Archive for November 3rd, 2009

Opposition faces bitter-sweet Constitution Day

Opposition faces bitter-sweet Constitution Day

| 03/11/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Despite the fact that the leader of the opposition has not been invited to speak or take any formal part in the Constitution Commencement Day on Friday, PPM members say they are still upbeat about the implementation of the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution. Alden McLaughlin said that, while he felt it was a shame after fighting since 2001 for the new constitution that his party is not at the helm of government, Friday was still a very important day as it heralded in some significant changes to governance in the Cayman Islands. (Photo: Alden McLaughlin speaks at one of the many constitutional meetings)

“Getting the constitution through was a ray of sunshine on the dark day of the general election last May,” McLaughlin said. He noted the irony that the leader of government business has said frequently in recent month that he did not vote for the constitution and that he is being forced to be the first premier. “Despite how we feel about the arrival of Premier Bush,” McLaughlin joked, “we are ushering in a model of new governance that’s going to improve democracy and reduce ability of the governor to act outside of the advice of the elected representatives.”

Speaking at Monday night’s PPM council meeting, McLaughlin said the provisions the PPM had pressed for were important, especially given the current concerns regarding the relationship between Cayman and UK and what governors will and won’t be able to do in the future. “If we continue to have governors that can undermine the image of these islands, I shudder to think how Cayman will survival in the long term,” he said, but added that at least with the improvements in the Constitution Cayman would be less dependent on governors being ‘kind’ to Caymanians as there are now laws in place to curtail their behaviour or bad judgement.

The former education minster and tireless advocate for the Constitution during the run up to the referendum said the new Constitution increases involvement of elected officials in the day to day running of government. Above all, it has taken the sole power the governor previously had and placed it in the hands of committees, which includes members of the public as well as politicians, he explained.

However, McLaughlin lamented the failure to secure a police authority that would have taken that power away from the governor and given it to the people. “We had persuaded the UK to accept the idea,” he said, but explained that the UDP had refused to go along with it and, as an agreement with the UK was so close, London said it was not going to allow that one issue to upset the apple cart. “So we got a document that did not include a police authority,” he said. “I know the UDP must be kicking themselves now because of what happened with Operation Tempura and Cealt, which could happen again. Whenever power is concentrated in hands of one person, things are likely to go awry. You need more than one head to protect democracy.”

On Tuesday morning Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA for North Side, said he was profoundly disappointed with the way the occasion was being handled and accused the governor of playing down the celebrations to promote himself.

“This is an historic event for Caymanians and it should be Caymanians that are featured, and the keynote address should not be given by the governor but by the first premier,” Miller said on Rooster’s morning talk show Crosstalk. He also criticised the fact that the leader of the opposition had not been invited to speak. “That is disgusting. Not only is his position recognised in the Constitution, it was the honourable Kurt Tibbetts and his government that shepherded in the Constitution and took us through the process to a referendum,” he said. “It’s just rude not to invite him to speak.”

Miller said it was the country’s biggest constitutional advancement since 1959 and should be a day of celebration, with street parties and local bands playing and revealing in George Town. “We could celebrate two things, the coming of the Constitution and Jack off the island,” he added. The celebrations were being handling badly Miller stated. “This is about Caymanians stepping up and being recognised; it is not about Her Majesty’s governor,” he said.

The Commencement Day ceremony will take place at the Legislative Assembly on 6 November and will include the swearing-in of the premier, the deputy premier and the deputy governor. The event starts at 10:30 am with performances from the Cayman National Choir, the Harmony Singers, Rudy Myles and Jamessette Anglin. There will also be the usual pomp with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Band, an inspection of detachments from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Fire Service, Her Majesty’s Prison Service, the Cadet Corps, the Girls Brigade, the Scouts, and the Gideon Pathfinders.

Refreshments will be served free of charge to the public at the close of the event followed by an invitation-only luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton. The inaugural day has also been declared a public holiday for this year only.

