Local contractors blast
Chinese port deal
Leading Cayman Islands contractors blasted the government’s handling of cruise port negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company, airing concerns about the company’s health standards and ability to dominate the local construction industry. They questioned why the Chinese government-controlled company is being talked to in the first place, and what safeguards the Cayman government has in mind to protect the Islands’ economy.
“We’ve all decided that this is a tiny project for a company the size of China Harbour. Our project is something that we can manage locally. Most of us are out of work. We need this work to survive,” said Kris Bergstrom, vice president of the Cayman Contractors Association. “The biggest question is why are we going outside of ourselves to court a company like China Harbour, who have now not only stated that they’re looking at the port but quote-unquote billions of dollars in other construction projects in Grand Cayman?”
He said, “Our real concerns are, A. How did they get invited to the table? B. Why are they here – why are they coming here? And C. How are we going to deal with this downstream? Are they going to be here and we’re all going to be Chinese in a couple of years? It’s a real concern for us and our livelihood going forward.”
Colonial period film shoots
A movie featuring British settlers, pirates and Indians was shot in Grand Cayman last week.
Scenes for To Have and To Hold, based on a book that was a bestseller in 1900, were filmed on board the Valhalla pirate ship, on beaches at Spotts and South Sound and at the Turtle Farm.
The bulk of the movie is being shot in Virginia, where the book is mostly set, but scenes involving pirates and a ship wreck are being filmed in Grand Cayman, with one day of shooting at a blue hole in the Bahamas.
Gov’t facing deficit again
The Cayman Islands government is facing a small operating deficit as its current budget year draws to a close in June, according to projected figures presented as part of the country’s Strategic Policy Statement.
The $4.5 million anticipated shortfall is largely due to a $21 million increase in government spending and projections that a modest increase in public sector revenues over the same period just won’t be able to match the expenditures.
According to revised government figures, Cayman’s central government revenues for the current 2011/12 fiscal year will rise to $548 million, while expenses will increase to $511 million. When an additional $41.8 million to pay off public sector debt and cover the losses of statutory authorities and government-owned companies is factored in, the operating deficit of $4.5 million is reached.
The Cayman Islands government ended the previous fiscal year with a $25 million operating surplus. This year, the government had hoped to end with a modest $3.8 million surplus, but revised figures send that figure more than $8 million in the other direction.
Second arrest in
A second officer with the Cayman Islands Customs Department has been arrested in connection with an ongoing cocaine exportation investigation, according to information provided to our sister publication The Caymanian Compass.
Customs Collector Carlon Powery confirmed the arrest, saying the second officer was “concerned in the exportation of cocaine through the Owen Roberts International Airport”.
Bruce Powery was placed on leave last year while local and United Kingdom authorities investigated the drug case.
Customs Officer Bruce Powery has not been charged with a crime or accused of any administrative wrong-doing. The allegations against Bruce Powery relate to an incident earlier this year at a UK airport where three men were arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession.
much higher than stated
Cayman Islands Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin has said that government unemployment numbers significantly understate the problems being faced by out-of-work Caymanians.
According to figures contained in the government’s Strategic Policy Statement, Cayman Islands unemployment stood at 6.7 per cent for the first half of 2011.
However, McLaughlin said he thinks that figure was closer to 18 per cent unemployment for Caymanians.
The total unemployment figures estimated by the government Economics and Statistics Office and reported each year in a labour survey include unemployment numbers for everyone working in the Islands. Historically, unemployment figures for non-Caymanian workers have been quite low – between 1 and 2 per cent – since most foreign workers are not allowed to stay in Cayman if they are not employed and do not possess some form of permanent resident status. Permanent residents and spouses of Caymanians may be listed among the non-Caymanian unemployed.
When the figures for Caymanians are considered alone, the number is pushed several points higher.