Archive for November 28th, 2014

Fourth man was with missing local fishermen

| 28/11/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that 49-year-old Donald Jennison from Flankers, Saint James, in Jamaica was on board a boat that went missing in September, as well as three Caymanian men whose names were made public previously. Police renewed their appeal for information Friday after more than two months with no sightings of the West Bay residents Alton Eddie Philips, Ray Kennedy Smith and James Michael Ebanks Snr, who left Cayman in a yellow 28 foot canoe.  The police now believe that the vessel departed from the North West Point area of West Bay sometime between 7 and 11pm on Friday 12 September. The boat was powered, it is believed, by an 85 HP Yamaha engine.

The men were scheduled to return Sunday 14 September but never appeared, and on Monday 15 September a family member of one of the boaters made a report to police. Officers from RCIPS Joint Marine Unit (JMU) notified Port Authority and ships within the shipping lanes transiting the Cayman area.

The US and Jamaican coast guards were also notified, in addition to Interpol, through which notices were sent throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. Searches by JMU in Cayman waters were done using drift pattern calculations based on the currents but the boat was not seen.

RCIPS officers also spent four days in Jamaica conducting enquires alongside the local police about the missing men and the RCIPS is now fairly confident that Jennison was also on board with the three Caymanians.

Police said that investigations to date have not revealed any evidence of their whereabouts.

The RCIPS continues to meet with the families and are still trying to determine what may have happened to their love ones.

Anyone who may have seen the boaters depart the North West Point area in their vessel on Friday 12 September during the stated times is asked to contact Inspector Ian Yearwood, Sergeant Richard Scott or PC Adrian Clarke on 949- 7710.

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Watson aims to throw out case

| 28/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Updated: Canover Watson has made an application to the courts for a dismissal hearing regarding the ten charges against him, all of which he has denied. Appearing in the Grand Court dock on Friday morning for the first time following his brief appearance in the Summary Court, the former HSA chair told the court via his attorney, Ben Tonner, that he had made an application for all the charges against him to be dropped. Following the court appearance, Watson's attorney issued a short statement to the media in which he claimed that no evidence had been presented to support the charges. Tonner said the charges against Watson were all transmitted by a magistrate Tuesday without any "examination of the merits of the case".

As a result notice was filed of a dismissal hearing set for later this month. 

"The application to dismiss has been scheduled for hearing before the Grand Court on 22 December 2014," Tonner stated. "To date Mr Watson has not been served with any indictment or with the evidence in support of the charges laid. Mr Watson has stated that as a consequence of the charges laid against him his liberties have been restricted and his reputation unjustly tarnished. Mr Watson has reiterated that the charges laid against him are baseless and that he looks forward to clearing his name and dismissing all charges at
the hearing."

Watson has been charged with six counts of money laundering as well as fraud, breach of trust, conflict of interest and failing to disclose a pecuniary interest.

The allegations relate to a more than $11 million contract awarded by the HSA Board when Watson was chair to a company for a new health care card payment system for the government’s hospital. Watson is accused of having a connection to the company awarded the contract and to have gained a financial interest, relating to a sum of some US$169,000.

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Mother accused of killing child appears in court

| 28/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Tamara Butler (37) made her first appearance in Cayman’s Grand Court on Friday morning but the woman who is accused of killing her six year old daughter Bethany Butler did not answer the murder charge agaisnt her. The director of public prosecutions told the court that there was still forensic evidence outstanding and the defence also noted that they were waiting on the results of a psychiatric evaluation.  Butler remained silent as she sat in the dock before she was remanded in custody for a further three weeks until 19 December.

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Debt turn around promised

| 28/11/2014 | 37 Comments

(CNS): The PPM administration has announced a reversal of the public debt in a move they described as a demonstration of government’s “financial prudence”. Finance Minister Marco Archer revealed Wednesday that over the next three years government will repay around $127.6 million in debt principal, reducing the debt balance to a forecast amount of just over half a million by the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year. He said the reduction in interest payments would fall to $28.2 million — enough to fund the education ministry’s entire scholarship programme. The finance minister also said that with enough operating cash to cover government throughout the entire year, it would no longer need a costly overdraft facility.

The public sector debt has long been a point of contention, with the previous UDP administration often criticizing the PPM for mismanagement of public-sector funds and driving the CIG into the red.

