Archive for August 23rd, 2012

Historic spending revealed

| 23/08/2012 | 50 Comments

94-istock_000004415349medium.jpg(CNS): Despite the premier’s claims thathis government has made significant cuts to public spending, the Annual Plan and Estimates reveal that government intends to spend close to three quarters of a billion dollars over this financial year. When government’s core operating expenses are added together with spending on government companies and statutory authorities, it will spend a record $713 million, according to the now published budget documents. However, as a result of the UK’s refusal to allow more public borrowing and in order to achieve a significant surplus, government is forecasting the collection of a staggering $834 million in fees and taxes via the entire public sector.

The government is projecting a surplus of some $82 million when the operating expenses and anticipated revenues of the entire public sector are taken into account.

As the legislative process on the budget continued Thursday, there was still no word from the UK that the budget currently under debate would be approved. However, government has now published the relevant documents that contain the spending and revenue earning statistics on which it has based its spending plans for the final year of this administration.

The budget documents reveal that there are few major cuts in public spending and many line items have been increased, with expenditure in some areas outstripping that of the last financial year. 

Cuts in the fire service, road maintenance, services at district health clinics and spending on tourism marketing have been outweighed by some significant increases in other areas. The Turtle Farm subsidy has increased by $1 million on last year’s forecast and the premier’s National Building Fund has also been boosted by more than $1.5 million over last year’s allocation, standing at over $4.5 million compared to the $3 million allocated to it in 2011/12.

According to government’s revenue projects, core government expects to collect some $105 milllion more than it collected during the 2011/12 financial year.

Based for the first time on a projection of 75% compliance, as opposed to the 100% projection in the past, government is forecasting the collection of an extra $10 million this year from bank licences, an extra $9 million from work permit fees and a further $12 million in duty. It is also hoping to raise close to $20 million from new fees relating to directors of offshore companies. A new departure tax is expected to generate a further $3 million and an increase in tourism accommodation fees is a forecast to bring in an extra $3 million.

Legislators will begin examining the budget in more detail during Finance Committee, which was expected to begin Thursday evening.

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Mac hits out at critics

| 23/08/2012 | 65 Comments

mac pointing 2.jpg(CNS): The country’s premier was unrestrained in his anger Thursday morning as he hit out at those who had criticised his budget presentation. McKeeva Bush took aim at the UK, the opposition, the media and even the Speaker when she attempted to curb his tirade. Bush described his critics as “vindictive” as he attempted to defend Monday’s budget presentation. He denied that he was responsible for the implementation of the COLA cut back or that he could do anything about the size of the civil service, and staunchly defended his Nation Building Fund. Although he admitted to “rambling a bit” in his budget speech, he said sometimes he had to do that to make the point.

During his closing remarks on the budget debate (which had rolled late intothe night on Wednesday) when the legislators returned to the House Thursday morning, Bush reminded them of the days when speeches were far longer than his had been on Monday. He recalled both himself and the late Jim Bodden speaking for three or four days during legislative debates before the rules were changed to limit the time members could have when contributing to the debates.

Bush had received considerable criticism for the length of his budget presentation on Monday and the lack of significant content but he hit out at the media in particular, which he said should not be putting opinions in the reports but saving it for the editorials. He said that “vicious parts of the media” were “aiding and abetting” the opposition and that the press was vying for who could be the most opposed to government.

Pointing the finger at the Caymanian Compass as well as CNS, which the premier described as “nasty and dirty” and said that was why he was suing them and that he was going to win. He said there was precedent for suing on-line newspapers in the region.

“They can run but they can’t hide and they are going to pay,” the premier told the House, as he spoke about the ongoing legal actions he is embarking on against CNS in relation to a Viewpoint published last year. (See related story Mac files suit against CNS)

Bush railed against the UK and the governor as well and claimed that the UK did not want him to be premier because he was from the wrong side of the tracks and because they couldn’t push him around.

He also attempted to defend the ‘community enhancement fee’, which he said was considered because there was nothing left to do. He claimed he had not wanted to introduce any kind of taxation. However, he said he was happy that he did not have to go through with it and was grateful to the private sector for coming up with alternatives.

