Archive for May 31st, 2013

Auditor general staying on for three more years

| 31/05/2013 | 31 Comments

swarbrick5 (225x300)_0.jpg(CNS): Despite the public criticisms and full on attacks from former premier McKeeva Bush, the currrent auditor general has not been put off his work here in the Cayman Islands and has agreed to stick around for a wee while longer. The governor’s office confirmed Friday that Alastair Swarbrick’s contract hasbeen extended for another three years. ayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, who awarded Swarbrick a new contract to start next month, said Friday that he had every confidence in the public auditor. “I am delighted that the Auditor General wishes to continue in his role,” said Taylor.

“I believe that over the past three years he has done an excellent job, proving himself to be a robust defender of proper accountability for public finances and providing a clear lead to the staff of the Auditor General’s office. The Auditor General’s role is a critical one in Government and Alastair brings a wealth of experience to it. I have every confidence that he will continue to carry out his duties to a high standard and to add value to the Cayman Islands government operation,” the governor added.

 

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Country First

| 31/05/2013 | 32 Comments

As I listen to the discussion over the past couple days and I hear the criticism of the independents not acting in a manner or with the expediency that some of the public seem to want or feel entitled to, it really makes me wonder if we, the public, are being reasonable. I say this because: 1) Roy, Winston and Tara have never been greedy, nor are they doing this for personal gain.

2) Roy, Winston and Tara were all elected to use their best judgment and make sound decisions, and in order to make sound decisions one must consider all sides and not just take what seems to be obvious as fact.

3) All three of these people have pledged to put what is best for the country first, so I can only assume that the time it took to make these decisions and any negotiations were with the intent of putting the country first and not a personal or group agenda for personal gain.

I continue on with my thoughts of whether we, the public, are being reasonable in our expectations as we are now all living in the age of instant information. Never before has the “Marl Road" been more efficient. Regardless of fact or fiction, we get the gossip faster than the speed of sound. I would offer the argument that if we had the current level of communications and media involvement in military activities during WWII, we might very well may have a different world and potentially much worse than we live in today.  

We, the people, want information NOW! We want to know exactly what is being said minute by minute, as thoughwe are watching “Ed TV”. I personally think we, the public, are making demands that really are not necessary or appropriate, especially during the negotiation stages of these type of decisions.

I will offer a metaphor. I would say that if my car stops running, I am going to call my mechanic. When he tells me what is wrong (your transmission is shot), what it will cost and how long it will take to fix it, that is all I need to know. What he does to fix it, what tools he uses, and the when and how he proceeds with the work are not things I concern myself with. I just want my car back working for the amount and on the day agreed upon.

I would also offer the additional complication to the above metaphor for a person like me. I don’t want to admit it, but I am a person who knows how to do simple maintenance, knows what the transmission is, but have no clue how to rebuild a transmission. Risking serious condemnation, I would say that what I have learned over the past two years is that the general public is in the same position politically as I am mechanically. We, the voters of Cayman, really don’t understand how our government is structured and is supposed to work, yet we have expectations of actions by our elected representatives to act in a manner that is dictated by us but simply doesn’t fit into the format of our legislative structure.

Roy McTaggart has come under heavy fire recently for sitting on the opposition and has been labeled everything under the sun. This to me shows that we simply don’t understand our government structure. I will refer to the use of a metaphor again, and I will use my marriage as an example.

My wife and I both want the best for our family, however my perspective on where our funds should go on occasion does not line up with the perspective she has. A short discussion results in the facts being laid out on the table and the right decision being made as to what should or should not be priority (typically she wins). Her opposition to my perspective is healthy and is in the best interest of our family. It is opposition that is done in the context of the mutual respect and is openly accepted upon the facts being realized. 

Now I will also offer this: if my brother and I had the same conversation with the same facts, the outcome very well may be completely different, as the personalities and delivery would be completely different.

I feel completely comfortable with Roy making the decision he has made. He is a very level headed individual and he understands the legislative structure. He also has what is best for the country at heart.

At the end of the day, we need to trust in the people we have elected that they have the best for the country at heart and they will make us proud. We need to give them our support, and support them by enlightening ourselves to the facts prior to perpetuating negatives.  

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‘Culture Shock’ in George Town cancelled

| 31/05/2013 | 44 Comments

culture shock2.jpg(CNS): The launch of a new monthly event celebrating all things local shceduled for this evening has been cancelled due to expected bad weather. However, organisers say the event will take place Friday 28 June. ‘Culture Shock: a Cayman Nite’ is designed to be the pulse of Cayman, and Grass Piece Group, the local non-profit organization behind it, plans to revitalize George Town through a once monthly celebration of Cayman people, music, art and culture. The entrance will be free and organisers promise it will be an extraordinary night. Kids will have their own special area for fun and games and there will be lots of Caymanian food favourites at each event. 

This month will feature vendors from North Side, who will sell favourites like fish tea, fish and fritters, conch, turtle, beef, cakes and local fruit juices. Aside from great food, the entertainers set for this inaugural event are local favourites the Red Bay Drummers, Shameka Clarke, Andy Blake and Swanky Kitchen Band. 

A spokesperson for Grass Piece said, “In so many other countries the capital is where all the excitement is. It’s as if you can feel the heartbeat of the city intensify as night falls. But here in Grand Cayman, after corporate business hours, George Town is eerily deserted and quiet; many have likened it to a ghost town. Part of the problem is that there is nothing to draw people in. Grass Piece management wants to change that and expects that these events will give locals a reason to fall in love with Town again. We want to bring excitement back to downtown George Town while re-building a sense of community, and we plan to do exactly that on the last Friday of every month. 

