Archive for December 12th, 2014

Local spending survey set

Local spending survey set

| 12/12/2014 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Government will be starting a household survey in January requiring those selected to report on their spending. The aim is to gather information from a range of families with different income levels to assess what proportion of Cayman residents’ income is spent on what and the country’s economic well-being. This will enable the government to modernise the cost of living basket, understand spending behaviour and consumption, as well as measure the spending gap between rich and poor. Fourteen hundred homes will be randomly selected for the survey which will take more than a year to complete with the final results and report expected at the end of 2017.

Finance Minister Marco Archer announced the details of Household Budget Survey (HBS), Friday, and explained the importance of gathering the information on the spending habits of the country. “HBS 2015 is very important as it provides a comprehensive source of information on the country’s household sector,” he said. “As we continue to monitor GDP growth and the other macroeconomic indicators, it is equally important to look deeper into the economic condition of households through the HBS.”

Officials from the Economics and Statistics Office said the random sample would cover a range of income brackets to establish a clear picture of what the population spends their cash on.

This will take into account bills for water, electricity and groceries as any other purchases made during the time of the survey. The survey will take into account what segments of expenditure change for those living in the bottom ten percent of the income range through to the top ten percent selected along with how consumption of goods and services are affected.

The last household budget survey took place in 2007 around the same time as the National Assessment of Living Conditions, that established a controversial poverty line in the Cayman Islands. Among the issues this comprehensive survey will also see how much the gap in income ranges and spending ability has widen between those at the top and bottom of the socio economic pile. In 2007 the gap was already exceptionally significant with those at the bottom of the pile having a per capita consumption of just $5,410 while those at the top enjoy a per capita spending rate of $72,251.

“We need the HBS to update the consumer price index (CPI) basket of goods and services. This is the most popular use of the HBS and the CPI is the most commonly used statistic in Cayman; mainly for cost of living adjustment,” Archer said at a press briefing to announce the survey.

The total annual consumption of goods and services estimated seven years ago was $1.3 billion. The overall per capita consumption was CI$23,774.

Those selected will be legally required to participate in the study as stipulated in the Statistics Law. Officials stressed that all information collected is to remain absolutely confidential and outside of the ESO. Data collected will not be used to create new taxes for households or businesses.

Of the 1400 houses selected, one hundred and twenty will be surveyed each month. The designated head of the home will need to keep receipts or record the families spending habits in jotters provided by the surveyors who will be visiting local homes.

The data will be used by numerous groups including the Electricity Regulatory Authority, to inform them about any future fuel price increases requested by CUC, while the public service pension board will also use the information to keep civil service pensions in line with inflation. The data will help inform the needs assessment unit of the income level to screen qualified recipients and immigration to grant work permit holders permission to bring their dependents.

The results will also as a benchmark for the countries spending habits and ability to spend. The private sector will also be able to use the data to determine realistic salary levels and employees as a bargaining tool for a pay rise.

Archer also explained the results of the survey will provide government with information on how investment is converted to jobs and consumption in the local economy and understand the country’s spending power and trends.

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Former COO at C&W takes on e-gov challenge

Former COO at C&W takes on e-gov challenge

| 12/12/2014 | 5 Comments

(CNS Business): TheCabinet office has appointed Ian Tibbetts to take on the task of dragging the Cayman Islands Government into the 21st century and help it provide many more services via the internet. A former chief operating officer with Cable and Wireless with extensive communications experience, the new director of e-government has been given the challenge of getting public services online and meeting the policy objectives to cut the cost of service delivery and make CIG more effective and efficient. Having taken up the post at the beginning of this month, Tibbetts will lead the development of technology and systems in the public sector to allow people to do business with government, including the financial services sector. Read more on CNS Business

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Climate change will affect Cayman tourism

Climate change will affect Cayman tourism

| 12/12/2014 | 63 Comments

(CNS): The planet is set to warm by more than 2°C by 2100. With many of the world’s leaders meeting in Peru’s capital to discuss measures to be taken to reduce global climate change, small Island nations such as Cayman stand to lose out the most from sticking with the status quo. Thousands of activists marched through the streets of Lima Wednesday to demand a just solution to climate change. As sea temperatures rise, the risk of diseases among coral grows, as higher temperatures allow for bacteria to reproduce more easily. Many coral diseases, parasites and fungal infections spread more rapidly when waters warm, sometimes up to 14 times more rapidly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association of the US says there has been a marked increase in coral diseases in recent years, affecting up to two thirds of the Caribbean. Ocean Acidification dueto pollution will also hinder many species of corals regrowth, increasing the difficulties for marine populations to stay stable.