“If it was a mistake, we pulled it back,” Bush said. “I am glad we did but the opposition didn’t want us to do that as they wanted to use it as a stick to beat us with.”

The premier spent a considerable time during his remarks defending his Nation Building Fund and railed against those who were criticising him for it. The UK had gone after him for it during the budget process, he said, because the opposition had fuelled the flames by making such a fuss about it, which made the UK officials hone in on the fund.

Bush said that it was not about buying votes but helping people, as he pointed to issues like the youth programmes which kept young Caymanians out of jail as well as hurricane shelters being built by the churches, which was better than government funding it. 

He said there was nothing wrong with the fund being held by his ministry as he was the minister for finance and had always been a politician who was a “social thinker” and interested in these issues. “They can dig all they want but I am not cutting these church based programmes,” he added.

According to the budget, despite the cuts that government has made to operational expenses elsewhere, the premier’s National Building Fund is more than $4.5 million, even higher than the appropriation in last year’s spending plans.

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Whittaker gears up for biggest fight of his career

| 23/08/2012 | 24 Comments

charles whittaker.jpg(CNS): Junior middleweight boxer Charles Whittaker of West Bay is looking forward to the biggest fight of his career when he collides with Philadelphia-born Gabriel Rosado on 21 September, according to Boxing News 24. The winner of the scheduled 12-round contest will become the No. 1 IBF contender and official mandatory challenger for current IBF Champion Cornelius “K9” Bundrage. The boxing website states that Premier McKeeva Bush will be joining Whittaker at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA, to support the Cayman contender. “This fightmeans the world to me,” Whittaker is quoted as saying. “I have paid my dues and ready to be number one in the world. After this fight I will challenge for the IBF 154 world title.”

The 38-year-old boxer from West Bay has been in few high-profile matches during his 19 year career but has marked up 38 wins including 23 knockouts, with 12 losses and 2 draws. 

Whittaker gained the No. 2 slot in the IBF ratings due to a pair of 12-round victories in his two most recent fights–over Keenan Collins, of Reading, PA, 14 months ago in the Cayman Islands for the vacant USBA Junior Middleweight title, and over Giorbis Barthelemy of Cuba, last November, in Miami, FL, Boxing News 24 says.

He has beaten former world-title challenger Billy Lyell and he has been in the ring with some of thebest, losing to Troy Rowland, Mikkel Kessler, Shannon Taylor and Hercules Kyvelos early in his career.

“There are some people who told me I would never make it as a professional boxer and I have proved them wrong,” Whittaker said. “When I step into the ring on September 21 it will be no different. I know Rosado will be game but I have the experience and I am hungry to win.”

His opponent Rosado, 26, of Philadelphia, PA, earned the No. 3 slot in the IBF ratings and mainstream attention this year with consecutive knockout victories over Jesus Soto-Karass of Mexico, and over Sechew Powell of Brooklyn, NY. The win over Sechew Powell sent Rosado into the top 10 ranked 154 lb. fighters in the world.

A pro since 2006, Rosado has a 20-5 record, 12 K0s. He has won his last six fights and also has defeated ex-IBF champ Kassim Ouma of Uganda, and contender Saul Roman of Mexico.

The Whittaker-Rosado bout is one of three set to be televised 21 September by the NBC Sports Network Fight Night series. The main fight of the night will be Gabriel Campillo, of Spain, vs. Sergey Kovalev, of Russia, in a 10 round light-heavyweight bout; and Ronald Cruz vs. Antwone Smith.

The Whittaker-Rosado fight will start the action beginning at 9 pm.

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The schizophrenia of it all

| 23/08/2012 | 15 Comments

The proposed payroll tax exposed a serious tear in the fabric of our community which we scramble to conceal — but it is not new. It has sat, insipid and growing, covered by a thin blanket of civility and economic convenience for several years. It is not a product of term limits, nor is it the product of irrational xenophobia on the part of the majority of Caymanians, or even arrogance on the part of most expatriates. It is like most things that are wrong in Cayman, the result of an intentional lack of enforcement (or occasionally ignorance) of laws. 

