Archive for June 22nd, 2012

Wednesday to be budget day

Wednesday to be budget day

| 22/06/2012 | 21 Comments

_DSC7855-web_0.jpg(CNS): Although there is still no confirmation that the UK has approved the Cayman government’s borrowing requirement to balance this year’s budget, Premier McKeeva Bush has settled on Wednesday as budget day, but it may only be for an emergency request for cash to keep government afloat. Although the governor has officially proclaimed the start of the new legislative budget session and the speaker has told members of the country’s parliament that the State Opening and Budget Meeting will start at 10am on 27 June, Bush may still not be in a position to deliver his full budget unless he receives approval from the UK.

The governor will be able to deliver the annual Throne Speech and Bush may even make his budget address in his role as finance minister, as he did at the eleventh hour last year, but it is unlikely that he will be able to present the full budget.

Instead, the premier may be forced to settle on passing legislation for emergency appropriations. This is because the UK may not yet give its approval for the $40 million plus estimated borrowing, as well as the overdraft facility that government will need to keep it in business during the slow revenue summer months.

Although the premier has persistently delivered his annual spending programme late since changing the Public Management and Finance Law to remove the original April deadline, this is the latest the premier and his ministers have left the presentation of this critical legislation.

If the UK approves the borrowing requirement, he will be presenting the 2012/13 government spending plans three days before the year end, making it virtually impossible for government to go through the full process of the debate, Finance Committee and legislative drafting in time for the appropriation law to be passed before the critical midnight deadline of 30 June.

As a result, even if the premier manages to get UK backing for increasing the country’s debt he will not have enough time to get the spending plans into law before the deadline, leaving government without access to funds unless legislation is enacted to allow a temporary appropriations to give time for Bush to negotiate with the UK or reduce his borrowing requirements and make more cuts to his government’s spending plans.

The premier, not least because he is also the minister of finance, has faced considerable criticism over this year’s budget fiasco, particularly as he was out of the country for a significant part of the last few weeks — a critical time for budget preparations.

Although Bush is pointing the finger at the UK, he was well aware that the Cayman budget should have been submitted to London three weeks before he planned to present the document to the Legislative Assembly. The timeline is spelled out in the Financial Framework Agreement that Bush signed with the OT minister, Henry Bellingham, last year.

In addition, Bush has spent the last twelve months indicating that the government could not incur any further debt but has, nevertheless, included more borrowing in this budget for the solar panel project, the juvenile remand centre and to finish the primary school renovations and the Clifton Hunter High School, which is set to open in September.

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Solar dealer says Caribbean renewable energy rich

Solar dealer says Caribbean renewable energy rich

| 22/06/2012 | 0 Comments

solar-power-plant.jpg(CNS): Jay Yeo, President of Solamon Energy, which is building the largest solar energy plant in the Caribbean said the region possesses tremendous capacity for solar, geothermal, tidal and wind projects. Speaking at the Invest Caribbean Now power forum, in New York City earlier this month he said investment in renewables, especially solar, will not only lower the cost of energy across the region but help create more jobs than natural gas or coal. "Capital intensive renewable energy is an important vehicle to increase the inflow of capital into the Caribbean and achieve economic growth,” Yeo added.

His comments come as "Climatescope," the first annual report, index which scores nations on their relative ability to foster low-carbon energy growth in the region showed Brazil, Nicaragua and Panama grabbing chunks of investment in renewable but the Caribbean region way down the list. Successful entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, was the inaugural Leadership Award recipient and he called on Caribbean people to work together to create an “entrepreneurial Paradise, in Paradise."

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Minister launches radio show for healthy living

Minister launches radio show for healthy living

| 22/06/2012 | 0 Comments

benefits-of-a-healthy-lifestyle.jpg(CNS): In an effort to try and improve the health and well-being of people in the Cayman Islands, the health ministry is using a new radio show to try and promote the Be Fit Cayman ! Campaign. The first programme airs on Radio Cayman on Saturday morning when the minister responsible for health, Mark Scotland introduces the first in the series of educational programmes. Featuring Health Services Authority and Public Health staff subjects will range from specific conditions to eating well. For the Health of It airs on 89.9FM and is scheduled for about 30 minutes during the last two Saturdays in each month beginning at 9:30am with a repeat on Wednesdays, at 7:00pm. 

The radio programme is aimed at promoting the concept behind Be Fit Cayman!. In particular, the broadcasts will focus on ways to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

Topics will include contributing factors, early detection and management through lifestyle changes and medication. The line-up will kick off with an overview of the Be Fit Cayman! campaign as well as the current state of health in the Cayman Islands. This will be followed by a comprehensive series on diabetes.