Cayman’s world renowned dive industry could suffer as a result of the death of corals, as they provide a key component of the marine life’s stability around the islands. As well as the fact that people from around the world will no longer take dive holidays here and local fishing will also be seriously impacted.

CARICOM representatives at the UN made the case for sustainable use of the oceans and seas based on the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of safe trade and fishing activities. Deputy permanent representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Shorna Kay-Richards spoke on behalf of the 15 countries belonging to the regional bloc, at a General Assembly session on the topic to mark the 20th anniversary of the of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is not only our marine world that is threatened but our terrestrial one as well. Rising sea-levels will affect our coastline, with storms becoming intensified with warmer waters. Coastal erosion could become a problem, with the destruction of mangroves for residential and other developments. Without mangroves, there will be less fish making it to maturity as juveniles often use them for protection from predators. Without mangroves, our coastline loses their roots providing the area with solidarity, leaving the coast vulnerable to the force of the storm surge and erosion.

Almost all of the Cayman Island’s infrastructure lies only a few metres above sea level and close to shore, and despite the partial implementation of the National Conservation Law (NCL) and the formation of the National Conservation Council, there is little public discussion in the Cayman Islands on the potential future impacts of climate change and unsustainable development on this small country. 

The need for a review of the Marine Conservation law and in particular the need to enhance the marine parks has been delayed, not least because of the continued opposition from a small but powerful number of people. The Department of Environment has also had to prioritise the implementation of the NCL as Cayman had no legislation to protect its terrestrial species, nor was it meeting its obligations in regards to some of the international conventions that Britain has extended to its territories.

Although the wider public in Cayman is very supportive of the need for better environmental protection, just a small and powerful lobby of those involved in development have been able to delay the islands' need to modernise legislation to protect its future.

While the rest of the world, in particular our contemporaries in the Caribbean, engage actively in the global discussion on the problem and what can be done to solve it, Cayman is only just coming to terms with needing to consider the environmental impact of development as well as socio-economic impacts.

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Prison to review all staff

Prison to review all staff

| 12/12/2014 | 41 Comments

(CNS): Following the revelations that a convicted sex-offender had been employed for several years at the prison without having admitted his past crimes, the director has stated that HMP Northwardwill be reviewing all of its employees to ensure that there are no more surprises. Neil Lavis said that no system was fool proof if those recruited give out dishonest information but said there would be an effort to double-check the background of existing officers and that recruitment practices would be improved. The ministry has also confirmed that Ricardo Fisher, who resigned when his past history was revealed, will not be prosecuted for failing to declare his criminal history. Despite enquiries regarding his status in Cayman, the immigration department has failed to respond.

Lavis, who arrived long after Fisher was employed, told CNS that all existing officers will be checked again under a full internal review and the ministry was examining the introduction of additional background check mechanisms which could be used for all of the command and control agencies under its remit, in consultation with the ‎Portfolio of the Civil Service and the head of the civil service.

The revelations about Fisher came against the backdrop of other revelations that a man under investigation for murder had been recruited to the RCIPS and had been placed quietly on paid leave for some two years without the public being informed. This was exposed when Tyrone Findlay was convicted of murder in Jamaica last month.

The two issues have brought the practices relating to recruitment and background checks on law enforcement officials into sharp focus. A long held public concern has been that because Cayman is so dependent on overseas employees many questionable characters have slipped through the net and are in positions of trust or power.

Lavis said he would be taking a closer look at the prison staff but warned that it was not always easy to find the truth about everyone coming from overseas. While information is easily accessible in the United States, it is not always the case in other jurisdictions, especially in the UK where the legislation is much stricter and prevents the wider publishing of offenders' details.

