Archive for February 2nd, 2011

Cohen loan deal cancelled

| 02/02/2011 | 89 Comments

(CNS): The controversial deal that government had entered into with the New York based finance firm Cohen & Company Capital Markets LLC to borrow US$185 million has been terminated. The country’s premier told the nation in a live broadcast Wednesday evening that the 4.5% interest rate cap which the firm said it could get had not materialised and government had cancelled the arrangement. McKeeva Bush also revealed that government may reconsider its borrowing requirement in light of new positive figures for the first half of this financial year, which reveal an unaudited public surplus of $17m instead of an expected $14m deficit.

“The encouraging performance in the first six months of the year will cause the government to assess whether it needs to utilise its full borrowing empowerment,” Bush told the people in the official statement. “The assessment arises from the government’s philosophy of minimising borrowing in order to act in the best interest of the country, at all times.”

Bush delivered the news about the country’s improving finances after explaining that the controversial deal with Cohen and Co had collapsed. He said government had been advised that the savings of approximately US$24 million on the bid recommended to government via the Central Tenders Committee would not be realized.

“Key amongst the representations made to government was that a 4.5% Interest Rate Cap could be obtained, at a certain price, so that the rate of interest that government would pay on its current year borrowing would never exceed 4.5%,” Bush said as he explained why he had originally opted for the Cohen deal last October instead of accepting the recommendations of the ministry’s technical team, which was endorsed by the CTC.

“Government has now been advised that the 4.5% Interest Rate Cap cannot be obtained at the price previously represented to government. The increase in the price of the Interest Rate Cap is of such magnitude that it would wipe-out the cost-minimisation advantage that had been agreed.”

He said government has always acted in the country’s best interests so it had cancelled the deal. Now with the news that government finances are improving the amount government needed to borrow needed to be reviewed, but he warned that the solid performance may not necessarily continue at the same rate in the next six months.

The improvement in the state of the government’s coffers, Bush said, was not an accident. "The expenditure results being lower than budget expectations are a direct result of a conscious effort being taken across the government and supported by the wider public sector to restrain expenditures without jeopardising the quantity or quality ofservices offered to the public,” the premier noted, as he congratulated the public service for its efforts.

The premier stated that total operating revenues were $267 million, around $12 million better than budget expectations of $255 million for the half-year. He revealed that operating expenses were down to $236 million $17 million less than budget expectations. Financing expenses for the half-year were also around $2 million dollars less than expected and central government was looking at an unaudited surplus for the half-year of $17m, which was significantly better than the expected deficit for the half-year of $14 million.

With statutory authorities and government companies showing a surplus of around $1 million instead of an anticipated deficit of $800,000, the entire public sector surplus for the half-year to 31 December 2010 was a promising $18 million, instead of an overall $15 million. 

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British Island named night skywatching paradise

| 02/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(Yahoo! News): A small, rocky chunk of land in the English Channel has been named the world’s first dark sky island, a distinction awarded because its low levels of light pollution allow stunning views of the night sky. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recognized Sark Island, which is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) off the south coast of England, for the quality of its night sky. Sark thus becomes the latest in a select group of dark sky places around the world, and the first island. Sark, which is just 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide (4.8 by 2.4 km), has no public street lighting, no paved roads and no cars, officials said. As a result, its night sky is very dark.

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Cayman tops poll for best small hotel, spa and beach

| 02/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Following on the heels of the islands success among divers the Cayman Islands has also topped the charts of Caribbean Travel & Life’s Best of the Caribbean issue. Over 250,000 voters took part in the magazine’s poll and the Cayman Islands are recognized as home to the Caribbean’s ‘Best Small Hotel’, Little Cayman Beach Resort, the ‘Best Resort Spa’, Silver Rain, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and Seven Mile Beach is recognized as the ‘Best Beach’ across the Caribbean. In addition, Grand Cayman was voted runner up for the ‘Best Island to Live On’ and offering the ‘Best Snorkelling and Diving’.

West Bay restaurant, Cracked Conch received an honourable mention for being among the ‘Best Restaurants’ of the Caribbean, Sunset House was considered one of the ‘Best Bang for the Buck Resorts’. For the Caribbean’s best rums, Tortuga received an honourable mention.

