Archive for June 4th, 2013

No dump in BT, says Ozzie

| 04/06/2013 | 182 Comments

ozzie signing.jpg(CNS): Following the news that he will now have responsibility for the George Town landfill, Minister Osbourne Bodden confirmed Tuesday that the dump will not be moving but will be tackled on site. With the new ministries only just finalised, Bodden said he was well aware that the situation regarding Grand Cayman’s waste-management was a priority for the Department of Environmental Health. Having campaigned heavily that the dump would not move to his own district of Bodden Town, the new Cabinet minister said he would be looking closely at the plans and proposals that had been examined during the last PPM administration, which focused on dealing with the problem on site.

Speaking at the first Cabinet press briefing held by the new government Tuesday, Bodden, who is now the minister of health, sports, youth and culture, said that there was no way he could forget that the dump was a major priority as he could see it clearly from his new office window.

“Under the last PPM administration we had a number of solutions proposed to remediate. That’s what we will be looking at. It is going to be done on site but it is too early to say how we will approach this. But it is not going to Bodden Town,” he confirmed.

The proposal to cover-up and remediate the existing site and then open a new landfill in Bodden Town was an idea proposed by the Dart Group, which the former UDP government accepted as part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance with the islands’ largest developer.

The decision by the former premier, McKeeva Bush, to entertain the relocation was made just weeks after the former deputy premier’s ministry had completed a full competitive tendering process and selected the US-based management experts Wheelabrator to set up a waste-to-energy facility and begin the remediation of the dump on site. The local partner, Peter Campbell, is now suing the Cayman government as a result of the decision, which had overturned the results of the open tender process.

Although the previous UDP government had signed a deal with Dart regarding the West BayRoad projects, nothing was signed in relation to the moving of the dump. It is understood that Dart had undertaken exploratory work on the proposed Midland Acre site in preparation for an environmental impact study but nothing more. With the dump now staying put, however, Dart’s plans to build out its residential development in Camana Bay are likely to be shelved.

Following the breakdown of negotiations between the interim PNA government and Dart just before the elections, the situation regarding all of the proposed investment deal remains up in the air. Speaking at the briefing on Tuesday, the new premier, Alden McLaughlin, said that since being elected to office he has received no official communications from the Dart Group about the FCIA.

As well as facing the ordeal of Mount Trashmore, Osbourne Bodden will also have to deal with Cayman’s burgeoning health costs and its increasing communicable and preventable disease problem. In addition, issues with health insurance and the forthcoming Shetty Hospital are all likely to keep Bodden extremely busy. Weeks before the election, the former health and sports minister, Mark Scotland, had produced a new National Sports Plan, which Bodden said was now sitting on his new desk and was another issue he would be addressing in the coming weeks.

A backbencher in the previous 2005-2009 PPM administration when he was first elected to office in his district of Bodden Town, the new minister is a qualified accountant and a small business owner.

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Alden finalizes Cabinet

| 04/06/2013 | 66 Comments

alden9-6548.jpg(CNS): After several days of talks and discussions with his new front and back bench as well as the technical staff from the civil service, the new premier has finalised his Cabinet and the allocation of duties for his new ministers and councillors. Alden McLaughlin revealed that Kurt Tibbetts, who was earmarked to take health, will now take up responsibility for planning, agriculture, housing and infrastructure, and Osbourne Bodden will now take health along with sports, youth and culture. As a result, the C4C government member Tara Rivers has now been given education along with labour and gender affairs.

In confirming the new ministries, McLaughlin said that the realignments and adjustments came about as a result of discussions among the team and the presentations from the civil service management about the various synergies and links between subject areas.

“We have done an immense amount of work,” McLaughlin said at his first Cabinet press briefing as premier on Tuesday, as he explained some of the changes from the earlier thoughts regarding ministries in the wake of the election. “We had a rationalization, presentation by the civil service where we all sought to find synergies between subject areas,” he said, adding that by seeking to get those synergies right, government was able to reduce the number of chief officers. “It was also important to get the right people assigned to the right ministries.”

Announcing the final line-up, including the duties of the councillors and the new chief officers, McLaughlin confirmed Wayne Panton as the financial services and commerce minister and said he would also be handling the environment. Acknowledging that out of all of the new seven ministries the synergies between financial services and environment may be the hardest to grasp, the environment is one of Panton’s own passions and, as a result, he was the best choice. Dax Basdeo was confirmed as Panton’s new chief officer.