We already have the cure for the disease. It is found in a matrix of legislation designed and intended to temper extreme views and prevent circumstances that otherwise cause rational persons to start to lose their cool.

The ignorance, real or pretend, is allowed to exist because, absent enforcement, the consequences of breach have no consequence. There is real suffering by both Caymanians and expatriates as a result.

Government always knew the tear was there, and partly of its own making. Slapping numerous coats of "Caymankind" over it was not enough. Attempting to assuage an increasingly angry electorate by slapping taxes on expatriates backfired. It backfired because it was mad, because it was discriminatory, because it would not work, and because Caymanians want to be able to have a fair shot (perhaps including a leg up) in their own land but not to see innocent individual expatriate friends, neighbours and colleagues singled out and punished for trying to live good productive lives amongst them.

For government to call for the private sector to employ more Caymanians even while it contorts the immigration law past breaking in its exuberant extollation of the benefits of unbridled growth is insane. Growing or even maintaining the size of an expatriate population whilst the demands (in terms of jobs incapable of being filled by Caymanians) no longer exist in our economy can and will only result in unemployment. To suggest a 5% fine where there are jobs available for unemployed Caymanians that are filled by expatriates is laughable. If we are enforcing the immigration laws, no such positions can exist.

It is OK though, because when too many of us Caymanians complain about being overtaken in our own land by outsiders, we can have another status gold rush — turning expatriates into Caymanians will solve the problem. Ain't that so Mac? You can always raise work permit fees (again) to make up the fact that the new Caymanians won't have to pay them anymore.

I’ll move to the Brac.

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Dive Pirates take injured veteran to Cayman Brac

| 23/08/2012 | 1 Comment

matt.jpg(Tampa Bay Times): Matt Richardson lives life from a mostly seated position, thanks to an encounter with friendly fire four years ago in Baghdad that left the infantry sergeant a quadriplegic. This summer, a group of diving enthusiasts got Richardson out of his wheelchair and into the crystal waters surrounding Cayman Brac, of the Caribbean's Cayman Islands family. For five days, Richardson made two dives a day, exploring a sunken Russian frigate, coral reefs and other under-water wonders. "It's probably one of the coolest things I've ever done," said Richardson, 25. "Being down there, it was amazing. I've seen stuff like that on TV, but never in real life." (Photo courtesy of Gardiner Henderson)

Richardson was one of eight people with significant physical challenges — including five former military members — treated to the weeklong excursion by Dive Pirates Foundation, a Houston-based nonprofit group promoting adaptive diving.

With the help of donations, fundraisers and membership dollars, the foundation covers the cost of training, certifying and equipping the recipients before taking them on the annual Cayman Brac diving trip. The group also outfits a buddy who accompanies each diver. In Richardson's case, he had three buddies with him on his dives.

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Campbells rule soup-er Saturday II

| 23/08/2012 | 0 Comments

rugby womens.jpg(CRFU): The second Super Saturday of the touch rugby season showed us who can be considered favourites for places in the season ending play-offs. The weather forecast said it would be “heat lamp-hot” but, in truth, there is hot and there is “surface-of-the-sun-sizzling”! Wearing asbestos flip-flops your reporter traversed the lava-like surface of the South Sound rugby ground to the shade to watch a day of white-hot rugby. (Photo by Caroline Deegan: Tammy Fu of Zolfo Cooper lines up her opponent)

DIVISION 2

At the centre of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole, a phenomenon which has such a strong gravitational pull that stars millions of light years apart are affected by its lure. They start to spin around this focal point as if interstellar space itself dances to the tune of this object of immense size. It goes by the name of Sagittarius A.

All of which brings me nicely to the match between Campbells and the Heineken Light Maidens.  Now, I am not saying that Peter Arthur De Vere is supermassive or that he is of galactic proportions but in this game he most certainly was the hub around which the stars of Campbells rotated and shonelike diamonds. He is almost a Sagittarius (missing out by just six days), and his middle name does begin with “A” so maybe it was written in the heavens that this fellow would be the big hole into which the Maidens hopes of an unbeaten season would be cast.

