Archive for February 7th, 2011

CUC faces more damage

| 07/02/2011 | 25 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of the explosion at CUC last month the local power firm has suffered another major mechanical failure this weekend. The firm said no one was injured on Saturday, 5 February, when a Mirrlees 7.59 generator, installed in 1991 and due for retirement next year, failed. The damage was contained to the aging unit but the combination of the two incidences is likely to be of significant financial impact, the firm revealed on Monday. As the company battles with a number of generating problems, CUC officials have warned of further unplanned maintenance, which is likely to lead to rotating customer outages of up to an hour each in duration as a result of the firm’s short term capacity problems.

Saturday’s failure comes just over one week after the explosion during a start process at the plant site on Friday, 28 January, when equipment associated with an MAK 9 MW generator was damaged and two employees were injured, one of whom remains in critical condition in hospital.

CUC said damage to that unit was contained to peripheral equipment and the investigation into how the explosion, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the Cayman Islands, occurred.

Although the firm said it is pursuing insurance claims with regards to the loss of these two generators, the company is already waiting for payment from insurers regarding the failure of a 16 MW generation unit that was damaged in September of 2010, which the firm says is expected to be out of service until April 2011 because of the extensive scope of the repairs required.

“While the company believes that losses excluding deductibles from both incidents, including the cost of temporary generation and business interruption are covered by the company’s comprehensive insurance policies, delays in realizing insurance payouts could result in significant receivables to the company,” the firm stated on Monday. “The company also continues to pursue an insurance claim in respect of the failure of a 16 MW generation unit in September of 2010 … The generation units in question had all been serviced within established maintenance intervals. Investigations are ongoing and involve manufacturers’ representatives and independent investigators appointed by the insurers.”

In addition, to the problems with these three generators the firm also said another 14 MW of generator is also down due to routine service work that the company is now trying to complete as quickly as possible. CUC said it was also in the process of securing temporary generation to be brought on island to restore the required generating capacity reserves.

In the meantime, until the out-of-service capacity is restored maintenance issues may lead to further disruptions to the local power supply with customer outages of up to an hour each because of the shortfall in generating capacity.

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Cuban migrants travel on

| 07/02/2011 | 33 Comments

(CNS): Update 2:10pm — The 16 Cuban migrants who were intercepted in Cayman waters yesterday and again today, decided to continue their journey to another destination after refusing protection from the Cayman Islands Government, which, unless they asked for and were granted political asylum, would mean that they would be returned to Cuba under the terms of the MOU with the Cuban Government. Chief Immigration Officer Linda Evans said her officers and the joint Immigration/Customs/RCIPS Marine Unit communicated with the migrants, prior to their departure. A group (15 males and one female) arrived aboard a 21-foot vessel powered with a diesel engine this morning (Monday 7 February) off the coast of South Sound.

The Cubans were first intercepted on Sunday in the area of the Creek Dock in Cayman Brac. They proceeded to the “Panama Canal” inlet and explained they were in transit. Immigration and police officers had attended the scene until the vessel departed Cayman Brac at 11:30am. However, the boat was sighted again this morning moored off Prospect Point, and it subsequently moved to Jackson Point off South Sound, where it is was located when government officials issued confirmation of the migrants’ arrival.

The migrants are the first refugees to be intercepted by local immigration staff at sea since October 2009. Once a common occurrence in Cayman waters, the flow of Cuban migrants had stopped over the last year before this group of sixteen entered local waters on Sunday. 

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Humane society offers educational presentaiton

| 07/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Continually concerned about the problems caused by irresponsible pet ownership, the Humane Society is now offering a free service for schools, which involves a full presentation educating young people on how to take proper care of their pets. When the John A Cumber Primary invited the charity into their school to learn more about pet care, students were given the opportunity to meet one of the Humane Society’s latest residents, which was recently found abandoned on Seven Mile Beach. The kids had a great time getting to know the dog, which is now looking for a permanent home.

As well as providing a shelter for abandoned animals, the Humane Society also operates a Spay and Neuter Clinic that gives financial assistance. The society said it continues to try to get the message out that there simply aren’t enough homes for all of the animals on island, so spaying and neutering pets is the only way to tackle the problem.

