parliamentary questions or new motions.

The independent member and the opposition benches have been protesting extensively over government’s disregard of the 21 day consultation period on laws and the way meetings have been managed, which they say is effectively stifling debate and is an abuse of the democratic process.

The decision to adjourn the previous sitting however, means the 16 November opens up a new window for the opposition benches and Miller to submit new business and read the proposed laws for the next meeting.

“I amvery pleased the government decided to respect the constitutional provisions, which means bills will have been circulated 21 days before the new meeting,” Miller said. “My main complaint has been over the introduction of government business without any time to consider the bills let alone consult with anyone or to discuss them with our constituents whom we represent.”

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Captains want port option to go to Cabinet

| 28/10/2011 | 101 Comments

(CNS): Sea captains backing the idea to put the cruise port in Red Bay instead of George Town want government to take it seriously and give the plan proper consideration before, they say, it makes the irreversible mistake of developing in the capital. The group proposing that the facility be built in the South Sound area hope to put their idea to Cabinet before a deal is signed with Chinese Harbour Engineering Company. None of the captains or  supporters have any financial interest in its development but believe government should put the proposal to the Chinese firm as a genuine alternative to the plan currently on the table simply because, they say, it’s a better option for all.

The premier is currently involved in exclusive talks with CHEC to finance, develop and operate two cruise piers in George Town based on a lease of some 49 years. McKeeva Bush entered into a ministerial MOU with the Bejing based firm in June but the clock is ticking on that agreement, which is due to expire next month. At that point government will be either pulling out of the talks with CHEC or signing a heads of agreement to go ahead with the plan.

Earlier this week the premier announced that the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) was issuing its final warning to Cayman to make positive steps towards cruise berthing or the islands could be seeing the end of cruise tourism business. His comments came in the wake of yet more statistical evidence that cruise arrival figures were continuing on a downward spiral. This summer visitor arrival numbers in Cayman are more than 30% down on the numbers arriving in 2010. That figure could be even worse by the year end as cruise ships bypass Cayman for the growing number of ports of call around the Caribbean that can accommodate the new class of mega ships with berthing facilities. 

Reginald ‘Choppy’ Delapenha, a local businessman involved in the tourism industry who supports the alternative Red Bay proposal and has been helping co-ordinate the campaign, told CNS that the group recognizes that government is in talks right now with CHEC and want the premier to consider placing this proposal before that firm before they sign a deal to build in George Town.

“It’s not our intention to bring another developer into the picture,” he said. “Our concerns are to see the project done as this will benefit the entire Cayman economy.  Given the considerable knowledge and expertise in our group of captains, their input in this very important project should be considered.”

He said that Captain Arlen McCoy, an internationally licensed captain of some of the world's largest ships, along with Captain Bob Soto have both made separate presentations in relation to this project going back as far as 2004 and there are now many others that share the same feeling that the best location for this project is in Red Bay.
 
“There are no private interests being represented here,” Delapenha said. “Our proposal to government will be for it to consider the Red Bay location over the downtown.”

The group believes that Red Bay is the best location for the cruise facility because it would create an all-weather port and has none of the disadvantages of a finger pier in George Town. Experts say that even with finger piers cruise ships will not be able to dock in the George Town Harbour during nor’esters, meaning Cayman will still require a back up at Spotts.

The captains say the Red Bay facility, which could include a mega yacht marina, could be developed simultaneously with the George Town re-urbanization project and the two could be connected by a new shuttle system.

The captains also say the Red Bay port would be significantly less expensive to build in the shallow water and the fill from the excavation would make the project financially viable. The alternative to George Town also removes the traffic bottleneck at Hurley's as it would disburse traffic.

They say the new facility would not compete with the retailers in George Town, which would be maintained as the shopping capital, but instead increase business for all as passengers would call in port on more days and taxis and bus companies would have work carrying passengers into downtown George Town.

There are, however, some serious environmental concerns as the project would be developed in a marine Replenishment Zone and it would have a significant impact on the reef, which would need to be cut. The development would also have a direct impact on the dive ‐sites in South West Point and change the character of the area completely. The captains say that these issues, as concerning as they may be, pale compared to the problems presented by the George Town project, which also has major environmental issues.

From a major increase in traffic congestion to the destruction of Cali/Balboa Wrecks, the Cheeseburger Reef and potential damage to Seven Mile Beach, the sea captains say the George Townproposal creates greater environmental and other more complex problems than the Red Bay proposal.

Added to that, the continued conflict with cargo, the limited space, the expense of construction because of the deep water and the disruption to ongoing  cargo and cruise operations during construction and life in George Town in general, Red Bay on balance is a far more feasible proposition.

So far, the premier has made no direct comment about the Red Bay alternative proposal but recently took aim at his critics regarding the slow progress towards the development of facilities. CHEC is the third proposed party that government has negotiated with, delaying the start of the development of the project.  In a statement on Monday Bush asked for the industry’s support for what he was doing as he promised to get cruise berthing facilities in the islands.

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