Archive for February 20th, 2014

Fidelity chair warns about growing inequality

| 20/02/2014 | 32 Comments

CNS): The chair of the Fidelity Group has warned that unless something is done to address the growing inequality gap between the rich and poor in the Cayman Islands as well as round the world, we will continue to see low growth, increases in crime and poor standards of health among the people. Speaking at the opening of the annual and rebranded Cayman Economic Outlook conference, Anwer Sunderji said the world was changing and people had to learn to get used to working hard and longer for less reward in an increasingly competitive environment. Pointing to those who are suffering the most at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, he said if the gap continues to widen this will create further problems.

He said it was a serious issue that was increasingly apparent in Cayman, as with other economies. Although the Caribbean had inadequate data In general regarding the facts and statistics, he said people did not need data to confirm what they could see.

While the governor before him and the premier after him were more upbeat about Cayman's economic outlook, Sunderji was a little less optimistic as he warned that the world had been wasting the opportunities presented by a 'good crisis' but the long seven year global recession was not over yet and there were many challenges and changes ahead.

He said countries would have to manage the expectations of better citizens as the future would be enormously competitive and much tougher than people seemed to be prepared for.

The conference opened at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Thursday to a packed house. Sunderji said at least  400 people attended the annual conference, making it a record breaking event.

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GT upgrade coming

| 20/02/2014 | 107 Comments

(CNS): There were no surprises in the much anticipated speech delivered by the premier on Thursday at the opening of the CEO conference. His first State of the Nation address at the annual business event in his role as the country's leader, Alden McLaughlin used the platform as a review rather than to reveal any new plans. The premier did state, however, that the promised revitalization of George Town would get underway later this year. He said that a committee had been formed which would be engaging in a public consultation process next month with a view to implementing proposals in June. He talked of beautification, altering traffic flows, preserving historic monuments and the introduction of mixed use business and residential zones.

He said the enhancement of the capital would help local businesses make the most of the cruise berthing facilities when they were completed.

For eleven years the former Cayman Business Outlook, now Cayman Economic Outlook, has provided a platform for the country's leaders to deliver a State of the Nation address. The former leader, McKeeva Bush, became well known for using the forum to make major announcements. However, McLaughlin did not take a leaf out of the now opposition leader's book and made no new revelations.

Reviewing his government's time in office so far and recapping some of the improvements in the relations with the UK, changes to immigration and the numerous problems that still need to be addressed, he said public finances were on track with government earnings  over $11 million more than forecast and public spending down more than $9 million.

McLaughlin also re-emphasized that his government was not in a position to solve the problem of the George Town landfill overnight  because of the required process set out in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) agreement with the UK, which is now part of local legislation.

Hitting back at Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam, who has been very critical recently of the dump situation, the premier said the rules were put in place as a result of what he described as the "disasterous consequences of the last tendering process", which he said the president was well aware as he himself had been involved in the bidding.

However, McLaughlin said that alongside the work needed to establish the strategic and business cases for the new waste management system, work would get underway at the dump to improve the current management, with investment in new equipment as well as the creation of a recycling and reuse programme and a public education campaign about waste reduction.

McLaughlin pointed to the success of the immigration changes and said more than one third of those that would have been entitled to apply for PR at the point the law was changed had instead chosen to leave. He also said just 139 Caymanians had been placed in jobs since June by the National Workforce Development Agency, which he said was now beginning to take shape and fulfill its mandate.

He said government was pressing ahead with the plans for E-government and the recruitment of a director to help implement the online improvements of government services.

McLaughlin said his administration was reviewing the possible privatization of government services. He said that there were no sacred cows but that any divestment had to be in the best interests of the people and could not risk costing government in long run. He warned that recent cuts had already detrimentally impacted public services and that many of the recent staff cuts could only be temporary as he pointed to the need for more recruitment already in some areas such as the fire service.

Talking about the improvement in confidence and a turn around in the economy, McLaughlin emphasized the new positive relationship with the UK, which had kept Cayman at the table during the development of new international regulations affecting the financial services sector.

Referring to the previously much more strained relationship between the UDP government and the UK, McLaughlin said it was important to be at the table talking rather than "butting heads with the FCO and our governor with no result to show at the end of it."

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CAL pilot grounded

| 20/02/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Airways Limited (CAL) officials have confirmed that one of their pilots has been grounded as a result of an investigation into a possible safety breach. Although the airline has given few details and has been quick to suggest that the pilot’s removal from his “operational role” and “separation from duty” is not necessarily “punitive” or indicative of any fault”, CNS understands the incident relates to a landing of an aircraft very close to the North Sound and that an air traffic controller has also been suspended in connection with the same landing. Although the airport has not yet responded to CNS enquiries, CAL confirmed that it is investigating the incident.

