Archive for November 20th, 2009

FCO rep denies UK hypocrisy

FCO rep denies UK hypocrisy

| 20/11/2009 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Just because the United Kingdom is dealing with its own debt problems and government scandals over MP expenses does not mean Britain should not try and strive for good governance and financial management in its territories, says the Foreign Office Director for Overseas Territories. Colin Roberts told the Cayman media this week that he did not feel there was any issue of hypocrisy in Britain’s dealings with Cayman and that the UK wanted Cayman to do well and prosper. "Where there has been a failure or problem with public finance in the UK that does not mean we should not try to make things better in the overseas territories,” he said at a round table meeting with the local press during his short visit to Cayman.

Roberts said the charge, with which he was familiar, that the UK did not have the moral authority to impose standards on Cayman was unfounded, as he said the goal was to see things were done better in the territories as well as in the UK and to work together to improve things. “A huge amount of work is going on in the UK to address the deficit,” he said, adding that it was not logical to say the UK should ignore the public finance problems in Cayman because of its own debt.

In Friday’s Daily Telegraph it was reported that the UK debt in October 2009 was 88 times what it was in October 2008 and that Britain’s deficit will remain higher than what it described as “any other major country”, including Iceland and Ireland, unless the government takes far more drastic action to repair it.

However, Roberts did not see the financial circumstances of his own government in any way hindering how the UK directed its territories. He also said that standards of good governance applied to everyone and they were not arbitrary standards made up by the UK just for Cayman, but were standards which the UK was also working to achieve.

Contrary to what people were currently thinking, the UK, Roberts stated, was not trying to undermine the success of the Cayman Islands at all but quite the contrary, as it wanted Cayman to be successful. He said the perspective as seen from London was that the two countries and the people had shared objectives that Cayman should be secure, prosperous and well-governed. He recognised that a number of people here doubted the second objective, but their doubt was misplaced.

“Why on earth would we not want the Cayman Islands to be prosperous?” Roberts asked. He pointed out that if Cayman’s economy was not successful that, as an overseas territory, Cayman would become dependent on the UK tax payer — a scenario which the UK was intent on avoiding by encouraging better financial management.

Suggestions about diversifying the local economy were all about ensuring that Cayman remained economically successful as well as secure, and that it would be able to weather any future global financial storms, regulation changes or attacks on the financial sector, he observed.  “We don’t know where the next external shock will come from,” the OT director said, adding that managing finances was an important part of Cayman’s future security.

He noted that Foot’s report had revealed that, contrary to certain prevailing beliefs, Cayman and London were not in direct competition and that the City had nothing to gain by Cayman’s demise. If Cayman was to cease being a financial player, its business would not go to the UK, and he acknowledged that Cayman played an important role in channelling money and business to the UK’s own financial sector. Contrary to the UK prime minister’s own political views, however, Roberts expressed his belief that, based on the Foot report, the sums lost to all the OFCS from the UK exchequer were nothing like the figures which had been suggested by the NGOs and other pressure groups campaigning against so-called tax havens.

Recognising that there was some turbulence in the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands, the FCO rep said that was one of the reasons for his visit as it was important to talk about how things could be improved and how the UK wanted to work in partnership with Cayman. “I am here to listen and to see how we can establish a dialogue on the way forward,” he said adding that the UK was still going to be more closely involved in issues of good governance and public finance management.

Discussing the spectre of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which politicians and the wider public in Cayman have suggested the UK is using a veiled threat to get Cayman to toe the line, Roberts said it was a very different situation. He explained that not only had there been significant mismanagement of public funds in that jurisdiction, but there were issues of political corruption that had nothing to do with the global crisis but which caused the UK major concern.

The meeting with the local press concluded a number of engagements that Roberts had attended during his stay, which included the premier, other government representative and members of the private sector. He confirmed that, while he was returning to the UK, he would be following up discussion with Cayman’s premier when Bush next visits London. Roberts also made it clear that the UK would be watching Cayman’s financial progress over the next few months to observe how well it stayed within the projections made for the 2009/10 budget.