Shining like the burning sun overhead in his incandescent orange shirt and socks, he pulled the strings, called the moves, and made the plays that gave Campbells their richly deserved 2-0 win. A dead ringer for a cardboard-box robot and with all the mobility to match he used not speed of foot but speed of thought to out-fox the foxy Maidens. Time after time he punished the Maidens defence on their own five metre line. He sold more dummies than Mothercare, each one slightly more obvious and therefore outrageous than the last. How Campbells scored only two tries baffled the crowd who gasped at the spectacle in front of them? Bryan Little and Johnny Lewis made the winning scores. De Vere had a sublime game, a colossal match played by a colossus. He would have been chaired off the field at the final whistle if only his team could lift him.

However god-like he played with ball in hand it is good to know that this mere mortal has feet of clay. For every ying there is a yang; he is fleet-footed in attack, lead-footed in defence. As the Maidens pinged the ball around on the other side of the pitch, De Vere was backtracking at pace. Then, as if downed by a poison dart from an Amazonian Akuntsu tribesman he went “a” over “t” or rather head over heels in an inelegant heap. Ne’er but the faithful few would have noticed this cosmic collapse had it not been for the involuntary but voluminous chuckle from his somewhat-less-than-sympathetic teammate Wiki Hitchman. It drew the beady gaze of all upon the bleachers and a resounding cheer went up. To err is to be human and we like our gods to be fallible – stand up the newly-named Perseus A. De Vere.

Campbells topped off a soup-er day with a win over the Division’s form team Deloitte. “De Vere Does Deloitte” cried the crowd but it was Nick Quin, Marcus Cumber, Karen Hart and Wiki Hitchman who were in planetary orbit in this one scoring all the tries. A special mention must go to Alistair Lum who scored four tries and got the MVP award for the umpteenth time this season. Lum went onto get another MVP award as Deloitte won 4-3 against Broadhurst. If there was a Division 2 All-Star team picked at the seasons end his would be first name on the team sheet – well, A’s do comes first alphabetically don’t they?

The sporting drought is a curse that can cause a team to crumble under pressure. As time goes by, every near-victory can be turned into defeat through a lack of composure, confidence and conviction. It took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to win the World Series in spite of only American teams entering. Multi-billionaires Manchester City took 35 years and a bottomless pit of Saudi oil money to win a football trophy.  Even the mighty

Barcelona, whose name it seems is synonymous with sporting triumph, took 41 years between their first and second European title. For the honest and hardworking players of UBS it seemed that such a simple thing as a win in Division 2 was tantalizingly out of reach. Like Di Caprio vainly grasping for the outstretched arm of Winslet as he sank into the icy waters at the end of Titanic, UBS simply can not hold onto a lead in touch rugby. To say that UBS have struggled this year would be akin to saying that the good folks on Elm Street had a mildly troubling dream when Freddy Krueger came a-knockin’. Without a win all season they have diligently turned up, left everything on the field of play but gone home empty-handed if not entirely empty-hearted.  Hope springs eternal but let’s face it Eternity is a long time, a very long time indeed.

Their day started in typical fashion with a good performance against DMS, ultimately losing 4-7 due to a five try haulfrom Venassio Toketokevanua. Five tries and a triple word score of 105 in Scrabble make this guy the most valuable player in touch rugby. It was in their second game that the miracle finally happened. Playing Rawlinson & Hunter, UBS got their first win of the season by 6-2. Such is the shocking nature of this result that Interpol may be looking into the spread-betting patterns across the Asian sub-continent gambling sites. Joanne Remillard, in her pre-match press conference was ebullient in her belief that victory was but a sniff away. Bizarrely, the feeling on the bleachers amongst the throng was that UBS could well pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat after all, given enough attempts, even a chimpanzee will write the complete works of Shakespeare. However, these animalistic comparisons give scant reflection to how UBS performed.

Playing with all the swiftness of an eagle on the wing, the ball handling of a sea-lion, the brazen cunning of a ching-ching, the ferocity of an angry hippo, and the knockabout joie de vivre of kittens playing with a ball of wool, UBS enjoyed their day in the sun. Try scorers included stalwarts Stuart Reed, Jimmy Aiken and Ben Ouelette but the real star was the team itself. I’d take my hat off to UBS only for fear of finding that darned rabbit under it.

