Archive for January 17th, 2011

Tourism aims to be ‘kind’

| 17/01/2011 | 69 Comments

(CNS): The minister for tourism has revealed that the department is about to unveil a new marketing campaign in the USA called ‘CaymanKind’. In a statement to his colleagues in the Legislative Assembly on Friday reviewing the performance of the tourism industry over 2010, McKeeva Bush said that the year had proved to be better than 09 and the department was geared up to rebound further in the coming twelve months despite the fact that 2011 is expected to be a tough year. The sector will play a pivotal role in the revival of the economy he said adding that it was important for everyone to extend CaymanKindness to those who visit.

The new brand campaign in the USA is about the entire Cayman experience, Bush said.
“CaymanKind encompasses everything that makes the Cayman Islands unique – from the friendliness of our people and our rich cultural heritage to our cosmopolitan style, stunning natural beauty and warm welcome, which we extend to those who visit our shores,” he added.

The premier said that according to Trendwatching.com, which is one of the world’s most visited sources for consumer trends and insights, Random Acts of Kindness are ranked as number one when it comes to crucial consumer trends for the coming year.

“The key to our future success relies on our ability to continually adapt and grow our product base, but more importantly, it lies within each of us, in our ability to extend CaymanKindness to those who visit our shores,” he added.  

He noted that following on the improvements of 2010 the growth, sustainability and economic viability of the Tourism industry would remain top priorities this year. Despite budget cuts he said the DoT would continue to work assiduously to identify new offers and further develop existing products and infrastructure. 

“Competition from destinations outside of our usual competitive set like Latin America and the Gulf States is expected to increase and the playing field is likely to become much tougher than it’s ever been. In addition, we can be certain that consumers will be researching more, spending smarter and demanding more value for money which is why the DOT is placing emphasis on improving customer service standards and enhancing the visitor experience.”  
 

The premier said that over the last year DOT had conducted over 180 PRIDE workshops in an effort to train people working in the hospitality industry – particularly those on the front line. More than 2500 ‘tourism ambassadors’ have completed PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence) workshops since it started. In addition, a pilot programme has also been developed for schools for year 11 and 12 students.

Addressing the issue of human capital development in the tourism industry Bush said that Caymanians need to be encouraged to become involved in tourism.

“I am therefore particularly pleased to note that 52 Apprentices have graduated with CARIBCERT certification and 22 new apprentices have enrolled in the 2010/11 programme,” the premier said.

As well as key marketing initiatives and promotions he said the DoT will continue to work with Cayman Airways to keep improving airlift figures. The target to reach 300,000 air arrivals for 2010 is unlikely to be met but the air arrivals are still up by around 6% on the 2009 figure of just under 272,000. With the addition of the new direct WestJet service from Toronto to Grand Cayman and return of CAL’s Chicago and Washington services the premier said the number of overnight guests coming to Cayman was considerably more than it may have been given the global circumstances.

He also revealed that private aircraft arrivals have also increased by 5 percent this December and Cayman also received an additional 18 new aircrafts this December due to an extremely cold winter in Florida.

See tourism arrival statistics here

See the premier’s full tourism presentation below

 

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Premier reveals first recipients of ‘people’s awards’

| 17/01/2011 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Following his announcement last year and the passage of the law, the premier has named the first people who will receive the country’s newest awards. The Order of the Cayman Islands, referred to as the “people’s awards” by the country’s leader when he introduce them, has three categories: the Medal of Honour, which may be awarded at the Commander, Officer, or Member levels; the Medal of Merit category is sub-divided into gold and silver; and the Long Service Award. In the first honour roll call McKeeva Bush has awarded the medals to twenty-four people from all walks of the community, including attorney Steve McField (left), Dr Steve Tomlinson and story teller Twyla Vargas. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The first Medal of Honour (Commander) ever to be awarded have gone to Allan Steve McField, Carley Elton Ebanks, Thomas Evert Ebanks, Harris Draper Ebanks, William Harvey Ebanks, Ashton Smith Tatum, Charles Winton Sr, Layman Emmiel Scott Sr and Dr Stephen Anthony Tomlinson.

Medal of Honour (Officer) goes to Monica E. Bryan, Ivan Laurie Farrington and Byron Derrick Ebanks.

Medal of Honour (Member) goes to Twyla Mae Vargas, Elva Evans and Alma J. McKenzie.

Medal of Merit (Gold) goes to Elbert McLean, Ernie Edison “Gillie” Seymour, Roy “Huta” Ebanks, Merta Day and Andy Cecil Myles.

Medal of Merit (Silver) goes to Jean Astria Solomon and Frank Albert Ebanks.

The Long Service Award has gone to Darlene N. Owens-Elliott and Emily Wilson.