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Immigration: Foreign entertainers need workpermits

Immigration: Foreign entertainers need workpermits

| 20/11/2009 | 55 Comments

(CNS): Although government has said it will be looking at the immigration regulations regarding very short term work permits, government officials today released a reminder that local entertainment promoters have a legal obligation to apply for temporary work permits for foreign entertainers who intend to perform in the Cayman Islands. For the purposes of the Immigration Law (2009 Revision), that includes people performing musical acts individually or as a part of an orchestra; singers, disc jockeys, or comics; and circus or carnival performers. (Left: Even Alicia Keys will need a valid workpermit to perform at Jazz Fest next month)

The Department of Immigration said that all promoters of entertainment events must also possess valid trade and business licences. Applications for temporary work permits must be submitted well in advance of the proposed event and before advertising or ticket selling begins, the department warned.

“Promoters should note that if applications are submitted late there is a risk that they will not be processed in time and the event may have to be cancelled. They are therefore urged to submit applications at least 30 days before advertising the event,” immigration said in a government release.

It explained that the required documents include a fully-completed application form, which has been signed by the performers and the promoter (in his or her capacity as employer for the event); police clearance certificates and photographs for each of the performers; a cover letter from the promoter outlining the details of the event or events; and the required fees. The promoter must also submit with the application DVD or video footage showing the nature and content of the proposed performance.

Prior to submitting temporary work permit applications, immigration said that the promoter must obtain the written views of the Cayman Islands Music Association (CMEA) and those must be attached to the work permit application. The CMEA may be contacted via email at or by telephone at 547 0609.

For further information concerning the work permit requirements for entertainers, contact the Department of Immigration on 949 8344 or visit the Ddepartment’s website at

CNS note: In response to several comments that suggest Ms Keys does not need a work permit, GIS has confirmed that not only does she need one but that she has one for this event.

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UK warned of debt spiral

UK warned of debt spiral

| 20/11/2009 | 0 Comments

(Daily Telegraph): Britain is at growing risk of a "public debt spiral" unless the Government takes "drastic" action to cut the deficit, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Even if Britain reduces its deficit in line with other leading nations, it will still have the rich world’s biggest deficit from now until 2017 and potentially beyond, casting serious doubt on its economic credibility, the OECD has said. The warning coincided with shock public finance statistics showing that public borrowing in October was 88 times what it was in the same month last year, making it likely that the Chancellor will miss his £175bn borrowing forecast this year.

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Governor to leave Cayman in December

Governor to leave Cayman in December

| 20/11/2009 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Arguably one of Cayman’s most controversial governors in recent history, Stuart Jack will be bidding fare well to the islands in ten days time. Having clashed with the members of the politically elected on both sides of the Legislative Assembly, generated wide public condemnation and run up a substantial tab in the pursuit of good governance, he may go down in history as the governor that set Cayman on the road to independence. According to a release from GIS, Jack and his wife Mariko have announced their intention to depart the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, 2 December.

Deputy Governor, Donovan Ebanks, will act as governor until Duncan Taylor, takes over the position in January 2010.

Jack will be remembered amongmany other things for presiding over the Operation Tempura fiasco and the discredited Special Police Investigation Team, which is likely to cost the island well over $10 million before it is fully concluded. The so-called corruption investigation has included the unlawful arrest of a court judge, the suspension of the best part of the country’s police leadership, and a string of failed court cases and scandals surrounding the UK officers allegedly brought here to root out corruption.

The governor has been widely and publically criticised for his interpretation of good governance and what elected officials have described as his “derision for elected members” of government. For the best part of his time here Jack worked with the PPM government but first came into public conflict with them when he instigated a tribunal to examine the leaking of documents by Charles Clifford that exposed questions about the financing of the Turtle Farm under the previous UDP administration.

Following the unlawful arrest of Justice Alex Henderson by SPIT as part of Operation Tempura, the elected government began speaking out against him. The public, too, began questioning the motives of the latest representative from the UK and wondered if he was deliberately trying to undermine the stability of the jurisdiction. Following a judicial review which exonerated the judge and resulted in a damages award of CI$1.275 million, the governor was forced to admit mistakes had been made in the investigation.

Since the May general election, the governor has also clashed several times with the new UDP administration over the auditor general’s decision to look into the port tendering, as well as the issues concerning legal aid changes among others.

Since Jack took up his posting as governor and as events unfolded, including the growing rift between the UK and the CI government, the issue of independence has begun to be debated more widely than ever before.

At his recent signing in ceremony, on the day the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution was enacted, the new premier, McKeeva Bush, warned that the day would come eventually when Cayman severed the ties with the UK. But in the meatime, he warned the incoming governor not to micro-manage — signalling possible further frictions ahead between the new governor and the new political administration.

