Archive for May 5th, 2011

Child month celebrates kids’ talents

| 05/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): During this year’s child month celebrations officials say they are focusing on children’s talents and achievements and pointing parents in the right direction when it comes to support agencies. The schedule of activities will include an art trek, 5k walk/run, a parent information seminar and a youth talent expo in order to sow off what local kids can do. For the entire month of May the Department of Children and Family services will be hosting and supporting events that tie in with the 2011 theme which it has called Hands across Time ; encouraging parents and adults to participate in meaningful fun activities with children, and acknowledging children’s achievements in education, sports and more.

On Tuesday, 3 May the introduction of a new feature, Celebrity Reading Day, during which local ‘celebrities’ visited pre-schools and child-care centres to read with children and donate books to their libraries. Not necessarily the kind of celebrities the children would necessarily recognise but the governor and the speaker from the LA, did their part when they joined Cayman27’s Donna Bush; YCLA recipient Collin Anglin; Miss Teen Cayman Leanne Ritch; and Miss Cayman Cristin Alexander to read from books donated by Mary Adam of Hobbies and Books

For a copy of May’s Child Month activity schedule, visit www.gis.ky or call Laurel Fraser on 938-1866.

 

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People need gas duty cut

| 05/05/2011 | 45 Comments

(CNS): Despite government claims that it is not in a position to cut last year’s fuel duty increase in the forthcoming budget, the member for North Side says it can if it looks at alternative revenue measures. Ezzard Miller says the country needs the cut and he is calling for government to reduce gas duty by 50 cents and instead introduce two new revenue measures that will have a lesser impact, not only on the man in the street but local businesses as well. The independent MLA is asking the UDP government to considering introducing a graded vehicle licensing schedule, which he suggested last year, and to impose a two cent tax on the four cent fee charged by local retail banks on Cayman to US dollar exchanges.

The outspoken North Side representative also claimed that if government had introduced his graded licensing system last year instead of putting duty on gas, which has served only to contract the local economy, the government would have collected more revenue and done less harm.

In addition, Miller said, the concept of a graded increase in vehicle licensing would help to reward those who are driving cars with lower emissions while penalising drivers of high-end or gas guzzling vehicles.

“The budget should be seen as an opportunity by government to improve its policy position,” he said. Assuming government actually had an energy policy, one of its goals would be to reduce fuel consumption, he supposed, and taxing people according to the size of the car they drive is fairer and makes more sense.

“We need to restructure the licensing so it’s cheaper for the smallest cars and more expensive for larger SUVs,” Miller stated. He said the licensing is a one off payment, making it easier for people to prepare for and offers considerably more choice that the gas duty. He pointed out that the fuel increase affected everyone and everything, as was evident by the continuing contraction of the local economy over the last year.

Voicing his concerns for his own constituents, he pointed out that it was particularly hard for those residents in North Side who are commuting to George Town to work and who, with no reliable public transport system to turn to, have little choice but to suffer the gas hike.

His second revenue proposal could generate over $35 milllion for the treasury, according to advice Miller said he had received from the financial sector. The foreign exchange tax on retail banks’ profit from US-Cayman dollar exchanges was only a minor part of their profits. He added that he did not believe the high street banks should be in the business of making money on local foreign exchange in any event but he did not think the banks would find it so painful. He also said it would have very little detrimental impact on the wider financial sector or the consumer.

Miller also said he hoped that this year the country would see a genuine reduction in government’s operational expenses. Although government had claimed to cut public spending in the 2010/11 budget in reality it did in fact increase spending.

Since then several major government departments have been the subject of an internal review. So far the team has publically identified $17 million of savings at the prison, the tourism department, CINICO and public works. With another eight departments reportedly reviewed as well, although the results have not yet been made public, Miller said he expected to see real and substantial cuts in the operational budget.

“I think we should expect to see as much as $50 million in savings in the 2011/12 projections,” Miller said, adding that government needed to use that money to reduce debt and not to spend it on more capital projects.
 

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Chinese seek port MOU

| 05/05/2011 | 78 Comments

(CNS): Just three weeks after the premier cancelled government’s exclusivity agreement with GLF for the development of cruise berthing facilities in George Town, sources tell CNS that another developer has already submitted an MOU for consideration. It is not clear exactly when the proposed memorandum of understanding was given to the Cayman government but it is understood that it has not yet been signed by the premier.The proposed MOU has been submitted by China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, headquartered in Bejing. According to the firm’s website, it specialises in basic infrastructure construction, such as marine engineering, dredging and airports among others.

The premier, who is currently attending an insurance conference in Canada, has not yet revealed government’s revised intentions regardingthe cruise port after jettisoning the deal with GLF Construction but he has already had extensive talks with this Chinese group.

Despite claims by GLF Construction Ltd that it was a mere six weeks away from breaking ground once a full agreement was signed with the Cayman government, the premier said it was in the best interest of the country to end the deal and examine other options.

The details of the proposals submitted by the Chinese firm, which may also be in the running to dredge the North Sound and re-develop Owen Roberts International Airport, according to sources close to government, are not yet known . It is not clear if the new group of developers will be taking on the designs produce by GLF, which have already been tested, or if the team will be creating their own vision for the project.

GLF was the second developer to enter into talks with the current UDP administration on a public private-partnership, only to see those talks break down despite claims by government, on both occasions, that the negotiations were going well. Since the revelation by CNS last month that GLF was being rejected, efforts to contact representatives from the Port Authority and the technical team have been unsuccessful but it is understood that the premier has now taken over the project.

The decision by the premier to jettison GLF at the eleventh hour appears to have caused controversy, not only in the community at large, especially those involved in cruise tourism, but also within the UDP itself. Days before the premier admitted that he had made the decision to pull the plug on the GLF talks, Cline Glidden told CNS that he did not know what was happening with the cruise port, despite being the project leader for almost two years.

China Harbour Engineering Company, which says it employs 6,000 people and is currently working on US$9 billion worth of projects around the world, is the fourth developer to begin talks with the Cayman government over the cruise port in less than three years.

Atlantic Star had also entered into negotiations with the previous administration to construct the cruise piers and upgrade the George Town cargo port on land which the firm owned north of the current location. The MOU with that firm lapsed, however, when the UDP administration came to office. Citing a need for the project to be entirely privately funded, they made the decision to partner with the Dart Group.

See details on China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, 

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