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Med school introduces award to honour road victim

Med school introduces award to honour road victim

| 22/06/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): St. Matthew’s University medical school will be giving out its first annual Dr. Richard D. Martin Humanitarian Award this Saturday afternoon during the 1st semester White Coat Ceremony at the medical school campus. Officials said the award was created to honour the values of DR Martin, a medical student at St Mathews who was killed by a drunk driver last year, while driving a classmate home after a study group session. In his memory, the administrators of the University have created an annual award for a student who exemplifies the same passion and qualities that Dr Martin held.

Officials said a special selection committee comprised of faculty, administrators and students are reviewing nominations to select the winner of the award and five finalists will be announced during Saturday’s event. The recipient of the award will be announced later that evening, at the St. Matthew’s University Medical School Semi Formal to be held at the Royal Palms restaurant at 8:30 pm.

“We are very excited to recognize a student who holds the qualities that St. Matthew’s looks for in our students as they become highly qualified and caring physicians,” said St. Matthew’s Chancellor John Marvin.
The award is accompanied by recognition across the entire St. Matthew’s University Community and a $500 cash prize,

“I’m sure my husband never anticipated an award in his honour, but I am appreciative of the on-going influence he continues to have in the St. Matthew’s community,” said Susan Yee, wife of Martin. “It is a great tribute in perpetuity to my husband.”

Dr. Richard Martin was from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, and held the position of Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Active Data Exchange, a calendar sharing software  company. He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Nuclear Engineering and summa cum laude with a master’s degree in Technology Management and a doctor of science degree in Engineering and Technology Management from Southern California University. He is survived by his wife and 5 children.

The Dr. Richard D. Martin Memorial Fund has been created to benefit those in need of healthcare and do not have access or cannot afford it. More information about the purpose and selection criteria of the award, and about Dr. Richard D. Martin, can be found here:

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Cayman government contracts AED link system

Cayman government contracts AED link system

| 22/06/2012 | 0 Comments

aed-m (276x300).jpg(CNS): In an effort to have a quicker response to people suffering sudden heart attacks the government has contracted a Florida based firm to provide a service that will lead to rapid deployment of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) during a cardiac emergency. Atrus, Inc., will be providing its AED Link which gives nearby AED location information to 9-1-1 dispatchers so they can guide a caller to the closest AED in the event someone has a heart attack. The system will also instantly notify volunteer public responders affiliated with those AEDs to bring their defibrillator to the scene. Dr. Sook Yin, Medical Director of the Cayman Heart Fund said that in a cardiac emergency  time is the critical determinant in the victim’s survival.

“By immediately identifying if one of these life-saving devices is available, we can direct someone to quickly retrieve and use it prior to the arrival of our EMS professionals. Having the ability to notify a person with an AED nearby gives us an additional response which is especially important if there is only one bystander,” she said.

The Cayman Heart Fund is going to provide a customized version of Atrus’ National AED Registry for AED owners to register their devices into the system. The “Cayman Heart AED Registry” will be a free AED program management service that will generate regular email reminders for owners to periodically check the device to ensure it is in working order. Registered users will also receive reminders to replace electrode pads and batteries which are nearing expiration date, thus making sure the AEDs are in working order.
Cayman Heart Fund Chairman David Dinner said alongside the benefit to public safety the service will offer updated SCA/AED information and automatic notifications to make sure machines are maintained and comply with current regulations.

Atrus President and CEO, Elliot Fisch, said publicly available AEDs are not often used in emergencies because people can’t see them and don’t know where they are but with the new service 911 dispatchers will be able to identify the nearest defibrillator within 1,200 feet of a victim and direct those at the scene.

“Our current Emergency Medical Dispatch program provides for our telecommunicators to ask specific questions to assist responding EMS personnel arrive at the patient’s location quickly and safely,” said Cayman Islands Government’s Director of Public Safety Communications, Brent Finster .

“In a cardiac arrest situation, we ask the caller if they have an AED nearby. Now, with AED Link, we will not only know exactly where the closest AED is located, but we will also be able to automatically notify a trained volunteer responder to go get their AED and bring it to the patient’s location. This will save lives.”

The system and registry are expected to be available next month, officials said.

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Cops arrest four in bank job

Cops arrest four in bank job

| 22/06/2012 | 14 Comments

scotia bank robbery2 (291x300).jpg(CNS): Updated with names — Four men have been charged in connection with a George Town bankrobbery last month, police revealed Thursday morning. Although no details of the crime have been revealed by the RCIPS, Christopher Julian Myles (aka Frank White), Kevin Curtis Bowen and James McLean have been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery at the Scotia Bank on Thursday, 3 May. These three men, aged 31, 30 and 19 appeared in court Thursday 21 June following the appearance of a 25-year-old man who appeared in court on Tuesday 19 June charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Police have not yet stated why the charges relate to conspiracy and not actual robbery but there is no indication that this was an inside job. The bank was held up in broad daylight in downtown George Town on a busy cruise ship day by three men. The masked men entered the bank at around 11:45, two of whom were armed with what appeared to be guns. The robbers then threatened staff and customers at the Cardinal Avenue branch of Scotia Bank before making off with a sum of cash.

