Archive for June 8th, 2012

OMOV campaigners boosted by Chamber support

| 08/06/2012 | 5 Comments

vote yes.JPG(CNS): Even though the odds are against next month's referendum on one, man one vote (OMOV) and single member constituencies returning a majority 'yes' vote, the campaigners are not giving up and have launched into a full scale campaign, remaining confident they will win. More than 7,000 leaflets have been distributed across the islands about the advantages of the voting system and Cayman’s business community has joined in with a campaign of its own to support OMOV. The Chamber of Commerce states in its position paper that its membership surveys have all indicated strong support from its more than 700 business members, which represent more than 18,000 people.

“A small constituency with a single member, as opposed to multiple members, encourages a stronger connection between representative and constituent and increases accountability, the Chamber states on the issue. “Single member constituencies better serve every citizen and guarantee equality.”

Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side, who, along with the East End PPM member Arden McLean, launched the campaign and petition for a referendum on changing the current multi-member voting system, said he was delighted that the Chamber had come out publicly in full support of OMOV. He said it fuelled the confidence of the campaigners that, despite the odds, the time had come.

“We are grateful for the Chamber support,” Miller said. “Despite the many hurdles, I am confident that the people are going to vote in favour and urge everyone to come out vote on 18 July for democracy.”

The original goal of the campaigners had been to trigger a people-initiated referendum in November of this year. In response to the groundswell of support for the referendum, the government said it would hold the national ballot at the same time as the May 2013 general election. However, with the campaign still pushing for a November ballot in order for the next election to be held on the basis of the referendum result, the campaigners continued on with their petition, placing pressure on government.

The premier then suddenly announced that government would instead hold the referendum in the summer. Although it is now a government-triggered and not a people-triggered ballot, the premier announced it would still require 50% plus one of the entire electorate to carry and made it clear the government would be campaigning against single member constituencies.

With the weight of government resources against them, a summer poll when people are off island, a requirement to get almost 8000 ‘yes’ votes to win and a campaign time shortened by four months, the OMOV camp face an uphill struggle. However, they have remained positive and are pressing ahead with their education campaign. They are also urging voters who will be away from Cayman on the day of the poll to register for an absentee ballot before the deadline of 6 July. (Download a form here)

So far, despite having access to the public purse, government has not yet fired its big guns on the ‘No’ campaign and confined its message at present to telling those in multi-member constituencies not to give up their vote.

However, it is anticipated that after the budget for the 2012/13 financial year is dealt with this month, government will be hitting the campaign trail to persuade the electorate to vote against OMOV and retain the unequal and significantly less accountable system.

See postal ballot form below.

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Rushed budget expected

| 08/06/2012 | 75 Comments

Budget Address(2)_0.jpg(CNS): The clock is ticking on government over the 2012/13 budget, which must be presented to the Legislative Assembly, debated and examined in Finance Committee and passed into law, all before the end of this month. However, opposition members of the LA say they are expecting yet another eleventh hour presentation by the premier as there has been no indication of when the country’s parliament is going to meet again. Since the UDP administration changed the law which governs how budgets are presented, it has waited until the last minute to present its annual spending plans, forcing the people’s representatives to rush through the scrutiny of the critical document.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said that once again the legislators would be forced to sit through a marathon session, calling civil servant witnesses to account for government’s annual spending plans in the early hours of the morning, which was an unacceptable way for government to present the most important bill of the year, he said.

This will be the last budget presented by the current UDP administration before the election. Despite the eleventh hour approaching, there has been very little indication of government’s intentions over how it will balance the books in an election year.

McLaughlin said he was aware that government would be facing a significant deficit from the close of this financial year, which it would need to tackle, but he was unaware of what cuts and new fees government would be proposing, if any. Concerned over the last minute meeting, which is unlikely to be called before the 15 June, the opposition leader said that, once again, the country could expect a rushed budget debate.

“This is completely unnecessary but down to government incompetence. Why is it that it has to be so late?” he asked as he pointed to the limited time Finance Committee would now have to closely examine how and why public money was being allocated.

Previously, the Public Management and Finance Law had required governments to deliver their financial plans for the coming year by the end of April. The law was changed by this administration, however, removing that requirement and enabling government to leave the presentation of the budget until the last minute, bound only by its need to have the legal authority to spend money on 1 July.

Ezzard Miller, the independent member for North Side, said he believed that the decision to bring another last minute budget is a deliberate move to curtail the scrutiny. He said that he was concerned that once again members and civil servants called to account would be doing so in the early morning hours, undermining the quality of deliberation.

