Archive for August 14th, 2012

Snr cop under investigation

| 14/08/2012 | 36 Comments

police 2.jpg(CNS): A senior officer of the RCIPS is currently facing an internal enquiry after the director of public prosecutions (DPP) ruled that it was not in the public interest to pursue a criminal prosecution against him in connection with an alleged assault on a junior officer. The Police Association has raised its concerns about the internal enquiry as they have questioned who in police management is not already conflicted or compromised in connection with the case and in a position to fairly oversee the investigation. More than a dozen complaints have been made to the association against the same senior officer, who has not been suspended from duty and currently remains in charge of one of the largest group of officers in the RCIPS.

A spokesperson for the RCIPS has confirmed that the file in connection with the case is now with the Professional Standards Unit and as a result, she said, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment on the issue. The RCIPS also stated that the case had been referred to the DPP but that it had been returned to the police to handle internally.

Sources close to the young police officer who filed the complaint told CNS that the victim has been informed that, despite evidence of the assault, it was not in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges. The junior officer is understood to have filed complaints relating to two alleged incidents, one of which was witnessed by several civilians who had reportedly agreed to give evidence. Other sources have told CNS that the senior officer routinely behaves inappropriately but many police officers on contract are reluctant to file official complaints for fear of losing their jobs.

A spokesperson for the police association, which represents the interests of serving officers, told CNS that there were a number of concerns about this particular case, not least the number of complaints against the senior officer in question, who remained in command of one of the largest group of officers in the service.

In addition, the association has said that any internal investigation needs to be seen to be fair to both the victim and the accused, but given public comments made by the police commissioner during a Finance Committee hearing about this case and other conflicts relating to police management, it is difficult to see how it can be fair to either of the officers involved.

The spokesperson said the association had raised its concerns with the commissioner and pointed out that the wider membership already has issues about the levels of inequality within the service. He stated that this case should have provided the commissioner with an opportunity to demonstrate the equality that he has said he is committed to providing, but there are very serious doubts that he will be able to deliver.

“Our wider membership has been concerned for some time about the inequality that exits in the RCIPS when it comes to the treatment of some officers over others,” the association told CNS. “We do not know exactly why the DPP decided that it was not in the public interest to pursue this case and return it to the RCIPS to be handled internally but we know that police management is compromised in this case. We are very concerned that there will be no one who will be in a position to supervise this investigation fairly.”

Local attorney Peter Polack also raised concerns about how this case was being handled. He said if there was evidence of a crime the DPP should have handled the assault as she would any other criminal chargeand it should not be treated differently because the accused person is a senior police officer.

"The DPP is charged with the responsibility of deciding whether a person is to be charged with a crime or not,” the local attorney stated. “It is an excess of her authority to make this ruling if this is the case as it is effectively deciding punishment, which is the exclusive purview of the courts. Only Commissioner Baines has the authority to decide if an officer is to face an internal disciplinary hearing.

"It would be a breach of her Constitutional duties to suggest a course of action outside her power or delay ruling on a pending case, for that matter,” Polack added, referring to the DPP’s alleged recommendation to the commissioner that the matter be dealt with internally.

“If a senior police officer can benefit from the discretion of the DPP, then every citizen of the Cayman Islands is equally entitled, including those presently residing at HMP Northward, to the same treatment,” he added.

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Witchcraft child abuse in UK

| 14/08/2012 | 0 Comments

(The Telegraph): 'Political correctness' is preventing police from stopping child abuse by parents and church leaders who believe in witchcraft, a minister warns. Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, said that a “wall of silence” was obscuring the full scale of cruelty in some communities where beliefs in evil spirits was common. He was speaking as the Government announced plans to introduce new training for social workers, teachers, police and church members to combat the abuse. It follows the conviction earlier this year of Eric Bikubi a London football coach, and his partner Magalie Bamu, for torturing and murdered a 15-year-old boy because they believed he was practising witchcraft.

The couple, whose families came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, subjected Bamu’s brother Kristy to a three-day ordeal because they were convinced he was practising “kindoki” or sorcery.

The case had echoes of that of Victoria Climbié, the eight-year-old girl who was murdered by her guardians who believed she was possessed by demons.

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London 2012 was ‘biggest ever US TV event’

| 14/08/2012 | 2 Comments

USAIN-BOLT-LONDON-OLYMPICS-2012.jpg(BBC): NBC's coverage of London 2012 was the "most-watched television event in US history", the TV network has announced. Citing Nielsen ratings figures, NBC said more than 219 million viewers watched the Games on its networks, compared to the 215 million who tuned in for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The network broadcast some 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage on TV and online. But it drew criticism for delaying the broadcast of popular events until primetime hours. Viewers also complained of problems with online streaming and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremonies. Sunday's closing ceremony – which was cut down by almost an hour and omitted such acts as Muse and Ray Davies – drew an audience of 31 million people.

Yet NBC enraged some viewers by leaving the ceremony at 23:00 local time to air a new sitcom, Animal Practice, and then half an hour of local news.

