Archive for June 29th, 2009

McCarthy new CIMA Chair

| 29/06/2009 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush has announced that Chief Secretary George McCarthy, who retires from his position as head of the Civil Service tomorrow, has been offered and accepted the chairmanship of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA). Paying tribute to the First Official Member in the Legislative Assembly on Monday afternoon (29 June), Bush said that his talents were too great to lose and he had asked him to take on the role after a quick respite.

Bush said that there was too much need and too much work to be done to dispense with the kind of experience and sage advice that McCarthy could offer. The LoGB said he didn’t “like this 60 thing”, referring to the retirement age. He said McCarthy was not too old to continue helping to keep the good ship Cayman on course and there was too much to do for him to go away and rest.

He noted McCarthy’s contribution over the years to the Cayman Islands’ financial services, from his past role as financial secretary, his involvement in crafting the legislation that has helped keep Cayman competitive, and most recently as head of the new taskforce spearheading the work to get Cayman off the OECD grey list.

Bush said McCarthy had made a distinguished and invaluable contribution to the islands during his career in the civil service steering Cayman through turbulent financial waters and he looked forward to working with himin his new role.

Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts said that McCarthy had already played a significant role in the country’s success in financial services and the development of the civil service, and noted that his understanding of public service was because he had worked from the ground up starting as a clerk in the education department back in the late 1960s.

McCarthy, in his closing speech to the House, said he was humbled by the comments and he said the attorney general had told him not to cry. He said it had been a privilege to serve in the House since 1992.

Bush made no mention of the future role of the current chairman, Carlyle McLaughlin, who was appointed as the Chairman of the Board less than 12 months ago on 27 July 2008. McLaughlin’s appointment was met with considerable controversy when he replaced Tim Ridley, who had served as chair since 2004.

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Rapist gets 12 years

| 29/06/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Christopher Omar Samuels, who pleaded guilty to the 2002 rape of a visitor to the Cayman Islands in the rest rooms of the Westin Casuarinas Resort, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday, 26 June. Thirty-three-year-old Samuels was charged in January 2009, nearly seven years after the offence was committed, after DNA evidence linked him to the case. The victim of this crime commented on CNS in January, "First I’d like to say to the person who has a great sympathy for Mr. Samuels that I do as well. I feel very sorry for him."

She continued, "It seems pathetic to seek sex by breaking down a toilet stall door and putting a knife to the throat of a 48 year old woman. But there is also the possibility that he was seeking to find pleasure in inflicting pain and humiliation. In this case I would have to say I truly despise him, and he deserves no sympathy from anyone but the devil himself.

"For the last seven years I have been trying to ‘feel normal’, but am stillfearful of leaving my home, especially at night. I also need an operation to repair internal ligaments that were torn in the attack. But at least I can now afford health care.

"I used to be a ‘career woman’, but lost my job, and eventually used up all my savings,etc. I got very ill, emotionally and physically, and couldn’t eat for days at times. Eventually even losing half my hair due to poor nutrition. In no particular order….I came down with PTSD, sleep apnea, melanoma, shingles, meningitis, fungal sinutis and sudden onset menopause. So if you think rape victims need to just ‘snap out of it’, think again. Once a downward health spiral starts, you can feel overwhelmed. And if the rapist isn’t caught, the world feels so dangerous that you can lose all desire to thrive.

‘Well, it’s taken 7 years, but finally I feel the healing power of Justice, The news of the arrest made me more whole than any medicine or settlement could. I was overjoyed to hear from RCIPS that day. I cried and cried. I now have great admiration for the perseverance and professionalism of the RCIPS major crimes division. They said they would never close this case until it was solved, and they were true to their word," the victim concluded.

“This was a terrible attack which had a huge impact on the victim,” said Head of CID, Acting Chief Superintendent Marlon Bodden. “We hope that this sentence will help bring some closure to the victim and demonstrate our commitment to thoroughly investigating such heinous crimes.”

