Archive for February 22nd, 2009

Girl power fixing Iceland’s economy

| 22/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): On Bondadagur, or Husband’s Day, the menfolk of Iceland are spoiled by their wives and girlfriends, who serve them with traditional delicacies such as ram’s testicles and sheep’s head jelly, a recipe for which is handily included in the latest online edition of Iceland Review, alongside the latest bulletins on the economic meltdown. Icelandic women, however, are more likely to be studying the financial news than the recipes – and more likely to be thinking about how to put right the mess their men have made of the banking system than about cooking them comfort food. Go to article

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Boxing bout knocked out

| 22/02/2009 | 41 Comments

(CNS): Charles ‘Killa’ Whittaker’s team and boxing promoter Gary Shaw are all outraged at the decision by the Minister of Tourism to cancel the planned boxing extravaganza featuring Cayman’s own local boxing hero. The World Championship fight was due to take place on 25 April and would have seen Whittaker take on the junior middleweight champion Vernon Forrest here in the Cayman Islands. Charles Clifford, however, said that the expected cost of $1.85 million was too much given the current economic climate.

Both Raul Alvarez, Whittaker’s Manager, and Gary Shaw Promotions, one of the leading promoters in the business, told CNS that they cannot understand how the event has been cancelled when only last Wednesday, 18 February, the minister sent an email stating that everything was on track to make the fight happen.

The email from Clifford stated: “It would appear that the Department of Tourism is now satisfied that we can proceed in principle with planning for this event at the agreed sum of US$1.35M (plus the US$500K in on island costs which will be our responsibility) while the formal written agreement is being finalised. I expect to be in a position to formally confirm this by noon tomorrow.”

Then, on Friday 20 February, merely 48 hours later, Clifford sent a second email stating that following a cabinet meeting the event was unfortunately cancelled. Shaw, who said that although he had received a very cool welcome from the ministry when he came to Cayman under his own steam and funding to find a suitable venue for the fight a few weeks ago, he had been encouraged by what he thought was a commitment to the fight.

“This appears to have been a masquerade by the minister,” Shaw told CNS. “We are very disappointed that after we met with every request and reduced the cost of stagingthis world championship fight, the minister has said there is no money. What changed in two days? I believe he has been disingenuous about this and in the end it is Charles Whittaker who will suffer because of this decision.”

Shaw explained that, with a major network scheduled to show the fight, his promotion company behind it and Vernon’s camp in training for the bout, the Cayman Islands had lost a fantastic opportunity to show a world championship event with their own fighter.

The country has also lost the chance to see Whittaker with a real shot at an important world title, taking it on home soil.  “The minister really has done his countryman Charles Whittaker a serious disservice,” Shaw added, saying that his company and Whittaker’s people had worked hard to make this fight happen, changing and rearranging things at the request of the minister. “We even brought the date forward on this fight so it would happened before your country’s elections in May, because the Minister asked us to do that,” he said.

The minister issued a statement to the press on Sunday 22 February confirming that he was cancelling the fight because of the current economic situation. “Given the current global economic climate and its impact on available discretionary government funds; coupled with the fact that this Showtime bout was an unbudgeted item of very large magnitude which only presented itself this year, the government yesterday decided that it was just not possible to move forward with the event at this time.”

Clifford also stated said the first Showtime boxing event, ‘Cayman Knockout’, held in 2008 at the Royal Watler Terminal, cost US $1.1 million but this next event with‘Killa’ toping the bill would have cost US$1.85 million, or over 60% more.

The decision to stage ‘Cayman Knockout’ last year as a tourism event, which featured Whittaker on the bill but did not televise his bout live, raised considerable controversy. Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush and other critics accused Clifford of vanity over the costly exercise, which was not considered an appropriate promotional event for Cayman’s tourism market.

The minister defended his decision and the cost saying that the boxing match was beamed live into the homes of millions of people in the US and around the world promoting the Cayman Islands in a way that would be difficult to buy through the normal course of promotion and marketing.

Whittaker, Alvarez and Shaw all said that this fight would have been a far bigger deal than the previous ‘Cayman Knockout’ event as this was an opportunity to not just showcase Cayman, but to provide Whittaker with an unprecedented opportunity to take a major title. “Imagine the kind of coverage that Cayman would have got from this if Charles had taken a world championship title in his own country,” Shaw added.

Alvarez, who has worked with Whittaker for more than fifteen years, said this was a terrible blow to Whittaker. “This has done serious damage to Charles’ career, the minister has really let him down and he has also damaged Cayman’s credibility as a place to stage major events,” he added.

Alvarez explained that this was always a serious fight and rumours that the World Boxing Council had not sanctioned it (which were posted on several boxing internet sites) were utterly false. “Why would a promoter of Shaw’s calibre be involved, as well as the major network Showtime, if there was any chance that the fight would not be sanctioned by the WBC?” he asked. He stated that they had the written confirmation from the WBC that the fight was sanctioned.

Whittaker said he could not believe what had happened and accused Clifford of lying to him as well as others involved. “He constantly changed the goal posts and we constantly met the demands. I missed other chances to fight because of this. He said only a few days ago the fight was going to happen. He lied to us,” Whittaker said.