The recipients will receive their awards at the country’s National Heroes Day celebrations on Monday 24 January. That day will also see the five new Cayman Islands National Heroes, who were announced last year, formally recognised during the ceremony.

The new National Heroes, all of whom are deceased, are being lauded for significant contributions to nation-building and community service in a number of areas, including aviation, nursing, politics and culture. They include T. William Farrington, Desmond Watler, Ormond Panton, Joyce Hylton and Evelyn Wood.

The five join the two previously named Cayman Islands National Heroes: the late James (Jim) Manoah Bodden, whose statue now graces Heroes Square, and Sybil Ione McLaughlin.

Five of the eight people who were named in this New Year’s Honours list in the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour category will also receive their award. .

According to officials, this year’s Heroes Day theme revolves around the development of aviation in the CaymanIslands and the contributions of 50 pioneers in this field will be highlighted.

The public is invited to attend Monday’s Heroes Day event and should be seated by 9:30am. Post-ceremony festivities will include live entertainment, local foods and an opportunity to reminisce on the significance of earlier stalwarts who so selflessly served this country.

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Details of Elmer’s discs may be “several weeks” away

| 17/01/2011 | 21 Comments

(CNS): The content of the discs reportedly containing the names of some 2,000 rich and famous individuals who, whistleblower Rudolf Elmer says, were using offshore centre to evade tax won’t be revealed for a few more weeks. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, who has promised full disclosure of the content, told the world’s media in London on Monday morning that because of the focus on other issues (namely its cache of some 250,000 diplomatic cables) it could be several weeks before Elmer’s discs are properly reviewed and posted on the website. However, Assange said that both the Financial Times and Bloomberg are possible candidates that could be given the information ahead of time.

In a rare public appearance since his own arrest, the WikiLeaks boss said the files or parts of them may be given to the British government’s fraud investigators.

Elmer and Assange appeared together at a press conference in London at the Frontline Club ahead of Rudolf’s return to his native Switzerland, where he is to face trial for breaking that country’s secrecy laws and stealing information from Julius Baer, a Swizz based bank. However, the documents that Elmer is said to have taken from the bank and handed to Wikileaks in 2007 were taking from its Cayman Islands subsidiary, where Elmer was based for eight years before he was sacked in 2002.

On this latest disc Elmer claims there are details of the financial dealings of at least 40 politicians, among others, which he said he wanted to hand over to Wikileaks before he went on trial. At the press conference Elmer denied any wrongdoing and said he was on the side of right. The former Cayman based banker said he wanted people to know the truth about money concealed in offshore accounts.

“I do think, as a banker, I have the right to stand up if something is wrong," said Elmer, " "I have been there, I have done the job, I know what the day-to-day business is, I know how much is documented there and how much is not. I am against the system. I know how the system works and I know the day-to-day business. From that point of view, I wanted to let society know what I know. It is damaging our society."

Assange praised the former banker’s attempts to expose alleged shady practices in the financial industry.

Elmer’s former employers claim that he had embarked on a personal intimidation campaign and vendetta against Julius Baer. “He also used falsified documents and made death threats against employees,” the bank has stated.

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Spain agrees not to call Cayman a “tax haven”

| 17/01/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The Spanish authorities will no longer consider the Cayman Islands as a tax haven once it signs a deal with the local government, officials said on Monday. Cayman has concluded negotiations for a tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with Spain, following accord on several areas of common interest, the ministry of finance has revealed. It said a key outcome of the agreement that will take effect upon its entry into force will see Spain no longer classifying the Cayman Islands as a ‘tax haven’ under its domestic legislation.

“The conclusion of negotiations with Spain and the anticipated reclassification of the Cayman Islands under Spanish tax law represent significant progress in the Cayman Islands international tax transparency programme,” said Cayman Islands Premier and Minister of Finance, McKeeva Bush.
“Spain is also an EU member state and a G-20 country and therefore, Cayman’s agreement fulfils the objectives of our negotiation strategy, which is focused on concluding TIEAs with nations in these two groups.”
The agreement will now proceed through the necessary authorisationprocesses on both sides to allow it to be signed and enter into force, officials explained. The date and location for the signing will be confirmed in the coming months.
The Cayman Islands currently has signed 20 bilateral arrangements for the provision of tax information. In addition to Spain, the Cayman Islands currently has 7 agreements awaiting signature – Italy, Japan, India, Greece, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea – and is in negotiations with many other countries of political and economic significance.
 