Jack’s successor, Taylor, was the British High Commissioner for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, a position he held from 2005. Describe as a career diplomat, Taylor has served in the UK’s foreign office for 27 years and he has already made it clear that he too will be continuing the pursuit of what the UK has defined as good governance in its territories.

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Judge fights Jack over report

Judge fights Jack over report

| 20/11/2009 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Lawyers for the suspended grand court judge, Justice Priya Levers, have filed an application for a judicial review to stop the governor from releasing the report produced by Sir Andrew Leggatt on the tribunal which heard complaints against the judge earlier this year. The report was given to the governor in August and recommended that Justice Levers’ case go before the Privy Council in London to decide if she should be struck off the bench. Following an FOI request on the report, the governor has made moves to release it. However, the judge is fighting to keep it under wraps until she has fought her case before the UK’s highest court.

Following a number of complaints regarding the judge’s behaviour going back to 2007, the governor, Stuart Jack, announced last year that he was to convene a tribunal to hear those complaints, which eventually sat in May 2009. The complaints included accusations that the judge had written letters to the media undermining the judiciary, that she had spoken ill of her judicial colleagues in public and that she had made inappropriate remarks and shown bias in court. The findings of the tribunal were then submitted to governor in August, but he said they would not be made public until after the Privy Council had heard Levers’ case.

Legal documents filed in the Grand Court earlier this month by Levers’ attorneys,  Stuarts Walker Hersant, have requested a judicial review to hear their case to prevent the governor from releasing the report before the Privy Council hearing because the lawyers say it is unlawful and will prejudice the judge’s case.

“The Applicant seeks an Order of prohibition against the Respondent (the Governor) permitting the publication of the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the removal of the Applicant until a determination has been made by Her Majesty’s Privy Council, upon its Advice to Her Majesty The Queen, on whether the Applicant should be removed as a Grand Court Judge….”

The lawyers note that, not only would the release of the report before the case is concluded by against natural justice, the governor had stated public in a press release and in the media that he would not publish the contents until after the case went to London.

Although it is unclear by whom and when the Freedom of Information request was made, the governor appears to have made his decision to release the report on 2 November, which is when Levers’ legal team moved to stop the application.

Following his receipt of Leggatt’s report in August, Jack had clearly stated that because “the case is ongoing and will be referred to the Privy Council the governor is not at liberty to release the report.”

But then in a letter to the judge’s lawyers on 2 November, three months after the governor had said he would not release it and was not at liberty to do so, his special counsel said that the lawyers had been provided with ample time to peruse the report and the governor considered it appropriate and in the “public’s interest” that he makes it public, and the proposed date for the release was 10 November 2009.

“The Applicant respectfully contends that the Respondent’s decision is irrational, ultra vires, inconsistent, in breach of the principles of natural justice, disproportionate contrary to the Applicant’s legitimate expectation and, prima fade, unlawful,” the lawyers state in their documentation to the court. The lawyers argue that the public’s interest with regard to natural justice would be undermined should the report be made public before the hearing is complete.

Furthermore, according to an affidavit filed with the judicial review application from Justice Levers, the governor’s special counsel had not informed the Privy Counsel that the governor had stated publically he would not release the tribunal reportuntil after that court heard the case. The affidavit also states that all parties including the tribunal members had agreed that the report would be submitted to the governor on an entirely confidential basis and remain that way until the case reached its full conclusion.

A spokesperson for Levers said the judge did not wish to hide anything from the people of the Cayman Islands but simply wished to ensure her case was heard properly. “There is no certainty of any decision until the Privy Council have heard all the evidence,” the spokesperson said. “In the past, tribunals on other cases have been found by the Privy Council to have shown bias and the judge’s case is not over yet. All she is asking for is a fair hearing.”

CNS also understands that the judicial review, which is now scehduled to be heard on Friday morning is behind closed doors in judges chambers.

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Employment opportunities fall, lay offs increase

Employment opportunities fall, lay offs increase

| 20/11/2009 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Employment opportunities are not as abundant as they once were, the director of the Department of Employment Relations has said, and the figures reveal that 56% of those looking for work have only a high school diploma. In a week when hundreds of workers were laid off at the school projects, a local law firm cut staff and more than 900 people turned up for wok cleaning roads, government was reminded this week that is has a serious employment problem on its hands.

