Archive for October 16th, 2008

Fuel suppliers in dispute

Fuel suppliers in dispute

| 16/10/2008 | 5 Comments

(CNS): According to the Leader of Government Business, Kurt Tibbetts, Cayman’s two oil wholesalers are currently in dispute over a number of issues, and the government will intervene if they cannot sort out their differences. Tibbetts said that in the past few weeks ESSO had increased the fee it charges Texaco to store its fuel at the offload facility at South Sound, which he considered unfair.

The internal dispute resulted in an increase at the Texaco fuel stations, even though the price of oil was falling on the world markets. And while the worldwide cost of fuel is falling, pump prices in Cayman are still hovering around $5 per gallon. However, Tibbetts said prices were coming down and that trend should continue over the coming weeks.

“The fact of matter is that the government regulations will cause all wholesalers to make a request for a change in price,” he said.

He explained that discussions were ongoing with the two local oil wholesale over their internal issues and government would intervene if the two firms were not able to settle things among themselves. He confirmed the two oil suppliers were meeting with government next week.

Tibbetts also said that he expected to see a fall in the fuel factor charged by CUC to its customers as they moved into the next price cycle.

“CUC pays an agreed price to the supplier every two months, so it only gets a new price every two months and when that new price kicks in the bills should go down,” he said.

Tibbetts added that the government was considering every option with regards to addressing fuel costs including price fixing.

Both local oil suppliers criticized the recent government decisions to try and introduce price controls. Alan Neesome Country Manager of Esso said the new regulation, which will see the government’s petroleum inspectorate decide price changes, goes against the principles of a free market and would not address the problem of escalating fuel costs.

“Competition is to the benefit of all consumers and governments must promote equal treatment among market players, industries, technologies and favour policies that enhance competitiveness,” he said.

However, with fuel costs in the United States falling as low as US$3.00 per gallon, some drivers have called Cayman’s average pump price of CI$5.00 excessive.




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LoGB pledges resources

LoGB pledges resources

| 16/10/2008 | 7 Comments

(CNS): The murder of Estella Scott-Roberts has served to amplify her voice not silence her, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said this morning. Pledging that the government would find whatever financial resources were necessary to bring her killers to justice, he said the government cannot and will not stand by and allow people to feel unsafe in their own country.

Speaking at the live televised post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday morning, 16 October, Tibbetts acknowledged the widespread sadness in the community following Scott-Roberts’ murder, and described the crime as an unspeakable horror.

“It has exposed the truth that a deeply sinister person or persons lives among us,” he said. “As bold as the perpetrators were in committing this crime, the government is going on record as saying that we will be just as bold in our commitment to find them and bring them to deserved justice.”

He said that the government had told the Governor that if more resources are needed to solve this case it will do everything to get them as quickly as possible. “We will not stand idly by and let our relative tranquility slip from between our fingers,” he said, insisting that the authorities would find the perpatrators.

He said that the murderers may have thought that Estella would be gone forever but they were mistaken.

“By attempting to silence Estella’s voice they have amplified it,” Tibbetts said. “It is now more alive and vibrant than ever. They have not succeeded because she and the people of the Cayman Islands are collectively stronger than they thought. We stand together in unity and they stand alone in condemnation.”

He said that Cayman had lost some of its innocence last weekend and that the fabric of the country’s security had been stretched by other crimes, and now it was torn.

“As much as humanly possible we will work to repair that tear and the strength and security of the community,” he added.

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Evolutionary transition from fish to land animals

Evolutionary transition from fish to land animals

| 16/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(ScienceDaily): New research has provided the first detailed look at the internal head skeleton of Tiktaalik roseae, the 375-million-year-old fossil animal thatrepresents an important intermediate step in the evolutionary transition from fish to animals that walked on land. A predator, up to nine feet long, with sharp teeth, a crocodile-like head and a flattened body, Tiktaalik’s anatomy and way of life straddle the divide between fish and land-living animals. Go to article

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Little oversight of Sunrise

Little oversight of Sunrise

| 16/10/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): A report by the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) found that the Education Ministry has been slow in tackling the issues surrounding the provision of services for disabled adults, and that there was a lack of communication between the ministry and the Sunrise Adult Training Centre. However, Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has since outlined in the Legislative Assembly how his ministry is tackling some of the issues raised.