Call 949-1461 today to make an appointment for a pet or to request a presentation on responsible pet ownership.

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Hash House relay sees surge in runners

| 07/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): This year’s Cross Island Relay was not only a highly competitive race but saw a surge in participating teams, organisers the Hash House Harriers, said on Monday. 81 teams took part in the 2011 relay compared to 56 in last year’s race. The British Bulldogs came in as overall champions after six grueling legs in 2:26:02 where they were forced to battle hard for the win against Beat the Brits who finally clocked in at 2:27:57. In the all Female Team division Mums on the Run finished first and the Corporate division was won by the team from UBS.

Beat the Brits took the lead after Leg 1 followed by Galloping Genesis and the British Bulldogs. Leg 2 saw Mark Hogan of the British Bulldogs charge into the lead only to see Marius Acker of Beat the Brits take the lead back on Leg 3. UBS moved into 3rd place after the second leg and remained safely in third position after the 3rd leg. Leg 4 saw Conrad Proud take back the lead for the British Bulldogs as he passed Hayden Isbister. The Bulldogs held onto the lead during leg 5 and at the beginning of leg 6 the Bulldogs had a 2:02 lead on Beat the Brits.

It was the challenge taken on by Mike Risdale of Beat the Brits to try to make up the deficit on the final 4 mile leg, but Derek Larner was able to keep the Bulldogs in first place to take the overall win in a time of 2:26:02. Beat the Brits came in 2nd place with a time of 2:27:57,

UBS was first in the Corporate Division with a time of 2:34:19 and third overall while Hy-Tech +1 were 4th with a time of 2:49:00. In the all Female Team division Mums on the Run finished first in 3:21:57, second was Changes Fitness at 3:22:06 and third was Forty and Fabulous with a time of 3:22:26.

Full results and pictures as well as more information about the Hash can be found at www.caymanhash.com
 

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UK to relax entry rules for super rich

| 07/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(FT.com): Multimillionaire foreigners prepared to invest their money in Britain will find it easier to make a home in the UK under government plans to relax immigration rules for the ­super-rich. The Home Office will shortly propose changes to “investor visas” to encourage more rich people to live and invest in the UK. The move comes as the government slashes foreign student numbers in an attempt to reduce yearly net migration to the “tens of thousands” – to the anger of universities reliant on income from overseas students. The coalition has also cut the number of skilled workers British business can import from outside the European Union by one-fifth compared with last year.

In addition, only 1,000 highly skilled workers without a job offer will be allowed to migrate to the UK, compared with 14,000 a year ago.

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Cops consider sale of boats

| 07/02/2011 | 15 Comments

(CNS): The police Marine and AirSupport units have been working well together in the fight against crime, the commissioner recently revealed, but these valuable police assets may still be depleted. Speculation that the RCIPS could be selling some of its boats was not denied by a spokesperson last week, who confirmed an internal review had taken place. Police have said that any sale of marine unit assets will be considered in relation to the current strategic threats but boats could still be lost, despite the fact that the helicopter is being utilised in direct combination with vessels from the Marine Unit to intercept boats in Cayman waters that may be bringing in drugs and guns.

The cost of maintaining the helicopter, however, may be the reason why the RCIPS will lose some of those boats that are used in the actual interdiction of contraband.

“An independent review of the RCIPS was undertaken recently and as part of this the Marine Unit was subject to scrutiny,” a police spokesperson confirmed, adding that the review was more than a cost cutting exercise.

“Recommendations are being made to the Cabinet concerning RCIPS assets including the Marine Unit. No decisions have been reached and there are no current changes in fleet size or numbers of staff being undertaken. The sale of any marine assets must be considered in relation to the overall strategic threats relating to border security and the ability of the Cayman Islands Government and RCIPs to safeguard its Islands and its people.”

Both the governor and the police commissioner have consistently repeated recently that the elected government is willing to finance the police needs and that cuts impacting the rest of the public sector will not be allowed to undermine the resources the RCIPS needs to fight crime.

