Archive for March 1st, 2009

Conservation key for tourism

| 01/03/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): According to the Tourism Ministry’s new policy document covering the next five years of the tourism industry’s future, conservation has emerged as a key area of concern among local stakeholders in the sector. Minister Charles Clifford said that among the major issues raised during the consultation period over the future of tourism was the control of cruise numbers, the preservation of natural resources and the control of overall development.

With only three weeks to go before the dissolution of the House, the Minister for Tourism laid the new National Tourism Management Policy on the table of the Legislative Assembly on Friday saying that, whether the industry was growing or whether it faced global economic distress as it does now, a coordinated plan is necessary to manage the industry.

According to survey conducted during the development of the policy document, 84% of those asked felt there was a need to control cruise ship arrivals to reduce negative impacts and 81% felt there was a need to control new accommodation development, the Minister said. There was also strong support for more education, better pay and increased awareness to encourage more Caymanians to enter the tourism industry. He also said there was wide support for the need to protect the marine environment through law enforcement and initiatives to manage and protect sensitive sites on land.

Speaking to his legislative colleagues, the minister said there was little debate about the importance of tourism to the Cayman Islands.  It directly underpins thousands of jobs and small businesses and indirectly supports a wide array of professional fields,” he said.  Tourism both educates and employs many Caymanians and it has provided a world stage for local talent in areas ranging from culinary skills, sports and the performing arts.”

The new policy document, Clifford explained, was based on information drawn from widespread consultation including town hallmeetings in the Sister Islands and all districts throughout Grand Cayman. Input was received from members of the civil service, private sector, the community and from over 200 surveys. The new NTMP includes a section outlining the policy on cruise tourism and an addendum establishing the Go East Initiative Policy and Strategy Framework to shape the way the Eastern Districts are developed, heeding the lessons learned from development along the West Bay Road, the minister noted.   He also said the plan was not new but built on what was already happening in the industry and continued on from the 2003 NTMP.

He said that during the consultation period held with stakeholders in the tourism sector, issues such as a need to focus on sustainable development; promote Cayman culture and heritage and the development of new and alternative forms of tourism were also raised. He added that as a result of the consultation the key policy objectives included developing a skilled Caymanian tourism workforce, providing a high quality, sustainable Caymanian tourism product, managing visitors and their impact, researching, organising and managing tourism more effectively and attracting a higher spending customer. Other issues included managing the Sister Islands as destinations for nature-based tourism and to sustain the quality of the environmental product. Despite this, and coupled with survey results clearly demonstrating local concern for a greater need for protecting the environment and restricting development, he made no mention on the situation regarding the long awaited National Conservation bill, which he has been promising to bring to the Legislative Assembly for three years.

The minister did, however, go on to laud the Go East policy, which he said was all about promoting and preserving the distinctively Caymanian product that exists within the Eastern Districts of Bodden Town, East End and North Side. He said that in the Go East policy there was a rare opportunity to renew the way we look at tourism and to set an ambitious goal of infusing resident feedback into the daily management of how this sector grows.

The minister also spoke about the challenges facing the tourism industry and said that the Department of Tourism was doing all it could to mitigate the impact of the global recession.






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Ugland House in UK press

| 01/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following the revelations that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond’s top economic adviser, Sir George Mathewson, uses the Cayman Islands for business interests, Ugland House has found itself once again making negative headlines in the British press. Mathewson, who heads the SNP government’s council of economic advisers (CEA), is now at the centre of a tax avoidance row after it emerged that his investment group’s hedge fund is running businesses through Cayman.

Mathewson is chairman of London-based Old Oak Holdings, the holding company for Toscafund Asset Management LLP, which has several of its "mutual funds" registered in Ugland House with Maples and Calder. Following US President Barack Obama’s description of the office as "the biggest tax scam in the world", the revelations that Mathewson is using Cayman for his firms has caused considerable controversy. According to the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA), Tosca Focus, Tosca Infrastructure, Tosca Metriks and Tosca Small Cap, were registered after Mathewson was appointed as Salmond’s chief economic adviser.