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) said it is committed to bringing offenders before the court and will continue to examine old cases and utilize all available new technologies to assist in solving crimes.

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Athletes head to Cuba

| 29/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A team of six athletes will be travelling to Havana, Cuba, to represent the Cayman Islands in athletics at the CAC Senior Championships being held 3 through 5 July at the Pan American Stadium in Havana City. According to a release from the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, Sports Minister Mark Scotland and Director of Sports Dalton Watler will meet with the team today at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex VIP lounge at 5:00pm. The team departs on Wednesday 1 July and return on Monday 6 July.

Team members and the events they will contest are as follows:

Tyrell Cuffy 100m, 200m, 4x100m
Kemar Hyman 100m, 200m, 4x100m
David Hamil 4x100m
Carl Morgan Long Jump, Triple Jump
Carlos Morgan Long Jump, Triple Jump, 4x100m
Michael Letterlough Hammer Throw

The team officials are:

Michael Nalty – Manager
Kenrick Williams – Head Coach
Dalton Watler – Asst. Coach

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Jefferson hits back

| 29/06/2009 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Answering criticisms made in Legislative Assembly on Friday, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said that if he had been derelict in any way it was by not defending himself and he would no longer remain silent when he was used as a scapegoat. He indicated that he had not yet answered the charges about the sudden changes in government finances because he had been overseas on official business addressing areas the previous administration had not done anything about.

Jefferson told the House that the deficit that the opposition was demanding explanation for may have a lot to do with a previous minster’s comments that it was the financial secretary’s job to find the revenue for ministers to spend. Jefferson said he would make a statement regarding the financial situation now he was back on island, but he said the answer to their questions may be in the comment made by a former government member.

“Perhaps the answer most people want comesfrom a comment made by a former minster of the previous government when I questioned the magnitude of expenditure,” Jefferson said. “I was told that the function of a minister was to incur expenditure and the role of the financial secretary to go out and find the revenue. So perhaps the answer is as simple as that.”

Jefferson said that for far too long the financial secretary was seen as the scapegoat and the one people were comfortable criticising as they did not think there would be a reply, but he said that would change. He denied the accusations of dereliction of duty and said it had been impossible for him to give a response to critics between the publication of the statement in the print media on 12 June and his return from travelling overseas the night before the House resumed on Friday. He said he found it ironic that the third elected member for George Town (Alden McLaughlin) would make that criticism when his own party took twelve days to respond. Jefferson said now he was back on island he would make a full statement on public finances in far less time.

Jefferson also noted that he would nothave been travelling on official business if matters regarding tax information exchange agreements had been handled differently over the last four years.

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6-year-old with swine flu dies in UK

| 29/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): A girl, thought to be six years old, has died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital after contracting swine flu. NHS West Midlands said the girl, who had other serious health problems, died on Friday evening. It is not known if flu contributed to her death. It was initially reported she was nine years old. Her death is the third swine-flu related fatality in the UK. The other two deaths were in Scotland. Experts have reported the first case of swine flu that is resistant to Tamiflu – the main drug being used to fight the pandemic.

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CAL announces new in-flight magazine

| 29/06/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The decision to put the contract for Cayman Airways’ in-flight magazine out to tender followed recommendations from the Lufthansa audit of the national carrier, and aimed to increase revenue opportunity for the airline. A release from CAL said that its new magazine, Cayman Airways Skies, is due out in September this year, and the airline claimed that through its new relationship with its publishers, HCP/Aboard Publishing company, CAL will receive “a tremendous budget” from the company for advertising in the US at no added cost to Cayman Airways.

According to CAL Corporate Communications Manager Olivia Scott Ramirez, the new magazine will be less widely distributed outside the on-board availability, with “a more focused distribution”. This, she said would make it a “true ‘in-flight’ publication” for CAL rather than a general tourism magazine, and would therefore be less competition for other local magazines geared to tourism. The number of printed magazines of Skies would depend on projections of passenger loads, she said.