Victories for Broadhurst, Harmonic and the Heineken Light Maidens all helped secure their places in the table. Island Heritage was unbeaten all day with good performances from Ruan van Vuuren, Brandon Smith, and Marvin Gordon.

Points for Walkers Blue Iguanas these days are as rare as the eponymously named reptile. Narrow defeats to Heineken Light Maidens and Harmonic seem to suggest that the have lost some of the early season swagger that racked up tries, wins and points at will. Maybe it is absences through injury or summer vacation but I believe they can turn it round before the season closes.

Rawlinson & Hunter achieved a worthy 3-3 draw against Island Heritage with Darren Gallant achieving the honour of buying a bucket of beer with a fine hat-trick of tries. At time of going topress it is not sure if the said bucket was purchased but if not then this will act as a timely reminder to his teammates.

DIVISION 1

The SteppingStones juggernaut just keeps on rolling. Like the 40-ton tanker truck in Steven Spielberg’s Duel there appears to be no stopping this inexorable force in its quest to smash the recent monopoly on the title held by Maples1. Having beaten their main rivals earlier in the season they dispatched Maples1 with all the chilling efficiency of a cross between Jason Bourne and The Terminator.

If it was Riley “cover model” Mullen who stabbed through the heart of Maples1, it was the trio of Karen Hart, Mags Patterson and Lisa Bird who twisted the knife to make the score 6-2. Maples1 will have to come up with a change of plan, a full team and a slice of good fortune if they are going to stop SteppingStones in their tracks.  SteppingStones then routed Dart 7-1 ensuring they sit on top of the table as we approach the end of the season. Rudolf “the red nose” Weder scored a fine hat-trick.

Maples1 beat their compatriots Maples2 6-1 in a one-sided affair. Jyoti Choi, Scott MacDonald, Chris Palmer and Jo Ziegler scored the tries as they secure second place in the table.

Whilst the top two stride on, the rest of the league is evenly matched and there were some cracking games. DART beat Trident Titans (3-2) with Simon Crompton proving too hot to touch; KPMG1 beat Maples2 (2-1) with Monty Montgomery kicking up a desert storm;

Angel Hawkins descended from on high to help Ogier beat KPMG1 (3-2), whilst Genesis Five Nations rolled backed the years with a fine 2-2 draw against the younger, fitter, faster Trident Titans. The star for Genesis was Roger Priaulx who, like a 200lb Zola Budd, ran bare foot all day long to claim a deserved MVP award to go with his two tries. In the Beginning there was Priaulx and he was Good.

Genesis Five Nations capped off a fine day with a 4-0 win over Ogier. Five Nations has to be the loudest team in touch rugby and at times their on and off-field vocal offerings to each other, the opposition and the referee were measured at a level akin to an orchestra of slightly de-tuned foghorns. Mick and Lisa Kehoe, the touch rugby husband/wife equivalent of Ozzy (creative genius) and Sharon (driving force) Osbourne scored three of the four with handy Andy Galloway chipping in for one.

DIVISION 3

In Division 3 it was business as usual for some. Zolfo Cooper had yet another two victories ( against Delta Force and Ernst & Young), whilst Queensgate Grizzles Old Fellas lost both their games. So far so normal. Tom “tractor-boy” Elliott is proving to be a real find this year with four more tries to his harvest of scores, whilst the Old Fellas’ have unearthed a try-scoring machine in Laura Edmonds. How she managed to find herself totally unmarked on her opponents try-line is still a mystery but she dotted the ball down with all the unbridled joy of a wild mare in a field full of stallions.

Credit Suisse put more points in the bank with a win over the Old Fellas, Delta Force and a draw against LIME. Stacey Ottenbreit used to laugh at her inability to score tries. Not any more. Three more on this day has given her a best scoring season ever. Her tries are like buses. You wait ages and ages for one and then three come along all at once.  But it is Johann Prinsloo whose eight-try haul for Credit Suisse as put them in contention for the play-off places. As swarthy as a pirate captain, he put the sword through Delta Force and made the Old Fellas walk the plank to a watery grave.

