Archive for December 2nd, 2011

Alden:What’s the plan Mac?

| 02/12/2011 | 52 Comments

Premier Bush delivering his address.jpg(CNS): The opposition leader pressed the premier to reveal what his government's plan is to fulfil the promised revenue increase forecast in the Strategic Policy Statement delivered on Thursday. Alden McLaughlin pointed to an absence of any specifics in the documentregarding the projects referred to or any other new revenue generating measures. He said McKeeva Bush’s comments about austere times would come as no surprise to anyone but what the country would have been hoping for with this important statement was hope for the future. With no sign of a plan and no sign of any of the government's projects coming on line, the UDP government was fast running out of time to achieve anything, McLaughlin said.

Speaking on Friday morning in response to the premier's SPS, the opposition leader said there was little substance in the premier's speech or in the document itself at a time when the people were crying out for something to inspire them and give them confidence in the future.

McLaughlin queried what the government's plan was for the rest of its term as it simply was not clear in the speech or the document. He said that with government well past the half-way stage, one would have imagined a comprehensive presentation of government's plans to turn things around and details of the recovery, but there was none. While the premier spoke about his vision and promised things would get better, the opposition leader expressed concern on the lack of detail.

“When people are losing their homes and their businesses, these words don't comfort,” he said, adding that there was no indication of any plan in the document. “We are afloat in an ark captained by the premier with no plan,” McLaughlin stated. “I am not at all sure we are going to arrive safe and sound.”

McLaughlin wondered if the absence of detail relating to the major projects, in particular the goal to develop berthing facilities in George Town, was because the new Financial Framework Agreement may have put this and the ForCayman Alliance at risk. Although the SPS referred to the major projects, including the Dr Devi Shetty hospital and Cayman Enterprise City, the opposition leader pointed out that there was no information about the time lines.

He said there was not even a date for the main agreement on the port project, never mind any kind of time line for work to start. Government’s move of “changing horses midway” had certainly delayed the cruise project and had perhaps put it at risk. The premier, he said, owed the country a detailed explanation about what was happening to this and the investment alliance with Dart. If they were on hold, the government needed to reveal a 'plan B', McLaughlin added, given that they were hailed by the premier as Cayman's economic saviours.

He acknowledged the premier's comments about not being able to turn the economy around through talk, accusations and complaining. “But what is it that he is proposing to do?” the PPM leader asked, adding that he could not expect people to believe things were going to improve simply because he said so, as he criticized the opaque statements about revenue enhancement. McLaughlin noted that Bush had signed a deal with the UK committing Cayman to “realigning its revenue base” but, he asked, what did that really mean?

With no plan and an absence of specifics about what government intended to do to improve its revenue, the opposition leader said it would be hard for the members on his side of the House to support the SPS.

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Lightning strikes in Round 2

| 02/12/2011 | 0 Comments

lightning v brant skyler    26 nov 11 392.jpg(lightninglewison.com): On 26th November, a boxing show with a difference took place at the Dalmain Ebanks boxing gym. It was the second professional fight of Peter "Lightning" Lewison. His opponent was Brant Skyler, a much more experienced fighter from the USA. However despite Skyler's advantage in experience, Lewison knocked him out in the second round with a powerful uppercut. This was the second win for Lewison, who is following in the footsteps of his idol Charles "Killa" Whittaker, both fighting and promoting his own shows. 

The show also featured undercard fights from amateurs Tafari Ebanks, Javaka Kellier and Dariel Ebanks as well as white collar boxer Luke Willingdon. 

The crowd was also treated to entertainment from Mean Source dancers, Black Ken, a boxing moves exhibition by Tracey Seymour with coach Norman Wilson and self defence demonstration by Bob Daigle.

Lewison said that he was "extremely proud of how the show turned out and thankful for all of the support from the community in attending and sponsoring the event". He hopes to organise a similar event for March next year.

Go to full story on lightninglewison.com

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Deficit expected at year end

| 02/12/2011 | 95 Comments

l108527-100.jpg(CNS): According to the statistics revealed in government’s Strategic Policy Statement (SPS), the public purse is now facing a deficit rather than the surplus predicted during the budget delivered some six months ago. The premier had announced in July that because of the work of his government to get public finances back on track he expected a surplus at the end of the 2011-2012 year of more than $12 million. In the SPS tabled in the Legislative Assembly yesterday however, the statistics tell a very different story, with government now predicting a deficit of $4.5 million — a turnaround for the worse of more than $16 million.