For more on this, go to Killa’s fight not sanctioned

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UK ‘green tax’ unfair

| 22/02/2009 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The UK government is planning to introduce a higher airport departure tax on visitors to the Caribbean than the tax paid by British visitors to some other major destinations. In November 2009 the airport departure tax on flights to the Caribbean is due to increase by between 25% and 87%, depending upon the class of travel. In November 2010 those increases will reach as high as 94%. However, industry leaders are joining Caribbean governments to protest the move.

Tourism Minister Charles Clifford told CNS, "The Cayman Islands, by virtue of our membership in the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, is one of the many Caribbean countries that have objected to the UK Government’s plans to increase travel tax for visitors to the Caribbean. We believe that this proposal by the UK Government is discriminatory and must be strenuously objected to."

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling will announce increases in air passenger duty (APD) on Wednesday in response to calls to tackle emissions linked to global warming, including a major review of climate change policy by the former head of British Airways, Sir Rod Eddington, which concluded the aviation industry accounts for 1.6% of greenhouse gas emissions and will rise to 2.5% by 2050 if left unchecked.

Objectors say the new “green tax” on long-haul flights, which is calculated according to the distance of destinations’ capital cities from London, unfairly targets the Caribbean since travellers to the region will be paying more than travellers to some destinations that are further from Britain. For example, there will be less departure tax to the whole of the US, including Hawaii, even though the distance to much of the country is greater than to the Caribbean islands.

Minister Harold Lovell, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), speaking on behalf of the many Caribbean governments, has said, "Our countries’ economies are hugely dependent on tourism. But the British government plans to place us in a more expensive tax category compared to the whole of the USA. This puts us at a considerable disadvantage. To suggest this is a green tax and that the environmental impact of flying to California or Hawaii is less then flying to the Caribbean is patently untrue. Ourholidaymakers and the overseas friends and relatives of Caribbean nationals who live in Britain are being heavily penalised and our countries call on Britain to do the right thing and change this injustice."

The CTO is also supporting appeals made by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the British travel industry to change the tax plans. The Association of British Travel Agents and the industry trade paper Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) have launched an online petition on the Downing Street website and more than 2,000 protests have already been registered.

A family of four travelling premium economy to Antigua would pay £600 in APD from November 2010, compared with £480 to Hawaii, notes TTG and quotes Ricky Skerritt, St Kitts and Nevis tourism minister, as saying, “This is an attack on the Caribbean and it has the potential to hurt us. When APD emerged it was about pushing airlines to become more environmentally friendly. The Caribbean is one of the most environmentally friendly places in the world. We have no carbon deficit, no factories and no heavy industry.”

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is lobbying the government to get the system changed in this spring’s budget before the rules come into force in November. Development director Andy Cooper has called for the system to be changed to three bands – 0 to 2,500 miles, 2,500 to 5,000 miles, and 5,000 miles and above – and calculated purely on distance rather than by capital cities.


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Brown off to Washington

| 22/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Independent): Gordon Brown will fly to Washington next week for his first meeting with Barack Obamasince he became President. He will discuss an economic crisis whose seriousness was underlined yesterday when the renowned economic guru George Soros said in a speech that the world financial system has “effectively disintegrated”, with turbulence more severe than during the Great Depression. Mr Brown’s visit, on 3 March, will prepare the ground for April’s G20 meeting in London, which is intended to draw up concrete measures for international economic recovery. Go to article

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A Lousy Gift

| 22/02/2009 | 15 Comments

The Government has allowed the country’s debt to grow to dangerous levels. By June 2009, the total public sector debt in the Cayman Islands is forecasted to be CI$658 million. The public sector’s debt ultimately is owed and repaid by the country’s citizens, not by the government.

Ordinary citizens pay for this debt in three direct ways: By increases in various government fees so that the government can raise sufficient revenues to help in repaying the debt; By a reduction in certain public and social services so that the government can use some of those funds to repay the debt; And finally people feel the burden of this debt when the government has to cut important capital expenditures in areas like education or on key infrastructure.

Talking about debt definitely falls into the area of “doom and gloom” or being “negative”. But the truth is there is no positive way to talk about debt that will have increased by over 400 million or 160% in a single four year period. This must be seriously questioned.

Going back for decades, while no administration was perfect, the country’s policymakers avoided increases in the national debt as much as possible, while maintaining investment in infrastructure. During that time, the Cayman Islands had achieved a sort of low debt miracle in the Caribbean region, compared to other countries which consistently had debt to GDP ratios of over 100% compared to our less than 5% in some years.

But in less than four years, that prudent aspect of our approach to debt has totally disappeared. For the first time in our modern history we have more than doubled the total public sector debt in one fell swoop. Not as a result of Hurricane Ivan and not as a result of the global financial turmoil, which has not yet taken its full impact locally. 

To be clear, some level of debt has proven to be necessary in most countries and there is no reason why the Cayman Islands should be any different. But it is a question of how much debt, for what purposes, and when. The answer to those questions should all lead to a sustainable level of borrowing.

