Archive for December 9th, 2008

CAL heads to US capital

| 09/12/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): As announced earlier this year by the Chair of the Board Angelyn Hernandez and reported on CNS, the National Flag Carrier, Cayman Airways, has now introduced a new route and re-introduced an old one in what the airline has described as preparation for a busy tourism season. CAL is now flying non-stop to Washington, DC, and Chicago, Illinois.

“The addition of these two cities on CAL’s roster is vital to our success as a destination this winter,” said Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford. “Detailed analysis shows that the nation’s capital has two of the top 20 US zip codes for originating travel to the Cayman Islands. Washington, DC, is also our second largest market in the North East and up until now it was the only top NE Visitor Arrivals market without direct service to the Cayman Islands.”

He said he was also pleased to see the return of Chicago on the winter flight plan. “The Windy City is also strategically important as year over year Chicago is in the top five American cities that account for Cayman Islands visitors. We look forward to this market growing even further during this winter season.”

Cayman Airways CEO Designate Olson Anderson said the airline is also looking forward to returning to Chicago. “Washington, DC, is a new gateway for the national flag carrier and we’re very excited about the fantastic travel experiences this new route offers for DC area visitors as well as Cayman residents,” he commented.

From 13 December through 25 April 2009, the Washington, DC, (IAD) route will operate twice weekly – Tuesdays and Saturdays from Grand Cayman. Resuming the Chicago (ORD) route from 17 December 2008 through to 22 April when flights will depart from Grand Cayman on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Trina Christian, Executive Director for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) said private sector stakeholders in the local tourism industry were also looking forward to a busy winter season with these new routes. “CITA accommodation members in particular are thrilled that Cayman Airways will be offering direct flights to these destinations,” she said. “CITA was involved in the entire process including investigating the most feasible gateways, and we feel that these two markets present the most opportunity for connecting both existing business and new business to our Tourism Industry. The CITA looks forward to strongly supporting this by making every effort to fill the planes with visitors.”

With the help of the Department of Tourism, Christian said a special promotion has already been created where many of CITA’s hotel partners are offering a resort credit of up to $400 to incentivize travelling on board Cayman Airways. “Marketing efforts made by individual properties will include the Cayman Airways offer to further support the successful launch of these flights,” she added.

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Consumers warned on meat

| 09/12/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): As local butchers get down to the business of slaughtering their animals to meet the Christmas demand for home reared meat, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) are reminding them that before slaughter animals must be inspected and afterwards meat products must also be checked. Consumers are being warned not to buy meat not bearing a DEH stamp

To ensure holiday meat protection the DoA conducts inspections to maintain consumption safety standards before slaughter, and DEH officials must inspect carcasses to determine whether they are safe for human consumption.

The public is reminded that local meat is only deemed fit when carcasses bear the ’DEH inspected and passed’ stamp. Butchers and consumers are also reminded that selling carcasses, or portions of them, that have not been DEH inspected and approved is against the Public Health Law (2002 Revision).

DEH officials are asking consumers to be vigilant about the meat they purchase.

“For your own safety and for the health of those who may consume the meals you prepare, do not purchase any locally slaughtered meat that does not have the DEH stamp," Senior Food Safety Officer Gideon Simms said.“If at any time you observe anyone selling locally slaughtered meat without the stamp, immediately report the matter to the DEH.”

For more information, call DEH on 949-6696 or the DoA on 947-3090.

Before slaughter, call DoA staff on 947-3090 to make arrangements and call the DEH on 949-6696 at least 48 hours in advance of the proposed slaughter time, to make arrangements for post-mortem meat inspections. 

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Accounts still due as LoGB lays out next spending round

| 09/12/2008 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The Leader of Government Business will be making the Strategic Policy Statement (SPS) in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday laying out the plan for government earnings and expenditure for the next fiscal year. However, as Kurt Tibbetts delivers his statement regarding his budgetary ambitions for the year 2009/10, many government departments and entities have still not filed their accounts with the Auditor General for the years back to 2005/06.

Speaking at last week’s post-cabinet media briefing, Tibbetts said the SPS is the first phase of the budgetary process and gives a broad outline of forecasts, targets and expenditure. He also said that the outstanding accounts, revealed in the Auditor General’s report The State of Financial Accountability Reporting, did not impact the SPS. In response to a media question as to how it would be possible to set out another annual government budget of around $0.5 billion when the last three years remain largely unaccounted for, LoGB said the government was never actually in a position where it was unaware of how public money had been spent.

“In truth, it does not prevent us from being factual with regard to spending,” Tibbetts said but added that the outstanding accounts were beginning to be finished and he thought by February the financials would be up to date. “From the time we took office we recognised the situation and have applied every kind of pressure we can think of,” he said.

Auditor General Dan Duguay, who published the report earlier this year, spoke with CNS and said that a significant number of the larger ministries were still a long way from catching up but that some of the smaller agencies and departments were getting to grips with their reporting.

“While there has been significant improvement,” he said, “there are still accounts for the year 2005/06 that are outstanding. It is mainly the larger ministries that are having problems catching up and they will have to do more than one set of accounts over the next few years until they are up to date.”

Duguay explained that since his report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly he has been working as closely as possible to get the various departments back on track but the process is ongoing. According to the law, all 35 government ministries, agencies and authorities should now have submitted their 2009/10 accounts to him but some are still three years behind.

“What I am trying to do is to get the larger ministries that are the most behind to at least commit to a schedule for catching up so that we have an idea of when they will eventually be back on track,” he explained, saying there was no point in going over and over the fact that they were delinquent; the important point was to get everyone moving forward. He admitted there was still a lot of work to do and there were some difficulties getting departments to commit to a timetable.

