Archive for October 20th, 2008

Budget reduction passes scrutiny

| 20/10/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Members of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee have examined, voted on and approved the government’s proposal to reduce the approved overall budget for the 2007/2008 financial year by about $2 million. Once  a financial year has ended it is normal practice for government to reduce the initial budget to reflect the actual spending in real terms during that year.

Financial Secretary, Kenneth Jefferson said the reductions usually occur in two areas – capital expenditures, and operating expenditures. This is because projects often do not start as originally planned or operating expenditures end up being less than had been budgeted. During this last Finance Committee sitting Jefferson said government ended the year with a $10.6 million surplus. He added that the debt-servicing ratio for the year stood at 5.6 percent, which is under the 10 percent limit as required by the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL), the legislation which governs how government manages the books.

In this supplementary budget which was the third ne for the year ended 30 June 2008, 199 changes were made 122 were for decreases in appropriations, totalling $43.3 million and 77 were for increases, which amounted to $41.3 million resulting in the 2 million reduction.
As government literally moved the money around with some projects going up and some coming down there were 43 appropriations in capital expenditure which resulted in a decrease of $13.6 million – $17,976,107 budgeted funds were not used on some projects while there was an increase in spending of $4,443,036 in others.

Overall, operating expenses rose by $11.6 million, based on 72 requests for increases totalling $36.9 million and although there were 84 items on which government under-spent as that only amounted to $25.3 million Jefferson said the increases were not offset. Total operating revenue for core government rose from a budgeted sum of $523.3 million to $528.5 million for the last financial year, he said and total operating expenditure also rose, from $489.3 million to $504.7 million. The bulk of this increase went to increased personnel costs, which rose from $205 million to $212 million.

Surplus from operating activities was budgeted to be $34 million. The actual unaudited surplus from operating activities for the year to 30 June 2008 was $24 million.

Financing of government’s borrowings reduced marginally to $10 million, he said. There was no change in the $3 million for government’s payments to the National Recovery Fund used for repairs to homes, budgeted under extraordinary items.

The budgeted net surplus, which takes all expenditures and revenues into account,was $20.8. The actual unaudited net surplus for the year was $11 million, approximately. Government’s total assets after liabilities stood at $509 million at end of June this year, from a budgeted figure of $519 million.

To comply with a key requirement of the PMFL, government had to maintain in 07/08 cash reserves of not less than 75 days’ of estimated executive expenses. At the end of the 07/08 fiscal year, government’s cash reserves stood at 102 days’ of expenses, Jefferson said which was better than the budgeted 91.1 days and complying with the law’s requirement.

 

 

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Man helps police with enquiry

| 20/10/2008 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Police could not offer any details on the identity or relevance of a man who is currently assisting them with the enquiry into the murder of Estella Scott-Roberts on 10 October. However, the murder investigation continues and they are now appealing for anyone who is missing a red gas canister to come forward.

“Following examination of Estella’s Ford Edge by an expert from Florida, we believe a red gas canister capable of holding five gallons could be crucial to the investigation,” said Senior Investigation Officer, DCI Peter Kennett who added that anyone who is missing one should get in touch. “This may have been stolen so anyone who has lost one, or has noticed one missing should come forward. Fishermen and boaters who might not have checked on their supplies since the murder are asked to do so now. If you have anything missing, please do get in touch,” he said.

The arson expert has also advised detectives that the flames from the vehicle would have burned at a significant height and would have been highly visible. “We need everyone to think back to that night. Where were you? Did you see fire or light coming from the Barkers area? In particular, anyone on the North Sound is likely to have had a clear view of the Barkers area and could have seen the fire or light. If you remember anything, please come forward,” added Kennett.

Police also said that on Friday, 17 October, a major operation was conducted at the location where Scott-Roberts was last seen alive, near the car park between Decker’s restaurant and Buckingham Square from around 10.30 pm to midnight. Officers stopped vehicles and walkers, handed out posters and appealed for information and sightings of Estella or her 2007, black Ford Edge.

“We hoped to jog some memories and remind people who were passing that they may have seen something significant the previous week,” said Kennett adding his thanks to all those who helped with the operation. Estella Scott-Roberts was last seen in the car park at around 11:15 pm on Friday, 10 October, and her burnt out vehicle was found in the Dykes in West Bay the following day.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact police immediately on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $125,000 USD. Any information could be crucial to this investigation.

To contact the investigation team directly, people can call: DI Kim Evans at 926-1773,  DC Wade Chase at 925-7240, DC Charmane Dalhouse at 926-3975, or DC Karl Lovell at 925-676

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Violence policy under review

| 20/10/2008 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The government is forming a special panel to review policy and legislation as it relates to domestic and gender violence and abuse. Minister for Health Anthony Eden has said the group of experts will havethirty days to examine existing lawsand policies and then recommend what Cayman needs to do to seriously address this type of violence in the community.

Speaking at the Silent Witness March on Saturday, 18 October, the minister announced the intention to take a closer look at how the issue is currently dealt with and what is required to put a stop to domestic and gender violence. He said that the community must continue the work of Estella Scott-Roberts, a staunch advocate against such violence who was murdered on 10 October.

He said that the real challenge was to address the need for a cultural and behavioral switch in the community to spread the message that relationships based on power and control are flawed. “Violence against women is a male issue,” he said. “We need to redefine masculinity away from aggression and control.”

Paying tribute to Scott-Roberts and her work he said her message would not be ignored and that more must be done to stop the continued violence. He also said that in recognition of her efforts to form and for several years manage the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre he would speak to the Board of Directors about renaming it in her honour.

Above all he emphasized the need to continue speaking out against domestic and gender violence as Scott-Roberts had done. “We will not be silenced,” he added.

Eden said that something must be done to address the gender violence that is so common in the Caribbean region as a whole, and in Cayman he said it was a cause for everyone.

Cayman has made significant strides in recent years to address the issue of domestic violence. However, a number of local advocacy groups all state there is more to be done, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club has been seeking to have legislation passed to make stalking and sexual harassment against the law.

According to the Women’s Resource Centre, violence occurs in 21% of relationships, and 95% of that abuse is perpetrated by men. 70% of men who batter their wives, sexually or physically, abuse their children, and violent juvenile delinquents are 4 times more likely than other youth to come from homes in which their fathers beat their mothers. Children who witness domestic violence are 5 times more likely to become batterers or victims in their adulthood. Worldwide, one in 4 women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and victims of domestic abuse will have suffered at least 35 beatings before making any formal report.

Anyone who needs help regarding these issues can contact the Women’s Resource Centre at 949-0006, the Crisis Centre 949-0366 or the RCIPS Family Support Unit 946-9185.

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