“Cayman Airways Limited puts the safety of its passengers, crew, and operations first above all else and as such, we operate a very robust Safety Management System (SMS),” officials said in a statement released to CNS. “Our standard procedures require that whenever there are events which have had an effect on our standards of safety or even just had the potential to affect safety, no matter how minor, they are fully investigated.”

The airline went on to state that standard procedures dictate that whenever such investigations are underway, the employees involved are usually removed from their operational roles to ensure the integrity of the process.

“Such temporary separation from duty is not punitive and is not indicative of any fault on the part of the employee. At this time, we can confirm that one such investigation is underway and we are not in a position to disclose any further details as this would compromise the integrity of our Safety Management System,” the spokesperson added.

Questions were also submitted to the Cayman Islands Airport Authority regarding the alleged involvement and investigation of an air traffic controller and his suspension from duty. The authority has acknowledged receipt but has not yet responded to questions.

News of this incident comes in the wake of the formation of a local air traffic controllers professional association, which the organisers have denied is linked to this or any of the other problems currently plaguing the airport following a number of controversial issues and scandals that have surrounded the facility since early last year. The timing, they said, is merely coincidental as they have been trying for many years to create a formal body to represent their profession.

Nevertheless, CNS understands that the airport management is concerned about the controllers' association and its implications. In addition, there have been unconfirmed complaints made to CNS that staff across the airport facility are not receiving payments due for overtime, extra work or increased payments for taking up acting positions, among other pay complaints.

Airport officials have neither confirmed nor denied any of the issues relating to the latest allegations of problems at Owen Roberts international. The continued reports of issues and staffing problems at the airport come shortly after a new board was appointed and as government considers the business case for redeveloping the facility as Cayman’s overnight tourism figures continue to rise.

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6 firms cleared for power bid

| 20/02/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): The Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) has revealed that six firms have been cleared to bid on the contract to generate 36MW of future electricity to supplement the power provided by Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) and introduce energy competition in Grand Cayman. The bid is undergoing its second round after a protracted scandal involving the former MD of the regulator caused the solicitation awarded to DECCO, part of the Dart Group, to be cancelled amid allegations that the bid was doctored after the fact. Despite the accusations, DECCO is one of the six companies said to be qualified in this latest solicitation, along with CUC, three international companies and a local consortium.

However, Navasota Energy, the Texas-based company which was the third firm, along with DECCO and CUC, cleared to bid during the previous round, was not on the ERA qualification list. It is not clear if the firm, which had raised concerns about the original tender, decided not to bid this time around or was not qualified.

Although six firms have now been given the go-ahead to submit proposals to generate the extra power, the ERA said it is not a forgone conclusion that they will all enter bids.

“While it is indeed true that qualified biddersmay or may not bid, the ERA certainly hopes that qualified bidders will submit their best bid in order to ensure competition in the generation of electricity which is the ERA’s role and clearly in the public’s best interest,” the ERA deputy managing director, Louis Boucher, said. “The ERA, as always, is fully committed and determined to ensure that the solicitation process is conducted in the most fair, objective and transparent manner as per General Regulatory Principles of ERA Law.”

The ERA will be keen to ensure that this time the process is not dogged by controversy. In the wake of the previous bid award, allegations of fraud and theft against the former ERA boss, Joey Ebanks, first surfaced. In his response to the enquiry against him and the so-call financial irregularities, which resulted in his arrest for a catalogue of offences from theft to drug possession, Ebanks began making allegations about the Dart bid being altered after it was awarded.

As a result of its own internal enquiries and the delays caused by the Ebanks case, the ERA eventually cancelled the bid and the award to Dart and started over.

In this latest pre-qualification round, in addition to the existing local power firm, CUC, and Dart’s construction company DECCO, four other firms have also been pre-qualified.

Aecom Energy is an international firm, which describes itself as a leader in integrated planning and engineering solutions for a sustainable energy future, helping clients reduce energy consumption, develop renewable sources, cut carbon emissions and improve grid reliability.

Energy World Corporation Ltd is an integrated energy company based in Hong Kong and listed in Australia and on the OTCQX in the US. The company has primary gas and power operations located in Sengkang, South Sulawesi in Indonesia and also produces gas, power and LNG in Australia.

The Louis Berger Group, Inc. is an international consulting firm that provides engineering, architecture, programmed and construction management, environmental planning and science, and economic development services.

While CAYMAN36SPV (Optimal Energy Limited and InterEnergy Holdings) is understood to be a local consortium.

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