Archive for November 26th, 2014

Two more patients pick up chikungunya locally

| 26/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Public health officials said that they received two more positive results for chikungunya virus, this week, from patient blood samples without travel history from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Twelve people have now contracted the disease in Cayman from mosquitos biting infected people and transmitting the virus to another person. Meanwhile, officials have also recorded another case of dengue fever in a patient who presented in October pushing up the cases for this year to four. Two of the cases were acquired locally while others were picked up in Honduras.

In total there have been 36 confirmed case of Chikungunya virus in Cayman with 24 being contracted overseas. But blood samples in patients with travel history to endemic areas are no longer being sent for testing as they are being treated as positive. However most of the patients the hospital is seeing who have picked up chikungunya abroad are being infected in Jamaica.

There were 8 suspected cases of chikungunya during the week 18-24 November based on symptoms. Two had travelled to Jamaica, but six reported no travel history.

With the numbers increasing in Jamaica, People are being warned in Cayman to take extra care and earlier this week the MRCU announced its aerial spraying plans. However, the major mosquito air attacks have only limited impact on chikungunya as well as dengue as these diseases are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which breeds in urban areas in standing water. As a result everyone is urged to control standing water in their yards and to take precautions against being bitten my mosquitos.

Further information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky

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Crisis Centre hopes to raise 40k with Christmas run

| 26/11/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Offering the only safe haven in Cayman for women and children suffering domestic abuse, the Cayman Islands, Crisis Centre is hoping to raise $40,000 this Christmas with the Jingle-Bell charity fun-run. All of the money raised will go directly to fund the operations of the island’s only emergency shelter, which like all charities is struggling to meet the growing demands for its services. People are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible and join in the run, which has already attracted much needed support from private sector sponsors. The event takes place on Sunday 14 December at the Holiday Inn Resort. Cayman Islands Crisis Centre fund-raising committee chair Melisa Johnson said the event could not happen without the support of the community, as she thanked the companies and individuals who have donated time and funding.  

“This event is our major fundraiser for the year and the Centre relies heavily on it for its operations,” she said.

Registration is CI$25 and includes a full breakfast on the beach as well as gifts from Santa (above) for every child registered. The first 300 registrants also get a free t-shirt.  Sponsors have also been very generous in offering raffle prizes.  There will be Cayman Airways return tickets to Tampa and to Miami, a staycation with breakfast at the Westin and another from Comfort Suites, and vouchers for the island’s hottest restaurants up for grabs, but you have to be present to win.

Main sponsors include Greenlight Re, Maples and Calder and LIME others are Rawlinson & Hunter, Kobre & Kim, dms X107.1 and Kiss 106.1, Insurance Managers Association of Cayman and Walkers,DART, Cayman Airways, KPMG, Strategic Risk Solutions, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, ICWI, Kane, Cayman National, The Security Centre, Zolfo Cooper, Kensington, Advantage, Krys Global, ITA Group and PKF, Conyers Dill & Pearman, Rotary Sunrise and the Water Authority. Donations have also been received from The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Red Sail Sports, Fosters Food Fair, Agua, Abacus/Deckers/Karoo Group, Books & Books, Le Visage, Luca, Regal Theatres, Calypso Grill, Icoa, Eclipse Hair Design & Spa and Cayman Tennis Academy.

Online registration is now live at www.caymanactive.com.  Registration will also be available at Cost U Less November 29 and Dec 6, Fosters Strand Dec 6 and Dec 13 and AL Thompson's Dec 13.

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French customs pass on tips to local officers

| 26/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Sixteen customs officers are currently undergoing training and sharing information with a team of French Consular customs officials. The session which began Tuesday, at Customs Headquarters, is to help local customs officers and bosses with theoretical and practical experience of international customs operational techniques, said custom’s training manager, Langlie Powery. Topics cover information and techniques to combat the smuggling of drugs, firearms and other contraband.

Deputy French Customs Attaché for the US, Rodolphe Gautreau, who is stationed in Miami, as well as Customs Officers, Sebastien Messy from La Rochelle, France, and Gregory Branzi from Guadeloupe are the trainers.

“We are very pleased to be in the Cayman Islands to share our knowledge and techniques about a number of customs operations with officers here,” said Gautreau. “This meets a common goal of all customs officers, which is to ensure that nefarious activities are curtailed and the rule of law is upheld.”