The suspects entered an awaiting getaway vehicle – a dark blue coloured Honda Accord saloon car — which was directly outside the bank. The car was then seen to drive off towards the Eastern Avenue area which was later found abandoned in Bronze Road a short time after the robbery, behind the Church of the New Testament off North Sound Road.

No shots were fired during the robbery and none of the staff or customers were injured but the getaway was caught on camera by a visitor to the Cayman Islands who passed the picture to the police.

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UK minister issues warning over fiscal responsibility

UK minister issues warning over fiscal responsibility

| 22/06/2012 | 3 Comments

bell2.JPG(CNS): The FCO’s minister for overseas territories told the TCI media last week that the money lost during the Misick administration went missing because the checks and balances were not in place. Speaking during his visit to the Turks and Caicos last week, Henry Bellingham warned that under the new white paper the UK government would not interfere in the day to day running of government but it expected "good fiscal management” and if things were “not going well”, he said, the FCO would work in partnership with its territories. Bellingham told the local media it would be up to them to hold the political parties to account once the country returned to an elected government.

According to the local website TCI Now, Bellingham said the FCO would be looking for sound financial management from future governments, not just in TCI but across its territories.

“The 14 overseas territories are an important part of the UK family and we will be issuing a new white paper to show we are going to invest in them and work alongside them and provide assistance in terms of personnel working alongside them. In return we expect good fiscal management,” he said.

Reflecting on the TCI’s own issues, he added, “We all know that a huge amount of money which should have gone to the TCI people went missing and that was a tragedy for the territory … this happened because there were not checks and balances in place.”

He said the financial problems there have yet to be resolved as the deficits have continued and, while a portion of the huge debt left by the Misick government was paid down, the islands still had significant debt.

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UK Lord costs  £14k+ pcm

UK Lord costs £14k+ pcm

| 22/06/2012 | 50 Comments

_51613246_-7_0.jpg(CNS): Lord Blencathra and his consultancy company are costing the public purse more than CI$19,500 per month to represent the Cayman Islands. Records released following an FOI request show government has contracted both the Tory peer and his firm, Two Lions, to promote Cayman’s interests in the corridors of power in London and Brussels. Although appointed as director of the London office, he is not on a salary but is invoicing the Cayman government on a monthly basis at a rate of  £12,000 per month, plus 20% VAT. The contract also reveals that Lord Blencathra’s focus is different from the historic requirements of the job in that he is assisting the CIG with its public finance difficulties with the FCO.

According to the contract, which was released with other records in response to a freedom of information request made by CNS, the Conservative peer’s role includes helping with the FCO and the Cayman government’s financial management issues. As a result, redacted correspondence between Blencathra and Cayman civil servants implies that his appointment was timed to ensure that he could attend the London meeting the premier had with OT minister, Henry Bellingham, last November, during which McKeeva Bush signed the Financial Framework Agreement.

Another of Blencathra’s functions is to present the “premier of the Cayman Islands and CIG ministers to the British government in the best possible light” and to help develop the relationship between the UK and Cayman.

Primarily the peer is focusing on promoting the Cayman Islands’ interests, in particular where the financial services industry is concerned, in the UK and Europe and to improve its overall image and reputation.

The contract shows that government felt in the “changing global financial circumstances” that the London office needed to expand its traditional goals to include strengthening the relationship between the Cayman government and the FCO, as well as other UK and European organisations, and actively promote Cayman in the business communities there. The contract also points to the need for someone to help identify opportunities for development and inward investment to diversify the Cayman economy and expand the islands’ revenue base.

The contract states that Lord Blencathra and his firm, Two Lions Consultancy, had been identified as having the experience and skills to undertake the proposed expansion of the London Office, working alongside the deputy director, Charles Parchment, who would continue to take on the more traditional duties of the London office.

According to the Department of Commerce and Investment, the London Office has three staff members, and its budget for 2011/12 totalled CI$817, 763.  

See redacted correspondence of the negotiations between Lord Blencathra and CIG, his CV and contract.