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Baines still in line of fire

Baines still in line of fire

| 12/12/2014 | 51 Comments

(CNS): Although the police commissioner escaped being the subject of a no confidence motion in the Legislative Assembly this week after the premier managed to persuade opposition MLA Bernie Bush to hold fire until he discusses Baines’ position with the governor, the top cop is by no means out of the firing line. East End MLA Arden McLean has called on the premier to allow all of the MLAs to meet with the governor to express their concerns. While the recruitment of a murderer to the RCIPS has shocked many, the MLAs have broader concerns about the head of the RCIPS. During another crime focused debate this week, the quality of policing came in for heavy criticism from the MLAs.

The recruitment of a murderer to the RCIPS from Jamaica, however, has caused wide concern in the community and for some it is the last straw. Tyrone Findlay was allegedly recruited to the RCIPS on contract some two months before he was charged with killing a man during a police investigation into a robbery. Once charged, Findlay, who had been serving in the Uniform Support Group, the armed branch of the RCIPS, was placed on leave and remained on the payroll until his conviction last month.

Since then the RCIPS has confirmed that it will be reviewing recruitment practices and the appointment of new officers from Jamaica have been placed on hold. Findlay was said to have glowing references from Jamaica and Baines has claimed that they were not aware he was under investigation for murder.

Baines has denied that he was able to dismiss the officer once he was arrested, despite his short period in the job and the serious nature of the allegations. Baines told CNS that because the officer was recruited in 2011 on a three year contract and there was no probationary period he remained on payroll throughout.

He said the two year period in the police law relates solely to officers who are brandnew recruits with no prior experience.

“The police law alternatively permits the appointment of experienced officers from other jurisdictions for short term contracts and without the probationary period being applicable to them,” he said, adding that it was a misrepresentation that he could have been discharged as a probationer at any time.

“The application of the law has been equally applied to both Cayman and expatriate, as evidence of that and the application of the Public Service Management Law in the case of a local officer convicted of demanding a bribe, sentenced and permitted to appeal … remains on the payroll pending the outcome of that appeal. Regardless of any personal position, that is what the law permits rightly or wrongly,” he said in defence of what many have said is indefensible, and as the head of the organisation Baines should take responsibility.

Findlay was on required leave for the large part of his time on contract but he was brought back by the commissioner in March this year. The RCIPS has said he was working behind a desk at the Marine Unit. Other sources have told CNS this was not the case but we have been unable to ascertain exactly what he was doing until his trial last month.

There is no sign that Baines will be falling on his metaphorical sword, despite the calls for him to go from the independent, opposition and even government benches, as well as the wider public. Baines told Cayman 27 that he would be staying for the next two years until his contract ends.

“I come to work every day and put my efforts into professionally making these islands safer and indeed that is why we are the safest island in the Caribbean," he said. "I understand the concerns that have been expressed and I also understand politics, so it is a matter for the governor.”

He said the comments about him on CNS were regrettable but he was professional enough to get over it. “What is more concerning is that people who should know better are repeating some of the ignorance that is being put on them.”

The commissioner said he accepted the blame for failings of the police when it was their fault. “I don’t accept failings of parenting, failings of education and failings of rehabilitation,” he said, as he took aim at other areas of government. “I merely pick up the pieces … We need to give people a purpose, a plan, and support when they come out of Northward  because, guess what, if we don’t they are going to do it again.”

The premier has made no comment on whether he believes the commissioner should remain in post, despite being the home affairs minister. He has said only that he appreciates the strength of feeling held by members and the wider public. Although the political arm of government has no say in police issues, including recruitment, the demonstration of a public lack of confidence in Baines by a united parliament would be difficult for the governor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ignore.

However, McLaughlin is opting for a very private closed door approach and denied a request from the East End member that all the members meet with Governor Helen Kilpatrick and impress upon her their concerns or that any opposition MLAs could be present, in the first instance, when he discusses the issue with her.

He said that when he does meet with the governor, he will express the desire of members to meet with her about the issue. McLaughlin has raised his concerns that the matter is dealt with thoughtfully. He said the public purse has paid out enough money already to departing senior police officers because of hasty actions.

The governor, who is currently in the UK, is expected to return to the Cayman Islands this weekend but the premier has not stated when his meeting with her will take place.

It is clear, however, that the commissioner feels he has nothing to resign over, so if the public wants a new commissioner, they will need to put pressure on their MLAs, especially those on the government benches, so they in turn make it clear to Kilpatrick and the FCO the wishes of the Cayman public.

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