Thanking the French officers, Collector of Customs, Samantha Bennett said she was delighted that local could benefit from the French expertise, “gaining a new perspective on Customs operations worldwide that can add to our knowledge and enhance our skills,” she added.

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CIG paints rosy picture

| 26/11/2014 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Both the Cayman Islands premier and the finance minister were up-beat about the local economy and public finances on Wednesday as government presented its strategic policy statement. Marco Archer said Cayman was in a “sweet spot” with an economic outlook for the next three years showing sustainable growth and the strongest rates since the world financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Premier Alden McLaughlin said that the Progressive government had, so far, delivered on its pledges and had made strides to keep Cayman on a steady course. He told his Legislative colleagues that “things are getting better.”

He also said government was on track to meet the targets agreed with the UK to get the public purse back in line with the public management and finance law. “We are poised for compliance,” the premier said, as he stressed that the 2015-16 budget was crucial for government. “We have to comply withall Framework for Fiscal Responsibility ratios and come December 2015, we must legally comply with the mandated cash day’s ratio of 90 days,” he added.

Although things are on track for government with its budget targets and significant projected operating surpluses, McLaughlin pointed to some early budget pressures such as exceeding the refugee’s budget and losing some $5million because of concessions and waivers from the previous administration. But he said there was good news as well.

“Our managed vacancy programme is working with early savings noted in personnel costs and the government will retain positive cash outcomes throughout the fiscal year,” he said.

“Revenues of $5 million collected in the first quarter from annual permanent residents work permit fees is already $2.1 million more than the full budget year…Cayman Airways and the Port Authority are two statutory authorities that are reporting positive early results. We have also recorded a $2.7 million positive variance in stamp duty on land transfers for the first quarter.”

McLaughlin said that because of fiscal prudence government’s revenue for the 2015-16 budget year was up from the $648,172 unaudited figure in the 2013/14 budget to $661,224. “We are forecasting to grow the economy year on year with revenues of $672,205 in the 2016/17 fiscal year and $703,993 in fiscal year 2017/18,” he predicted.

The premier went on to list plans for achieving government’s goals as he spoke about a number of policy plans from the redevelopment of the airport to getting the construction of John Gray high school back on track.

McLaughlin said the SPS kept government on the path it began in May 2013 and what he described as “very clear policy objectives” aimed at ensuring a strong, stable and healthy society.

“We are keenly aware of our need to develop, but we are even more cognizant that the development we seek and welcome doesn’t leave our people behind or harm our environment,” he said as promised to push the country forward.

Having introduced the SPS the finance minister had also painted an upbeat picture forecasting surpluses for government over the next three years and economic growth from a number of planned development projects.

“The outlook for the Cayman Islands is one of renewed optimism and confidence,” Archer said, adding that the primary pillars of the economy remained vibrant with growing stay over tourism and a flourishing financial services industry.

“Overall, the economy is forecast to have moderate sustainable growth, and unemployment is expected to fall below 5 percent over the next three financial years,” he said, as he pointed to government plans to grow a stronger economy, improve public safety, promote a healthy society, and a culture of good governance.

“This strategic plan makes key provisions for the achievement of those goals. It allocates resources for the continued support of our tourism and financial services industries, education, and our law enforcement agencies. It also outlines strategies that will lead to job creation in the private sector and improved opportunities for Caymanians,” the minister added.

He said a main goal of the government was the restoration of public finances and the SPS, he said, shows that the plans laid by the Progressives to achieve “that goal is coming to fruition and that the Country is poised to realize the dream of restored public finances and the other benefits…”

See the SPS in full below.
 

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Marco to tackle liabilities

| 26/11/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): The finance minister has made a commitment to tackle the growing liabilities faced by the Cayman Islands government for future civil servants pensions as well as the anticipated cost of healthcare for retired public sector workers, seafarers, veterans and the poorer members of the community dependent on government health cover. Marco Archer revealed that government is facing a future liability of almost $1.2 billion, based on the numbers, interest rates and life expectancy, unless it does something to address it. Archer said he was taking ownership of the problem and government would create a solution.

Delivering the strategic policy statement in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning, Archer noted that much has been said about government’s mounting future liabilities and it was evident  something had to be done soon and officials wereanalyzing possible changes to deal with the billion dollar problem

The minister said, "This government will not bury its head in the sand and pretend it does not exist. Rather, the government plans to fully ventilate the issue, take ownership of it, and most importantly, do something about it."