"Receiving accolades from Caribbean Travel & Life’s annual Reader’s Choice Poll is a highly sought after accomplishment for any Caribbean island," Shomari Scott, Ag. Director of Tourism said, "It represents the unbiased opinion of travellers across the Caribbean region and confirms the superlative standard of the Cayman Islands as a destination, offering all of the key ingredients for a perfect vacation to our visitors. Congratulations are due to our tourism partners who have been voted tops in these awards, for the level of service, amenities and the superb vacation experience they provide for our visitors. We are excited to have received these awards and look forward to topping even more charts in 2012."

Caribbean Travel & Life is a glossy magazine dedicated to the Caribbean region and has been named the official consumer publication of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel Association. It weaves together the geographical and cultural threads that make each of the region’s destinations distinctive and represents a range of essential service information on the various aspects of travel.
 

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Soup judges wanted to help brothers and sisters

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(CNS): A local charity is asking the community to come out and sample a range of soups this weekend and judge the quality as part of a fund raising effort. On Saturday 5 February, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) will be at the Camana Bay Arts and Recreation Centre, from noon to 6:00 pm for their third annual Soup-er Bowl. Tickets cost $25 a soup tasters will be able to try soups from Cayman’s finest restaurants in the search for the best soup on island. Last year’s top award went to Guy Harvey’s for its Lobster Veloute’, while the first and second runner-up places were claimed respectively by The Ritz Carlton’s 7 Prime Cuts & Sunsets’ Lentilicious Soup and The Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa’s Crab & Roasted Corn Chowder. Rum Point Restaurant took the most original soup award for their cassava and coconut combination.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Fundraising Chair Hemant Balgobin explains that the Soup-er Bowl is win-win for everyone. “It raises much needed funds for our mentoring programmes and participating restaurants get a chance to reach out to potential new customers. Event supporters eat all the soup they want for $25 and get a chance to win prizes from our raffle. It’s simply a great family event!”

Sponsors for Soup-er Bowl 2011 are LIME Communications, the Dart Foundation, dms Broadcasting, Island Supplies, Cayman27, BritCay, Lucozade and FIJI water, IPC Ltd., Digital deSign, Vision Marketing and Cayman News Service.

Adult tickets are $25 and children under 12 pay $10. Big brothers and sisters, and their littles get in free. Purchase your tickets at LIME, Al La Kebab, Abacus, and the BBBS office by calling 945-6315.
 

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Scholarships & prizes on offer to budding scientists

| 02/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Students are being urged by a local NGO to register for its science fair and seize the opportunity to win prizes and scholarships. In its fifth year, the Rotary Central science fair at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre offers any middle or high-school student from public or private schools registered in the Cayman Islands the chance to win scholarship awards of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000. In previous years, winners in each category have also taken home a laptop. Cash awards are held in trust and released to students when they enter college, university or a technical school. “The fair is a competition designed to generate interest in science and its development among young people,” said Wil Pineau, president of Rotary Central.

“Students who complete science fair projects tend to acquire skills such as independent research, analytical thinking, and creative problem solving. It develops creativity, tenacity and confidence, and increases self-esteem, and may even suggest career opportunities for the future. A completed science project can continue as a basis for further research while you attend college,” he added.

Prizes are awarded by a panel of impartial judges, often local educators, who have not been involved in any of the fair’s projects, meaning parents, teachersand supervisors are excluded.

This year’s fair takes place on Saturday 2 April, between 8:30am and 3pm at Camana Bay and the registration deadline is Tuesday 15 February.

“Registration is the first step toward entering the science fair,” said Sandy Cram, the Science Fair chair for this year’s event, which is free. Forms are available through all science teachers, schools and the science fair website – www.rotarysciencefair.ky.

“Once you’ve selected a topic and discussed it with your science teacher, discuss it with your parents as well. Then fill out the application form and submit it to your science teacher by February 15th. Once received, someone will email you to confirm your registration. In late February, a workshop will be held for all applicants to outline the next steps,” Cram added.

Rotary Central is already contacting local schools, encouraging the broadest possible participation. The organisation is also appealing to corporate sponsors and seeking volunteers to mentor entrants.