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Rumours of Cabinet reshuffle denied by LoGB

Rumours of Cabinet reshuffle denied by LoGB

| 03/11/2009 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Speculation that the government could be announcing a Cabinet reshuffle to coincide with the implementation of the new Cayman Islands Constitution this coming Friday (6 November) have been denied by the leader of government business. Rumours that Rolston Anglin could be stepping down from his post as education minister or that Mike Adam could be taking a seat on the backbenches were refuted by McKeeva Bush on Rooster’s radio phone-in show on Tuesday morning. Despite several rumours over the last few weeks that the two ministers could be moved from their Cabinet positions Bush said everyone was staying put.

However, he did note that the backbenchers are now serving roles more akin to junior minsters and are getting more involved in specific government projects where they are required to report to Cabinet.  Bush said that he would be talking to the governor about making that change in governance more formal.

UDP general secretary and George Town MLA, backbencher Ellio Solomon, confirmed that this was in the works when he spoke to News 27 on Tuesday evening. He said both he and Cline Glidden would become junior ministers if the governor gave the go-ahead on the idea.

He said Glidden had been working on the port and other tourism projects and he on e-business and housing, and although the posts were not formalized yet, he and Glidden were taking on more responsibility. If the junior minsters get the go-ahead they will not be able to vote in Cabinet and it is not clear what extra or new powers they will be assigned.

The new Constitution sees a number of changes being implemented in terms of voting powers and roles. The financial secretary, for example, is being completely removed from the Legislative Assembly and Cabinet (except by invitation) and will now take up a purely advisory position to the minster of finance, which from Friday will be Bush.

The two remaining official members, the attorney general and the new deputy governor (formerly the chief secretary) will still sit in the LA but will not have voting powers. The Constitution now provides for three more MLAs at the next election and eventually an extra elected minister. The Boundary Commission has not yet started its work on how those three new seats will be distributed but it is certain that one more will go to Bodden Town, with the other two likely to go to George Town and West Bay.

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Use security wisely says TSCL

Use security wisely says TSCL

| 03/11/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): As crime levels continue to increase across the community, local experts are advising the public to make sure they choose the correct security partner for their needs and utilise the security measures they already have properly. Lamenting the number of people who don’t turn on burglar alarms, forget to put tapes in their CCTV or to lock valuables in their safes, Frank Brennan, Vice President at The Security Centre Ltd, said there is no point in spending money on security equipment if you don’t make the very best use of it to protect your family, your property and your business.

 “It is amazing how many people invest in sophisticated equipment and then either don’t use it or don’t use it properly,” said Brennan. “When you have been robbed it’s too late to lock those valuables in the safe or put a tape in the VCR. Business and home owners all need to take a good look at what securitymeasures they already have and make sure they are making the most of them.”

In addition to reviewing your current security and life safety procedures, the firm you choose is just as important as the policies and systems you put in place.  “There are over 30 security companies licensed to operate in the Cayman Islands but there are no real standards for issuance of such a license,” says the firm’s President and Chief Executive, Stuart Bostock.  “If you honestly want to benefit from security then you have to carefully consider the company you choose, as you are investing not only in the actual system or service being offered but also the expertise of the firm, the management, legal representation, insurance policies, responsiveness and ability to provide a full solution,” he added.  

There are several factors to consider when implementing security measures.  For instance, people using security surveillance equipment not only need to know the recording capabilities of a CCTV system but need to understand what the cameras are pointing at and how much of the image is focused on the primary target. Also, owners may have cameras at the main entrance or pointed at the areas where staff are serving customers but not necessarily on rear entrances, parking lots or cash handling areas.

“Owners need to think like criminals when they look at their security measures and to consider how a robber or a burglar would behave if they were to get into the business premises. Where would they look for valuables and cash? Where would they be most likely to gain access?  If it was a hold-up during business hours, where would most of your cash or valuables be?”