McKeeva Bush made no reference to the downturn in the country’s economic standing during his speech when he delivered the document but spoke about expected surplus over future financial years.

The SPS document reveals the government’s financial targets up to the end of 2015 and includes the financial situation for this fiscal year. Government appears to be incurring the unexpected deficit as a result of increased public spending. The operating revenue for the financial years 2011-2012 is expected to be higher than predicted at the time of the budget in June this year. The revised target calls for core government to collect over $548 million compared to the anticipated earnings of $535 million.

The problem for the public purse is that despite commitments from government to curb public spending, it has incurred considerably greater expenses than budgeted for. Core government operating expense by the year end should be no more than $490 million. However, the revised half year budget target suggests government will in fact spend more than $511 million

With the theme of 'Maintaining fiscal discipline’, Bush had promised a surplus by 30 June 2012 and not a deficit, which under the current Financial Framework Agreement with the UK, signed in London last month, could present serious problems for the government as it will not be able to borrow to plug the spending gap.

The debate on the SPS is expected to begin in the Legislative Assembly this morning (Friday 2 December) with the opposition leader’s response.

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Still no disability law as Anglin calls for small changes

| 02/12/2011 | 14 Comments

Diasabilty-symbol-on-laptop-keyboard.jpg(CNS): In the continued absence of a law to protect people with disabilities, the minister responsible for bringing the legislation has called on the community to start making the small changes needed to promote acceptance and inclusion of persons with disabilities. From changing the language used to describe individuals who have intellectual, sensory, mental health or physical disabilities to the way we think about individuals with special needs, Rolston Anglin said they deserved not to be discriminated against. In his message marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities he said the ministry was still working on the legislation.

The comprehensive report by the Legal Subcommittee for Persons with Disabilities commissioned by Anglin’s predecessor was tabled in the legislative assembly in March 2009 which laid the foundation for the implementation of the law. However, no legislation has been drafted.

See minister's  full message below

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Customs officer arrested for drug smuggling

| 02/12/2011 | 26 Comments

(CNS): A local customs officer has been arrested in connection with exporting cocaine to Britain last September, officials have confirmed. The man is the second officer to be accused of being involved in cocaine smuggling through Owen Roberts International Airport to the UK. The officer is alleged to have been found with the same bag believed to have been used to transport the drugs to London. The case has involved a number of men and one Cayman officer remains on suspension in connection with the UK investigation. It is not known exactly how many other men were involved in the smuggling ring but three Caymanians were arrested and detained in the UK in connection with the alleged offences.

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Car flips on Marina Drive

| 02/12/2011 | 14 Comments

IMG00138-20111201-1249.jpg(CNS): Police and emergency services rushed to a car smash yesterday afternoon to find that a vehicle had managed to completely flip over on to its roof following a collision on Marina Drive in George Town yesterday. It was unclear if anyone was injured in the car-flip and police were investigating the circumstances as to how the in accident occurred. The crash came less than one week into the RCIPS Christmas crack down on unsafe driving and a campaign to hammer home the message about the poor standards on local roads. This freaky looking crash comes only days after a fatal collision on Esterley Tibbetts Highway which claimed the life of the sixth person killed on the roads in Cayman this year.

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Cayman to chase business from Bermuda

| 02/12/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Capturing the re-insurance industry from Cayman’s main competitor, Bermuda, could net the Cayman Islands around as much in GDP as Cayman’s entire financial services industry currently contributes, according to statistics from the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR). With the industry in Bermuda in decline, insurance professionals in Cayman say the forthcoming legislative changes about to be enacted will pave the way for commercial reinsurers to incorporate in the Cayman Islands, and this country will then be well positioned to become the domicile of choice for starting a commercial reinsurer. Read more on CNS Business

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“Cash is king,” says Bush

| 02/12/2011 | 55 Comments

_DEW2462_0.jpg(CNS): The premier has warned of the need for tighter public spending over the next few years in order to rebuild the country’s cash reserves, because without cash Cayman would be unable to meet its future needs. In a more than two hour strategic policy statement McKeeva Bush warned of austere times over the next few years as government continued on a road to fiscal recovery and tighter controls on spending. He described cash as "king" and spoke of plans to eventually put government surpluses into its reserves. With a need to cut expenditure over the next three years, regardless of who would be in power, difficult decisions would need to me made, Bush told the Legislative Assembly Thursday morning. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

“Expenditure restraintswill likely mean that there will be changes to services delivered by government agencies,” he said adding that the country could no longer afford to do business as usual.  “Here in Cayman the government is often the sole provider of key healthcare and social services that many in our community depend on, but we must find a way to provide our key services in as cost effective a manner as possible.”

