Archive for August 24th, 2012

Officials to implement storm watch Friday night

| 24/08/2012 | 11 Comments

680679main_Isaac.A2012237.1520.250m (230x300).jpg(CNS): As tropical Storm Isaac made its way towards Haiti, government officials from Hazard Management said that the Cayman Islands would be placed under a storm watch a 10pm on Friday night, 24 August. Local weather forecasters said that as Tropical Storm Isaac tracks northwest over Haiti and eastern Cuba, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman can expect 3-4” of rain between 7:00 a.m. Saturday and 7:00 a.m. Sunday. During the same time period Grand Cayman can expect around 0.5”. Although, Isaac is expected to pass some way from Cayman, the National Hazard Management Executive met at 5:00pm Friday and decided to issue the WATCH for the three islands.

“Residents must be on the alert for rain, possible flooding in low lying areas, and gusty winds. Seas will be rough with wave heights of 4 to 6 feet and a small craft advisory is in effect,” the council stated.

At 5pm Local Time TS Isaac had strengthened a little more and the NHC said winds had reached 65mph with higher gusts. The centre of Tropical Storm Isaac was located about 100 miles SSE of Port Au Prince, Haiti and was moving toward the northwest near 16 mph
Forecasters said this motion was expected to continue for the next couple of days and on the forecast track Isaac should make landfall in Haiti tonight and move near or over south-eastern Cuba on Saturday.

The NHC said little change in strength is likely before landfall and predicted some weakening as the centre of the storm crosses land. Tropical storm force winds currently extend outward up to 185 miles.

Residents are advised to stay tuned to local media for updates but the weather in Cayman for Friday evening called for cloudy skies with a 40% chance of showers and some thunder. Winds will be east to northeast 15 to 20 knots and seas will be rough with wave heights of 4 to 6 feet and a small craft advisory is in effect.  On Saturday winds will be northeast 15 to 20 knots with higher gusts.

For more on TS Isaac and regional weather go to NHC

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CNS barred from media brief

| 24/08/2012 | 187 Comments

defendfist_5.jpg(CNS): The premier's press secretary barred CNS reporter Wendy Ledger from entering a government press conference at the Legislative Assembly on Friday afternoon. McKeeva Bush had issued an invitation to the Caymanian Compass, Radio Cayman and Cayman 27 but omitted to send notice of the event to CNS. However, as the CNS reporter was already at the assembly building in anticipation of the Finance Committee meeting, Ledger made efforts to attend the media briefing in which the premier was to announce the details of the FCO's approval of the 2012/12 budget. At that point Charles Glidden refused Ledger entry into the LA conference room for the media briefing as he said he had not been instructed to invite CNS.

The on-line media house has been omitted from the invitation list for several government briefings recently and the premier recently told Ledger via email not to contact him regarding any questions because of the ongoing legal action he is taking against her and Nicky Watson, the owner of CNS, because of an opinion piece posted on the website's Viewpoint section last year.

Despite having a regular readership of more than 60,000 unique viewers per month, Bush has criticized CNS and described it as not being the “real media” and on Wednesday he accused the reporter of being “nasty and vindictive” during the budget debate.

With the CNS news site being an increasingly popular forum for critics of the premier and his government to express their frustrations, his dislike for the online media service has grown in recent times.

Regardless of the hurdles being placed in front of Ledger however, she said she would continue to keep close tabs on government and post reports in that regard.

“As a result of the wide support CNS enjoys in the community, the information still flows into our news room from myriad sources and we are confident that the premier's efforts to prevent us from gaining access to official media briefings will have little impact on my ability to keep the news coming,” said Ledger. “The premier may not consider CNS to be the real media but we believe that our readers think it is very real and we can assure them that we will continue to post very real reports.”

During the government press briefing the premier confirmed details that CNS had already posted on Friday in connection with the UK's approval of the budget and the various conditions which government was to meet.