Brennan said that by asking themselves those questions owners can determine the best position for their cameras to be. He also warned owners not to fall into the trap of thinking it won’t happen to them.  The range of incidents and the types of businesses being targeted over the past few months is evident that anyone can be a victim.  However, owners of expensive jewellery shops or high-end goods often have high levels of security so criminals, as evidenced by the recent spate of robberies, are far more likely to go after what would be seen as softer targets, often with less security but still with cash on the premises. Criminals know that the stores selling diamonds and Rolexes are likely to have invested in high-end security equipment and that it won’t be as easy as perhaps the unsuspecting drug store right next door.

“Just because you own a tyre business, a clothing store, a drycleaners, or corner grocery shop doesn’t mean you can’t become a target,” Brennan added. “Robbers and burglars are looking for places where they can gain entry as easily as possible, get straight to the cash and then make their escape as quickly as possible. Building layers and making those three things as difficult as you can for the would-be robber will make your business less likely to become a target.”

Following the recent advice from the RCIPS that business and home owners should fit alarms, Brennan agreed but noted that once you have a system it is essential to use it properly and make sure that monitoring of alarms and response to activations are handled by those in the industry that have the expertise and resources available at all times. “Even if you’re just popping out for a short time, put the alarm on and make sure, especially if you have had your system for some time, that it is working properly.”

Bostock also says business owners and residential customers need to consider the entire security picture and build those layers of protection.  Look at parking lots and property lines as well as the physical premises in order to protect customers and staff. “Fencing and lighting is a deterrent to those who look for vulnerable dark areas as the ideal place to make their attack. If business owners have multiple cameras, it is worth training them onto the parking lots as well, but at the very least make sure your patrons are parking in areas that are well lit.  If possible, have a licensed security officer from a recognised security company on the premises who can walk guests to and from their cars and provide extra eyes and ears for your business,” Bostock said.

Fighting crime is everybody’s business and there are many things that people can do to minimise their vulnerability. But it is not always expensive; sometimes it’s about making the most of what you alreadyhave.  The Security Centre Limited offers free on-site crime prevention surveys for homeowners and businesses to help them identify weaknesses in their security and help them reduce their risk within affordable budgets. The goal is always to make your property or premises unwelcoming to those with criminal intentions. The more you can eliminate the circumstances which the opportunist criminal is looking for, the less likely your are to become a victim.

“Not everyone’s vulnerability to crime is the same,” Brennan noted. “That is why at the Security Centre Limited we offer free, no obligation assessments to guide people through their own particular risk to crime. Sometimes the solution can be very simple – not everyone needs security cameras. It may be that just a small safe and an inexpensive but effective alarm can be enough to protect your valuables.”

But making the decision to assess your security after you’ve been robbed, which is what most people tend to do, is too late, he warned.

For more details on how to keep you, your family and your property safe, contact The Security Centre Ltd at Unit B1, Cayman Business Park, 10A Huldah Avenue or call 949 0004 or visit

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Founding Rotary members honoured at annual event

Founding Rotary members honoured at annual event

| 03/11/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Al Thompson and Dave Phipps, both past presidents of Rotary Central and original charter members of the charity organization received awards for their 23 year commitment during this year’s annual charter evening. Many important youth programs and community resources are only made possible through the selfless acts of volunteers who give freely of their time, experience, and personal funds to make them happen. Rotary central is one of a number of organizations in which people give up their time to help others.

On Saturday 24 October Central Rotarians celebrated their charter night at the Lighthouse Restaurant with many members of Rotary Central and their spouses enjoying the good-humored atmosphere, along with guests from other Rotary clubs and community service organizations, the club said. Assistant District Governor Ray Whittaker was also in attendance.

 Several awards were presented as well as the two special awards given to founding members Phipps and Thompson. Paul Byles, the current President of Rotary Central said there has always been a need for individuals to take initiative in their communities. 

