Archive for February 24th, 2012

The politics & democracy of ‘one man, one vote’

| 24/02/2012 | 39 Comments

By now many people are aware that we are trying to collect approximately four thousand signatures to trigger a people initiated referendum to adopt the system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies for electing representatives across the Cayman Islands. Simply put, ‘one man, one vote’ means that a registered voter will be able to vote for only one candidate in their constituency during an election.

If sufficient signatures are collected to trigger the referendum and a majority of voters should vote in favour of the ‘one man, one vote' then candidates in the May 2013 general election will contest the 16 single-member constituencies across Grand Cayman. 

It was proposed by the Electoral Boundaries Commission in their 2010 report that George Town should have six single member constituencies, West Bay would retain their four, Bodden Town would increase from three to four with East End, North Side and Cayman Brac and Little Cayman remaining unchanged.  This may be contrasted with the current multi-member constituencies whereby each registered voter is able to cast a number of votes equal to the number of representatives in the Legislative Assembly allotted to their electoral district. For example, George Town currently has four representatives in the Legislative Assembly and each voter in George Town during the last election would have been allowed to cast four votes, one for each representative.

As with other issues, there are arguments for and against ‘one man, one vote’. Opponents believe that ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies will encourage our representatives to become even more myopic and further entrench the rivalry between communities for the allocation of scarce national resources. 

However, proponents of ‘one man one vote ’argue that it provides opportunities for better representation of a constituency as the single representative would have a much smaller number of constituents to represent, is more likely to have a better understanding of their needs, and therefore better able to advocate on their behalf in the Legislative Assembly. Additionally, the single representative would be more accountable than the current system of multiple representatives where each one is able to shift responsibility to another. The potential for the blame game is even greater where both parties are able to win seats in a multi-member constituency.

If the current petition is successful in triggering a referendum to determine whether the country should adopt a system of ‘one man, one vote’, and there is no reason to believe that it will not succeed, the Caymanian electorate will for the first time in decades elect their representatives based on the individual attributes of each candidate, and not because of the popularity of a running mate.

Therefore, attributes such as the character and integrity of the candidates, the capability, qualifications and relevant experience of newcomers, the track record of incumbents, each candidates ability to present credible and reasonable short and long term solutions to social and economic issues facing their constituents in particular and the country generally should be critical factors in determining the outcome of an election. In essence, what is it that qualifies a particular candidate to effectively represent the needs of that particular community and the country generally?

No one should believe that ‘one man, one vote’ will be a panacea for all time, however, it has the potential to raise the caliber of our representatives in the Legislative Assembly, but only if the Caymanian electorate believes that better representation is something they deserve to have and insist on having it to ensure a brighter future in the Cayman Islands.

If there is a referendum, and whether or not the electorate prefers ‘one man, one vote’ with single-member constituencies over the current system of multiple votes in multi-member constituencies, we should remain cognizant of the fact that it is not the electoral system that destroys a country and erodes investor confidence, rather it is crime, corruption, social unrest and mismanagement of the economy.

Marco Archer is an attorney-at-law with a local law firm

Vote in the CNS poll: 

If the petition for one man, one vote triggers a referendum, how soon should this take place?

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Bush denies port fee hike

| 24/02/2012 | 49 Comments

bush gt (237x300).jpg(CNS): Despite a report written by KPMG suggesting that port fees would increase to $35 per head for cruise ship visitors if China Harbour Engineering Company were contracted to build the George Town berthing facilities, the premier denied the hike at a public meeting this week. McKeeva Bush said that no one had even discussed fees at the time the “so-called letter” was written, as he referred to the report by the consultants, which had been commissioned by the Port Authority in the wake of the premier’s decision to stop negotiations withGLF Construction and open talks with the Chinese firm. He defended his decision to partner with the Beijing-based company as he claimed GLF did not have the money.

Bush said there was no hard evidence that GLF had funding and it had wanted the signed contract to raise cash for the project. He claimed that if government had continued with that firm, it would still be “floundering”.

“We weren’t going to get it with GLF, or anybody else,” he said about the cruise berthing facilities and added that there was "nothing personal about it” but it was in the best interests of the country.

