Archive for September 24th, 2012

FFR won’t make UK deadline

FFR won’t make UK deadline

| 24/09/2012 | 57 Comments

(CNS): The premier has told members of the Legislative Assembly that the country’s parliament will not be meeting again until 5 November. This means that government will be not be compliant with the terms of approval for the Cayman Islands' 2012/13 budget set out by the UK last month. One of those conditions was that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility which McKeeva Bush signed with the previous overseas minister, Henry Bellingham, must be incorporated into the Public Management and Finance Law (PMFL), making it legally binding before the end of September. This cannot be completed outside of the LA, and MLAs have pointed out that the late meeting will mean Cayman will once again fall foul of the UK’s conditions.

A short statement from the governor’s office on Monday afternoon in response to a CNS enquiry confirmed that the premier had told the new UK overseas territories minister that he would not be ratifying the law until November.

In a meeting with Minister Mark Simmonds at the FCO on 20 September, Bush said that he would bring the FFR to the next meeting of the LA, which would not be until 5 November. He also gave the minister an undertaking that the FFR, as signed in November 2011, would be transposed into law that same week and by no later than 9 November 2012, the governor’s office stated.

Bush travelled to London on Thursday to meet Simmonds ahead of two meetings in northern Europe related to overseas territory issues. (See Mac heads to frozen north)

Speaking to CNS Friday, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said he was “flabbergasted” that government was clearly not honouring its agreement with the FCO as there was no indication the UK had approved an extension on that requirement.

“The FCO required the FFR to be in law by the 30th of September, which is not now possible,” Miller stated after revealing that members had been informed about the next LA meeting on Thursday evening (20 September).

“This is the second time the UDP government has given an undertaken to the UK to put this agreement into law by a given time and failed to do so. The first time, after it was signed, the UK had asked that it be incorporated into local law by 30 June this year. Now the government had committed to doing so by the end of September and yet again it won’t be doing that.”

Miller said it was important that the public and the FCO understood that the opposition and both the independent members had no control over this and do not support the premier in his decision to delay its implementation, which could have significant consequences.

“We have had no part inthis decision and are not party to any agreement to not honour the commitment to put the FFR into law by September," he added.

Miller and the newly independent MLA for East End, Arden McLean, said they had concerns that this delay was connected to government’s hopes that the ForCayman Investment Alliance, a major deal with the Dart Group, could be completed next month. They believe that government is avoiding making the fiscal agreement into law because it may not comply it.

“We are concerned as we understand the full Dart agreement is coming before the end of October and government is holding off until November as the agreement may not conform to the parameters of the FFR. It appears we are playing Russian Roulette with Cayman’s relationship with the UK in order to please a single developer.”

McLean added that this decision to not implement it into law may also relate to the George Town cruise port, which Bellingham had made clear could not go ahead under the current circumstances.

"The UK has said it should not be done until it is re-tendered to comply with international standards of procurement and we hope that, despite the change in minister, the FCO will hold fast to that position,” the East End member stated.

He noted that the move would add to an already tense relationship with the UK.  “It is damaging to the country when the tension can't be resolved,” McLean stated.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin echoed the sentiments of his legislative colleagues about the damage such a move could have.

“The big issue for me is the non-compliance with the need to make the FFR law. This is a major problem and it continues to undermine our credibility with the UK and generally and makes the relationship more difficult at a time when we need their assistance and cooperation.”

McLaughlin said there had been no explanations at all about the decision not to comply with the September deadline.

“If there has been some agreement reached with the UK, the premier needs to let us know, and if there hasn’t, then government is in breach and the opposition doesn’t support that position,” he added.

The opposition leader noted that the Cayman Islands is already subject to the FFR even though it is not yet law, so delaying its implementation would not necessarily give the government a green light for the Dart agreement. He said the premier could not proceed with that deal if it breaches the agreement with the Brithish government.

“While he may still go ahead, the ultimate signature has to come from the governor in order to dispose of crown land, which he will not do if the deal, when it is finalized, doesn’t comply with the FFR,” he added.

CNS contacted the governor’s office and is awaiting comment from the UK’s representative regarding the decision of government not to bring the amended PMFL by the deadline set out by the UK.