“When we see an obvious need, we cannot just sit back and wait for somebody else to take care of it.  We need to take ownership of our communities and work to make them safe and supportive environments for everyone,” Byles stated.

“That is what Rotary Central is all about, and those are the ideals that the two gentlemen we are honouring tonight have always promoted within our club, and demonstrated in their personal lives.”

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Cabinet can’t bypass CTC

Cabinet can’t bypass CTC

| 03/11/2009 | 63 Comments

(CNS): Despite claims by the leader of government business that the Central Tendering Committee process can be by-passed for the development of the cruise berthing facilities, the auditor general has said that this is not the case and that the committee must still be involved. Responding to McKeeva Bush’s comments in the media that he would sue both the auditor general and the governor if they tried to stop him and lost the country money, Duguay told CNS that it was his job to ensure the proper process according to the Public Management and Finance Law is followed for all government projects.

Duguay explained that Section 35 of the PMFL sets out clearly the process that has to be followed on all projects worth over $250,000. Bush has told the Caymanian Compass, “Cabinet can, in the interests of the country, decide these things….Cabinet can say ‘yes, it goes to Central Tenders’ or ‘no, it doesn’t.”  However, Duguay said that unless the law had been changed that was simply not true.

While the full process can be circumvented on some occasions for various reasons relating to special circumstances and unique expertise, the CTC must still be consulted and involved. The AG stated that and if in this case ‘expressions of interest’ are going straight to a contract, that is not a decision that can be made just by Cabinet. Duguay also noted his particular concerns that the committee which had selected the criteria was made up of four politicians.

Duguay said whether Bush intended to sue him or not it was perfectly legitimate for his office to do an audit on this process given the size of the project. He said he was sure that whoever was going to invest in this development would want to ensure that the proper process had been followed. 

“The financing and ownership arrangements on this project remain unclear and there are numerous other questions which my office would like to understand and so we are beginning to gather information as we wait on the imminent announcement of a contract,” Duguay added.

Following the accusations Bush had made that the auditor general was not acting on his own in announcing the audit and that he saw an “agenda” to stifle every investment opportunity, Duguay stated that the only agenda he had was to see that proper procedure had been followed.

“I am acting alone in this decision and there is no agenda to stifle investment and I am sure the investors will be glad that the process will be properly examined,” Duguay said, confirming that Bush had called him over the weekend to express his displeasure that the AG had made a decision to undertake the audit.

In his role as AG, Duguay must decide on which audits he needs to undertake to ensure transparency and value for money in decisions affecting all government assets. Bush accused the auditor general of ignoring problem projects undertaken by the previous administration, such as the schools and asked why he hadn’t audited former tourism minister Charles Clifford’s port plans which also bypassed the Central Tenders Committee.

Duguay explained that the previous port project only went as far as a Memorandum of Understanding with the Atlantic Star developer but not a contract and had it done so he probably would have wanted to audit the process. He also observed that the schools did go through the CTC.

At a PPM council meeting on Monday night, Alden McLaughlin reminded party supporters that this was the old problem of McKeeva Bush not going through the proper CTC process rearing its ugly head yet again. McLaughlin observed that the LoGB’s claims that the AG was treating the previous administration and the current administration differently were unfounded because the PPM followed the law.

“You can say the schools may be costing too much but the award of that contract was not made by us it was made by the Central Tendering Committee, which is why the AG had not seen the need for an audit,” McLaughlin said. He added that it was a dangerous precedent to set up a committee of politicians and have them say who will get a contract. “When there is that level of political involvement we are unlikely to get value for money as it is going to go to people who are going to support the politicians.”

McLaughlin said that the reason why the law was established to ensure all contracts over $250,000 go to CTC was to take politics and nepotism out of the decision and get the best person for the job, not the best person for politics.