Meanwhile, Marco Archer, as well as being the new finance minister, will also be taking on economic development and will be working with Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson and his chief officer will be Sonia McLaughlin.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell will stick with tourism and transport as well as district administration as the Brac’s Cabinet representative, and will be assisted by backbencher Joey Hew, who will be dealing with tourism related matters as a councillor. Stran Bodden will remain as chiefofficer, having previously headed up tourism.

The newest collection of portfolios, however, will be dealt with by McLaughlin, who takes up the new ministry of home and community affairs, which covers public safety. This includes the fire service, Hazard Management, immigration, vehicle licensing, communications, the police budget — although not operational or staffing issues — and prisons. The new ministry takes over many of the areas once held by the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which has now been eliminated. And while the governor’s office retains operational responsibility for law and order, staff and disciplinary issues, the new premier will have a greater role in the oversight of law enforcement spending and resources.

In addition, the new premier will also deal with community affairs. He will have Al Suckoo as his junior partner and two chief officers – Eric Bush, who moves from the former portfolio,and Dorine Whittaker, who will head up the community affairs element of the ministry.

Meanwhile, the third backbencher, C4C member Winston Connolly, will join Tara Rivers in the ministry of employment, education and gender affairs, where Mary Rodrigues remains the chief officer.

Jennifer Ahearn will work with Bodden in the slightly revamped health ministry, which also includes environmental health and the controversial landfill issue, while Alan Jones will be working with Tibbetts in the planning, agriculture and infrastructure ministry.

With the new ministries settled, McLaughlin said that the issues relating to the premier’s office were still being examined but he confirmed that he would not be continuing the post of chief of staff which was created by McKeeva Bush. McLaughlin did not say what would now happen to Leonard Dilbert, who had held that post.

In addition, McLaughlin said that the government would like to see the issue regarding Deborah Drummond and Diane Montoya settled but at this stage but the Cabinet has not yet discussed their possible futures with the deputy governor. Both women held senior positions in the previous PPM administration and remain on the civil service payroll, though neither has had an official post since they were pushed out of their jobs when the UDP took office four years ago.

See layout of new ministries and chiefs of staff below and check back to CNS for a closer look at all of the new portfolios, the ministers and the challenges ahead for each of them.

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Joey faces Grand Court trial

| 04/06/2013 | 0 Comments

joey.JPG(CNS): The former managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) will face trial in Grand Court after several of the multiple offences that he has been charged with were transmitted from Summary Court Tuesday. During Joey Ebanks’ appearance charges for obtaining property by deception relating to the purchase of several iPhones and iPads, amounting to almost $78,000, were transmitted to the Grand Court, where he will appear on 14 June. A further eight charges of making documents without authority and four more charges of obtaining property by deception were also transmitted to the higher court, where the first charge against Ebanks – obtaining a money transfer by deception was remitted following his April court appearance.

The unsuccessful candidate for North Side in the general election last month is facing a long list of charges relating to his short time at the helm of authority, where he is accused of writing cheques without permission, incorrectly claiming travel expenses and a number of other dishonesty offences.

In addition, there are seven charges of theft relating to amounts under $5,000, which will be dealt with in Summary Court along with two drugs related charges. Ebanks will next appear in Summary Court in July.

Since his arrest, Ebankshas denied all charges against him. During the election campaign the political hopeful took to the local radio airways, where he broadcast a regular evening drive-time show on Monday to Thursday during which he alleged that he was a victim of a wider corruption conspiracy and continued to claim his innocence.

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Minimum wage

| 04/06/2013 | 91 Comments

I don't think the pros and cons of a minimum wage have been well discussed in Cayman. I have an opinion but I haven't seen a good logical argument made for either side of the debate. Perhaps this is a good time to start. My quick and somewhat disorganized opinions: A livable minimum wage will have no negative effect on our ability to compete for foreign income, i.e. offshore finance, tourism, hospitality, property management, construction.

It might increase our cost of living but when slavery was abolished the cost of living increased as well. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t right that we should impoverish a quarter of our citizens so that the rest of us can save on our living and business expenses.