 

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Ending of an ‘error’

| 24/08/2012 | 34 Comments

It's been 3 years and 3 months (who’s counting) since the UDP was elected to office. We now know that there has been next to no improvement in the Cayman Islands economy and it's fair to say that there has been very little improvement in the standard of living for most of the electorate. It’s impossible to give the UDP another term in office based on that simplistic assessment alone. But they have given us a lot more ammunition to make our decision:

1.    Three investigations into the country’s political leader (formal charges or court deliberations are irrelevant; no responsible elected official at this level should find him/herself in that position).

2.    Many examples of over-riding the proper process for selection of contracts with very damning results.

3.    Not a single example of a major economic initiative achieved despite dozens of promises since 2009. Not one off the ground. If the proper process had been followed we would certainly have had at least one of those projects contributing to the economy by now. Unfortunately, many of us have speculated openly and with good reason, that there was a lot more to these delays and switching of the winning bidder than the ‘bureaucratic harassment’ charge put forward.

4.    'Gasboy Gate'. Wasted resources at CINICO.  Use of our tax dollars to pave private areas.  A very poorly conceived, and managed ‘Nation Builders Fund’. Absolutely reckless and chaotic management of the Port project, the largest infrastructure project to be considered in the country for more than 2 decades.

5. The worse budget crisis in the country's history, characterized by inexcusable failure to deliver the budget on time, damaging "tax on tax off" announcements, accompanied by rants against the UK/Governor unbecoming of the most senior political office in the land.

Instead of owning up to some of the above what we will likely see over the coming months is further political rambling aimed at justifying where we are today, blaming the previous administration, the FCO, red tape and the dog next door.

The most surprising thing of all that the UDP does not seem to understand is that these types of responses are not effective politically, if one pays attention to what people are ‘saying on the street’. The electorate has become more and more sophisticated over time, and expecting that much more from their leaders. Just because you give someone a fridge or a few dollars during one of your walks or their visit to your home (accompanied by the usual political wink for the family votes) does not mean that they don’t have reasonable expectations of their leaders.

And yet the end of an era for the UDP may not be so much due to the failures listed above as it is due to their biggest political failure since 2009; that of simply watching everything topple on their political leader’s every to and fro without even a peep of caution to him or an outcry from any of the other members.

The end of an era for the UDP is not somuch due to the overwhelming influence of one man but the immensely and embarrassing weakness of his fellow elected followers.

They have failed to stand up for what is right as representatives of the people (as opposed to their own political ambitions which they mistakenly see as being tied to the coat tails of the big man). Failed to demonstrate principles and ideals, with a sense of professionalism (some of them even with very high levels of formal education), failed to steer their leader in the right direction, if for nothing else, for their own political survival.

There is not much time left, but one or two of them of  them may just be able to rescue themselves if they can prove to the electorate that they are worthy of a second chance. In the meantime, far too many of us can only bemoan the fact that we made a serious error in giving them the privilege to serve us in 2009.

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UK gives conditional nod

| 24/08/2012 | 82 Comments

Henry-Bellingham_1.jpgCNS): Updated full story —  The UK has finally given its approval to the government's controversial 2012/13 budget but not without strict conditions. Sources tell CNS that the government have been given the much awaited nod from the FCO overseas territories minister, Henry Bellingham, on the basis that the premier agrees to pass the agreement he signed in November into law. The UK has also stipulated that for the next three years government will not be able to appropriate any more funds to any budget once passed, that it create a budget board headed by the deputy governor and that the CIG facilitate reviews of the budget by the FCO's economic adviser up to four times throughout the year.

The premier recently complained vociferously about the level of interference the UK now had over the Cayman Islands government's budget but with these conditions that is likely to increase and continue until the government returns to compliance with the Public Management and Finance Law.

Sources have revealed that Bellingham is pressing for the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) agreement he signed with Bush last year to be brought to the Legislative Assembly as quickly as possible and made into law, a move Bush was hoping to avoid.