Speaking form the back of the court house in George Town on Tuesday evening, the premier told the audience that the Chinese would finance the project at no cost to the public purse and there would be a chance for people to purchase shares in the upland project, where the retail and other facilities, including a hotel and restaurants, would be located. Bush denied that the fees would not be hiked as suggested.

“Don’t listen to their rubbish about … they made some vast discovery about the Chinese charging thirty something dollars … They had not even discussed it with the Chinese at that time when that so-called letter was supposed to have been written. But Caymanians are not fool-fool. They saw through that letter,” Bush said.

He added that KPMG was, however, now doing a value for money study of the draft framework agreement between the Cayman Islands Government and CHEC. He also said that a contract was being signed with Luis Ajamil of Miami-based Bermello Ajamil & Partners, one of the world’s leading marine architecture and engineering firms, and they would also examine the draft agreement. He said that the draft agreement would then be reviewed by the Central Tenders Committee. Bush said the Chinese have also signed an MOU with the CI government to build a pier in Cayman Brac as well.

Along with the port, the premier talked about the other proposed projects, which the opposition and the various activists were trying to block because, he said, as the projects got going people would have work and the economy would be turned around, which they were afraid of.

He defended the ForCayman Investment Alliance with the Dart Group, saying it was in the national interest and the deal was “designed to be fair” to both parties and the deal was honest and transparent. Bush said the cash that had been given to government had gone to the treasury and he did notknow "how much more transparent” it could be. He also defended the road swap, which he claimed was only 2,500 feet, since the remainder would remain as an access road. The premier also claimed that the access to the beach would not be denied as that was protected in law.

Bush said that if people weighed up what government was getting and what would be swapped, they would see it was a good deal for the country.

The premier also took credit for the Dr Devi Shetty’s hospital project, which was now going through planning and would soon break ground, and he described the Cayman Enterprise City as "a master stroke".

Talking in general about what his government had done, he said that “no fair minded person” could say that the UDP government had not tried to help people and businesses.

“We have made progress; I know we will turn this economy around,” he said.

KPMG report on GLF and CHEC commission by Port Authority

See Premier’s flyer handed out at the meeting below

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UK authorities claim credit for shrinking TCI deficit

| 24/02/2012 | 15 Comments

Governor-CFO1.jpg(CNS): The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands has reported an increase in revenue of some $118.5 million in the third quarter of this financial and a $33.5 million reduction in the UK territory’s deficit. Although the deficit was $7.4 million higher than the interim government had budgeted for it was down from just under $53.4 million in the same period last year. Hugh McGarel-Groves, the chief financial officer in the government, which is under direct rule from Britain said the measures it had taken were showing real results. TCI is inching towards the surplus which the UK has said is one of the milestones to be achieved before an election can be held.

“The finances of the Turks and Caicos Islands under the Interim Administration are definitely moving in the right direction,” said McGarel-Groves. “This analysis shows that the measures we have introduced are having an effect. I look forward to the end of year figures which will take into account the record high season tourism figures as well as the revenue generation measures announced last November.”

According to the figures government revenue was $118.5m for the nine month period, up $2.3m (2%) against budget forecasts, an increase of $33.0m (39%) on the same period last year. The deficit of $19.9m for this period up $7.4m on the budget forecast is still $33.5m lower the 2010/11 financial year

Governor Ric Todd added that one of the significant milestones was to achieve a surplus by March 2013.

“Not only is this necessary for elections to be held in TCI, but Government finances need to be in the black in this way in order to begin tackling the $189m debt inherited from the previous elected administration,” Todd said. “I firmly believe that tackling this debt in a professional and open way will send a message to the world that the TCI is properly governed once again and is open and ready for business.”

The report also shows that some reductions in government spending will begin to show themselves on the balance sheet. Currently 36% of all government expenditure is on Civil Servants’ pay and workers who are accepted for the Voluntary Severance Scheme will have left by March this year reducing the government wage bill.

The $12m annual SIPT and Civil Recovery expenses have been offset the government claimed by income of $1.2m received at 31 Dec. The top five of the 51 Civil Recovery cases currently underway would alone see $50m returned to the people of the TCI.
See the full report on the TCI finances below

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