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Proper cuts needed to budget

Proper cuts needed to budget

| 22/06/2012 | 29 Comments

cut-spending.jpg(CNS): The opposition has warned that “hacking away at the budget” without proper examination of the needs of government departments will cause serious problems down the line for the UDP administration. According to the premier, civil servants had presented operational expenditures for the next financial year of $630 million, which was honed down in a matter of days to $498 million. PPM Leader Alden McLaughlin said slashing public spending requirements without proper analysis of the ramifications means that, once again, when government gets the nod form the UK it will be presenting another unrealistic budget. MLA Ezzard Miller also questioned why government is not following the cuts recommended in its own review.

As the current government’s final budget presents yet another financial headache for the premier, the need to slash spending to meet the requirements of the Strategic Policy Statement (SPS), the Financial Framework Agreement (FFA) with the UK, and the three year plan has proved difficult.

It is not clear whether cuts will have to be made to public services or if additional fees will need to be placed on an over-burdened private sector in order to allow government to balance the books but the opposition says it is unlikely to work without genuine analysis of where cuts are being made and what that will mean to each of the departments.

McLaughlin explained that when the Department of Children and Family Services tells government it needs a specific amount to deal with the demands it expects over the next twelve months, randomly reducing that amount won’t stop the demand. Without policy changes or proper analysis of where cuts can be made that affect core services, the department will still need the money it asked for.

“You can believe that this budget is unlikely to reflect the reality on the ground and there are going to be some real problems,” the opposition leader told CNS. He warned that as government enters the slow months of the year it will need to borrow over and above that requested in the budget just to keep the public sector going until it begins to collect revenue later in the year.

Miller, the independent member for North Side, has also questioned why government has not taken on board the recommendations of the various civil service reviews that have so far identified more than $50 million of savings in government departments.

Despite the rhetoric and speeches about efforts to cut spending year on year since taking office, the UDP has increased public spending. He said this was not just because the cost of delivering services had gone up but because the government had added more and more services.

“When the premier eventually delivers this final budget he will have spent far more than the PPM administration, which he has consistently criticised for overspending,” Miller added.

He said that with the savings identified by the review committees, in some cases more than two years ago, the government should have been able to reduce its spending target from $498 million to $448 million rather than having to engage in last minute cuts to a spending plan that had exceeded $600 million.

Miller said that there was, of course, no political will for government to make realistic cuts, especially with an election approaching, as ministers want the ability to spend money over the next twelve months so they can point to the benefits they have given their constituents. With a burgeoning budget and no sign of a let up in the economic slump, Miller said something would have to happen eventually

“At some point in time, politicians are going to have to be willing to cut some programmes,” he said.

The MLA pointed out that government may well feel that the solar panel project will be popular with voters but if government had not placed so much duty on fuel it would not need to borrow to fund this expensive new programme in the first place.

He pointed to the recommendations that have been made about centralising government finances and human resource management that would cut a significant number of high paid jobs.

Miller said it was essential that government began to cut the civil service. Acknowledging that job losses wouldn’t be popular, he said that every local public sector worker whose post was lost could be assisted to find work in the private sector before the job was cut.

Pointing to the number of work permits still being issued despite the global recession, Miller believed qualified accountants and HR personnel would not be difficult to place and would make an impact on government’s burgeoning wage bill.

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PPM urges end of rollover

PPM urges end of rollover

| 22/06/2012 | 45 Comments

_DEW5940.jpg(CNS): The leader of the opposition has welcomed the findings of the Term Limit Review Committee (TLRC) and has urged government to remove the controversial rollover policy as soon as the public consultation period is over. The findings of the committee echo the sentiments put forward by Alden McLaughlin last year when he suggested that government remove the seven year term limit and allow all workers to apply for permanent residency (PR) if they stay on island for eight years. He had also recommended improving the criteria for PR and making that the point where the vetting process takes place — a recommendation adopted by the committee.

The opposition leader said he was very pleased with the findings, and although he had no quarrel with government publishing the report for public consultation, McLaughlin said that once that was over it needed to move quickly to stabilize immigration. He pointed to the continuous uncertainty as the most damaging issue when it comes to immigration and said it was important government settled the policy once and for all.

“We need to get away from the stigma caused by the policy and create some certainty surrounding immigration,” McLaughlin said.

Following the delivery of the committee’s report to government last month, the premier revealed last Friday that Cabinet had not yet discussed or adopted the findings but wanted further public input before any decision would be made.

The report recommends that government drop the seven year term limit, and in particular the key employee application process, which was the first hurdle that foreign workers needed to mount in order to be able to stay long enough to apply for PR.

It recommends that government implement a fairer and more transparent permanent residency application process for every work permit holder that stays on island for eight years. The committee said that it is at that point that foreign nationals should be either granted the rightto reside permanently in Cayman or be asked to leave for a fixed period of no less than one year, causing a genuine break in stay before being on the island continuously for ten years.

See full report here.

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