The appointment of a budget board headed by the deputy governor will also ensure the UK has greater oversight via the Governor's Office, and the requirement to allow the economic adviser full and unfettered access to the government's financial situation throughout the year will ensure that the FCO can step in and head off any potential financial disasters before they occur.

With the stringent conditions imposed by the UK, and in particular the requirement to make the fiscal agreement a law, the hands of the UDP administration will be increasingly tied during the next nine months, forcing government  to follow due process when it comes to financial issues.

The passage of the FFR into law will  also threaten the proposed deal with CHEC in its current form for the George Town Cruise Port and may also affect the ForCayman Alliance deal with Dart.

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Obese Americans report discrimination

| 24/08/2012 | 0 Comments

Obesity (261x300).jpgAmerican News): Over half of obese Americans feel they have been discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion, according to a newpoll by Harris Interactive. Many also feel they have been socially shunned or discriminated against when being seated in public places, such as a theatre or restaurant. Much of the discrimination appears to be socially acceptable to most Americans. According to the poll, 61% do not consider negative remarks about a person’s weight to be offensive.

“The obesity epidemic is not just a huge health-care issue, it is also a social issue with many people — especially those who are morbidly obese — feeling that they have been stigmatized, treated unfairly, or discriminated against because of their weight,” said

Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.  “This is not surprising when many people do not believe that it is very offensive to make critical remarks about people’s weight or for employers to use weight as a factor when deciding whom to hire.”

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Grim warning on climate change from top scientist

| 24/08/2012 | 0 Comments

greenhouse-gas-emissions-up-2007.jpg(Channel4News): The planet could be facing a catastrophic 5 degree temperature rise, and we are losing time to address the threat of climate change, one of the government's leading scientists tells Channel 4 News. Speaking before he steps down as chief scientist at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Sir Bob Watson also warned that governments couldn't afford to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions despite the economic downturn. At global climate summits like in Copenhagen in 2009 it was agreed to try and limit global warming to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial temperatures.

"There is really almost no chance now of meeting that political target," said Dr Watson, who also served chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "If we continue the way we are we've got a 50-50 shot of a 3 degree [warmer] world and I would not rule out a 5 degree world."

Researchers are confident that level of warming would see the tropical forests of the Amazon and sub-Saharan Africa become arid zones, forcing mass movements of people and agriculture north and southwards. The increased amount of energy in the atmosphere would result in new weather patterns, including more intense rainfall across the globe.
Extreme weather debate

There is currently debate among climate scientists as to whether extreme weather events like the ongoing drought in the US, heatwaves in Europe, and summer flooding in the UK should be directly attributed to a warming climate.

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Alden talks serious CS reform

| 24/08/2012 | 48 Comments

GOAP (243x300).jpgCNS):  The opposition leader has revealed a taste of what might be to come  if he is to lead a future government. In the legislative Assembly Wednesday evening Alden McLaughlin spent a considerable part of his reply to the premier’s budget address on what he said were the fundamental underlying issues relating to the size of government, which he said had to be a priority for any new administration. Although he acknowledged that the size of government had been an issue for several administrations, he still criticised the UDP for neglecting to at least start addressing the problem during the last three and a half years.

McLaughlin said that he was not advocating immediate major cuts in numbers and salaries or removing existing benefits. He said the government had to develop a medium term plan to deal with this issue, otherwise it would continue to haunt each administration and could eventually lead to something far worse than the premier’s community enhancement fee.

He spoke of the need to engage the civil service and gain their support for public sector reform, which already had the backing of the private sector. He said he was pleased to see in the memo circulated by the deputy governor that there was some focus on the issue but he said he had seen little government buy-in of political will from the current administration to lead policy changes that would help cut the size of the ever-growing public sector.