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Cayman’s economic conundrum

| 14/08/2012 | 29 Comments

As an independent candidate in the 1984 elections I had a vision that Cayman was heading for great prosperity and proposed the following: reduce the size and cost of government; work hard to create a vibrant private sector and establish by law a “lock box fund”, which would be funded with 10% of the total government revenue on an annual basis.

This fund would only be used for serious emergencies and if not needed would simply be carried forward as a savings account for the next generation.

At the time, many of the other candidates in the race denounced the idea as infeasible and instead criticized me for not knowing what I was talking about. I never once had a moment of disappointment about not getting elected and treated it as simply a good lesson in the learning curve of life. However, what has saddened me over the years is the inability of some of those whom we did elect (and appoint) to even recognize good ideas and do something with them. And the more things change the more they remain the same.

Today, it is estimated the fund would have somewhere in the range of $400-$700 million or more through the magic of compound interest over 28 years. (The actual financial data was not available from either the statistics dept or the financial secretary’s offices.)

Cayman’s financial dilemma did not start this year, last year or five years ago; it started 25-30 years ago when we failed to realize the opportunities this country was starting to enjoy and to heed the advice of the older generation: “Save for the rainy day.” Respective governments failed to plan, which in reality is planning to fail.

Once again we find ourselves scrambling to prepare and balance a budget, while our liabilities keep increasing and the sources of revenue are drying up because the private sector and middle class are shrinking. It does not matter from what angle you examine this; we have serious financial challenges ahead.

In 2007 the world’s economy started on a downward spiral with very few ingovernment, commerce or economics having the foresight to see it coming. Five years later there are many in leadership positions who do not fully understand the causes, effects or implications of this crash. The failure to understand the big picture while focusing on the smaller parts will probably not result in viable solutions.

What we have experienced over the past 5 years is not a normal “down market cycle”, followed by an “up cycle”; instead it is a shift in economic fundamentals, which are evolving and taking us to a new place. But policy makers and many experts are treating this as the former and not the latter, assuming that we are soon on the verge of a recovery.

Cayman is no exception; many believe that all we have to do is wait and hope and things will return to the good old days like 2005-6 when we were rebuilding after Ivan. But this time is different and the sooner we realize this better off we will be.

In the USA there were six interconnected economic bubbles – stocks, housing, private equity, discretionary spending and, more fundamentally, the government debt and the dollar bubbles.

While these bubbles were expanding they created much wealth, opportunities and jobs to millions in the USA and around the world. Since 2008 these bubbles have been bursting one after the next, bringing the overall economy down. The two last big ones, the dollar and debt, have yet to burst.

The US government has injected billions into their economy in an attempt to prevent the latter two major bubbles from bursting; however, it has delayed but will not prevent it. The American annual deficit has increased from $250 billion in 2007 to $1.6 trillion, with a corresponding increase of 200% in the money supply (from $800 billion in 2008 to $2.4 trillion) and a total debt of $16 trillion, the largest in history by any nation; not to mention the record high unemployment across all sectors. There will be no equilibrium until the two final bubbles burst, causing even more turmoil in the world’s economic order. In addition, inflation in commodities (food) and other products along with higher interestrates are on the horizon.

Why is all this important to Cayman? Simple — we are part of the global economy.

The next time you go to the grocery store take note of where our food comes from; look around to see where our tourists come from along with much of our investments. The Cayman Islands financial umbilical cord is tied to the USA and always will be as long as we are located 500 miles from Miami.

There is another very important event taking place in less than 3 months time which will affect the Cayman Islands, perhaps more so than any previous; i.e., the Presidential elections. When was the last time we saw an advert by a sitting president criticizing his opponent with references to the Cayman Islands? In 2013 Caymanians with US citizenships will have start filing and paying the US taxes. If someone had told us this 10 years ago we would have thought they were smoking something.

There is little doubt that the re-election of President Obama will result in a tougher stance towards the Cayman Islands, particularly in relationship to our financial services industry. While on the other hand, a win by Mr Romney could re-energize the free market system on which America was founded and ultimately create better times ahead. While these are events over which we have no control, we should be aware of all external conditions and factor them into our plans.

Cayman has been living in denial for too long. Because things have been so good in recent years, it’s hard for many people to accept that they would not continue to be good. 

But the world has changed and now it’s past time for us to change — our thinking, attitudes, behavior, expectations, and the way we have been managing our affairs and stop squandering our scarce resources. Our mantra now should be “do more with less” and work smarter not just harder, while demanding greater efficiencies and accountability.

Government must be reformed from top to bottom; our debt must be brought under control; privatization and joint ventures should have been embarked on long ago; solicitation of the best ideas should be a way of doing business; instead of panic rescue missions by a few (while they may be helpful).The measures announced so far to remedy our budget deficit are only temporary and we will face this situation again next year, if not earlier, unless the tough decisions are made now. One cannot expect a band aid to cure cancer.