The report, Sunrise Adult Training Centre: Does the government provide adequate day-care centre facilities and education for adults who are mentally and physically disabled, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, 6 October, makes eleven recommendations that Complaints Commissioner Dr John Epp says should be implemented as a matter of urgency by the Ministry.

It also concluded that the Deputy Chief Officer (Research & Planning), who has responsibility for the Centre, had not exercised much oversight or taken a close interest in the operations and clients at Sunrise, the report said.

“It would have been prudent to set out a timeline providing dates by which at least some of the major problems identified by the (Inspectorate’s) review had to be addressed. Thereafter, periodic visits to check on the progress made would have constituted good administration, evidence of acting on the review, and evidence of a concern for the disabled adults enrolled,” the report said.

In the House last week, McLaughlin said his ministry had set up a Steering Committee “Planning the future for Persons with Disabilities in the Cayman Islands” as an advisory body to the Minister comprised of public sector personnel working in the various related programmes serving these clients, personnel from Special Olympics, parents of disabled children, as well as persons with disabilities, working in partnership on the wide ranging issues impacting the lives of persons with disabilities across the Cayman Islands.

He set that a subcommittee has produced a report on the status of services to persons with disabilities with wide ranging recommendations for enhancing service delivery to this population. In addition, a legal subcommittee was set up to craft recommendations for the draft legislation, which should be completed shortly, to address in a comprehensive manner the needs and rights of persons with disabilities within our society.

On the inadequacy of the facility, the Minister said that the duplex that the Sunrise Training Centre occupied was the same building it had occupied since he assumed office in 2005.

His ministry was working to ensure that all Building Code requirements were met and he said the application for change of use was with the Central Planning Authority. However, the government recognized the urgent need for a purpose-built facility, he noted. Preliminary work has already begun to work on identifying a suitable location for the construction of such a facility and he intended to ensure that funds for the design of such a facility are in next year’s budget, the Minister told the House.

“Work is also well underway in the area of improving the operating systems and programmes currently in place at the Sunrise Adult Training Centre to ensure that we bring additional value to our clients,” he said.In the area of administration, the ministry was looking to revamp its record keeping systems and reporting structures and develop a closer working relationship with the parents and guardians of clients.

In the area of programming, the ministry was looking into two of the ASDAN (the Award Scheme and AccreditationNetwork) schemes – “Towards Independence” and “Workright”.
Outlining these schemes, he said “Towards Independence” provided a wide (and almost inexhaustible) array of modules that cater to the entire range of disability. The adult learners are assessed using a graduated level of response – such as gestural help or physical help – that enabled even the most challenged individual to experience the learning environment. “Workright” was a means of accrediting the less challenged adults in a working environment again focusing on life skills, he said.

“In spite of obstacles, in spite of opposition, my commitment to improving services to this sector of ourcommunity – persons with disabilities remains steadfast,” Minister McLaughlin maintained.
The OCC report notes that the staff members are caring, and most clients are treated well and appear to be happy and loved. In addition, the Education Ministry has established a foundation for the education of disabled people by providing a functioning education programme for youth at Lighthouse Development Centre.

“The Ministry’s effort to engage in a comprehensive review is commendable. However, as the Chief Officer has warned, major change – a paradigm shift – takes a significant amount of time to plan. Thereafter a lot of time will elapse between when the implementation of change begins and its completion. This leaves the question of what will be done now and in the intervening years before the major reform is in place.”

The OCC report concludes, “It remains, then, to move forward with improvements in assessing clients needs, settling on appropriate programmes and support services such as case management software, and offering these services in buildings that are safe for both clients and staff.”

A January 2007 report by the Schools’ Inspectorate (now the Education Standards and Assessment Unit) of the Sunrise Centre, made at the request of the Ministry, also identified a number of areas in need of improvement. These included the way the Centre was led and managed, systems for monitoring and evaluating the work of the Centre, and communication within the Centre.

There was also criticism for the life-skills programme, which did not cater to the needs of individual clients. The inspectors also found that there was no systems for assessing and documenting clients’ progress, insufficient use of computer assisted programmes and poor quality and quantity of resources, as well as problems with the building itself.