For four budget cycles, he said, the present government had adopted “band aid approaches” and refused to take any action towards the fundamental problem.
“There has been lots of talk about changes in the civil service but very little action,” McLaughlin said.

He pointed to the memo the premier had circulated earlier in the year at the start of the budget process asking the civil service to keep total core government spending down to $497 million, which turned out to be totally unrealistic since civil servants cannot cut budgets very far without policy changes from the elected ministers.

“Expenditures are driven by government policy,” he noted.

He said government had to identify the optimum size of the civil service and pointed out that the problem had grown because there had never been a master plan devised to address the unchecked growth. McLaughlin said the PPM had envisioned the need for a plan to deal with what is a huge and growing problem.

“This administration has demonstrated no will, no desire, no initiative, no ability to put together any such plan,” said the opposition leader. “If these issues are not addressed and we continue down the road of the band aid approach that this government has adopted to fixing government’s fiscal problems, we are going to finally reach the point, in very short order, where radical decisions, evenmore radical than the payroll tax, are going to be employed.”

He said it was clear with an election only ten months away the government was simply not interested in any long term issues but it was critical that those in charge of the country think about the medium and long term.

“It is plain to us that the unsustainable cost of government and the unfunded pension and health liabilities are a huge problem for the country,” he said, as he pointed out that if public sector workers wanted to see their pensions and have access to health care in the future it was a problem for them too and in their interests to play a part in the reform.

In addition, he said, they have an interest, like everyone else, in ensuring that the local economy doesn’t collapse. As a result, McLaughlin said, he and his party were confident that if the service was led by the right kind of elected government the reform could happen without pushing them into poverty.

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Miller continues boycott in absence of UK approval

| 24/08/2012 | 14 Comments

Ezz5.jpg(CNS): The independent member for North Side who returned to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday to see if the budget presented by the government had been approved said he was continuing his boycott. Although Ezzard Miller said he will be observing what happens in finance committee over the next few days but he wouldn’t take part. With still no approval from the Foreign and Commonwealth minister for OTs, the MLA pointed out that the UK had already refused this budget on three occasions and none of the members could be certain once the bill was passed by the House it would be signed by the governor .

Miller who did not contribute to the debate in the Legislative Assembly told CNS that he was still very concerned about expenditure levels. He said it was not possible for government to claim it had made cuts when core government expenses were some $25million more than last year. In addition Miller said he believed it would be very difficult for government to collect the revenue it was forecasting as there are only nine months of the financial year remaining. In some cases legislation will also need to be passed by the LA before government can begin to collect the new revenue adding to the time line problem of meeting the projections, he added. 

Although the independent member said he had not yet had a proper opportunity to scrutinize the budget as he had only just received the relevant documents detailing the spending, at first glance he said there were some concerns.

Pointing to some of the transfer payments he said that things appeared to be doubled up with money appropriated for pre-school assistance while government had also increased spending on primary schools with the introduction of free reception classes.

“There appears to be a number of places where more than one ministry is doing the same thing and where the national building fund is financing programmes that are also being supported by other areas of government,” he said. “Having looked at the documents briefly it seems to me there are many areas where things could still be cut, but I intend to take a closer look.”

Miller lamented the fact that government has persistently failed to engage anyone else in the discussion about spending cuts especially after he had made so many suggestions about how they could be achieved. He pointed to two motions that he had brought to the House that government had said they would examine and had done nothing about, in particular, the changes to the Public Management and Finance Law.

“Government rejected my motion about amending this law to recentralize accounting in June 2010 because the premier said it was already being address. The only changes to the law the government have made however is to say that accounts for certain years don’t have to be audited and to remove the deadline requirement of 30 April to bring a budget to the LA,” Miller said as he pointed to the irony.

Having called on government several times to hold a special meeting of finance committee and invite private sector people on board, Miller said the government couldn’t just hand out documents at the last minute and expect people to just accept it unquestioningly. Miller said he needed to engage people and stop insulting everybody — including the UK.

