Archive for October 3rd, 2009

New ministry simplifies seafarers benefits transfer

New ministry simplifies seafarers benefits transfer

| 03/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Government has announced that it has made it easier for widows of marine veterans to claim their entitlements. When a seafarer dies, his widow is entitled to claim the benefits that her husband received when he was alive but the surviving spouse must make the claim to get the benefits in her own name. The responsibility for the administration seafarers benefits has now shifted from the Ministry of Health that of the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing and the new ministry, recognising that this can be a challenge for some elderly people, said it now requires less information.

Surviving spouses must apply for the benefits in their own names, the ministry said. Once an application is approved, widows she will be added to the government’s payroll. This procedure is in compliance with guidelines that have been in existence since 2000.

The ministry said it was aware that this system places a little additional pressure on an elderly surviving spouse. In consideration of this, the application form has been simplified to reduce the amount of information that the spouse must submit to qualify. 

The criteria for qualification are: the surviving spouse must be aged 60 or older; the surviving spouse should not have a monthly income exceeding $2000; the surviving spouse must submit certified copies of her husband’s death certificate, her own birth certificate, their marriage certificate, plus the relevant pages of her passport.

Application forms are available from the receptionist at the Government Administration Building or from the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing.

The ministry reminds the general public that these benefits are for seafarers or their surviving spouses only. Relatives are required to inform the ministry when benefit recipients are deceased. 

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And here endeth the rest of Cayman….

And here endeth the rest of Cayman….

| 03/10/2009 | 32 Comments

As the rest of the world battles with the problems that result from global warming/climate change, as the Philippines get totally trashed by a back to back series of Super Typhoons, as islands disappear under the ocean, our peerless leader had decided that the way back to so-called prosperity is to continue the trashing of what’s left of these islands.

Every developed and developing country on the planet recognizes that if you are going to develop – be it a golf course or a marina, a port, a mega-hotel or 2,000 sea-front condos – you need to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment to not only project what kind of ecological damage you might cause, but to try and find ways to mitigate that damage. Not here, though.

We don’t need an EIA to see if the North Sound will survive a mega-yacht highway. We don’t need an EIA to see if all the sand on 7-mile beach will disappear in a storm when we have built the new mega Cruise Ship Dock. We don’t need an EIA to look at the ecological damage a working port will make to the (so far) pristine East End. We don’t need an EIA to see what will happen when we dredge the pond on the Brac and build a marina. Heck, we’ll just do what we want, as long as we’ve sold our land to our buddies and made a ton of cash, we’ll worry about the consequences to our kids and grand-kids later. We’ll be dead then and in Heaven…uhuh, right….so it won’t matter.

If I have read the mood of most people right (except those who stand to make a million or two on any one of these developments), we Caymanians have had enough of environmental destruction. Wesaid “no” to the destruction of the ironwood forest when thePPM was in power. Do you think it is likely that King Mac will care?

Young and old alike have told me they care about what is happening, and they don’t want to see any more “growth at any cost”. I’m not talking about economic cost, I’m talking about environmental cost. Using the “we have to have private investment to protect the country’s economy” sounds like an old movie track from the 1960s. The rest of the world is more worried about the ecological costs of what we have wrought upon the planet, and we are looking to trash what is left of Cayman for a few rich real estate developer buddies?

C’mon people. This isn’t a just political issue, it’s a conservation issue as well. We need to stand up and say, “Hell, no! We don’t want to see the end of North Sound.” Dredging it to create a super-highway for mega-yachts for a few rich friends will destroy our fishing, destroy our tourist attractions like Sting Ray City, destroy our reefs, and open us up beautifully to a tidal surge from the next big hurricane.

So, what are we going to do? It is time to make conservation a serious political issue, because that is what it is. Anything that attacks the essence of where we live is attacking our lives. Are we prepared to roll over and just let it happen?

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Budget hits across the board

Budget hits across the board

| 03/10/2009 | 190 Comments

(CNS): Although the financial services sector will bear the brunt of the government’s fee increases in the 2009/10 budget, local businesses, large and small, as well as the man in the street will be hit by the need for government to raise more cash. A new business premises fee of 10%on tenants of commercial property, an increase in most work permit fees, a new $1000 fee on imported used cars, the introduction of a 2% remittance fee on all money leaving the islands through money transfer firms and a 2% increase on import duty will all impact the wider Caymanian community.

Presenting what the government described as a “bare bones” budget, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson told the Legislative Assembly this morning (Friday 2 October) that government is expected to generate $562 million in this financial year. With core operating expenses combined with the public authorities’ deficit and financing expenses estimated at $531.9 million, the new UDP administration said it expects a budget surplus at the end of 2009/10 of $9.5 million and a return to compliance of the Public Management and Finance Law.

Given the global economic situation, plus Cayman’s own financial difficulties, along with directions from the UK, Jefferson explained that government was left with the difficult decision of implementing revenue measures which will realize almost an extra $95 million during this financial year and a further $31 million going into 2010/11.

“The decision to implement revenue measures during difficult economic times is not one that many economists would recommend,” Jefferson told the House. “However, the government had no other choice but to implement revenue measures that are estimated to bring in CI$126.4 million per year.” Hesaid the increases were a directive of the Foreignand Commonwealth Office in order to gain the necessary approval for borrowing to see government through the current fiscal year.

While the bulk of the revenue will come from increases in existing fees associated with the financial industry — such as annual company fees, general registry fees, mutual fund licences, security investment fees, exempted limited partnerships, tax and trust undertaking fees, banks and trusts as well as insurance licences and CIMA transaction fees — the introduction of new fees and increases in many others will hit local businesses and both the ex-pat and Caymanian ‘man in the street’.

All work permits, with the exception of domestic workers, are to increase as well as fees for key employee applications, which Jefferson said would bring in $22 million over the next 12 months. Duty on all goods will increase by 2%, which is expected to yield some $16.5 million for government coffers, Jefferson noted.

The fee most likely to hit small businesses is the new business premises fee, which will see all tenants of commercial property pay 10% on their annual rent to bring government $6.5 million. The environmental impact fee on used vehicles will be a new flat fee on top of duty for imported used cars that have a maximum insurance and freight value of CI$12,000, bringing in $1.8 million. Another new fee on transfer through money remittance companies of 2% will be charged on cash leaving Cayman via money transfer entities, which government estimates will yield around $4.6 million.

Jefferson said there were many other fees and tariffs which had not been raised for several years, some not since 1986, which would also be increased. Stamp duty, admission fees for attorneys, passport frees, planning and building fees and others would together bring around $4.4 million to the treasury.

With the increases Jefferson also said there had been cuts in government spending and stated that a rigorous and detailed expenditure review and cost cutting exercise had brought government operating costs back down to those of 2008/09. These included a hire freeze, overtime restrictions, cuts in accommodation and equipment costs, elimination of all but essential travel and the restriction of the use of government vehicles.

“Government had to combat the tendency of increasing operating expenses and to curtail operating costs … as much as possible without seriously jeopardizing the quality and quantity of services to the public,” the financial secretary said, adding that it was also committed to bringing the islands back to prosperity.

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