The investment into new schools, for example, is a worthy investment into social infrastructure. But is it necessary for us to do this to this extent at this stage? Is the lack of physical capacity the primary cause of the issues facing our education system or does it relate to curriculum, quality of teachers, disciplinary procedures, attitudes of both teachers and students, involvement of parents in the process among other issues? Education experts may well have the answers to these questions, but even if physical capacitydoes lie at the heart of the solution, there is no doubt that the financial implications of how this important investment proceeds needs to be reconsidered.

The experience of many other countries shows that a country’s national debt can grow to levels where the debt itself becomes self sustaining, whereby the country needs to increase its debt partially to provide current relief due to its existing debt and so on. By the looks of it, we might already be there. In addition to the current CI$658 million debt, government has just announced that they are borrowing an additional US$185 million.

A large national debt can lead to reliance on other governments and multilateral bodies such as the IMF, World Bank or IDB to provide funding on a long term basis. And that type of reliance brings a number of other challenges too lengthy to discuss here.

As a result of the current debt, the total public sector debt in Cayman is the equivalent of 12,000 per person, or 20,000 per Caymanian or worse yet about 36,000 per family if we assume about 3 persons per household.

Unlike some larger countries, the Cayman Islands does not have either the influence in the global markets or the resources to be able to sustain a high level of debt. As a small open economy with people being our primary resource, we simply cannot afford to do that.

Debt is not something that any of us as individuals take lightly. None of us wishes for our children for example to have the burden of our poor financial management fall on their shoulders.

So why should we sit back and watch a country go down the path of so many others, where high indebtedness marks the beginning of bad economic policies and eventually leading to a crisis?




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Boxing bout knocked out

| 22/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Update: The Minister of Tourism has announced that there will be no international televised boxing extravaganza featuring local boxing hero Charles Whittaker at the top of the bill in Cayman this year. Charles Clifford said that the expected cost of $1.85 million to stage the event was too much given the current economic climate and that the boxer had been informed of the decision. Reports that the World Boxing Council  had refused to sanction a fight in the Cayman Islands between Whittaker and junior middleweight champion Vernon Forrest are, apparently.

Forrest’s promoter Gary Shaw had made a request to get permission from the WBC to stage Forrest-Whittaker on April 25 in the Cayman Islands, televised by Showtime, as it was believed that residents would pay to see one of their own fighting for a major title. However, the WBC refused to sanction any fight for the title other than one between Forrest and Sergio Martinez, and Forrest risked being automatically stripped of the title if he went ahead with the bout with Whittaker.

“Over the past several weeks the Ministry of Tourism, along with the Ministry of Sports and some of our departments have been in serious negotiations with Gary Shaw Promotions in an effort to bring a world class, televised boxing event to the Cayman Islands that would feature our very own Charles Whittaker,” said Clifford.

“However, given the current global economic climate and its impact on available discretionary government funds; coupled with the fact that this Showtime bout was an unbudgeted item of very large magnitudewhich only presented itself this year, the government yesterday decided that it was just not possible to move forward with the event at this time.”

Clifford said the first Showtime boxing event, ‘Cayman Knockout’, held in 2008 at the Royal Watler Terminal, cost US $1.1 million but this next event with ‘Killa’ toping the bill would have cost US$1.85 million, or over 60% more. The minister stated that following the government’s decision on Friday, he advised Charles Whittaker and Gary Shaw Promotions of the decision.

 "We hope that similar opportunities to work together for the benefit of Charles Whittaker and the Cayman Islands tourism industry will be available in the future when circumstances allow us to pursue them," he added. "The Government is truly disappointed that we were not able to pursue this opportunity at this time. We hope to eventually work together to find an opportunity for our local champ but unfortunately we are not in a position to pursue this proposed unbudgeted event at this time."

The decision to stage ‘Cayman Knockout’ last year as a tourism event, which featured Whittaker on the bill but did not televise his bout live, raised considerable controversy. The Leader of the Opposition, McKeeva Bush  and other critics accused Clifford of vanity over the costly exercise which was not consider an appropriate promotional event for Cayman’s tourism market.

The Minister defended his decisions and the cost saying that the boxing match was beamed live into the homes of millions of people in the US and around the world promoting the Cayman Islands in a way that would be difficult to buy through the normal course of promotion and marketing.

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Sportsman clinches YCLA

| 22/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Elroy Bryan has won this year’s Young Cayman Leadership Award, a Senior Teacher / PE Teacher at the Lighthouse School, Bryan received the title and trophy at a gala dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman last night (22 February). Well known in the community for his commitment to youth sports, Bryan is Coordinator for the Cayman Islands National Little League Programme, Head Track Coach for Special Olympics and represented the Cayman Islands at CARIFTA and CAC.

At his day job Bryan is responsible for assisting senior management with the overall running of a special needs school, liaising with government entities regarding facility management, computers and peripheral devices as well as planning lessons and educating over 60 students in physical education.

Described as a young man of integrity, compassion, respect and love who balances his work, family and physical and spiritual well-being in a way that is to be admired by everyone, Bryan beat out Marilyn Connolly, Raquel Solomon, Chris Duggan and Sean Parchment to take the coveted title.



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