The cost of business goes up almost every year, yet entry-level wages are stagnant and mid-level wages are dropping. Obviously business is reducing its wage and salary expenses while the overall cost of living is increasing. The problem that we have with minimum wage levels will also affect the mid-level incomes soon. Thus, we are headed for ever-increasing levels of poverty. Expect the local residential real estate market to crash as well.

Mostly this is because there is no labour market competition in Cayman. Wages at the entry level and mid-level are lower now then they were 30 years ago when we had full Caymanian employment. Is there a connection between the 7,000 unemployed Caymanians and the unsustainable wage structure that exists in Cayman today?

Government is subsidizing the labour intense businesses in Cayman by enabling them to pay an unlivable wage (for Caymanians) to foreign workers while it supports the un- and under-employed through its social services programs.

If more Caymanians were working for more money then government would be spending less on social services. Caymanian wages are spent in Cayman, not sent overseas.

There are 75 million unemployed, educated, young people on the planet earth. Most would find Cayman’s low wage structure attractive compared to the situation that they face at home. With an open workpermit policy and no minimum wage, Caymanians must compete with a global labour force. It’s not too difficult to see who is winning and who is losing in this competition.

The ultra-low wages paid to foreign work permit holders still enables them to save enough money over seven years to buy a home in their native country. If there weren’t enough value at this level they wouldn't be here. Work permit fees for entry level jobs are in the $1,000 p/a range. What would change if they were $10,000 p/a?

Caymanians can't live and also save any money for a home in Cayman at the entry wage level paid to foreign workers. So we have displaced Caymanians' employment with a global labour force that gets much more value from their wages than a Caymanian does. A cheap undeveloped house lot in Cayman costs much more than a finished large 2-story fully furnished home in India or the Philippines. So the foreign worker making a straight $5 per hour for a 60 hour week is happy and a Caymanian would complain about the lack of overtime. A level playing field is also needed.

An entry level wage is suppose to be just that — entry level. After the new trainee gets some experience they expect to move up to the next level, eventually progressing to an income level that will support them and their family.

Cayman’s entry-level wage remains unchanged and employees don’t progress because local businesses don’t need to train or offer incentives to keep good employees. They just replace them from the global labour pool. Even a foreign worker who gets “rolled over” simply recommends a friend or relative replacement for the job.

OK, I’m sure there are a lot more “opinions”.  Let's make sure that we consider the entire labour situation in Cayman. For example, if we let foreign workers opt out of paying pension it will be come even cheaper for a business to hire a work permit holder than a Caymanian. Creating disincentives for Caymanian hiring, employment and advancement is what we are very good at, even if it isn't our intension.

My father often quoted the expression: “The road to hell is paved with good intensions.” Every decision that we have made in Cayman over the last 40 years has had unintended consequences, Maybe it's time to really examine Caymanian employment — all aspects of it — and make good policies and better decisions. Businesses will just have to pay more for employees. They pay more for everything else.

We wouldn’t be discussing the need for a minimum wage if we had more labour competition, just as we had in the 70s and 80s. Of course, work permits were so restrictive then that only the connected got them and a lot of businesses simply closed. So maybe favoritism is the cause of all of our problems.

What are we going to do about it? Who’s going to do it and how is it going to get done? Something to think about.

Related Viewpoint on CNS:

What will a minimum wage achieve? by 101

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Minimum wage clash ahead

| 04/06/2013 | 118 Comments

rivers.jpgCNS): During the campaign trail the PPM made a commitment to the electorate that it would introduce a minimum wage as a priority. Having backed the principle during the last time he was in office, the new premier, Alden McLaughlin, has stated many times since that he believes Cayman needs a minimum wage and is determined to see it introduced. However, his new minister of labour may not be quite as keen. Tara Rivers, along with her Coalition for Cayman colleagues, opposed the idea of a minimum wage on their campaign platform and it is a notable omission from the C4C’s national priorities plan, whereas the promise is printed clearly in the Progressives' manifesto.

With both Rivers and Winston Connolly, who also argued against the minimum wage during the various debates during the campaign, now working in the labour ministry, McLaughlin may encounter his first difficulty with his “inclusive” government. While all eight of his PPM colleagues have committed to the principle, with the two members of his administration both opposed to the idea now in the ministry that will be tasked to implement the party policy, the concept of working together may hit a serious bump.