However, this report found that the Centre did well in other areas, such as the job placement programme and some sections of the craft production workshop. The therapist and the volunteer in the occupational therapy area offered appropriate exercises and had a good understanding of clients’ needs, said the inspectors. They also noted that relationships among clients and between clients and staff were generally good, that clients demonstrated responsible behaviour, and that the Centre provided a place where adults with disabilities could come together and work in a non-threatening environment.

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Cayman banks need to reveal accounts

Cayman banks need to reveal accounts

| 16/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local retail banks should be more open and transparent, said former chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Tim Ridley, yesterday when he criticized at least three of the islands’ high street class A banks for not being willing to show their balance sheets and reassure the people given the global financial crisis. He also said CIMA faced a number of hurdles, not least its inability to chase fees and fines.

Speaking at a regulatory seminar on Wednesday, 15 October, at the Ritz hosted by FTS, where the former chair of CIMA delivered a presentation about how to work with Cayman’s regulator, he also spoke about a number of other issues. Answering questions from the floor he said he believed that the domestic banking in Cayman was sound, but given that banking is a matter of confidence, he was disappointed that despite peer pressure First Caribbean, Scotiaand HSBC do not publish their accounts.

“When I have spoken to them about this their answers have ranged from, it’s too much bother or it’s too expensive and we will do it when the law says we have to,” he said.

He explained that Butterfield Bank and Cayman National Corporation do publish their accounts and Fidelity Bank will give customers copies of its financial statements on request. He explained that as the Royal Bank of Canada is a branch and not a subsidiary of the Canadian bank their statistics are published within the wider company accounts.

He said there is no reason to believe that any local retail banks were in trouble, but if everyone was to pitch up and take their money anything could happen. He said Cayman’s local banks had been criticized in the past for not lending enough money and for interest rates that were too high; onshore banking was not at major risk but the accounts would prove it.

“These banks are doing themselves and the Cayman Islands a disservice. So why not contribute to transparency and good governance and provide reassurance to the community by publishing the financials of the Cayman operations at the same time as they file them with CIMA?” he asked.

He said that in general there was room for improvement with regards to the onshore financial system when it came to transparency. He also confirmed that Cayman’s retail banks do not offer insurance to customers, and if the industry did those costs would be incurred by the customers in the long run through even lower deposit interest rates.

Speaking about the issues of regulation for offshore entities, he said that CIMA’s relationship with the industry was good and that it does work with the industry to resolve problems. However he noted that there was room for improvement and that the authority was under resourced. He also said the body was inhibited by the fact that it cannot enforce payment of fees and penalties, and Ridley noted one major problem was that CIMA can only levy $1,000 for a breach of the rules, which he said was hopelessly inadequate.

“This must change in the future as it reflects poorly on the credibility of the jurisdiction and its commitment to enforcement in appropriate circumstances,” Ridley said.

He explained that CIMA does not have the standing or power to bring proceedings for payment because, although the fees are collected by CIMA, they are payable under the laws to the Financial Secretary, i.e. the Cayman Islands Government.

CIMA is a separate statutory body and thus does not have the necessary authority to act. This is most inefficient, results in loss of revenue to the Islands and should be changed so that CIMA can pursue delinquents,” he added.

Offering the benefit of his experience, Ridley told the delegates how best to deal with CIMA and how to maintain a good relationship, but he also raised his concerns that Cayman is not doing enough check that the directors on many of the companies registered here are fit and proper. And although CIMA has considered taking action against directors before, it has never actually done so. Given the current situation, however, Ridley warned that if we see a lot of insolvencies over the coming months CIMA may well take action against individual directors.


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Diving accident victim named

Diving accident victim named

| 16/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have now named the man who died after a diving trip in Cayman Brac on Sunday, 12 October. He was 53-year-old Michael Carter, from Stone Mountain, Georgia, USA, and was visiting with a group of tourists who arrived on the island on 11 October. A police investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of death.

The 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at around 10.40am on
Sunday reporting that a diver had got into difficulties following a boat dive off the north shore
of Cayman Brac.

“It would appear that the deceased got into difficulties while swimming back to the dive boat after his first dive,” said Sergeant Matthew Dawson. “He lost consciousness while being assisted back to the vessel and despite prolonged CPR and other first aid efforts by the staff on board, never regained consciousness.” Mr Carter, who was an experienced and fully qualified diver, was subsequently pronounced dead.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling crime stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

The RCIPS sends its condolences to family and friends of Mr Carter.

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