LIME had a strong showing on the day too. A commendable draw against Credit Suisse was followed with a win against GCM. Mark Woollard, the heartbeat of the team, the soul of the side deserves special praise. He won the MVP award with a stunning performance of decoy runs and black-ops undercover stealth moves. Although rarely got the ball he distracted the opposition long enough for teammates to take the spoils. It is the unsung heroes of a team that make them special and, having heard him sing karaoke, Woollard should remain as un-sung for as long as possible. He is special indeed.

KPMG2, GCM both secured winning points on the day and Ernst & Young earned a valuable draw. But what has happened to Delta Force? Early season brilliance has become de-railed as three defeats in one day have dented their seasons hopes. However, you don’t become a bad team overnight and with the return of some valuable players I am positive they will halt this slide.

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Opposition leader ‘horrified’

| 23/08/2012 | 65 Comments

alden 17 (229x300).jpg(CNS): The opposition leader said Wednesday that after three and a half years of this administration he thought he could no longer be surprised at the audacity of the premier but McKeeva Bush had managed to do it again with the budget crisis. PPM Leader Alden McLaughlin said he was horrified by what had gone on and the message that this sent to the business community at home and abroad. From the unprecedented step of proposing to introduce income tax to the levels of incompetence, the government had destroyed what confidence was left in the economy and the only hope left for Cayman was for the UDP to go, McLaughlin said.

On Wednesday evening in the Legislative Assembly, in his reply to the premier’s budget presentation, the leader of the opposition pointed to the empty rhetoric of McKeeva Bush’s three hour address on Monday evening and said it reminded him of the soliloquy by Macbeth in Shakespeare's play in which he says, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” McLaughlin said there was nothing in the budget for anyone in Cayman except Dart and the recipients of the Nation Building Fund.

McLaughlin drew the House’s attention to the comment that Bush made about the “quiet restoration of confidence in Cayman” as a result of the stewardship of the UDP government.

“What is this of which he speaks?” the opposition leader asked rhetorically. “No one I have talked to, regardless of their walk of life, has any confidence … no one has confidence in this government, quiet or otherwise … I don’t know where the premier has been living but it can’t be here in Cayman,” he added. “On what possible bases can he assert that there is any confidence?” he asked again before listing a catalogue of issues associated with the UDP administration, and in particular the premier.

McLaughlin wondered if the premier believed it was the announcement that Bush was the subject of the first police investigation regarding financial irregularities that had stirred the confidence, or the announcements of the second and then third police investigations that had done it. He asked if it was the series of “pretend budgets” the premier had produced since coming to office and the inability to produce one this year, despite the fact that the 30th June comes around at the same time each year, which was the cause of this confidence. Continuing on the theme, he asked if perhaps it was the “genius idea to introduce a form of income tax” that had restored the confidence in the economy.

McLaughlin also took aim at the way the premier had handled the relationship with the UK and the embarrassment of the budget crisis.

“There is a crisis of confidence of enormous proportions,” McLaughlin said, claiming that was the primary problem. The way government was going about managing the economy was the issue whichhad undermined confidence and there was no chance of it returning until after the general election next year.

“I have never known a period of such low confidence in Cayman as now,” the opposition leader added. “Nothing ever in recorded history comes close to the circumstances the country now faces.”

McLaughlin said the UDP had failed completely to improve the economy and had only succeeded in making the cost of businesses higher. He noted that after three years Bush could no longer blame the previous administration as the premier had fought and won an election stating that he was the man for the job to handle the economic crisis. “If the PPM made mistakes, you said you were the man for the job and could fix the problems,” McLaughlin said, “but the government has run out of time.”

He said there was not one new proposal or initiative to get the economy going in Bush’s speech on Monday, despite its length. The opposition leader accused the premier of relying on the same list of hoped-for projects that he had been depending on for the last three years, none of which had materialised, not least because of the behaviour and interference of the premier.