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Cuba calls US measures positive, but far from enough

| 17/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNN): Cuba onSunday called President Barack Obama’s latest easing of travel restrictions to the island nation "positive" but accused Washington of continuing its policy of "destabilization." On Friday, the White House announced it would allow more academic, cultural and religious travel, non-family remittances and would pave the way for more airports to service flights to Cuba. "Although the measures are positive, they fall short of justified demands," Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "These measures confirm that there is no willingness to change the policy of blockade and destabilization against Cuba," it added, noting that the measures do nothing to alter the decades-old US trade embargo.

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IRS may ask US banks to disclose account-owners’ ID

| 17/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): The Obama administration says US banks should disclose to the IRS bank accounts owned by foreigners, resurrecting a Clinton-era proposal that was opposed by banking groups and Republicans. The Internal Revenue Service proposed regulations Jan. 7 that would pave the way for the US for the first time to routinely share information with other governments about their citizens’ deposits in US financial institutions. The move is designed to help governments around the world pierce bank secrecy, the agency said. It follows a successful three-year effort by the US to pressure Switzerland and its biggest bank, UBS AG, to reveal the US owners of undeclared accounts held offshore. 

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Murder re-trial opens following quashed conviction

| 17/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): William McLaughlin-Martinez was due to return to the Grand Court on Monday morning to be tried for the second time for the murder of 20-year-old Brain Rankine-Carter, whose mutilated naked body was found in McField Square in George Town on 16 May 2008. McLaughlin-Martinez was convicted of the murder in July 2009. However, the conviction was squashed by the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal in August last year following an appeal. The appeals court found that a misdirection by the trial judge to the jury was enough to overturn the verdict and ordered a retrial. Martinez, who was serving a mandatory life sentence, has remained in jail on remand since the conviction was quashed.

A new jury was expected to be selected on Monday morning for the second trial, which will be presided over by Justice Charles Quin.

The key witness in the case remains Jason Hinds, aJamaican national who says he was with Martinez when the murder took palace. He was later convicted of accessory after the fact and was sentenced to three years in prison. However, he was released last year and deported.

The case will be prosecuted for a second time by Solicitor General Cheryll Richards QC and McLaughlin-Martinez will be represented by UK counsel, Mark Tomassi.

The crown’s case against the defendant, which has not altered, is that the victim was murdered by Martinez in an extremely violent attack after a drug deal went wrong. The murderer almost severed the head of the young man, who, according to forensic experts, had suffered more than 48 injuries that had been administered with a machete and something akin to an ice-pick.

The defence says the crown could not prove which one of the two men present that night was the murderer and which was the accessory. Although Martinez did not take the stand in his own defence, his counsel pointed to Hinds as the culprit.

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Tourism sector “buoyed” up by sinking of Kittiwake

| 17/01/2011 | 2 Comments

(CNS): The industry body that represents local tourism businesses says that the local dive sector has been buoyed up by a surge of interest in the destination as a result of the historic scuttling of the former US naval vessel, the Kittiwake, in the first week of the New Year. Officials from the Cayman Islands Tourism Association have said that there has been considerable interest from divers who plan to come to the Cayman Islands now just todive what the industry describes as a “new and exciting wreck dive”. Forty-six commercial vessels have already been licensed to take visitors to the attraction as well as sixteen private boats and interest is still growing, CITA said. (Photo by Courtney Platt)

“The Kittiwake is by far the best thing to happen in Cayman’s dive industry in the last decade,” said Steve Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers. “Local operators are thrilled with the international response and demand to visit this new attraction.”

According to officials, the new artificial reef is already averaging over one hundred divers per day and numbers are expected to increase as the word gets out about this unique new dive site.

CITA is now dealing with all the required paperwork to license operators and private visitors and organise annual passes for residents.

“We expect to receive and process the required paperwork from those operators and residents expressing interest by the end of the month,” said Trina Christian, CITA Executive Director.

All licensed vessels receive two full colour dive slates illustrating the wreck and used to help safely navigate the wreck and, for those qualified, to allow them to know which areas of the wreck can be penetrated.

In addition, commercial operators who are licensed vessels receive 3 annual (staff) passes and licensed private vessels receive two annual passes.

“CITA is urging all vessels to submit their license applications as soon as possible in order for them to start taking bookings for the busy March/April Spring Break period,” officials urged.

The project, which was the brain child of Nancy Easterbrook, was seven years in the making, and finally came to historic fruition in front of the world’s media and drew significant positive international attention in a dramatic controlled sinking just off Seven Mile Beach on 5 January.

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Law firms can’t afford articled clerks, says Jennings

| 17/01/2011 | 36 Comments

(CNS): Following questions surrounding a number of graduates from the Cayman Islands Law School who have been unable to do their articles, the president of the Law Society has called on the legal profession to review the system. Charles Jennings has said that many smaller law firms in Cayman are neither in a position to offer the variety of work needed for articles, nor can they afford to take on clerks and train them. Despite there being some 550 qualified attorneys practicing in the Cayman Islands, it was recently revealed that around a dozen young local trainee lawyers had not been able to qualifybecause they could not find a place to complete the practical element of their qualification.

