Throne Speech paints bright picture

Governor Stuart Jack delivered his inaugural throne speech at Friday’s State Opening of the 2006-07 Session of Parliament.

For the first time, the Throne Speech and Budget Address were held on the same day in anticipation of the new fiscal year, which begins in July.

In a detailed and optimistic address, Mr. Jack described the evolving relationship the Cayman Islands have with the United Kingdom. ‘I am encouraged that there is much continuing goodwill and effort on both sides to consolidate that positive state of affairs,’ he said.

Expressing his support for modernizing the Constitution, he emphasised the need for all Caymanians to be included in the consultation process.

Mr. Jack also discussed the numerous emerging issues affecting the Cayman Islands and the need for the proper mechanisms to address them. ‘Together, better information and transparency, greater public involvement, respect for human rights and for Cayman’s heritage and environment will provide a strong basis on which we can tackle the many challenges facing these islands,’ he said.

Underlining the key priorities of constitutional reform, law and order, the best possible planning for disasters, and a more efficient and effective public service he will be focusing on during his term, Mr. Jack highlighted upcoming new projects and initiatives the ministries and government departments will be undertaking in the coming fiscal year.

The Judicial branch will have a new summary court building and launch a new legal and judicial website which will provide online access to laws and allow electronic document filing and payments.

GIS will be reintroducing its weekly informational television show, and Computer Services will have completed work on Category 5 hurricane resistant facilities for data storage in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

New to the Civil Service is the Public Service Management Law, coming into effect on 1 Jan., 2007, which outlines new functions and responsibilities.

In support of the proposed Freedom of Information Act, a draft Public Records Law will be introduced which will provide a legal framework for records management.

The Immigration Department will be releasing a two-year business plan outlining its goals and customer service standards.

The Department of Vehicle Licensing hopes to improve its services over the coming year. Changes include: separating the Public Transport Unit from the Department of Vehicle Licensing by July 2006; implementing legislation on graduated licensing and disabled parking provisions; development of new online services; and developing proposals for amalgamating the two George Town vehicle licensing offices and opening a new office in East End.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Services will emphasise a renewed focus on neighbourhood policing and the use of technology and forensics, as well as increasing its efforts in driving down road injuries and deaths though rigorous enforcement.

The Prison Service will be creating the new position of Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and providing support for alternatives to prison sentences.

The Portfolio of Legal Affairs anticipates enacting new legislation to give Courts alternative sentencing options, and include a provision for the establishment of a new Drug Court emphasising rehabilitation.

The Fire Service will be separated into two new departments: the Airport Emergency Fire Services Department and the Cayman Islands Domestic Services Department, and a new fire boat will be commissioned. In addition, plans have been initiated to construct a fire station on Cayman Brac, while a new combined fire and police station is planned for the Bodden Town/Savannah area.

The National Hurricane Committee will produce a 2006 National Hurricane Plan featuring a new format and incorporating lessons learned from Hurricane Ivan. In addition, the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing will be building a new Bodden Town hurricane shelter.

The Ministry of Communications, Works and Infrastructure will also continue its hurricane mitigation activities, including placing sea defence systems in coastal roads and beachside cemeteries.

The Department of Agriculture will be working with the Agricultural Society to develop the Agritourism centre and farmers’ market at the Stacey Watler Agricultural Pavilion in Lower Valley.

Along with moving into new facilities, the Mosquito Research & Control Unit will be developing its progressive approach of large-scale application of pellets to prevent mosquitoes from hatching.

The Department of Environmental Health has a number of waste management projects planned. A new plan for a solid waste collection, treatment and disposal facility is in the works for Grand Cayman. In Cayman Brac, an environmental impact assessment will be undertaken in anticipation of a new bluff landfill site, and an assessment will be undertaken of the solid waste management strategies on Little Cayman.

A number of new education initiatives are planned for the coming year. Under the central goal of strengthening literacy, several schools projects are under way. Under the international ‘future schools’ model, George Hicks High School will open in September 2006 as four separate learning units of 230-240 students. Three other new secondary schools will be built and are set to open in early 2008.

And on the housing front, the Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation is ready with house plans, sites and needs assessments to provide as many houses as possible in the coming fiscal year.

The complete text of the speech is available on the government website – www.gov.ky.

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