When speaking to businessmen and folks in this country, one gets the feeling that there is finally a realization that this is no ordinary recession and that new thinking and actions are overdue in order to help us position ourselves into a sustainable mode and hopefully chart a better future. Now, if only our government would realize this and make the tough decisions necessary to secure some hope and opportunity for the next generation, instead of hedging their bets for the next election.

I believe there is nothing wrong with Cayman that the people who live on Cayman cannot solve, but a new vision and approach is needed for that to happen. Unfortunately, the scarce ingredient is “time”; we are running out of it. For us to leave a better life for our children and grandchildren we have to become less selfish and be prepared to sacrifice, as our parents and grandparents did for us.

We are running out of options, Cayman.

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UK has new budget details

| 14/08/2012 | 56 Comments

Financial-Accounting1.jpg(CNS): Officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London have been given the details of the latest revenue raising measures that the Cayman Islands government says it now plans to use to arrive at a surplus budget. Although the premier is hoping to deliver his budget address by 20 August and begin the legislative process to pass the spending plans into law, the UK Overseas Territories Minister is now on vacation, which means approval,if it comes for the revised proposals, could be later than hoped. Once again, the clock is ticking for the UDP administration to ensure the legislation for the budget is delivered to the Legislative Assembly, debated, scrutinized by Finance Committee and passed before 31 August.

This year’s budget crisis forced government to pass a stop-gap emergency two-month budget of $127 million via a government motion, which was not subject to examination by Finance Committee. That spending plan will now need to be absorbed into the full year’s budget, which is now waiting for the nod from the UK.

Although government has said it will be looking to raise $592 million with the imposition of new revenue raising measures, such as more increases on work permits to new hedge funds fees, it has also had to reduce spending in order to produce a surplus of $70 million, which still falls $6 million short of the $76 million stipulated by the FCO. Despite this, the spending on core government is understood to exceed more than $520 million.

Although the UK may accept the slight shortfall in the surplus target, government officials have stated that the key issue is the need for revenue raising measures to be demonstrably “credible and sustainable”.

The bureaucrats in the FCO who will examine the details of the budget will be the ones to recommend to Henry Bellingham, the OT minister, whether he should or should not approve the latest submission from Cayman. They have made it clear that revenue projections must be realistic and the local government must be able to show how they have arrived at the projected revenue figures and demonstrate that the government will be able to collect what it says it can.

Speaking at two public meetings over the last few weeks, the premier has said that government has gone as far as it can in terms of cuts and he will not sanction cutting civil service jobs. As a result, he has turned to increases in revenue in order to arrive at a surplus budget. 

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UDP collected most fees

| 14/08/2012 | 74 Comments

cash-pile-thumb10747073.jpg(CNS): Each year since taking office the UDP administration has collected more cash for government coffers from duty, fuel and fee increases than any other administration, but every year it has also spent more. Even when compared to the financial year 2005-06, when significant duty was collected as a result of the Ivan reconstruction, revenue was still less than $500 million. This administration has squeezed the public and business community for more and more cash each year, and despite the cuts the premier says have been made to core government operating expenses, this financial year the bill will exceed a half billion dollars, with the community coughing up more than $590 milllion.

The taking and spending has also been higher when statutory authorities are taken into consideration, despite the assertion that this government is managing the public finances better than its predecessor. In addition, if government had paid into the past service liability for the civil service pension as the previous administration had done, things would be even worse.

Independent MLA Ezzard Miller said that the situation makes a mockery of the claims by Premier McKeeva Bush that his government’s main success has been managing public finances.

“Mr Bush keeps referring to the success of his government in the restoration of responsible financial management. That is utter rubbish,” the North Side member said. “It could not be further from the truth. No government in history has made the stupid and ignoramus decisions that have been committed by this administration.”

Miller said there had been considerable of abuse of processes by the government that are there to improve financial management and protect the public purse. He pointed to numerous situations of mismanagement, from the paving of private driveways in the Brac to the legal settlement to GLF, as well as the Cohen and Co controversy. 

In its first full year in office, in complete contrast to the budget it had presented to the Legislative Assembly, the UDP government collected over $502 million but then spent more than $517 million. The next year the government took in $525 million but spent well over $520 million. In the last financial year it collected an estimated whopping $535 million in revenue, but after coming back with appropriations of more than $50 million, once the figures are confirmed it is expected to have spent a massive $580 million.

When the budget was first drafted the public sector bill for 2012/13 was estimated to be around $660 million and it is this shocking figure that government has been trying to hone down to a manageable level since the start of the year.

Miller said that with record revenue collection but continued public sector increases, McKeeva Bush, who is also the minister of finance, could under no circumstances claim any credit for improving financial management.

The independent members said the people of Cayman could no longer put up with this type of poor governance, and called on every Caymanian to step up and save their country.

“It is time now for all Caymanians who are able, both young and old, to come forward to put an end to this bad governance and help save the country,” he said. Miller added that everyone needed to get involved, especially intelligent professional Caymanians, who were needed to run for office.

He asked others who did not want to join the political race to scrutinize more closely than ever before the behaviour of government representatives and demand more from them both now and in the future.

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