Four of the funds were registered in Cayman after Mathewson, a former RBS chairman, took up his post with the government. With the UK government spreading the message that tax havens are estimated to cost the UK Treasury up to £33 billion a year in lost revenues and the support of the SNP for the clamp down on so-called tax havens, the economic advisor’s position is now looking questionable despite there being no accusations of wrongdoing against him.

Asked by the Scottish media why his business interests were registered in Cayman, Mathewson said, "There are all sorts of tactical reasons for that."

Given the current campaign against the use of offshore financial centres by G7 countries, the choice of domicile for Mathewson’s business interests is raising concern.  A strong supporter of the SNP, Mathewson was appointed chair of the council of economic advisers in 2007. The team which he leads was created to advise Scotland’s first minister on the best way to improve the country’s economy. Questions are now being asked if in fact Mathewson’s business interests are causing damage to the economy he was appointed to help.

This weekend Ugland House was described in theUK media as the main hub of business activity in Cayman, which is still called a tax haven. With pressure mounting, a crackdown on what G7 countries have termed ‘tax havens’, including the Cayman Islands, now appears inevitable. President Obama – praised by Salmond last week when the first minister visited Washington – and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have both promised action.

"We want the whole of the world to take action. That will mean action against regulatory and tax havens in parts of the world which have escaped the regulatory attention they need," the prime minister said.

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Ships dump waste in sea

| 01/03/2009 | 1 Comment

(IHT): Miles from shore in the open Caribbean Sea, cruise ships are dumping ground-up glass, rags and cardboard packaging. But vessels in other waters such as the Baltic and North seas are prohibited from throwing any solid waste overboard other than food scraps. The difference? Many countries with coastlines on the world’s most fragile seas abide by a United Nations dumping ban that requires them to treat ship-generated garbage on land. Caribbean islands, however, have yet to adopt the ban, saying they simply don’t have the capacity to treat ship garbage on shore and fear it will push ships to dock in less-regulated ports of call.

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Newspaper industry “in free fall”

| 01/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNN): After nearly 150 years in business, the Rocky Mountain News published its final edition Friday, the victim of a bad economy and the Internet generation. The Rocky Mountain News was the latest victim in an era of shutdowns, layoffs and cutbacks plaguing the newspaper industry. "It’s in a free fall and nobody knows where the bottom is. It’s kind of like water in the toilet swirling around and nobody knows what’s left when you’re done flushing," media critic Eric Alterman said. Newspapers across the country are under pressure as readership declines, along with advertising revenue, while more and more Americans get their information online.

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Revival of fat farms in Mauritania

| 01/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): Fears are growing for the fate of thousands of young girls in rural Mauritania, where campaigners say the cruel practice of force-feeding young girls for marriage is making a significant comeback since a military junta took over the West African country. Aminetou Mint Ely, a women’s rights campaigner, said girls as young as five were still being subjected to the tradition of leblouh every year. The practice sees them tortured into swallowing gargantuan amounts of food and liquid – and consuming their vomit if they reject it.

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Hope for climate treaty

| 01/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(New York Times): Until recently, the idea that the world’s most powerful nations might come together to tackle global warming seemed an environmentalist’s pipe dream. The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, was widely viewed as badly flawed. Many countries that signed the accord lagged far behind their targets in curbing carbon dioxide emissions. The United States refused even to ratify it. And the treaty gave a pass to major emitters in the developing world like China and India. But within weeks of taking office, President Obama has radically shifted the global equation, placing the United States at the forefront of the international climate effort and raising hopes that an effective international accord might be possible.