At its peak, government debt reached almost $800m in 2010/11. A fundamental reason for government failing to comply with the Public Management and Finance Law. Archer said that net debt ratio would fall by the 2015/16 financial year to 9.8%, placing government back in compliance with that aspect of the law. He told the LA that government would repay the existing debt at an aggressive pace.

“This will be achieved through a prudent debt management strategy which includes the setting aside of approximately $18 million of future debt servicing payments in a restricted Sinking Fund during the current 2014/15 financialyear. A portion of our future debt repayments will therefore come from this Fund instead of from recurrent revenue,” he explained.

Government has an overdraft facility and the overdrawn balance peaked at CI$22.6 million on 20 December 2013 but this was well within the overdraft limit. On 14 January 2014 the government’s operating bank account balance became positive and remained positive to the end of the 2013/14 financial year. According to Archer, government will not require an overdraft facility to fund its operations during 2014/15 and subsequent financial years, since operating cash will be sufficient to fund its operations.

"If there are no natural disasters, the economy performs as expected … the central government is forecast to have more cash in its bank accounts ($514.5 milion) than the total outstanding debt of the entire public sector ($509.7 million)," Archer said, calling it a “monumental achievement” considering where the balance lay a couple of years ago.

Given that the Cayman Islands lost 183% of its GDP in 3.4 billion dollars thanks to Hurricane Ivan, it is certainly worth mentioning the possibility of another natural disaster to knock this plan off track.

The hoped for turn around with government debt also means more support for local small to medium enterprises, with government credit grants and quarterly payments for businesses with less than 10 employees, as opposed to a single annual payment. Archer described SMEs as having the greatest potential for employment and growth in the private sector, while Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke of continuing to attract multinational companies for our private sector.

It was announced that there would be $47 million for capital investments and expenditures in the 2015/16 financial year. Thereafter, they plan to allocate $57 million and $47 million respectively in fiscal years 2016/17 and 2017/18.

These claims all came along side statements of public sector debt declining and of modest growth in financial services. In his speech Archer stated that the consumer price index is expected to grow 2.3% over a 2 year period and unemployment is expected to fall from 5.9% to 4.9% during 2017-18.

On the topic of local Caymanian unemployment rate, Archer said, "We have to be careful for whom we are building this country." He said that Cayman was currently in a "sweet spot" in regards to economic growth.

There was also an announcement that the immense leverage and buying power of CIG would be put through a central procurement office.

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Gimistory opens with local and global line-up

| 28/11/2014 | 7 Comments

(CNS): More than a dozen storytellers, both home-grown and from all over the world, will begin spinning their yarns and telling tall tales this weekend as one of Cayman’s favourite free festivals opens Saturday. Gimistory begins its more than week-long tour of the Cayman Islands on West Bay public beach. This year's Gimistory will feature seasoned international tellers, such as Ken Corsbie, Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Mighty Gabby, Edgar Ortiz, Lord Relator and Blacksage, alongside local tellers, such as Dexter Bodden, Matt Brown, Jevaughnie Ebanks, Priscilla Pouchie, and for the first time, Martin Keeley and Colin Wilson. 

Quincy Brown will be making a special appearance at the Cayman Cabana event on 2 December, when Gimistory will also host a special youth event for some emerging local stars, including Vitoria Buttrum, Dairilys Ebanks, Zariah Anglin, Olivia Zimmer, Dior Seymour, Tahiti Seymour and Layah Ebanks.  

This year the East End Gimistory venue has moved to Colliers Beach and will take place on Wednesday December 3 at 7pm.  There will be a free shuttle bus running from East End Public Beach to Colliers Beach.  The first bus is at 6.15pm and runs every 15 minutes until 7pm. The bus will then make one return trip at the end of the show.

Fried fish and frittas will be on sale each night of the festival this year, as well as other local dishes and heavy cakes plus complimentary swanky.

Gimistory began in 1998 and is acclaimed by many who have attended other storytelling festivals in North America, the UK and elsewhere as being among the best in the world.  Audiences fill the picturesque venues – beaches, backyards and parks – to enjoy this annual festival, which has become the official start of Cayman's "winter" season.

Listed below is a full schedule of all the Gimistory events for 2014. For more information please call 949 5477 or email culture@candw.ky.