Progressive Publications, the publishers for CAL’s in-flight magazine Horizons for 20 years but who lost the bid for the in-flight contract, accepted CAL’s offer to provide an additional two issues of Horizons as CAL’s in-flight magazine, through August 2009.

CAL said that the valuable advertising budget it will receive from HCP/Aboard Publishing will allow the national flag carrier to promote Cayman in the 31 newspapers across the United States that are owned by The McClatchy Company. HCP/Aboard is a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company, which is the third-largest newspaper company in the United States.

“The amount equates to a 20% increase on the airline’s entire advertising and marketing budget annually, which Cayman Airways would never be able to afford otherwise,” explained CAL’s VP Finance Paul Tibbetts in the release. “We are also getting an increase in the minimum guaranteed revenue each year from advertising royalties, so from a financial standpoint it is a sound business decision which is in the best interest of our national flag carrier, and by default, for the country.”

Through this new partnership, local advertisers will also get added international exposure through a dynamic new electronic version of the printed magazine called an “e-zine” (short for electronic magazine). The web-based e-zine allows users to turn each page electronically while viewing the magazine on their computers, and to click straight through to each advertiser’s company website by just clicking on the ad. The e-zine will also be iPhone and iPod compatible for maximum viewing flexibility.

“This new concept of an e-zine will allow Cayman companies to achieve a wider reach when they advertise in the new publication,” explained VP Commercial for Cayman Airways Paul Mooney. “That’s a significant consideration for local businesses trying to stretch their advertising dollars in the current economic climate, especially when this bonus feature comes at no added cost to them.”
Also part of HCP/Aboard’s contract with Cayman Airways, a Cayman company with a local representative will always be contracted to manage the sales aspect of the publication on the ground on Grand Cayman. Local sales and marketing expert, David Kirkaldy, of Massive Group Ltd. has been named the magazine’s Cayman representative.

“I am excited about being part of producing an incredible, award-winning in-flight magazine for Cayman Airways,” he said, adding that after weeks preparing a sales plan for the first issue, the positive response from local advertisers has been tremendous. Drawing from his degree in communications and more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing on Grand Cayman, Mr. Kirkaldy is in the process of developing a new division of his company – Massive Media Ltd.
On the editorial side, several local writers and photographers have been contracted to produce all Cayman-related articles and images. CAL claimed that having their work featured in this new in-flight magazine will give them invaluable exposure to additional freelance opportunities with the many publications produced by HCP/Aboard.

Scott Ramirez noted that the publication’s new name is Cayman Airways Skies, chosen from more than 200 names submitted by Cayman Airways employees in an internal staff competition. Among the many new features HCP/Aboard Publishing will introduce in the new magazine is bi-lingual content in Spanish/English.

CEO Designate Olson Anderson commented, “We were impressed with all companies who submitted bids for this project so it was not an easy decision or one that was taken lightly. The decision to go with HCP/Aboard Publishing was ultimately made in the best interest of Cayman Airways and our customers as we strive to meet the airline’s vision for a revenue-generating, award-winning in-flight magazine.”

Acting CAL Board Chairman Johnny Brown echoed those sentiments, stating, “CAL’s in-flight magazine was identified in the Lufthansa audit as a revenue source that was not being maximized. Through this new contract with HCP/Aboard, the increased revenue and substantial advertising space in US newspapers will allow Cayman Airways to entice more visitors to the Cayman Islands and to travel on our national flag carrier. There is no question that this partnership will benefit the countryas a whole while helping to improve CAL’S bottom line.”

“We are delighted to have been selected as the publisher of Cayman Airways’ new in-flight magazine,” said HCP/Aboard Publisher Garry Duell Jr. “Together with our Caymanian partner David Kirkaldy, our team will work closely with local writers and photographers to produce an award-winning magazine that will bring added exposure to the destination. Our multimedia program includes print and online added value that will promote the magazine and its website throughout the United States.”