Miller also said he was very disappointed with the budget in general as there was no hope for his constituents or any Caymanians. He said there was “nothing in it to resurrect Mr Entrepreneur who has been assassinated by this administration. People need something to look towards not blame and lamentations.”

He added: “There is no hope or inspiration here for young Caymanians and he has turned the glass ceiling into a concrete one with the projections for work permit revenue.”

Miller explained that given how much government now hopes to collect this year in permit fees then the boards haveto grant those permits making it even more difficult for local people to get work especially more senior posts.

Commenting on the title of the budget speech Responsible Government in Challenging Times' Miller said it would have been better titled, ‘Contradictions and Lamentations as to Why I Couldn’t do What was Needed to be Done.’, as he pointed to the great rush the premier was now in after months and months of what he described as incompetence.

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Caymanians abroad urged to register with UK office

| 24/08/2012 | 0 Comments

London-city.jpg(CNS): Caymanian students studying in the UK are being encouraged by government officials to register their contact details with the London Office to participate in what government said was the growing network of Caymanians in Europe. In a release from the London office it was said that students who  participate in this joint London Office and Department of Tourism initiative will get opportunities to attend networking events, obtain information from the London Office, and share their opinions with other students through the Facebook group Cayman Ambassadors.

“The most recent of our successful student activities through the Facebook group were representation at a seminar on behalf of Camana Bay by Anika Hewitt, and a BBC radio recording of Cayman Islands poetry by Ashleigh Davis,” said Kate Kandiah, the Department of Tourism (DoT) UK Senior Executive for Market Development and Social Media.

The DoT said that students would also be invited to the annual government reception in London, where students can meet heads of the Cayman Islands Government; gain assistance with promoting Cayman at social events and exhibitions; and receive notice of all Cayman events taking place in Europe.

“The next function planned for Caymanian students is a workshop and networking day on Friday, 7 December, in conjunction with the Friends of Cayman group. Law, finance, tourism and marketing will be among the topics to be explored during the day. The event will be followed by the annual reception hosted by the Government Office,” said London Office Deputy Representative Charles Parchment.

DoT further contributes to the joint initiative by providing incentives and resources for registered students, the release stated. This includes things like a Cayman quiz event which was held in London this year for the Cayman Ambassadors group. The next contest is to successfully coordinate a Cayman Islands-themed event in a student’s college or university, with the grand prize of a four-night stay at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort and a $120 dinner voucher. The deadline for registering a proposed event is Monday, 24 September 2012.

“The Cayman Islands Government Office and the Department of Tourism in London offer great resources for Caymanians in the UK,” said Kandiah. “We have worked toward building a network whose members really benefit from involvement, with the equally important objective of spreading a positive word for Cayman.”

For information and to register your contact details with the London offices phone +44 207 491 7772, e-mail kkandiah@caymanislands.ky, info@cigo.co.uk or join www.facebook.com/groups/caymanambassadors

 

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Jamaican MP steps aside in face of corruption case

| 24/08/2012 | 16 Comments

Daryl-Vaz.jpg(CNS): Jamaica’s shadow minister for ICT has stepped down from his post as a resultof corruption allegations against him. Daryl Vaz of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) stepped down yesterday stating that he would take a leave of absence in the wake of charges of breaching Section 14 (2) of the Corruption Prevention Act. "I have taken this principled position as it is not only the correct course of action but also I would like to distance and minimise the effect on my beloved party as this matter is strictly of a personal nature," the opposition MP for West Portland said. Vaz said he was confident he would be vindicated.

The corruption scandal involves an alleged intervention by the politician in a traffic violation by his friend. Vaz says he had no “ill intent” when he went to a police station and spoke to commanders about dropping a case against businessman Bruce Bicknell.

Senior Superintendent James Forbes and Bicknell appeared in court Wednesday alongside Vaz, where they were charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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