Rivers was elected on a platform opposing its introduction but the PPM is committed to introducing it as an “early priority”, according to the manifesto, which may well prove to be the first serious test of how inclusive government can work when there are fundamental policy differences.

Although the Coalition for Cayman’s ‘non-manifesto’ has considerable similarities to the PPM document presented on the campaign trail, there are a number of subtle differences regarding policy approaches and it will be a test of the strength of the new Cabinet if the premier pushes ahead with the policy as promised.

McLaughlin has often expressed his regret at not being able to introduce a minimum wage after his last term in office, when he had responsibility for employment. The PPM leader often said that he had encountered considerable opposition from the Chamber of Commerce in particular and efforts to reach a compromise had failed. While McLaughlin says that he had considered going ahead regardless, as he believes that there is a level beyond which no employers should lawfully be allowed to drop pay and felt there was a genuine need for legislation to prevent the appalling low levels of pay in certain sectors.

However, while Connolly is not obligated to support any moves by the Cabinet to push the law through, Rivers is bound by collective responsibility and will be required to support the premier if he moves to fulfil the party’s campaign promise.

As the minimum wage is also supported by Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, McLaughlin will not need the two C4C members' vote to pass the legislation, but with Rivers at the helm of the labour ministry it would be extremely awkward at best for the PPM to push through such a move without her support.

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Teen admits street robbery and theft

| 04/06/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A teenager pleaded guilty on Friday to robbery as well as theft and attempted theft when he appeared in Grand Court. Garfield Silburn Jr admitted to the robbery of a woman on Dr Roy’s Drive on 23 March this year, when he stole the women’s handbag in a daylight mugging. Silburn also confessed to stealing the bicycle he was riding when he mugged his victim. The bicycle was said to be stolen from the vicinity of the Brasserie Restaurant and had an estimated value of CI$250. In addition, he pleaded guilty to attempted theft in connection with an incident in Newport Avenue less than two weeks later on 4 April, when another woman was pulled to the ground as he tried to steal her handbag.

Silburn had originally been charged with attempted robbery in connection with that failed mugging but the crown accepted his revised plea to attempted theft. According to a police report regarding the incident, the woman had clung on to her bag as the robber attempted to pull it from her grasp, as he rode his bicycle along the road dragging her with him. However, when a car came by Silburn fled leaving the bike behind. The woman was treated at the George Town hospital for cuts and bruising to her legs and body.

Silburn, who is represented by John Furniss, was remanded in custody to HMP Northward and the teenager is expected to be sentenced on 19 July.

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North Korea reactor work ‘nearing completion’

| 04/06/2013 | 0 Comments
_67959334_000997112_0_0_0_0_0_0_0.jpg(BBC) North Korea is making "important" progress on reactivating facilities at its moth-balled Yongbyon nuclear reactor, a US think-tank says. Start-up could be one to two months away, it said, but there was uncertainty over the availability of fuel rods to power the reactor. Pyongyang vowed to restart the reactor, which makes weapons-grade plutonium, in April amid severe regional tensions.

 
The reactor was shut down in July 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.The cooling tower at the facility was later destroyed, but then the disarmament deal stalled.
 
North Korea's decision to restart followed its third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to expanded UN sanctions.
 

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CIMA launches second jubilee coin

| 04/06/2013 | 0 Comments

$5 rev_Coin 2 (270x300).jpg(CNS): Coin collectors the world over are in for a treat this month as CIMA launches a special coin for the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority unveiled the second Diamond Jubilee Coin in the Royal Mint’s Commonwealth 24 Coin Collection last week, which was part of a special commemorative collection in honour of last year’s the jubilee. With a face value of $5, the limited edition, silver coin design illustrates a hallmark of the Queen’s 60-year reign. A portrait of Elizabeth II, the denomination and the words “Cayman Islands” is on the obverse side while on the reverse the coin features the image of the Jubilee Beacon which she lit to start the celebrations in the UK.

An initial amount of 50 coins will be available for local sales at a sale price of CI$89.65. Each coin comes with a special Jubilee information card from the Royal Mint. For more information on obtaining these coins, please contact the CIMA Currency Division on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building, 133 Elgin Avenue, between 9:00am and 4:00pm, at extension 244-1596, or by email at contactcurrency@cimoney.com.ky

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