However, Bush has remained undeterred and continues to defend the way the project is moving along. Speaking on Rooster’s phone in show, Crosstalk, on Tuesday morning, he said that government was not spending any money on the project, one which was badly needed, as the cruise industry was in jeopardy and it was a priority for the country. “We are not spending anything on this,” he said. “So there is no value for money issue.”

He said he would make sure the project was in the best interest of the country and there would be an environmental assessment done to see how it could affect Seven Mile Beach, but that no governor, no auditor and no opposition knew the situation better that McKeeva Bush. Asked about the recent FCCA report and the evidence that cruise tourism in Cayman is doing well, with 90% of visitors coming of the ships, Bush dismissed it and said there were other issues at work making Cayman lose money.

The decision on who will be offered the port project is expected to be finalized today during the Cabinet meeting. CNS understands that a consortium of local developers working with the Dart Group will be taking the lead on the project with backing from a major cruise line. It is also speculated that Misener Marine, the company involved in the previous Royal Watler Cruise Terminal project, will be involved in the construction of the two cruise piers.

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Jamaican government asked why police chief resigned

Jamaican government asked why police chief resigned

| 03/11/2009 | 10 Comments

(Jamaica Gleaner): The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce has urged the Government to tell the nation the real reason why Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin has resigned as commissioner of police. "We believe the nation has a right to know exactly why Police Commissioner Lewin has resigned and we call on the Government to move swiftly to restore a sense of security in our land," according to a statement yesterday from president of the chamber, Milton Samuda. "We view him as a police commissioner who has been forthright and who has operated with integrity. In our view, the firmness he displayed during his tenure is what is required in Jamaica at this time," Samuda said.

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Part3 of Constitution feature looks at rules & rights

Part3 of Constitution feature looks at rules & rights

| 03/11/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): In part three of government’s series explaining the content of the Cayman Islands new constitution which comes into effect this Friday on the Appointed Day. In this feature Government information Services looks at the Bill of rights which despite being the most fundamental to the people it will in fact not be implemented for another three years.

(GIS): While the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land, protective guidelines for the extended Cayman Islands ‘family’ are to be found in its Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities. This initial section of the new Constitution is perhaps the most fundamental, for it will impact our quality of life. For the first time, a local Bill of Rights will guarantee basic freedoms and human rights for all. But in order to make these provisions a reality, government must ensure that human rights obligations at least meet minimum international standards. However, in some, but not all cases, the requirement to meet them must also be balanced against the collective rights of others, as well as the country’s economic capability at any given time. Cayman’s Bill of Rights will generally come into effect on 6 November 2012 – three years after the introduction of the revised Constitution.

This extended timeframe will allow government to complete necessary preparations, such as ensuring that all local laws comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Government will also ready itself for the rights-based systemrelative to the services it provides to the public, including to prison inmates. 

However, provisions stipulating the segregation of prisoners will not be operational until 2013, thereby giving government reasonable time to put in place the necessary infrastructure for both juvenile and adult inmates.  

Under the Bill, a resident’s rights and freedoms are clearly outlined, but it also stipulates each individual’s responsibilities to others. Legal requirements will likewise ensure that government honours its obligation to provide national safety and security.

But while it protects people against unlawful abuse by government, the Bill does not address general grievances based on disagreements between individuals.

In short, the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities stipulates that all persons are free to choose the direction of their lives; pursue economic, social and cultural interests and enjoy recreation and the fruits of their labour in peace and satisfaction. However, their activities must not be harmful to others, and must fall within the law. The Bill also acknowledges the institution of marriage and protects a couple’s right to have a family.

 It likewise ensures children special rights, including appropriate health care, nutrition and protection from exploitation. The document further allows children the right to education, either in public or private schools, and generally shields them from discrimination.

Additionally, regardless of a person’s age, sex, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability, everyone will enjoy equal rights as expressed in the Constitution.