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Job ads still excluding locals

| 28/11/2014 | 136 Comments

(CNS): Although the government was upbeat this week about the projected fall in unemployment over the next two years, the recent announcements over bank closures and other major layoffs of local workers are compounded by ongoing problems for job seekers. CNS is continuing to highlightthe day to day problems faced by local qualified job seekers. But with almost 20,200 valid work permits held by overseas employees jobs, ads are still being posted in the press that are clearly tailored to existing permit holders and designed to deter local applicants. One such ad causing a significant stir on social media this week was posted on the NWDA job portal.

However, when CNS queried the continued infractions regarding the recruitment practices of some employers, the National Workforce Development Agency said they are working hard on quality control of the ads and asking employers placing job vacancies that don’t appear to comply with industry norms to re-think the requirements.

Officials from the government’s work agency said that an ad on its site for a full time admin clerk paying a maximum of $24k that required an MBA or computer science masters was overlooked and a spokesperson apologized for the chain of events that led to the vacancy being posted without modifications.

“This marks a singular, isolated incident among the many job postings – now totalling 268 live postings as of 27 November,” the agency said in a statement to CNS. “The agency makes every effort to provide quality control measures for these listings and to match these listings against industry norms in order to ensure that the posting is one where able and ready Caymanians have the ability to effectively compete.  If there are mismatches … or if the employer presents a job listing which represents a clear breach of the Labour Law or the Gender Equality Law, then NWDA staff will work with the employer to ensure compliance with the law and to help the hiring manager think more clearly about the ways that their job tasks can be more accurately reflected.”

The NWDA admitted that, as a growing agency, it was still experiencing learning curves over the procedures necessary to screen the increased volume of job postings. This ad, it stated, was an error but also a learning experience. 

“One of functions of the NWDA is to allow our clients to have access to job listings that match their qualifications against an employer’s needs, and job applicants who are interested in applying for a job can then be considered on a competitive, equal footing with foreign workers,” the NWDA said, adding that it will not post jobs in future that give an unfair advantage to a non-Caymanian or have unreasonable expectations for local applicants.

However, despite the efforts of the new agency to help the advertisement process employers are required to go through before getting a permit, this is still being manipulated.

Sandra Catron posted a copy of the job that had required the MBA for the admin clerk on Facebook, which generated considerable incredulity in the community. She told CNS that it was difficult to believe it wasn’t tailored for a particular individual.

“What company needs an accountant, administrator and IT professional all in one person with 9-10 years works experience and a master’s degree but yet can’t find it in their budget to pay them a decent living wage?” Catron queried.

“The glaring issues with these type of adverts have to be addressed and there must be some level of enforcement. Tailoring a job for a particular individual to such a large degree that it excludes reasonable applications is unconscionable. At what point will we see something done about this?” she asked.

One person on the political front who says he is determined to do something about the issue is government back-bencher Al Suckoo.

He said he continues to be astounded by job ads that are blatantly designed to either frustrate Caymanians into not applying for those jobs or artificially raise the requirements above the salary level and expectations one would normally expect.

“It is clearly a slap in the face to many hard working and qualified Caymanians to see ads that don’t take our educational and professional achievements into consideration and instead focus on offering embarrassingly low salaries compared to the educational requirements. It is clear that more and more businesses are taking advantage of the easy availability of cheap labour and if this trend is not addressed the recent economic successes that the government has achieved will not benefit Caymanians because as new jobs become available and businesses grow, Caymanians will not get the jobs,”

Suckoo pointed out that government’s efforts to encourage development, manage public money, and turn the country around are not trickling down to local people.

“We are creating the economic circumstances where our people and industries should prosper but we are not seeing significant improvements in opportunities for Caymanians. Government must push ahead with the minimum wage implementation, complete our immigration reform and finally make the connection between labour requirements and immigration policies,” the Bodden Town MLA urged. “Some 50 years after the economic boom there still not many Caymanians taking leadership positions in the accounting, legal, tourism and technology sectors.”

He added that major improvements in education,immigration and labour were still needed.

“We are on the brink of social unrest and unless we begin to seriously address the blatant discrimination, the situation will get much worse. I hear Caymanians now talking about moving abroad to find opportunities because they believe their children will not find any opportunities here for themselves,” Suckoo told CNS.

Concerned that the issue is fuelling crime, he warned employers that those who deliberately try to keep Caymanians out of the job market are contributing to the continued social and economic problems.

See job sample ad below and the NWDA full statement.

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