Archive for January 18th, 2014

Archer gets back $6M interest

| 18/01/2014 | 58 Comments

CNS): The ministry of finance has managed to reduce government’s interest on the lifetime of its loans by more than $6 million by renegotiating the loans it currently has with the lenders. Government officials said that these “efforts and strategies implemented” will save the public purse some CI$6.2 million in interest costs over the next ten years. The ministry has negotiated lower fixed term interest rates for five of government's existing loans held with a local commercial bank that totalled CI$88.4 million as at 30 November 2013. The new and lower fixed term interest rates range from 1.25% to 2.71% per annum, down from levels of 2.82% to 4.25% annually for the preceding five years of 2008–2013.

The interest rates are now fixed for the remaining life ofeach of the five loans.

"The government is very pleased with the negotiations and the achievements of the ministry in meeting the goals and objectives of the government to be fiscally prudent and reduce expenditure,” Finance and Economic Development Minister Marco Archer said. “For fiscal year 2013/14, CI$0.6 million in interest cost savings will be realized and will have a positive impact on the 2013/2014 budget surplus and debt service ratios, while building public trust and confidence in the government’s fiscal performance."

Archer had promised to renegotiate all of government’s debt in an effort to reduce its annual interest payments, which are in excess of $30 million. The previous administration had also made efforts to do so by trying to move the loans with new closed door deals. However, there were concerns raised about those efforts, ultimately costing the public purse as a result of penalty clauses. By negotiating with the existing lenders, Archer has managed to avoid penalties and the cost of re-tendering.

However, this renegotiation only represents a fraction of governments existing debt, which is in excess of half a billion dollars.

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Over 900 TLEPs remain

| 18/01/2014 | 59 Comments

(CNS): Well over 500 foreign workers out of almost 1,500 who originally held Term Limit Exemption Permits (TLEPs) have left the Cayman Islands, according to government officials, but the rest are still here. Of the 1,459 TLEP holders on island when government changed the immigration law allowing them to stay, 576 have applied for work permits, 274 have been granted a further work permit, 8 remain on Island as visitors and 547 have left the country. Despite concerns that the immigration department would be dealing with a surge of applications, only 54 have so far applied for permanent residency (PR).

Those who have applied for PR will be judged on a new, stricter set of criteria and not everyone will qualify. Fees have also been increased for those who seek permanent residency. Government said it aims to only grant PR to those people who can have a positive impact on the country. It is not intended for those that would become a risk or a liability to the Cayman Islands.

The number of people on TLEPs who have applied for PR affirms the belief of the Progressives government, officials said in a release Friday.

“We knew from the outset, and even stated, that not all of those people on these special permits would want to seek permanent residency and the numbers show that we were right,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said.

Those on the exemption permits that wanted to stay in Cayman had to apply for new work permits under the reformed Immigration Law, which was steered through the Legislative Assembly in October. According to the release from the premier’s office, government is working with employers to ensure that Caymanians are hired for jobs vacated by those who held TLEPs through the National Workforce Development Agency.

Although officials said the departing workers left 547 positions open that could be filled by Caymanians, they did not say how many were or how many were filled by new permit holders.

Independent MLA Ezzard Miller recently stated that government needed to give a detailed update about how many Caymanians have been placed in work as a result of the planned assistance, which it said it was giving to local workers at the time of the immigration reforms. He said he had grave concerns that the push to get locals in work did not happen and the government has done little or nothing to address the continuing problem of rising local unemployment.

Term Limit Exemption Permits were introduced by the former UDP government. Most of those on the special permits had been working in the Cayman Islands since 2005 and 2006 and would have been required to leave upon reaching their seven-year term limit. The UDP government amended the law in such a way that all TLEPS expired in October last year, something the Progressives’ government deemed as disruptive to the country and the economy.

“We would have had close to 1,500 people with dependents leaving the country at once; people not buying groceries, not paying rent, not buying gas. It just wasn’t in the best interest of the Cayman Islands,”said McLaughlin.

The government has said the second phase of Immigration reforms will be made this year and focusing on the work permit system, in particular the relationships between the granting of work permits and unemployment amongst Caymanians. A committee is slated to make a full report to Cabinet in April.

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