“Imagine people simply enjoying each other’s company, like a good backyard cookout, and you have Culture Shock — people you love, conversation, laughter, games, music, and, of course, good ‘cook food’.  It will bring visitors and locals back to the capital for something fabulous each month. From arts and entertainment to local vendors and other surprises, there will always be something new to see.” 

To learn more about this event, please contact:

Grass Piece Group
Cell: 926.0961
grasspiecegroup@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/caymancultureshock

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Experts warn of busy season

| 31/05/2013 | 48 Comments

(CNS): As Cayman sat under a cloud of rainy weather on the eve of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season Friday, meteorological experts were warning of busy season ahead. Some forecasters are pointing to an “extremely active" hurricane season. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US have said they expect to see 13 to 20 named storms. This range means the season should be an "above normal and possiblyan extremely active" one, said Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA's acting director. Sullivan said that NOAA expects to see seven to 11 hurricanes, those storms with sustained winds of at least 74 mph, of which six are likely to be major hurricanes category 3 or above with winds of 111 mph or more.

This forecast is well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, according to NOAA. The above-normal season is likely thanks to a "confluence of factors"  that favor cyclone formation, Sullivan said in a release this week.

These include above-average sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean where these storms form. Warm waters fuel cyclones and make them stronger. The El Niño climate pattern is not in effect, which favors Atlantic hurricanes, since El Niño's easterly winds can tear apart developing cyclones.

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, though storms can, and have, formed outside of those dates when conditions were favorable.
Cayman can expect heavy rain and cloudy weather for the next five days according to local forecasts and although there is plenty of cloud around the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico but at present there no tropical storms on the horizon.

Local hurricane officials are planning the annual hurricane exercise for Monday, when they will test out their state of readiness. In the meantime, all residents are urged to ensure that they are prepared to face whatever this season throws at Cayman.

See messages from the governor and the premier below

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PPM faces heavy workload

| 31/05/2013 | 176 Comments

aldenswearingin.jpg(CNS): Following the pomp and celebration earlier this week, next week the new government will need to hit the ground running as there are a multitude of issues for the new Progressive team to deal with in the near future. With eleven people on its benches, after two C4C candidates agreed to work with the administration, from the 18-member House, the new premier has more hands working on his deck than any leader has had for some time. The new Cabinet is now seven strong, in line with 2009 constitution, and Alden McLaughlin has stated that he will also be appointing counsellors or junior ministers from the back bench to help those on the front tackle the many pressing issues. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

As well as the onslaught on Cayman’s financial sector from the UK, Europe and the US, McLaughlin will have to deal with a very difficult budget situation in the face of a still stagnant economy and austere restrictions imposed by the UK.

However, forced to go to the UK next month in response to the British Prime Minister's call for greater transparency and information sharing by its territories, the premier has already made it known that he wants to talk with the OT minister about a much longer term fiscal plan when he visits the UK that can alleviate some of the pressure on the local economy. McLaughlin said this week that Mark Simmonds had said he is willing to work with the new government on such a plan.

At home, McLaughlin’s team has been handed some major issues which will also need to be dealt with. The Dart agreement regarding the West Bay Road, the completion of the John Gray High School, the requirement of a youth remand facility as per the constitution, as well as the question of rollover, as we are now only five months away from the can that was kicked down the road by the UDP government with the introduction of term limit extension permits, which expire in October.

The new premier has also stated that the cruise berthing project and the airport redevelopment are both priorities for his administration, which will create jobs and boost the domestic economy, but he has made it clear they will be properly tendered.

All of McLaughlin’s new Cabinet team and the back-bench supporters are going to be very busy.

An area that the people will be hoping that Tara Rivers, his new C4C cabinet member, will turn her attention to immediately is the issue of linking the available jobs to locally qualified Caymanians and also enforce the existing immigration law to ensure local people get jobs without cutting the work permit revenue government has become increasingly dependent on.

Meanwhile, with public works in his portfolio, the former leader of government business, Kurt Tibbetts, will have the most controversial job of all, which is to tackle the George Town dump, where it is without funding.

Financial Services minister Wayne Panton also appears to have a double challenge: he is tasked with protecting the country’s most important industry from the on-shore attack and dealing with copious new international regulations, but he has also been given the job of protecting Cayman’s natural environment. A keen supporter of the National Trust and an advocate for conservation, Panton is already being heralded as the minister that may finally implement the necessary laws to protect both the land and marine habitats, which are both under immense pressure from natural as well as man made threats.

Marco Archer, who will be dealing with finance as well as development and planning, has his work cut out for him and will not have very long to pull together the PPM administration’s first budget. Although the government will be able to vote an interim budget based on the previous annual finance plan, that can only be for four months at most. McLaughlin said on Tuesday evening at a press briefing that he wanted it to be considerably shorter than that. This means Archer will need to come up with a new spending plan which cuts previous costs if he is to begin meeting the PPM campaign promises and delivers a surplus acceptable to the UK without making civil servants redundant and without cutting important services as soon as possible.

Education Minister Osbourne Bodden’s biggest project will be to finish the second high school. While students at Clifton Hunter have been enjoying the state-of-the-art facilities at their new school this academic year, kids from George Town and West Bay are still making do on the site of the old George Hicks school and parts of John Gray, while the new school has mostly been on ice for the last three years.

Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell will be picking up the tourism portfolio, which, as a result of the work by Shomari Scott and his team at the Department of Tourism, has been doing fantastically well attracting overnight guests. However, it is this ministry which will oversee the development of cruise berthing and the airport redevelopment and the haemorrhaging of funds by Cayman Airways.

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