Three prizes are awarded in five categories:

1) Earth Sciences, including the environment, weather, astronomy and ecology
2) Food and health
3) Lifesciences, including microbiology, botany or zoology
4) Physics/chemistry
5) Computer Science

More information and registration documents can be found at www.rotarysciencefair.ky.

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Governor says ‘sue me’ as pensioners challenge cuts

| 02/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he doesn’t mind breaking promises to pensioners to close a $10.5 billion budget deficit — even if they sue. “I have bigger issues than who sues me,” said Christie, 48, a Republican and former federal prosecutor who wants to end cost-of-living increases for retirees. “Get in line.” Public workers in Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota are already suing their states, which are among 18 that want to pare pension costs by increasing employee contributions, raising the retirement age or curbing cost-of-living increases.

“We believe it’s unconstitutional,” said Gary Justus, 63, a retired mathematics teacher in the Denver public schools who’s a plaintiff in the Colorado suit.

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Employee retires after record 45 years with lawyers

| 02/02/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): After more than 45 years with the firm Alice Mae Coe retired from Walkers’ on Monday setting the record as the longest serving member of staff in the firm’s history. Coe who was employed before her retirement as the Community Liaison Officer may even been the longest serving employee of any firm in the Cayman Islands with 45 years, seven months and 17 days on the payroll. A retirement party was held in her honour on her final day in the office where she was presented with a gift and a cheque to be shared among some of the many local charitable organisations with which she has been equally dedicated to over the years.

Ms Alice’s first day with the firm was Monday 14 June 1965, just 18 months after it was originally established as W.S. Walker & Company by the founder Bill Walker. Initially employed as Walker’s secretary and personal assistant, Ms. Alice continued in this role until Walker’s retirement in 1999, following which the firm’s name became Walkers as it is known today.

"The growth in the size of the firm has been the biggest change over the years, exceeding Mr. Walkers’ vision with each good person that joined," said Alice Mae. “Working conditions today are also very far removed from the mid 1960s, when all the work was done on portable manual typewriters, with no phones or air conditioning, but plenty of mosquitoes.”

Her next position with Walkers was Assistant to the Partnership Secretary and the firm’s Training and Orientation Coordinator which she held until the start of 2003 when she took up the position of Community Liaison Officer. This new role was particularly suitable for her given the vast number of community organisations and projects she has been involved in, both on behalf of Walkers and individually.

These organisations include: The National Trust, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the Red Cross, the National Gallery, Walkers’ Children and the Arts Club, the Cayman Islands Beautification Committee, numerous church committees and the Concerned Citizens Group.

“One of the greatest assets of any organisation is the dedicated service of its employees and Walkers is proud to have had the pleasure of so many years with Alice Mae Coe," said Grant Stein, Walkers’ Global Managing Partner. "We thank Alice sincerely for her outstanding contribution to the firm and wish her well for her retirement."

 

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Retired auditor takes up CEO post at law firm

| 02/02/2011 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Locally based, international offshore law firm, Maples and Calder, said on Tuesday that it has appointed a former auditor as its new chief executive officer. Retirement appears not to have suited the one time Ernst and Young partner, Jude Scott, as he will now be taking up this new post at the Ugland House offices. Scott, who is also chair of the Cayman Airways Board, is well respected in the community and known as an expert in his field. The firm said it hopes that Scott’s reputation will enhance Maples’ service and officials said they were honoured he had agreed to join them.

Cayman managing partner, Paul Lumsden, said it was an exciting development for the firm. “We are pleased to have such a highly qualified individual join us as CEO. Jude is well respected in the local community and internationally, having served on various Cayman Islands Government and private sector committees, including the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants, the Cayman Islands Financial Services Council, the Education Council, the Insolvency Rules Committee and the Stock Exchange," he added.

Previously an audit partner at the Cayman Islands office of Ernst & Young, Scott retired in 2008 after spending over 23 years with firm, specialising in the audits of investment funds, investment companies, banks and insurance companies.