Speaking at both the Chamber meeting and the press briefing updating the public on the current crime statistics, Baines said Cayman is becoming a transshipment point in the drugs trade and, as a result, border control was becoming an increasingly important element in addressing the crime on island, with the need for solid marine support more important than ever.

The arrival of more drugs and guns from the United States and the wider region, the commissioner said, required an even greater crackdown at the country’s airport and seaport, backed up by the use of the helicopter and the police boats to intercept the vessels at sea that are being used by criminals to bring the contraband in and out of Cayman.

It is not known if the cost of flying and maintaining the helicopter, which is believed to be in excess of $1milllion per annum, is presenting an “either or” situation for the police, making officials examine what assets they can lose in order to keep the machine flying.

The police helicopter currently has one pilot directly employed by the RCIPS but a second pilot is expected to arrive next month. US based Arrow Aviation LLC, which was engaged in 2007 when the chopper was first purchased, are continuing to carry out the maintenance as the police said they have been unable to secure a contract through the CTC process. As a result, a decision has now been made, the police say, to employ their own maintenance engineers to look after the helicopter but it is not clear if this will see a reduction in running costs and save any of the marine fleet.

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Premier signs 21st tax deal on behalf of Cayman

| 07/02/2011 | 9 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier signed the country’s twenty first tax deal today in the UK. Adding Japan to the long list of G20 countries that Cayman now disclose tax information the premier said the deals were offering real value to the jurisdiction’s financial services sector. The signing of this latest tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) took place this morning at the Japanese Embassy in London between McKeeva Bush and Hitoshi Noda, the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires. “The development of the Cayman Islands tax negotiation process is becoming increasingly valuable to our financial services sector,” Bush said as he signed the important deal.

“The signing of such an agreement with Japan – a G7 power – provides benefits to both countries, signifying a new type of relationship.”

The terms of this TIEA include provisions for pensioners, students, Government employees and residents of Japan, in that they will not be subject to double taxation, hence only paying taxes in one jurisdiction.
 

“This agreement also demonstrates the acceptance of the major G-20 jurisdictions in acknowledging the valuable role the Cayman Islands plays in international financing transactions. We fully intend to continue to demonstrate that tax compliance is a matter of course for the Cayman Islands and we are confident that as a result, our jurisdiction will become increasingly well respected in matters of international financing. We look forward to further enhancing our relationship with the Japanese Government, as we work closely with them on the OECD Global Forum Steering and Peer Review Groups,” Bush added.

Attending for the Cayman Islands delegation was Member of the Legislative Assembly, Elio Solomon; Financial Secretary, Kenneth Jefferson; Director Financial Services Secretariat, Michelle Bahadur; and Political Assistant to the Premier, Richard Parchment
 

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Jamaican minister won’t take lie-detector test

| 07/02/2011 | 0 Comments

(Jamaica Gleaner): A week after announcing his government’s commitment to mandatory polygraph tests for all holders of sensitive posts in the public sector in the name of probity, National Security Minister Dwight Nelson seems unwilling to take the test himself. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last Wednesday, Nelson said he was not averse to the idea of taking the test but shut down the proposal when our news team asked if he would lead by example and take a polygraph test. "I’m not saying to you that it is my intention to do it, but I am saying to you that I would have no aversion," Nelson said.

When pressed for clarification and specifically whether he would do it, the national security minister, who conceded that his post was a sensitive one, went into evasive mode.

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Miller queries review method of finance law

| 07/02/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Although very pleased that government is finally taking on the need to change the law that governs public finances in Cayman, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee believes it should have been carried out by the country’s elected officials. Ezzard Miller said that bringing in an expensive UK consultant could result in something worse being imposed on the country rather than an improvement on the situation, which he believes a select committee of the Legislative Assembly would have been able to achieve. As representatives of the people and well aware of what needs to happen to make public finances more accountable, Miller said the MLAs could have taken an objective but practical approach to the legal changes required.

Miller said that the FCO consultant who has been selected to review the law, Keith Luck, could have been brought in to assist a select committee and offer some professional advice rather than conducting a closed door review where he will hear only from civil servants who either love or hate the existing Public Management and Finance Law and will not have the benefit of the practical experience the LA has had in trying to utilise the law.

