Archive for August 3rd, 2012

Taylor calm over Mac attack

| 03/08/2012 | 69 Comments

_DSC7855-web.jpg(CNS): Although the governor said he is “disappointed by the tone and content” of the remarks made by the premier about him this week, Duncan Taylor has remained measured in his response to the premier’s attack. The governor stated Friday that he is committed to the vision of a flourishing Cayman Islands and in the “spirit of co-operation” was keen to work with the premier to address the budget challenges. During a meeting in West Bay on Wednesday night about the proposed tax on work permit holders Premier McKeeva Bush condemned the governor for not helping Cayman but being “hell bent” on its destruction and told him to stop interfering with the political arm of government.

Bush accused the governor of not helping with the budget process and not going to bat for Cayman with the UK. He criticised him for interfering and stalling government policy to divest government assets and said he and his "hit man", the auditor general, were frightening everybody.

In response to queries from the media regarding the comments made at the public meeting, the governor released a statement Friday afternoon stating that he was aware of what had been said but he supported well managed public finances and adherence to international standards of governance to enhance Cayman’s reputation as a good place to live, work and do business. 

“I am committed to do everything I can to contribute to that vision,” he said. “I have worked hard to this end since my arrival in the Cayman Islands two and a half years ago and I will continue to do so for the remainder of my time as Governor.”

He said that while his particular responsibilities include security and policing, as well as supervision of the civil service and promotion of good governance, wherever he believed there was a role for him he would do what he could to help.

“That includes contributing to the efforts of the Cayman Islands Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to reach agreement on the budget,’ Taylor said.

“These are challenging times for the Cayman Islands, as for so many countries around the world.  I am keen to work with the Honourable Premier and his Government, in a spirit of co-operation, to address these challenges.”

Speaking to CNS, the governor confirmed that while he is responsible for appointing and supervising the civil servants, a job delegated to the deputy governor, the cuts to the headcount could only be made based on policy decisions by the elected arm.

He said that he and the deputy governor could reduce numbers once the ministers made clear what the priorities are and what services could be cut. Taylor explained that if ministers identified policy changes and specific reductions in their ministries, the deputy governor would then work out how that could be achieved and then bring back the plan for ministerial approval.

Although at Wednesday’s meeting the premier had pointed the finger at the governor for the size of the civil service, he admitted that if the deputy governor tried to make cuts or reductions to services, the elected arm of Cabinet would need to approve them and he was not going to support any job losses.

In the Whitehall system, adopted by Cayman, ministers do not appoint or direct public servants. They create policies, which the civil service then implements in the most effective way to achieve the goals of the minister. It is the ministers that must direct the policy changes which will allow the civil service management to recommend cuts to reflect those changes.

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Anti-tax campaign steps up

| 03/08/2012 | 83 Comments

387032_4095159693860_908456184_n.jpg(CNS): Organisers of the Facebook group opposed to government’s proposal to introduce a tax on expatriate workers' earnings are stepping up the campaign and offering government other solutions. The group’s founders say there have been numerous suggestions from the community about how the targeted $76 million surplus budget can be achieved and they intend to collate the suggestions and submit them all to government as soon as possible. The group will also be videoing and documenting public opinion on Friday evening, which will be posted on the Facebook page to give people a chance to voice their views.

Eden Hurlstone and Nick Pitman from the group Caymanians and Expats United Against Taxation, which now has close to 11,000 members, said that after some people were cut short during Wednesday evening’s meeting with the premier in West Bay and others were too intimidated to talk, they wanted to offer everyone the chance to record their views on how they feel about the discriminatory proposal to tax work-permit holders.

They were particularly concerned about a woman who was asking valid questions and opposing the tax who was cut short by the premier when he referred to her as a "little girl" and told her to give the microphone to someone else. The group has located her and she will be the first of the vox-pops the organisers plan to record.

“We will interview her today at Heroes Square at 5:15pm,” Pitman said. “We are inviting everyone who wants their questions or points recorded on this issue to come along. We plan to post them on the Facebook page and to give them to the media and the premier. We are also creating a United Cayman video.”

Pitman said many people were upset by the way the meeting went on Wednesday and felt the premier had shown a disregard for those who did not agree with him, but the world was changing and he pointed out that there were now many more ways for the people’s voices to be heard.

“The old methods are failing,” Pitman said as he pointed to the power of social media and the fact that the younger generation of Caymanians were waking up.

The group is now working hard in response to the premier’s invitation for people to submit solutions to come up with comprehensive and credible alternatives.  

Speaking at his first public meeting on the proposed new tax on Wednesday evening, the premier said that if another source of revenue could be found, the government would not impose the so-called “community enhancement fee” as he said it was not a “desirable” option. 

“If we can find an alternative that meets the revenue the United Kingdom says we must meet, then we have no problem,” he said, adding that the UK had imposed stringent parameters. He invited people to submit suggestions to the premier’s office for consideration, even though he has already sent the budget to London with the 10% expat tax on permit holders earning $36k per annum.

The Facebook group organisers plan to pull the alternatives together and present them to government on Monday before the evening’s rally, where these solutions will be discussed and displayed at the Heroes Square gathering.