“I do have a report ready to present to the Finance Committee to update the members on the situation but that meeting keeps getting set back,” he said, adding that he had not yet been given a new date when the committee would meet to assess the overall problem. Although the Governor, Stuart Jack, had also expressed his concern over accounting delays at the time of Duguay’s report in the summer, Duguay said he had not heard from the Governor’s office requesting an update on the situation or regarding any assistance the Governor’s office could offer in addressing the delinquency of accounts.

Duguay also said he had still only received around nine new sets of accounts for the year end 2008/09 which were, under the law, due to his office by the end of October. “The accounts that have come in are from the statutory authorities that have over the years been persistent with their submissions such as CIMA, the Water Authority, the National Roads Authority and the Maritime Authority, among others.”

He also stated that he intended to do another report in 2009 that would reflect once again where each government entity was and what attempts they had made to account for their spending of public money.




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Serious fall at work site

| 09/12/2008 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Employment Relations (DER) is now investigating a workplace incident after a man fell from scaffolding on the fourth floor at a condo construction site on the West Bay Road. Police who responded to the scene of the accident said that the man is in a serious condition with head injuries and a fractured hip but that his life is not thought to be in danger. Unconfirmed reports from witnesses, made to CNS, stated that the man fell directly onto a concrete slab.

The incident took place on Monday morning (8 December) at the site of the Renaissance development, a seven storey luxury condo project by Butler Properties on the beach side of the north end of West Bay Road. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) said the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at around 8:50 am reporting that an employee had fallen from scaffolding on the fourth floor of the building

Police and medics responded to the scene and found a man with serious injuries, including a fractured right hip and head injuries. The man, a Jamaican national in his thirties, was taken to hospital. The DER, which was also informed of the incident, sent an officer to conduct a health and safety investigation. The construction site was closed to allow officers to process the scene. The RCIPS said the matter was not considered suspicious and was handed over to the DER.

The fall comes just weeks before the new builders bill will be enforced within the local community. Steve Hawley, President of Cayman Contractors Association, confirmed that the regulations for the bill have now been approved and the first meeting of the board, which has also been appointed, would likely to be in the first week of January to begin the process of implementation.

The bill will regulate the construction industry through the licencing of contractors who will now be issued a licence to trade under this law rather than a Trade and Business license. Under the new law all contractors and builders will be licensed under various categories according to their skills and will be held to specific standards.

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Matthew 7:3

| 09/12/2008 | 3 Comments

Considering comments from the Vatican, we need to send a message of our own to the Holy See. The Cayman Islands are a religious society with Christian values, including a strong Catholic congregation.

We should therefore be concerned when the Pontiff of Rome, the leader of the Catholic Church, joins the bandwagon and attacks offshore centres such as these Islands and blames them for all sorts of wrongs, including the current international financial crisis and the flight of development capital tied to tax evasion.

Pope Benedict commands huge respect but one wonders where his advisors are getting their economic and financial advice, possibly from the German Finance Minister or the French President, since it is so misguided and wide of the mark.

On the first point, there is clear and incontestable evidence where the current crisis started, but it bears repeating that its origins were in the bad lending practices and financial engineering of regulated entities in major onshore economies, not in offshore centres.

On the second point, His Holiness should also look much closer to home. The Vatican has a very patchy history of transparency, fiscal accountability and rectitude. It also has no problem with its own tax free status. It cut a deal with Mussolini in 1929 that effectively made the Holy See a tax haven itself. The current EU Yellow Pages states “Residents of the Vatican City pay no taxes”.  The Catholic Church in Italy has a plethora of tax breaks and, as recently as 2005, the Berlusconi government exempted the Church from all taxes on most of its real estate in Italy. The Catholic Church will also qualify for charitable non-taxable status in most countries round the world.

Those inclined to be cynical will conclude that the authors of the Pontiff’s policy paper have been liaising with the authors of the various reports produced by Oxfam, Christian Aid and others over the years. It should be noted that these worthwhile organizations are themselves typically charitable, non taxable and also enjoy donations that are frequently tax deductible for the donees. They are also happy (as they should be) to receive donations from hedge funds and others legitimately domiciled or doing business offshore. They have further overlooked that some hedge funds are mandated by their constitutional documents to devote a portion of their profits to charities or are set up specifically to invest in sustainable projects in poor countries.

No one in Cayman (or anywhere else) will argue over the need to help alleviate poverty in third world countries (Cayman church groups regularly provide relief and assistance in Cuba, Haiti and Central America) and to help fight corruption that deprives those countries of their much needed funds (Cayman has assisted in tracing ill gotten gains and has also recently strengthened its regime by enacting the Anti-Corruption Law).

So, to charge that small economies that are able to operate without direct taxation and have thriving financial services industries are ipso facto responsible and punishable for the evils of tax evasion and official corruption beggars belief.

Those charities, politicians, bureaucrats and now it appears, the Catholic Church, that clamour for the summary conviction and elimination of these small countries (who have few international votes and limited bargaining strength) should think long and hard about the implications if they get what they wish for. Small Islands like Bermuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands will be impoverished and consigned back to the poverty of times gone by.

The despots of the world will continue to find ways to pillage their countries’ treasuries and to have the proceeds available in one form or another in onshore financial centres in Europe and elsewhere (convenient after all for Harrods and Bergdorf Goodman). Will Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Vatican then send care packages to both Zimbabwe and the Cayman Islands?

So those who believe that “tax free” is synonymous with “guilty as charged” would do well to read Matthew 7:3.


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