Human (and worldwide) rights further serve to uphold each person’s life and dignity. They include basics such as privacy, expression, assembly, and the right to a fair trial.

That said, whilst some rights, such as protection against slavery or inhuman or degrading treatment are also considered to be absolute, this is not the case for all.

Some rights are limited because of their very nature. Such rights are sometimes curtailed because unrestricted exercise of these, such as the right to freedom of expression, may infringe on the rights of others. 

In these instances, the state may reasonably regulate said rights or at times, as in extreme circumstances, even temporarily suspend them, for example during national emergencies. These limited or qualified rights are the most delicate of all, and that is why any reduction of them must be reasonably justified before the law.

In addition, the courts system will remain an integral aspect of the human rights equation. When the Bill of Rights comes into force, individuals will be properly able to bring human rights claims for the courts to hear and decide. And neither is Constitutional protection limited to people, for it also extends to the environment. Although some conservation laws were previously passed, Cayman’s unique natural environment will now benefit from additional safeguards.

 In future, government must legally protect critical aspects of heritage and wildlife, both on land and at sea. It must also prevent pollution and damage, while ensuring ecologically-sustainable development.

Finally, over the next few months thenew Human Rights Commission will be established and greater awareness of the rights regime in the Cayman Islands will thereby be afforded to people locally.

But even beyond that point, Caymanian residents should all strive to know the rules that govern our rights. Only then will we be properly positioned to respond to and appreciate protections outlined in the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities and enshrined in the first section of the new Constitution

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Bryant to marry boyfriend at UK parliament

Bryant to marry boyfriend at UK parliament

| 03/11/2009 | 64 Comments

(CNS): The Foreign and Commonwealth minister, Chris Bryant, who has responsibility for the Overseas Territories could become the first gay member of the House of Commons to marry at the location. According to reports in the British media, the 47 year old minister and representative of the Rhondda Valley is planning a civil partnership ceremony, which will be hosted at Westminster. Bryant, a former Church of England chaplain, and his partner, Jared Cranney, are said to be working with John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, to finalise the details of the ceremony.

Because of Church of England rules that do not allow civil partnerships actually inside a church Bryant will not marry in the Chapel of St Mary in Parliament but is considering using the Speaker’s house for the first ever same sex marriage in the British parliament, the Daily Telegraph reported.  According to the Independent, Bercow is in the process of obtaining a licence for the property to become the regular location for civil partnerships.

MPs, peers and their families are able to get married in the 14th-century chapel on the Parliamentary estate, but like all religious venues in Britain, it cannot be used for civil partnerships, which is why the Speaker’s house is being considered as another option.

Bercow’s spokesman said: ‘The Speaker is very keen on the idea of holding civil partnership ceremonies at Westminster and he would be very happy for the Speaker’s house to be used. There are however a number of legal and practical problems that we are looking into."

Bryant, who once posed in his underpants on a gay dating website, has said he believes the clergy should be much more open about civil partnerships and treat them like traditional marriages, calling for them to be celebrated in churches. Despite the historic nature of the planned ‘wedding’, the MP told the Daily Mail he was “just happy to be getting married”.

The former deputy leader of the House, who met his partner while campaigning in Soho with Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, said, "Jared and I are engaged and we hope to have a civil partnership – or a marriage is what it feels like – in March of next year. We’d like to do it in Parliament if possible."

Several MPs have entered into civil partnerships. Tory MP Alan Duncan was the first member of either the Cabinet or shadow Cabinet to enter into a civil partnership in July 2008, while Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, became the first MP to enter into a civil partnership, after a ceremony with a BBC journalist. The UK Prime minister Gordon Brown has also said that civil ceremonies should be allowed in Westminster as part of the drive to modernise Parliament.

Downing Street said the move would send a “powerful message that the mother of Parliaments is truly representative”. The Speaker’s house was built in 1858 and is situated under Big Ben, with views over the Thames. It is thought the ceremony would be staged in the state dining room where the Speaker hosts formal events.