Archer added that government was already making $11.6 million annual contributions towards its defined pension benefit plan for civil servants above and beyond the usual monthly pension payments and the money was budgeted over for the next three years to begin plugging that potential future shortfall. 

He said that government had a legal and moral obligations to provide health cover for retired civil servants and others without health care cover. And with a potential future $1.18 billion liability based on the estimated numbers, projected interest rates, life expectancy and other elements, government had to take the issue on.

He said that the problem was not created overnight and a solution would not be found overnight but government was “not deterred”, as he promised transparency and consultation over what would happen.

Noting that "the number is big" and saying he was "under no illusions how it will be sensationalized”, Archer said he was making plans and by taking the issue on Cayman would be further ahead than many other governments that are facing the same future liability problems.

He pointed out that the government had been criticized for projecting significant surpluses for the current and coming budget years, but said that they were necessary to strengthen the public sector balance sheet so that it could be in a position to address the future liabilities.

He said the surpluses were laying the groundwork for how government would deal with what lies ahead. The minister stated that government should be applauded for taking it on and dealing with what is a difficult issue in such an open and forthright manner.

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CS to get 4% pay rise in 2015

| 26/11/2014 | 96 Comments

(CNS): Civil servants will be getting a 4% cost of living allowance (COLA) pay rise in the next budget year, the premier has promised. Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday about government’s strategic policy statement, Alden McLaughlin said that civil servants had gone “far too long without a pay increase” and it was time for government workers “to get their due”. He pointed out that after losing their 3.2% COLA in 2010, public servants pay fell back to 2006 levels and since then inflation has grown some 11%. He said more than half of government workers earn less than $3,300 per month and many local families have struggled financially, which has a wider economic impact.

Announcing plans for the new pay increase to start on 1 July 2015 McLaughlin said that because of government's fiscal prudence there was enough room to give the civil service a four per cent cost of living adjustment.

“Government did not want to give less than the 3.2 per cent taken from them by the previous administration. In fact, this administration would have liked to have given more but this is all we can afford at present,” he said.

With inflation reducing the purchasing power of government workers by some 11 per cent, he said government workers were worse off today than they were six years ago. The removal of the COLA in 2010 came on top of a ban on grade salary increases and restrictions on allowances.

Over half the government’s workforce earns less than $40K per annum and 3 out of 4 civil servants are Caymanians, which has resulted in a fall in the living standards for many people because they have chosen to serve their country, McLaughlin added.

“Caymanians have a relatively higher propensity to spend. That means a huge percentage of the income earned is not stashed away in a savings account. Rather, it is re-circulated within the economy for the purchase of goods and services,” McLaughlin said as he noted the wider impact on the domestic economy of the cash-strapped public sector workers.  

“The fiscal and economic impact of this cost of living adjustment is therefore not isolated to the single line of 'personnel cost' on the government’s financials. Rather, economic analysis proves that an increase in worker take home pay will naturally lead to an increase in government revenue from increased consumption,” he said.

The premier said the boost to the government pay packets would lead to an increase in employment as a result of increased demand for services, a reduction in the demand for social benefits when families are able to afford more on their own, and an increase in construction, as the slight increase will improve their chances of qualifying for mortgages or loans for home improvements.

He said the 4% rise ($1600 per annum for those on $40k) would be an effective economic stimulus. 

“There is a clear economic and moral case for providing some relief to civil service workers and I am proud to lead a government that has managed the financial affairs of the country in such a manner as to be able to afford to do this in the 2015/16 financial year without significantly increasing the cost of running the government,” he added.

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Lawyers blamed for acquittal

| 26/11/2014 | 31 Comments

(CNS): The director of public prosecutions (DPP) and a long list of experienced QCs and local counsel were all in the firing line last week for what will prove to be a costly error regarding the acquittal of five suspects in a bank robbery. DPP Cheryll Richards QC and UK counsel James Curtis QC joined a number of local lawyers who were all forced to apologize to the appeal court Friday on behalf of the lawyers who had led them in the Cayman National Bank trial last year. The panel of judges said the irregularity leading to the acquittal of Andre Burton, Rennie Cole, George Mignott and David Tamasa was down to a failure on the part of all the lawyers involved, including the crown,as well as an error by the judge.