In recent years, Progressive Publications contracted Cogent Communications to manage the sales and editorial production of the magazine, with the printing being done overseas. 

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Cayman retains AAA for now

| 29/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although the Cayman Islands has maintained its triple A rating with Moodys the assessment was based on the country’s financials at the end of the first quarter of the year and not the revised figures as declared by Financial Secretary earlier this month. Moody’s said that the country’s rebound from Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 demonstrates the jurisdiction’s resilience. The agency acknowledged some public debt due to ambitions capital projects but said the country’s macroeconomic fundamental should remain solid.

The Cayman Islands has the second highest rating in the Caribbean after Bermuda and Moodys said in its report that the high GDP and Cayman’s high governance indicators, policy predictability and sound institutions  as further contributing to the retention of the ratings. Moodys however, noted Caymans vulnerability to hurricanes, limited fiscal flexibility given the narrow revenue base and dependence on exterior sources for growth would prevent an upward movement in the jurisdiction’s rating. The agency warned that negative structural changes in tourism and offshore-financial services coupled with an erosion of public finance could result in future negative ratings and said it would be monitoring the Cayman Islands closely.

Although all credit rating agencies have come in for some considerable criticism for their role in the economic crisis when they offered high ratings to financial institutions that promptly collapsed, they still hold weight on the global stage and given the external problems that Cayman already faces with the onslaught from the OECD and onshore nations, a reduction in rating would not be easily overcome.

Moody’s currently rates  Cayman’s economic and institutional strength as high, government finances as very high and susceptibility to event risk as low. It notes that the new constitution maintains the isalnds’ dependence on UK and said the change of government is not expected to lead to any major political changes and noted that the PMFL helps maintain the country’s financial stability. The analysis was completed however before government announced that the country was no longer compliant with the law , and the agency noted that if debt accumulation did not change it could result in  decrease in ratings.


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Jackson kids custody question

| 29/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(San Fransisco Chronicle): Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine, is taking care of the singer’s three children and the family will go to court Monday in part to protect her rights to custody, the family’s spokesman said. Londell McMillan, the Jacksons’ attorney, said the family hasn’t heard from Deborah Rowe, the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children, about custody. "I don’t think there will be anybody who thinks that there is someone better" than Katherine Jackson to have custody, McMillan said on NBC’s "Today" show. "She is a very loving host of other grandchildren."


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Connor says Dilbert’s challenges are not unique

| 29/06/2009 | 9 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of a recent release in which she aired her frustrations, Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor has offered his support to Information Commissioner (IC) Jennifer Dilbert but pointed out that the challenges she faced are the same across the board in the public sector. Connor said he empathized with Dilbert but issues such as extremely limited resources afflict all government departments. He also noted that she had an annual budget of almost CI$660,000 and would soon have a five member team.

Connor said he had the utmost confidence that she would use her extensive experience of the Civil Service to achieve the best possible outcomes in her new position and he looked forward to the great things the office would achieve, but that early days were always difficult.

“Establishing a new office may involve looking for accommodations, refurbishing, and advertising, re-advertising and hiring the right staff to do the work. I can understand that it is hard to feel comfortably settled while still experiencing growing pains,” Connor said.

Having spent some three years developing the FOI initiative, he said his office had a personal stake in its success and had worked to seek public input in the IC recruitment process and to ensure the independence of the post.

From mid-2008, the two agencies worked to prepare the ICO for a January start, including: seeking approval for four support staff, securing office accommodations and purchasing a suite of office equipment and computers for five persons and recruited an office manger. The total budget for the ICO was also set at CI$659,000 for the 2008/2009 fiscal year. (CNS understands that in contrast the FOI Unit itself has an annual budget of only around CI$400,000.)

Connor said that it was agreed that the commissioner would be personally involved in the recruitment of senior posts and there are now three full-time staff in place, including Dilbert and her deputy, and the office is in the process of recruiting two more people.