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Scottish economic adviser linked to Cayman Islands

| 01/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Sunday Herald): The white facade and palm trees make Ugland House look like a small hotel in the West Caribbean. But the five-storey office block in the Cayman Islands combines a reputation for controversy with 18,000 tenants. Described by President Obama as the "biggest tax scam in the world", Ugland House is home to thousands of businesses which take advantage of the Islands’ status as a tax haven. The building is also the registered address of several "mutual funds" that are part of the investment group chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond’s chief economic adviser, Sir George Mathewson.

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Madame Speaker takes top cops to task

| 01/03/2009 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The failure to man the North Side police station and not enough visible policing in the district were the key issues that residents said they were concerned about when Acting Commissioner James Smith, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis and Area Commander Richard Barrow hosted a community meeting on Thursday evening. The district representative and Speaker of the House Edna Moyle pointed out to the senior officers that she herself had voted funding for nine full-time officers for the district and wanted to know where they were.

In a lively meeting where a number of those in attendance complained about policing levels in the community and a very real perception of an increase incrime, Smith was introduced to the challenges of policing in a district that is geographically wide but sparsely populated and where many property owners are absent.

Moyle, the district’s MLA asked how many officers were currently serving North Side and why whenever she asked a police officer working the district which station he was based at none ever stated North Side. “I have fought for 16 years to get twenty-four hour policing for our district,” she said adding that she had voted during finance committee to ensure North Side would be served by nine officers but she was no longer convinced that the district was being policed by that number. She also raised concerns about why no officers were ever at the North Side police station on which public money had been spent to renovate it. “I see patrol cars parked outside the police station with no one in them and not one at the station this appears to be simply misleading the people of North Side into thinking their district is being policed,” Moyle added getting agreement from other residents present.

Smith said that at present North Side was down two officers with seven due to a people leaving the service for various reasons. He said however that he RCIPS were recruiting 12 new officers and at least one would be allocated to the North Side area post training. He explained that nine was not an awful lot of people when divided over 3 day shifts and across a seven day week.

Barrow explained that the reason why people may see cars parked outside the unmanned station is because the officers will be patrolling in another car with a colleague but would have left one car in the district in order for extra quick response if necessary, meaning cars don’t always have to come from Bodden Town. Burrows also said that all North Side officers are part of the Eastern District Team and as Area Commander he likes to ensure that all of them rotate around the districts and so become familiar with the local issues hence why different officers crop up.

Despite his explanations Moyle said she still wanted to see more patrolling and visible policing in the districts and that parking cars outside stations was not enough. “This is not the dumping district of the Cayman Islands we deserve full policing, “Madame Speaker said. “The people are blaming me for the inadequate levels of policing and I have fought for better police coverage for years and I expect this district to be equal to any other.”

Her constituents agreed and many said they felt there simply were not enough police officers being seen in the district and the criminals were learning that they could get away with crime in North Side. Residents said the lack of police patrols in the district was further high-lighted by the RCIPS neglect of most of North Side during the recent Mardi Gras celebrations at Kaibo when some 30 plus officers were policing that event and completely ignoring speeders rushing through the heart of North Side itself.

The issue of a recent spate of burglaries and rising crime was also cited by a number of residents particularly those that own or manage vacation properties. Roy Johnson from J&J Enterprises who has been dealing with vacation rentals in the area for decades said he was very concerned about what was happening with the number of break-ins and robberies as he said it was the worst he had ever known it and worse was the fact that tourists were beginning to feel it as well. “This is putting tourists off, people don’t feel safe here anymore,” he said.

Barrow said however, that there has been no recorded increase in crime in the area and while there had been a recent spate of burglaries the individuals had been arrested and a recent prowler seen attempting to break into holiday condos around Rum Point was also arrested.

Residents raised concerns, about drugs, young people causing trouble, loud parties on the beach speeding and bright blue lights in cars racing through the community. All issues they said if the police were around more could be addressed.

The local community neighbourhood police officer was also questioned about what he was actually doing and when he explained the various initiatives and programmes he had started he said no more than a handful of people ever turned up.




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