Although Cayman’s DPP did not handle the appeal before the higher court last week, she had led the prosecution’s case against the men at trial last year. As a result, Richards was called to the appeal court Friday to answer, along with other lawyers involved in the original trial, why there had been a failure on all of the lawyers’ parts to deal with a specific direction regarding the decision by the defendants not to give evidence.

Richards accepted it was counsels’ duty to remind the judge about the necessary direction but they had not done so. Not one of the more than ten lawyers at the trial had pointed out that the judge had to ask all of the defendants in open court if they were aware that an adverse inference could be drawn by the jury as a result of their failure to answer the charges.

The attorneys all apologized to the courts and insisted it was an oversight on their part and no one noticed that the judge had not given the necessary direction to the defendants. All of them insisted that there was not a defense conspiracy of silence in order to create the grounds for an appeal. James Curtis QC, who represented Tamasa at trial and in the appeal, said the failure to remind the judge was not deliberate. “We fall on our sword on the basis that we simply did not notice it,” he said.

The director of public prosecutions said it was an oversight by the crown as well.

Justice Elliott Mottley made it clear Friday, when the convictions of four men convicted in the CNB robbery were quashed, that their successful appeals had nothing to do with the facts of the case and the key witness but rather a mistake by the judge “in which all counsel participated”, which led to a “material irregularity” in the trial process, and as a result the appeal court had to overturn the convictions.

There will now need to be a very costly retrial, in which the men who are again facing serious charges will be instructing overseas counsel on the legal aid ticket. Although QCs are paid the same $135 legal aid hourly rate as other counsel, there is the additional costs of their flights and accommodation.

The crown will also have to pick up its own tab to represent its case all over again and recall all of its witnesses, including the controversial ‘supergrass’ Marlon Dillon, who was recently released from jail and is understood to be in witness protection.’

The Court of Appeal ordered that the retrial take place as early as possible next year, despite the packed courtroom calendar.

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Minister says bold steps needed to deter smokers

| 26/11/2014 | 62 Comments

(CNS): Despite increasing the price of cigarettes and banning smoking from all indoor public places, the health minister said that Caymanians are still smoking hard. As a result, given the serious health implications for smokers, Osbourne Bodden has said it may be time to consider whether the Cayman Islands should become an entirely smoke-free environment. Speaking in the wake of the recent national healthcare conference, the minister said that since the price and the ban has not stopped people, government may have to take“some bold steps” and there may come a time when it will be “completely banned."

This year’s conference focused on chronic non-communicable diseases, which, like the rest of the western world, are a significant problem in Cayman. Smoking is just one of the risk factors that are causing people to die far sooner than they should and to suffer debilitating illness before they die. As well as smoking, Caymanians are increasingly obese and sedentary. People do not eat enough fruit and vegetables and statistics show that alcohol misuse is another major health risk that is making people very ill.

“These risk factors are a leading cause of the death and disability burden in nearly all countries,” he said.  “Unfortunately … from our 2012 Healthy Nation survey, it was clear from the findings that many Caymanians are leading unhealthy lifestyles – we smoke, we are overweight and sometimes even obese and we are not getting our five-a-day recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.”

He said that hypertension, which can cause strokes or heart attacks, is the most common complaint treated at the Cayman Islands Hospital, followed by diabetes. Diseases of the circulatory system are the most common cause of death here in Cayman, the minister explained, followed by cancer, external causes, diseases of the respiratory system and then conditions affecting the endocrine system, as well as nutritional and metabolic diseases.

“Perhaps even more of a cause for concern, the studies highlighted the fact that far too many of our children are overweight or obese,” he warned.

“Based on annual health screenings on children in transition from lower to middle school, a survey found that 22 per cent of our school children are overweight and an additional 15 per cent were deemed at risk of becoming overweight. In addition, among school children, there are indicators of high levels of obesity. Such risk factors within the school population are a predictor for the future development of CNCD’s in the Cayman Islands.”

Pointing out that the trend cannot be allowed to continue, he said the conference was about seeking ways to prevent Cayman's adult and youth populations from developing CNCDs.

“CNCDs are diseases that are often preventable and because of this we are encouraging people to take charge of their lives, and learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle,” he added.

CNS Poll: Should there be a blanket ban on smoking in Cayman?

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