"As Maples and Calder continues to be distinguished as a top tier law firm, Jude’s level of experience and highly regarded reputation will further enhance the firm’s ability to provide outstanding service to our clients,” Global managing partner, Henry Smith said. “Jude’s contributions to this country have been very impressive and we are honoured that a person of his calibre has agreed to join our firm. His appointment reflects the intention of the firm to maintain its excellence as the premier international law firm.”

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UK official to review PMFL

| 02/02/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The law which governs the country’s public finances is to be reviewed by an official from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the governor has revealed. Keith Luck, who is expected to arrive in the Cayman Islands shortly, will be examining the Public Management and Finance Law and the systems that underpin government personnel and financial management. At a press briefing on Tuesday morning Duncan Taylor said it was clear that the financial system was not operating properly and Luck would be seeking ways to improve the situation. The governor denied that it was a skills issue that was causing the country’s financial management problems but felt it was the cumbersome nature of the PMFL.

A release from the Premier’s Office in the wake of the briefing said that Luck had recently completed a four-year contract as director general, finance in the FCO and would be employed by the CIG as a consultant while he carried out the review. “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office contracted him to reform their financial and corporate systems,” the premier’s office stated, adding that he is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Luck’s review will focus on the mechanisms that underpin the financial and human resources management model as well as the law itself and the regulations. The UK official will also examine the Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS), which is the Oracle based system that runs all of government’s financial and human resource transactions. During his time here Luck is expected to meet with government officials and private sector organisations and he will report to Cabinet on an ongoing basis.

Governor Duncan Taylor, who was reviewing his first year in office, also stated that, along with the auditor general, Luck would be examining the procurement process, which has also come in for criticisms recently, in relation to issues of good governance. The process has been by criticised by the premier who says it is bureaucratic and presents stumbling blocks to his government’s plans to kick start the economy, while the wider public have raised questions about the vulnerability of the system and a lack of real transparency.

The governor said that a review by the AG had found nothing untoward regarding the CCTV tendering process and that the government would soon be making an announcement about the loan.

Taylor said he did not believe the shortage of skills, which has been cited by government officials as one of the reason why it cannot produceits accounts as required under the law, was not the problem as “we have some good accountants” in the public sector, he said, but it was the cumbersome nature of the system that was to blame.

He said he believed that once the excessive burden of the workload was reduced it would be revealed that there were sufficient skills, but if not then those skill gaps could be addressed once the system was simplified.

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Colleagues pray for Anna’s return as search continues

| 02/02/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): As police continued the search for missing landfill worker Anna Evans colleagues, family members and friends gathered at the site to pray for her return on Monday. The 37-year-old mother of five has been missing since Thursday 27 January. Pastor Cassius Feare of the Church of God of Prophecy led the prayers and urged the attendees to take courage. “When you do not know what to do, trust God,” he said. Praying that Anna would be found, and for strength and wisdom for her family, colleagues and the search party, the pastor added that the spirit of God will bring comfort and guidance. Noting Anna’s loyalty as an employee, DEH Director Roydell Carter said that DEH management and staff would continue to support the effort to find her.

He thanked all involved in the search and those who have offered words of encouragement. “We remain optimistic that Anna will still be found,” he said. Anna’s colleague, Clifton Myles also expressed the hope that she will soon be found. “She is a faithful colleague and we miss her. We will continue to pray for her and for the family,” he said. Another colleague, Recycle Foreman Angelo Roye, described Anna as a dedicated mother and colleague. “The entire team is concerned for her and her children who are her life,” he commented. “We are all hopeful that she will be found.”

Anna went missing at around noon on Thursday and despite extensive searches for over five days there is still no trace. Police employed specialist K9 dogs at the site yesterday but there is still no further news.

Pastor Feare said during prayers that, “Nothing is hidden from God;He sees everything and will reveal, as He sees fit, what has happened to Anna.”

Joining the pastor as well as friends and family were the minister of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and Chief Officer Kearney Gomez. O’Connor-Connolly encouraged the group to use the occasion to unite their hearts and minds in a prayer of hope for Anna’s return. She said God was a restorer who would give them the strength to deal with any outcome. “Meanwhile, support the family every way you can during this difficult time,” she said as she called on society to return to Godly principles.
 

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