Speaking at the opening of the Grand Court last week, Jennings said that expectations regarding articles had to change and 2011 should be the year when the system was reviewed. The former partner with one of the islands’ largest law firms, Maples and Calder, said that while the Law Society sympathises with “their predicament” and was doing what it could to help, he warned that there were reasons why they could not all find places and that it was time to rethink the situation.

“Several law firms, particularly the smaller ones, simply cannot afford to take on an additional full-time employee to train, and furthermore do not have the facilities, or indeed the breadth of practice, to even meet the training requirements currently in force,” Jennings said.

He said that he was coming to the conclusion that the profession, the judiciary and the law school might need to revisit the whole question of articles, the remuneration and the expectations of employment following them.

“The Law Society certainly believes that well qualified, bright and able Caymanian graduates from the law school must have the means offered them to be admitted as attorneys-at-law here,” he said, adding that for some the present system was not delivering. “I’d like to propose that we ear-mark 2011 as the year in which we closely examine and … revise the present requirements to ensure it does … in a manner that sensibly meets the demands of both those students and … commercial and business reality.”

During the ceremonial opening Attorney General Sam Bulgin and President of the Cayman Bar Association James Bergstrom had both noted that there were still graduates that had not found places but everything was being done to find a solution to the situation.

Following Jenning’s speech, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie also remarked  that it was unfortunate that after studying hard to qualify for the profession these young lawyers were being denied the ability to qualify, and called on the profession to help.

The problem was raised in the Legislative Assembly at the end of last year when MLA Alden McLaughlin asked why the young would-be lawyers were struggling to find places and what efforts were being made by the attorney general to put pressure on legal firms to provide the necessary training opportunities for young Caymanians.

At the time Bulgin said it should be part of a lawyer’s DNA to both train law school graduates and do pro bono work but government should not have to compel the legal profession to undertake these important roles.

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Unemployment near 10%

| 17/01/2011 | 40 Comments

(CNS): The labour minister has revealed that the unemployment rate in the Cayman Islands is currently at 9.9%, according to statistics compiled by the Economics and Statistics Office. Rolston Anglin told members of the Legislative Assembly on Friday that there were 2,417 people registered with the Department of Employment Relations (DER), with 977 of them saying they were unemployed. Explaining the discrepancies, the minister said the way people are registered creates duplication and many people who are employed register in order to seek a new position. The minister pointed out that the figure compiled by the ESO was different to the DER’s list as, he said, the department was not responsible for calculating the unemployment rate. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Answering questions posed by the opposition member for George Town, Alden McLaughlin, the minister revealed that most of the 977 people whom the DER said were without work were Caymanian or married to a Caymanian and only 129 were permanent residents but all of them had the right to work in Cayman. The statistics from the DER also suggested considerably more women than men were registered as unemployed, with 573 of the 977 listed as female.

He further revealed that almost 100 of those seeking work had said they held a degree or a professional qualification, and as a result the DER was focusing on trying to get those people into work as it was obvious they should be the easiest to place.

The minister revealed numerous problems at the department, saying it was not best placed to deliver services to the public. He said the job market without proper electronic registration and some kind of assessment tool, and until job seekers could be properly assessed, the staff could only register applicants in accordance with what they toldthe department.

He said he was, however, close to making a decision on a proper professional online registration and assessment tool that would enable the department to match people to vacancies and communicate with the Work Permit Board. Anglin said that, at present, employers complain that when a candidate is sent by the DER they are more often than not unsuitable for the position and he said the only way this could be address was to a way of professionally assessing people.

He spoke about the legacy of problems in the department based on how people were registered, the failure of candidates to inform the jobs unit that they had moved, the inability to verify the work experience of applicants and multiple registrations as preventing the unit from matching job-seekers to vacancies. He said that the department had only successfully reached half of the 977 who say they are unemployed

Despite the problems, however, the minister said that during 2010 the DER had placed 166 people in jobs.

He said it was understandable that people would find it unacceptable that there was such a high number of people looking for work when there were more than 20,000 permits, but that could not be resolved until there was a professional system in place.

The Work Permit Board has had concerns about the quality of information coming from the DER for many years. CNS recently saw a copy of a memo that had been circulated by the former chair of the board just over one year ago questioning the statistics provided to the board by the DER and the mismatch between figures. It raised concerns that, while the DER was publicly claiming that over 843 people were looking for work, a closer assessment of those figures revealed that it was 346 — a significant discrepancy.

“It is very important that we have reliable data going forward or we will not make the best informed decisions as a board,” he said at the time.

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