“We need to approach this from as many angles as possible and present credible solutions on how government can raise the revenue it needs to meet the requirements set by the UK,” Hurlstone said. “Many solutions appear to have been posed and so far the premier has not explained why these numerous alternatives have all been rejected. If the community can demonstrate that there are other options, I feel the government will have to take note. It is quite clear from the reaction of the wider Cayman community that this discriminatory tax has virtually no support.”

The premier confirmed Wednesday that the tax will kick in at a rate of 10% on all work-permit holders earning $36,000 and above. Workers earning $35,999 will pay no tax but those that are salaried at $36,000 will pay $3,600 for the year, since the tax is not incremental.

Government has not yet answered all of the questions surrounding this new tax, which experts all say will be very difficult to collect, but what it has revealed so far is that it does not apply to any Caymanian or permanent resident. It is not clear, however, if it applies to key employees or those working in operation of the law. It does not apply to expat civil servants or any work-permit holder earning less than $36k.

It will be collected by the immigration department but government has not said when or how it will have to be paid. It will be on all remunerations earned by those who fall into the new tax-paying group, including bonuses and expenses. The legal requirement for employees and employers to pay 10% of salaries into a pension fund will now be removed. The premier claimed that eliminating this obligation would make the fee easier for employees to bear.

However, much of the opposition to the tax is not the actual issue of paying it. Most of those who oppose it are concerned about the inequality of the new direct tax and, in particular, the paradigm shift it represents for Cayman and the potential harm to the entire community.

Questions have also been raised about government failing to do the necessary research or analysis on the impact of the tax on the wider economy, the offshore sector or its sustainability, given it is targeting the country’s most transient group of workers.

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Captains plan marina sit-in

| 03/08/2012 | 40 Comments

050 (244x300) (cpt bryan).jpgCNS): Local boat owners who currently dock their tour boats at what used to be the Port Authority marina at Safehaven are concerned about their future since notices have been posted for them to move to a temporary location. As a result of confusion about what is actually happening at the site, who now owns what land and the captains' collective disbelief that the long-awaited marina, which is being undertaken by beleaguered developer Michael Ryan, will ever be completed, they have resolved not to move. Captain Bryan Ebanks expressed fears on behalf of several tour boat operators that if they move they will end up with nowhere to dock their boats and their livelihood in ruins.

“If we move to the temporary location, which is believed to be on Dart owned land, how long will we be able to stay if Mr Ryan fails to complete this long-awaited marina,” Ebanks said Wednesday at a small meeting with several other captains and MLAs Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean.

The captains there were unanimous and stated that they intended to hold a sit-in at the marina in order to protect their vessels and stated that moving would make them extremely vulnerable. Worried for their livelihoods, the captains were upset that they have received no letters from either Ryan or the Port Authority about what was happening and what safeguards were in place for them.

The main concern for the captains is their distrust regarding the completion of the redevelopment. They say that the proposed new marina has been promised for a long time and given the developers current difficulties, they feel it is even less likely that the project would be fully completed. The captains say they now think the goal is to simply get them and their tour boats out of the area of the Ritz-Carlton and possible future Dart developments.

Ryan recently lost control of the Ritz-Carlton and the companies that he used to develop the hotel have gone into the hands of the receivers. There are questions too over the future of the Dragon Bay project,which this proposed new marina was originally intended to form a part of.

Captain Ebanks said he suspected that the Dragon Bay site may eventually end up in the hands of the Dart Group, which has land in the area. He believed Dart had already taken possession of the land across the canal from the boat owners' current docking area at the temporary site they have been told to move to until the new marina is completed.

“If the marina isn’t finished and Mr Dart evicts us, then what happens to us?” he asked rhetorically. “We all know that Mr Ryan is in a difficult position and there is a real danger that he may not be able to complete the project.”

Captain Ebanks said that he believes the tour operators are no longer welcome as they now appear to be sandwiched between the five-star Ritz-Carlton and a likely additional luxury development by Dart, where the captains and their boats will not be wanted.

Miller and McLean, who were present at the meeting, said that because the captains had been using the Port Authority dock for some twenty years, while in situ they had rights but those rights would be lost if they moved. Miller, the member for North Side, also queried whether the land had ever lawfully been passed to the Port Authority from its original status as crown (public) land and for them to pass the land on to the developer Michael Ryan.

Showing the captains the latest plans, which he said he had come across this week, that relate to the development of the Dragon Bay Marina, Miller questioned whether the Port Authority had the right to give the developer the green light to go ahead with this project and evict the captains. “I don’t know on what authority the Port Authority has allowed Ryan to begin this project,” he said, adding that he was trying to find out and would do what he could to assist the captains.

Fears that the project would never being finished were well founded, Miller said, as he advised the captains not to move their boats because possession was nine-tenths of the law, and if they were to move they would lose what little security they currently had.

safehaven notice (450x600).jpgAccording to the notice posted at the site by the contractors (pictured right), the captains have until 13 August to move from the marina to the temporary site, otherwise anything on the site can be disposed of in accordance with the agreements made with the government.

The proposed public marina development goes back several years to the previous PPM administration and the tourism minister at the time, Charles Clifford, who had agreed to the idea of a swap with Ryan of Port Authority land in exchange for a new public marina for the boat operators.

CNS has contacted the Port Authority and the Board and is awaiting a response. Efforts to contact Michael Ryan were unsuccessful.

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