Bush said that with the restrictions on borrowing a part of the UK’s financial framework agreement, which he described as a “bitter pill to swallow”, coupled with the failure to build up cash reserves, public spending had to be cut. Although he wanted to present an uplifting statement for the future, he said, the strategic policy statement (SPS) this year was grounded in reality.

“Anyone can make plans,” he noted, referring to building roads or schools or providing children with books, the police with the best cars or the best prison service, but he said that all of the elected members had to be truthful to the country. “Regardless if the country decides to throw us out and vote for someone else, plans must be grounded in reality,” he warned, adding that he was presenting his vision for the next three years regardless of whether he was in office or “someplace else”, as God would decide.

“In times like these, cash is king; without it the government cannot function and it is important that we maximize all opportunities to earn and preserve cash in order to give the country the resources to ward off any future economic crisis, as well as continue to strive for proper national development,” Bush said.

Government is committed to improving revenue collection and plans enhancements to enforcement, compliance and improve the payment methods to reduce volatility in cash collection, he said. The premier said there would be no new major revenue measures over the next three years unless the economy failed to improve in line with the projections or in the face of a national disaster.

The SPS forecasts that government will earn about $560.8 million in 2012/13, $572.6 million in 2013/14 and $587.4 million in 2014/15. This is based on a growth rate of 2.3 per cent as well as the implementation plans of some of the planned major projects, such as the cruise port, the enterprise city, Narayana Health University Project and the ForCayman Investment Alliance, Bush said. 

Meanwhile, government expected operating expense to be $497.9 million in 2012/13, $502.9 million in 2013/14, and $508 million in 2014/15, which would present significant challenges, the premier warned.

With the need to improve education, infrastructure, policing and border security and the human rights provisions of the constitution, Bush said it would prove difficult.

“The government … must keep its operating expenditure below its revenues and cannot allow agencies free reign to determine their levels of expenditure,” he said, as he announced strict targets and the need to look for cost efficient and innovative ways of delivering services. “Some of this work has already been started,” Bush added. “Over the past 18 months the deputy governor has led various teams which have reviewed government agencies for possible savings.”

Bush warned of the need for change and the need to provide the same services at lower costs in a different way. “If the government and public entities are able to achieve the revenue and operating expenditure targets forecast in the SPS, it will report operating surpluses of $23.5 million in 2012/13, $31.5 million in 2013/14, and $42.5 million in 2014/15,” he predicted.

The surpluses would be vital, he said, to build cash reserves and fund capital investments. “If government cannot generate operating surpluses, it will potentially hamstring the development of the country and put at risk important public services.That should tell anyone with ears to hear, how serious our fiscal discipline and our management innovations have to be,” Bush added.

He said that as soon as is realistic government will start making annual appropriations from revenues to general reserves. “We have to start saving money … we have to save something; we have got to get to that point where the bills are paid and there is money in the bank.”

Bush also emphasised the need for the proposed projects, which he said he had spoken aboutsince the government was elected to office, as a way of solving the unemployment problem.  “We can help our unemployment state and move towards full-employment if the projects that government signalled almost from our first day in office are not unduly hampered,” he said, listing the cruise port, Cayman Enterprise City, Narayana Health University and the ForCayman Investment Alliance, as well as the airport improvements.

He predicted over employment again if the projects got going. People could “scream and holler and accuse and say what they want” he said, but the projects would put the country in good stead.

The goal, he said, was to get money to pay for public services. “We can’t do it on talk and complaining. We can’t do it on accusing people … no … no … no … the things that people blame me for … if you want accuse me, accuse me. But one of these days things will be made clear. Curse me today, try to unseat me today, talk about my family today, but things will be made clearer that I know,” he said as he hit out at his critics, adding that he must still perform despite them.

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