The situation regarding the George Town port was offered by the PPM leader as an example of what had been a key pillar in the UDP‘s goals for recovery, but had warranted less than seven sentences in a budget speech that lasted for three hours.

McLaughlin focused heavily on the need for a strategic plan to address the size of the civil service and the fundamental underlying problem facing government, which had been mounting for years. Despite the pressure and need to do so, Bush had simply ignored this critical issue, McLaughlin said, adding that throughout this administration the government had offered only band-aid solutions to a serious problem of the growing public sector, which was now a priority for any future government.

Check back to CNS for more on the budget debate later.

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No UK OK as debate starts

| 23/08/2012 | 24 Comments

_DSC8098-web(2)_0.jpg(CNS): As the Legislative Assembly debate on the government’s much delayed 2012/13 budget began on Monday, the premier insisted that there was nothing unlawful about its presentation, despite the fact that the FCO has still not given it the OK. When pressed by East End Independent MLA Arden McLean, Premier McKeeva Bush evaded the direct question about whether or not he had received “the nod”from the British Overseas Territories minister, Henry Bellingham. Bush said that the budget had been approved by Cabinet and was within the parameters agreed with the FCO. However, McLean accused the premier of playing Russian roulette with the UK.

Before the opposition leader rose to give his reply to the premier’s budget address, McLean asked, “in light of all the uncertainty”, if there had been an official response from the OT minister about the budget that the members were about to debate. Bush insisted that the budget was in compliance but avoided the issue of Bellingham’s approval.

“I said on Monday where we stood. We have reached the point where the FCO wanted us to meet as far as our expenditure is concerned,” Bush told the MLA. “It is compliant with what we have agreed. It is legal. It has been approved by the Governor in Cabinet.  It is in keeping with the Cayman Islands Constitution and with all the things the UK wanted us to do.”

When McLean pressed the premier on the issue of whether the UK minister had signed off and given the budget “the nod”, Bush railed at the East End member but still declined to admit there had been no official assent from Bellingham himself on the budget that was now being presented.

“The member well knows the process and I’ve explained all that,” the premier said, adding that the UK had asked the Cayman government to cut core spending down to $528 million and they had got it down to $531 million. This, he said, had been agreed with the people his government had been working with at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He added that the FCO officials had said they could not comment further until they had spoken with the minister, and Bush claimed that the governor was also in agreement with the budget as it now was.

In light of the premier’s comments, McLean said he wanted to register his objections.
“The premier is playing Russian roulette with the UK and the only people who are going to suffer are the Cayman people,” McLean said before he was cut off by the House Speaker, who refused to allow the member to continue making his point that the budget may never make it to the statute books if the UK does not approve it.

When Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin rose to speak, he also pointed to the problem, noting that legislators may well get through the entire legislative process surrounding the government’s spending plans for 2012-13 only to find the governor won’t sign the bill.

He said he and the PPM members had thought hard about whether or not to actually respond to the premier’s budget given the circumstances, but as leader of the opposition it was his duty to address the government’s budget. However, until there was an official nod, the opposition members would abstain from the vote.

CNS understands that the UK has still not offered a formal approval on the budget and had suggested to the premier that he add one more month to the interim emergency spending plan approved in June to give the government more time, an option the premier has reportedly refused to entertain.

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TS Isaac may cause rough seas over the weekend

| 23/08/2012 | 4 Comments

isaac.PNG(CNS): Update 11:15am The may be rough seas around Cayman Islands on Saturday and Sunday and it is anticipated that a small craft warning will be in effect over the weekend. However, Hazard Management said that Tropical Storm Isaac does not pose an imminent threat to the Cayman Islands on its current forecast track. Northeast winds of 15 to 20 knot winds are forecast for Saturday and northerly winds of 15 to 20 knots on Sunday.  Heavy rainfall is anticipated on Sunday and this could lead to flooding of low lying areas.

According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, at 10am TS Isaac was located near 15.6 N, 65.4 W, or about 200 miles south southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Isaac is moving towards the west near 15 mph with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph. Minimum central pressure is 1003 MB. Storm force winds extend outwards up to 140 miles. Strengthening is forecast and Isaac could to become a hurricane on Friday.

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