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PPM queries budget surplus

PPM queries budget surplus

| 03/11/2009 | 43 Comments

(CNS): Explaining why he and the PPM members abstained from voting on the budget last month, Kurt Tibbetts, the leader of the opposition, said they couldn’t vote ‘no’ because of the pressing need to meet government commitments, nor could they vote ‘yes’ when there was so much uncertainty over the projections. Speaking to the party faithful at the PPM’s first national council meeting since the election, Tibbetts said that there were genuine fears in the industry that the increase in fees could drive business away and the government would not only fail to achieve its objective of keeping the UK at bay, it could damage the financial services industry as well.

Tibbetts noted that there had been no need for the country to project a surplus as even the UK had accepted that the previously large deficit could be addressed over more than one year. He said that in the drive by the current government to avoid dealing with the UK, it had chosen to raise fees, a gamble which may not pay off. Tibbetts’ criticisms come in the wake of increasing questions from the sector, including STEP and the Law Society, that have also expressed concern that the fees will drive business away.

During the meeting, which was well attended by PPM supporters, Tibbetts said that the small reduction in operating expenses of $5million had not come from any real cut in public sector day to day costs, but government was now not paying into the past service pension liability fund, putting civil servant pensions at risk. Instead of reducing operating costs by any significant amount, Tibbetts said he believed Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush was hoping to raise an extra $94 million in the remaining part of this fiscal year with fee increases.

“The difficulty with this revenue package is we don’t know if the projections will be realized,” said the oppositionleader. “There are real fears by many of those involved in industry that the increase will drive business away so the revenue will fall. This is a very risky business being employed to avoid having to talk to the UK.”

He said that while every ill in the country had been directed at the previous administration for the capital projects, he once again defended the decisions. The opposition leader said the spending plans had been early in the PPM’s term when revenue predictions were high. The government building would save government $10 million per annum and that the schools were desperately needed and if they were not built, in less than two years there would be no room for kids to go to school.

He also said that the country would still have been in deficit without the schools as it was a massive decline in revenue and an increase in operating costs caused by the financial crisis which was at the bottom of the problem.  “With or without the new government building or the schools we would have had an operating deficit anyway,” Tibbetts stated, adding that at least these projects were necessary, visible and had kept Caymanians in work.

It was time to recognise the real reason for the problem, Tibbetts added, which was the global economic challenges. He explained that government earnings were down tremendously, with  $21 million less in revenue being collected over the last three months than had been predicted. With the pressure from the UK, the leader of the PPM said that the government had put together a revenue package that increased fees but they hadn’t looked at how to trim operational revenue.

“They tell us we were over spending and they say they have cut it by $5 million, but they have not. They have cut the past service pension liability fund, putting pensions at risk,and if they had chosen to pay that protection, the revenue would be far greater,” Tibbetts observed.

If the government doesn’t earn what it predicts it will, he warned, the situation with the UK will be far more difficult than if government had predicted to address the deficit over a longer period. Given that the UK was itself predicting a pound sterling deficit of 1 trillion, it would have been better to predict a deficit and cut operating costs rather than increase so many fees, he said.

“We have serious doubts in the short term but we are also facing potential long term damage. If the raising of fees causes business to leave, it really will have to be taken from people’s pockets. We don’t want this to happen,” Tibbetts added. “We have every desire to work alongside the government but you can imagine how difficult that is. But we have still offered to do so in writing as well, but have not received a reply.”

Admitting that everything the PPM administration did was not perfect, Tibbetts said his government plans had been based on projected revenue and how much borrowing could be sustained on that.

“Obviously those projections were not right and when the Michael Foot review speaks about that he does so with the benefit of hindsight,” Tibbetts added, referring to the recent review from the UK Treasury which severely criticised and questioned the CIG decisions to embark on spending projects in a downturn.