Lonnie Tibbetts, the DER director, told New 27 that there are some 843 people registered with the department that say they are now unemployed and looking for jobs, and although this is a decline on its previous figure of over 900, he said he believes that there are considerable numbers of unemployed people not registered. Tibbetts said that the labour market is tighter than ever and those with a job should hang to it.

“Jobs are as not as abundant as they once were and we have a very rigid labour market,” Tibbetts told the television news, and added that those who were in work should bite their tongue and stick with it.

The minister with responsibility for labour, Rolston Anglin, said the first focus was to work with immigration and the employment department to ensure skilled Caymanians get the work as permits come up for renewal. He also said the unemployed need to be trained so they can take the jobs that are available. “We need to be focusing on them individually to ensure we are enhancing their skills to make them more employable so they can earn higher wages and take up some of the jobs that right now are not within their reach,” Anglin told News 27.

He also said the drive to attract inward investment was crucial and that the government needed to attract business and not chase it away to create more new jobs.

The extent of unemployment problems were highlighted by the premier in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, when he pointed out that more than 900 people in Grand Cayman had applied for the work which government had for cleaning up the island. He confirmed that only 300 were taken for the clean up project.

The current standstill at the two high school construction sites has seen hundreds of workers laid off and, with the exception of the work at Camana Bay and the proposed port development, there are few major construction projects in the pipeline that can absorb the significant number of local workers employed by that sector.

Leading local law firm Walkers let around 21 people go last week, a mix of both permit holders and locals. While unemployment among Caymanians may be a populist priority for government, with work permits down 17%, the loss of jobs held by foreign workers also presents a problem for government. Such declines in revenue could easily tip what is a finely balanced budget into deficit before the fiscal year end.  

Go to News 27 video

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Tax review delay news to UK

Tax review delay news to UK

| 20/11/2009 | 6 Comments

(CNS): The target date set by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for completion of the independent review of potential new revenue measures is impractical, the premier has said, and it will not be completed until February 2010. McKeeva Bush told the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that he had informed the FCO of the change in schedule as the director of overseas territories, Colin Roberts, is visiting Cayman this week. However, at a meeting with the media on Thursday morning Roberts said he was unaware of the premier’s plan to delay the review, which could present a problem as the results of the review were intended to influence the 2010/11 budget.

During his strategic policy statement on Wednesday afternoon, when Bush outlined his government’s broader policy goals for the next three years, he said that the administration’s intention was to seek a wider more stable income base for the country. He said government had agreed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to appoint an independent commission to conduct a professional assessment of the options for, and potential impact of, new revenue sources.

The review formed part of the conditions placed on the Cayman government by the OT minster, Chris Bryant, when he agreed to sanction further borrowing that would take the jurisdiction outside of the parameters of the Public Management and Finance Law. However, the UK had asked for the assessment to be completed before the end of 2009 so that the results would assist in formulating the 2010/11 budget.

In the assembly Bush said that the timeline was not possible and that now the results would be submitted to Cabinet by 28 February 2010, two months later than has supposedly been agreed. “The FCO had asked for it by the end of December, but Colin Roberts is here from the FCO and I have told him the timeframe is not practical,” he said.

Roberts, the FCO manager, said on Thursday morning that he was unaware of this development, despite meeting with the premier on Wednesday, and that he had not been informed. The governor, Stuart Jack, also said he had not been told about the altered timeline.  He said, however, if this was the case, the FCO would be asking the premier to accelerate the assessment.  “Because of the time taken to complete the negotiations the time left to complete that study was tight. But I will be encouraging the premier to eccelorate that work,” he said.

Roberts explained that the premier had agreed to include the recommendations for new revenue in the formation of the next budget and give the timeline of when that would be prepared. If the assessment is delayed until February it would be harder for the administration to consider the new measures for that budget. He went on to say that if the review was not completed and there was not an extension of the revenue base, there would be practical problems for the government if the budget fell into deficit this fiscal year.

“The Cayman government would be in the situation of not having the necessary funds to pay its bills,” Roberts said, adding that he hoped that the review would be done as close to the agreed timeline as possible. He said if this year’s budget came out in surplus as predicted there would be no problem, but he noted the approval for the government to borrow was based on this agreement.

Former Ronald Reagan aide and staunch republican, James Miller III, has been asked to chair the commission and will be working with the former UK Conservative MP, David Shaw. Miller told CNS last week that the commission has already began to prepare its work for the assessment and expected it to be a challenging project.

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