Related articles:

CIG has 4 years to sort debt (November 2011)

UK gives conditional nod (August 2012)

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TV station still suffering after lightning strikes

TV station still suffering after lightning strikes

| 24/09/2012 | 1 Comment

tv fuzz.jpg(CNS): The local television company confirmed Monday that it was still having technical difficulties as a result of the storms which hit Grand Cayman on Friday and paying customers were still without the full complement of services. Daybreak was missing from the TV schedules and a number of channels were still down. “We are still experiencing some technical difficulties as a result of Friday’s lightning storm and some of our channels are still down,” a spokesperson for the firm stated. “Our engineers are working to resolve the problem but in the meantime segments from our Daybreak show will be posted online later this morning.”

Early Friday morning powerful elecrtical storms bombarded Grand Cayman with lightning striking several places which impacted both the TV station and the local power company CUC.

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Windsor Park NHDT clients get concrete houses

Windsor Park NHDT clients get concrete houses

| 24/09/2012 | 10 Comments

ribbon.jpg(CNS): Despite the problems surrounding the National Housing Development Trust (NHDT) Affordable Housing programme, the latest finished homes were handed over officially to 26 new homeowners last week. Following some major re-construction at the Windsor Park development site, NHDT and its team have given new concrete homes to the families on the site of the older homes originally constructed by the previous community affairs minister. According to officials from the current ministry responsible for affordable homes, the new models have been built with stronger foundations, proper sustainability and more functionality.

Mike Adam told the new residents at Tuesday’s ceremony that he understood the financial hardship that many families face in owning a suitable home.

“This is why, at the heart and soul of our housing strategy, we're committed to go the extra mile for our clients in providing affordable homes,” Adams stated. “I commend the National Housing Development Trust and local contractors for their hard work and ongoing commitment to this project. I could not have asked for a better team.”

Introduced in 2003, the programme provides assistance to low income families who have dreams of obtaining a mortgage and owning their own home.

The original homes, which were built under the direction of former minister Dr Frank McField, have been criticised for being sub-standard. But while Adam was cutting ribbons on the more expensive properties which have been built on the Windsor Park site, McField was defending his project to the Public Accounts Committee across town in the LA.

McField said that he and his team had used the materials for the home his ministry built because they were cheap enough to make the homes affordable, which was the main goal and one that has been lost with the new project as these homes are out of reach of those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap that the homes were meant to assist.

He denied they were sub-standard and pointed out that they were given planning permission and received occupancy certificates. They had also had received insurance cover and were mortgaged by banks, none of which would have happened, McField said, had the homes been of such a poor standard as has been claimed. He also noted that the properties in Windsor Park had withstood the onslaught of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, despite the intensity of the storm.

According to the ministry, the government is absorbing the increase in costs for existing homeowners, who will not be required to make up the difference, despite the significant increase. However, all new clients of the NHDT will be paying the full price for the new concrete homes.

Related articles:

NHDT clients get new for old (April 2011)

Ex-housing board director denies insurance con (July 2012)

Government failures continue (September 2012)

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Cops take crime prevention message to North Side

Cops take crime prevention message to North Side

| 24/09/2012 | 0 Comments

burglar-caught-by-surprise-three-crime-preventing-stories (300x256).jpg(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will be joining members of North Side District Council this week to deliver a crime prevention message and help home and business owners find ways to protect their property. Building on the work already undertaken in the District with home and business owners, o take simple common sense steps to protect against burglary, the police said the crime expo will include crime prevention demonstrations and will showcase security products. Acting Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks, Commander for the Eastern Districts said the proactive approach of district residents was having an impact on crime there.

“There have been a number of burglaries in the area recently and already the work we have done in the District has paid off with people looking at how they can improve the security of their homes and neighbours being extra vigilant,” he said. “Only last week police were able to make a quick burglary arrest when someone called the police to report a suspicious vehicle.

“We are delighted to be working with the North Side District Council on this important initiative. Crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility and this cohesive approach to target hardening and improving security awareness will greatly benefit everyone in North Side,” he added.

Stanley Panton, Chairman of the North Side District Council encourage all residents to attend the event on Thursday. “The Council is pleased to continue its partnership with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to educate all residents with tips on safety and crime prevention.  Hands on advice will be given as to how you can further secure your property. Please be there,” he said.

The event, which starts at 7.30pm in the North Side Civic Center, will features presentations from the RCIPS and the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Centre.  Representatives from a number of security companies will be in attendance to demonstrate the range of security products available from locks to alarms and CCTV systems.

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