“Although I am glad that the law is finally being reviewed, I am not happy about the way it is being done,” Miller, who is chair of the legislative committee that oversees government financial accountability, told CNS. “While Mr Luck has an impressive CV, I would have preferred to see the review conducted by the whole committee of the House, which could hold public hearings and talk to civil servants directly … I think a lot would have come out of that approach.”

Miller said he feels the public sector employees who are dealing with the law on a day to day basis would be more comfortable talking to their own rather than a UK official. Instead, he lamented the fact that government has opted to “bring in an expert who will do doubt come with another set of solutions and tell us we need to spend x more million dollars to implement,” the independent MLA warned.

He estimated that the country had already spent in excess of $80 million over the years on the introduction of the PMFL and it could ill afford to waste more money introducing a new layer of bureaucracy. He said the PMFL was a colossal waste of money, especially in light of the fact that the public has less information today than it did under the old accounting system about what government spends and why.

“My fear is that bringing in a consultant we will run the same risk,” he said, adding that he hoped the review would not end up with yet another system being imposed on the country. Miller said it would be better for Luck to work with the country’s parliament to draft the legislation that would create the changes necessary to have transparent government accountants as they are well placed to know what is needed.

“As MLAs we are required to vote on the budget and scrutinise government spending, so we are in a position to decide how best the law can do that,” Miller added, stating that even he believed there were some good things about the law that needed to be preserved. He said the fundamental problem with the PMFL was the unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy that was clouding the transparency it was meant to create.

Miller also noted that he would be pushing for some kind of accountability for those who are responsible for completing government accounts. “One of things I will fight for is that the administrative offence for non-performance will be enforced and the responsibility clear cut. If the law says accounts must be produced by a certain date and they are not then someone has broken the law and must be accountable,” he added.

The PAC chair said he had mixed feelings about the review, and while he hoped for new legislation that would work, he was fearful the country could end up with something worse.

Government announced last week that Luck, the former director general of finance at the FCO who undertook a review of its financial accounting, was on his way to Cayman to conduct a review of the law. 

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Minister calls for employment co-ordination

| 07/02/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): The public and private sectors have to co-ordinate their efforts to help get young people into work or in training and further education, the minister with responsibility for education and labour said Friday. Speaking at the opening of the 13th annual Chamber Expo, Rolston Anglin said there was a need to ensure that the government was not using public money for programmes that could be better delivered by the private sector and that organisations were not doubling up on efforts created confusion for job seekers and young people looking for scholarships and training opportunities. With the unemployment rate among Caymanians at 10%, he said he hoped that forthcoming legislation and changes in the ministry would bear fruit before the next Expo in 2012.

For the last 13 years the Chamber of Commerce has hosted a jobs expo for young people about to leave high school, and despite the shortage of work this year, several local firms, government departments and educational institutions, including universities from overseas, attended to at least offer career advice and support to the country’s young people.

During his opening remarks the minister said both public and private sector had to work together to address the unemployment issue as government could not be all things to all people. He said there were still too many disconnects in the employment and training field and there was room for improving efficiency. “There is a need to spend public money wisely,” he added, as he spoke about the need to avoid duplicating efforts. “It is easy to talk about these things, but it is really about talent development and we need to collaborate better to make sure it happens,” Anglin said.

Draft legislation to create the human capital agency would soon be ready for public consultation, the minster revealed as he explained the new law will would formally divide the issue of employment, the development of talent and job placement from labour issues and compliance at the Department of Employment Relations.

He said there was a need for the country to create a workforce that was more relevant but he had concerns that too many young people were going into areas of study which would lead to a future oversupply. “We need to do a better job at career counselling and targeting scholarships,” the minister said, but he was not specific about the courses he felt were oversubscribed.

Anglin also told the expo audience it was important for the community to provide opportunities for those who have fallen through the cracks to retrain.

Over the next twelve months, the minister said, there would be many changes and developments which he hoped would come to fruition in the area of human capital, as he said the country had to be ready for when the economy rebounds.

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