“When we realized things were slimming revenue-wise, we cancelled many planned projects but we couldn’t stop the ones we were already involved in.” He said they had buoyed up the domestic economy in very difficult times andstopping them would have been a bad decision. “Not even the world’s best economists predicted how drastic and how fast this crisis would hit.”

Lamenting the continued failure to address the growth in the civil service, he admitted it was a perpetual problem as every time the country’s revenue increased the cost of the civil service would increase by around 50%. “We asked the official members over and over to start cutting, and while the civil service grew in our time, we did not hire them,” Tibbetts added. “The hiring and firing of civil service is not down to elected officials.”

Nor, he said, was it down to the rank and file of the civil service but the fault was with leadership who constantly grew departments when something new was introduce instead of looking to see where things could be absorbed. During the meeting, the issue of the failure to reduce the civil service was a major talking point and Tibbetts said he is still mystified over what happened to the 6% cut, a policy introduced by the PPM in 2008 which seemed to have never materialized.

“After giving instructions to cut operating expenses by 6%, we discover at the end of the year from the financial secretary that instead of the costs going down they went up by over $19 million,” Tibbetts added.  “To this day I don’t understand that.  I even asked the governor and he couldn’t explain it.”

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Foot gets unexpected welcome

Foot gets unexpected welcome

| 03/11/2009 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The results of the UK Treasury’s review by Sir Michael Foot have been welcomed by one of the Cayman Islands’ most high profile law firms, which said it believes the results demonstrate how significant the jurisdiction is when it comes to the world financial markets. Maples & Calder said yesterday that, aside from the criticisms regarding the management of the economy, the rest of the report is very positive for the islands and should be welcomed by the financial industry. Foot’s review not only confirms Cayman’s commitment to international standards but also its importance to the UK economy.

Contrary to the claims by the industry body Cayman Finance, which said the report was “much ado about nothing”, the tenants of Ugland House, who have received considerable criticism from the US and in particular President Barack Obama, have said this balanced review should be broadly welcomed, not least because the report specifically highlights the role the Cayman Islands plays in the global financial markets as the world’s leading centre for hedge funds.

Senior Partner Charles Jennings said the review shows how significant fees are earned by management companies and other services providers based in the UK by providing services to international investors in these Cayman Islands funds. This helps provide UK-based jobs and supports taxable revenues in the UK.

“The report confirms how international authorities have reviewed and confirmed that the anti-money laundering laws and levels of regulation in the Cayman Islands meet international standards, and in the case of identifying beneficial ownership of companies exceeds the standards applied in certain G20 countries, such as the US,” Jennings said. “The report also explains the levels of booked bank deposits in Cayman Islands banks, an often misunderstood subject.”

The review explains that much of the money on deposit in banks here comes from US banks, which place overnight deposits with their Cayman Islands branches to enable them to pay interest on overnight deposits, subject to oversight by the US Federal Reserve who regulate these US banks.

“It also affirms that in addition to the tax information exchange agreements with many OECD member states, the Cayman Islands has adopted the EU Savings Directive and Cayman Islands banks already automatically report interest payments on accounts of EU residents to all EU member states,” Jennings added.

Above all, the report serves as an interesting counter to the most recent report from the Tax Justice Network, which ranks Cayman as the 4th most secret jurisdiction in the world, Jennings observed.

“This report convincinglyrefutes assertions made by the Tax Justice Network and others as to the flight of capital offshore by demonstrating that, in reality, both the United States and the United Kingdom are net recipients of funds from offshore financial centres, and not vice versa," he added.

Last week Cayman Finance said the report was not damaging and dismissed its contents and said Cayman needed take no action as a result of it.

Although Foot certainly raises concerns about the government’s economic management and the jurisdictions resilience to the world economic crisis, he acknowledges that Cayman is the only overseas territory to have enshrined borrowing limits in legislation and offers no other criticisms of Cayman and its offshore industry.

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