“I am very concerned,” said the North Side member. “Once again there will be no room for discussion about the budget. I believe it is a deliberate move to shorten the public discourse on how government is managing public spending and the collection of revenue.”

Miller noted that there was unlikely to be a surplus for this financial year end and that could be one of the reasons why the premier was delaying his final budget, since the administration had promised to have balanced the books by this point. “He clearly is trying to avoid the intense scrutiny which should be made of any budget.”

With the UK also needing to sign off on the government’s annual spending plan, Miller warned that the budget address was likely to be full of creative language and added that he wasn’texpecting the figures presented by the premier to match those in the documents.

There has been no confirmation of dates when legislatures will be meeting for the annual budget meeting but there is speculation that the premier is likely to make his budget address and throne speech on Friday 15 June, with the debate commencing on Wednesday, 19 June, just 11 days ahead of the financial year end.

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EAB dump review curtailed

| 08/06/2012 | 66 Comments

dump demo (242x300).jpg(CNS): Board minutes released by the Water Authority following a freedom of information request have revealed that government limited the parameters of an environmental review of the proposed new waste-management site in Bodden Town.  The minutes show that the Environmental Advisory Board set up to assess the proposal for Dart to establish a new landfill in the Midland Acres area must confine itself to examining the proposal and not to what would be the most suitable overall waste management solution for Grand Cayman. The revelation has outraged the members of a local pressure group campaigning to have the George Town dump dealt with on site and not moved to their district.

The Coalition to Keep Bodden town Dump Free made the FOI request for information and were stunned to see that the minutes reveal explicit orders from government ministers to the EAB to limit what it reviews and not to look at alternate sites or consider other solutions but to look solely at the dart proposition.

Although an EAB is not yet a legal requirement in Cayman because of the failure of the government to enact the National Conservation Bill on larger projects, the boards are being established as a matter of good governance. However, in this case the terms of reference have been significantly curtailed to examine the impact on the immediate environment of the first part of the new site the islands’ largest developer has promised to construct in exchange for the current landfill.

Dart proposes to build only phase one — a single cell on what could eventually be a state of the art waste-management centre — if government were to make the rest of necessary investment to set up recycling, reuse, composting or waste to energy solutions. Once Dart has lined the one landfill cell site, it intends to hand that over to the Department of Environmental Health to manage and then it proposes to take over the George Town dump to remediate and cap that site, which is next to its major investment, Camana Bay.

The minutes make it clear that Dart proposes only to develop one landfill cell site and no other elements of the new facility on a 100-acre site. Government has touted the proposal as a modern eco-park but the minutes show Dart is only proposing to create a new lined cell where the DoEH can start a new garbage pile. Any further investment or development of modern waste-management facilities will be in the hands of government.

The coalition continues to be alarmed at the proposal as it says it wants to see government tackle the dump at the present location instead of risking contamination of a new site, especially given its environmentally sensitive location, its proximity to residential communities and that it is a considerable distance from the capital, where the majority of waste is generated.

Campaigners have raised concerned that no research or analysis has been done about the proposed new dump and that government has simply accepted the Dart proposal without properly considering the alternatives, especially after the original Dart bid for the landfill was rejected by the technical committee set up by government when it carried out an RFP for the dump soon after assuming office. The CTC had recommended a waste-to-energy solution on site in GT with a leading American waste firm Wheelabrator, which had partnered with Cayman Waste Management Ltd, a local company.

The coalition has persistently asked government to identify clearly the reasons why it ditched its agreement to tender the waste-to-energy facility to solve the George Town landfill problem where it is, without contaminating a new site.

“Government inexplicably ignored due process, transparency, and the Central Tenders Committee (CTC), which recommended the WTE proposal as its first choice. The CTC rejected Dart’s proposal to move the dump and gave it the lowest marks of any option considered, because of 'grave concern' about the impact of a dump in an 'environmentally sensitive' area,” a coalition spokesperson said this week on receiving the minutes. “Government and Dart have yet to answer a single Coalition question, or produce any of the documents asked for.”

Campaigners received responses to FOI requests last month from both the NRA and the planning department, both of which stated they had no records to release in response to the request by the coalition about meetings with Dart on the proposed new dump.

Flyers placed in Bodden Town post boxes in early February from the ForCayman Investment Alliance stated that "meetings have occurred” between Dart and Government about the proposed new Bodden Town landfill, a claim not supported by either plannnig or the NRA.

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