Stating that the challenges outlined by his colleague could be overcome if the agencies continue to work closely together, Connorsaid that the IC is important to good governance.

“We are very grateful to the British Columbia Privacy Commissioner’s Office for allowing the IC to temporarily recruit two of its staff members. It is also important to acknowledge the considerable work that the FOI Implementation Unit has done behind the scenes to ensure that the process of making a FOI request goes as smoothly as possible, thereby easingthe workload of the IC,” he added.

Government has processed 360 FOI requests since January and more than 95% of responses have been provided within the 30 day timeframe allowed by law — the average response time being less than 20 days.

After six months of operation there have been a total of 21 appeals, some have been mediated and others sent back to public authorities for internal review, and the office is now scheduled to conduct its first hearing soon.

“While it is normal to expect some teething issues, especially with such a significant whole-of-government initiative such as FOI, we are generally very pleased with everyone’s performance thus far. At the same time, we are doing what is necessary to monitor our progress and make the necessary improvements and adjustments to move forward. At present the FOI unit and the ICO are carefully documenting problems that arise to ensure these are addressed to the best of everyone’s ability and to the public’s satisfaction,” Connor stated.

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Civil service cuts signalled

| 29/06/2009 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Although no specific policy statement was offered that the civil service may be facing personnel cuts under the new administration, speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Friday Deputy Leader of the new government, Rolston Anglin, made it very clear that he believed the civil service had burgeoned under the previous administration and there were too many unnecessary posts. Lamenting the increase in senior staff as a result of the introduction of the PMFL, he said that law needed to be reviewed .

Criticising the Public Management and Finance Law, which he said was not working and had been demonstrated in other jurisdictions to be unsuitable for small island governments, Anglin said that the law’s introduction had ushered in more levels of public servant management and doubling up of jobs.

“Add up the salaries of human resource staff only and you will see,” he noted, adding that in his own new ministry not only did he have a significant number of human resource personnel but the same jobs were duplicated in the Department of Education. Anglin said he had around 30 people in his ministry alone, which was too many, and even expressed his surprise at having a head of graphics in his ministry as well.

While Anglin did not directly state that the new government intended to cut civil servants, he said that the government would be tightening its belt and criticised the previous administration for allowing the burgeoning of the service.  He said that the PMFL had created excessive positions and his government intended to drill down and make serious cuts in the civil service bill. He said it would have to be considerably more that the 6% cut which the previous administration had called for.

Earlier in the debate, opposition member Alden McLaughlin had pointed out that with the global recession biting into government revenue all future governments would face the challenge of managing the government’s biggest expenditure, which was the civil service.

“We are extremely vulnerable as a country with a narrow tax base based on tourism and the financial services,” he said, pointing out that government had little control over the principle sources of its income because it was tied to the state of the world economy.  He said that if the new government, as it had said during the election campaign, was not going to introduce any new revenue streams then it would have to cut public spending. He lamented that fact that although his government had requested statutory authorities, government companies and departments to reduce their expenditure when the recession began affecting government revenue, it was “a monumental failure”.

He said the service failed to make cuts and even continued hiring despite the government’s request to freeze recruitment. He said the civil service had told the elected government that it could not reduce its expenditure because of fixed costs. McLaughlin said given the expected reduced earnings again in 2009/10, the new government would have to give serious consideration to what it would do about public services.

Anglin noted McLaughlin’s comments and said that he had accused the UDP of not caring about civil service, but there he was saying the new government would have to reduce services. He said he was well aware of the plethora of services for the size of the country.  He said there was a need to take stock and look at efficiency, the duplication of jobs and the number of services being provided.

During the election campaign, however, the UDP said it would not cut public servant jobs but would seek to make efficiencies within the service that could reduce costs.

Anglin and the other members will continue the budget debate when the Legislative Assembly resumes on Monday morning.

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