Year in review: April 2010

April

Inactive children

In early April a study
published by the World Health Organisation revealed that Cayman’s young teens
were the most inactive among a sampling of 34 countries in the world.

The study showed that 58 per
cent of boys and 64 per cent of girls aged 13 to 15 in Cayman and in St. Lucia
spent more than three hours a day watching TV, on computers or chatting with
friends, outside school hours.

Researchers studied
questionnaires from 70,000 young teens in schools in 34 countries and published
their findings in The Journal of Paediatrics.

Regina Guthold of the World
Health Organisation in Geneva and her colleagues found that most of the
children they surveyed worldwide were not getting enough exercise and that
nearly a third of the kids were sedentary.

The research team looked at
questionnaires answers from 72,845 13- to 15-year-old schoolchildren from North
and South America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East between 2003 and 2007. The
survey did not include the United States and most European countries.

The data was gleaned from
the WHO’s Global School-based Student Health Survey, a collaborative
surveillance project designed to help countries measure and assess the
behavioural risk factors and protective factors in 10 key areas among young people
aged 13 to 15 years.

The WHO researchers defined
adequate physical activity as at least one hour of exercise outside of school
gym class, at least five days a week. Children who spent three or more hours a
day being inactive were classified as sedentary.

Cayman has established a
Children’s Health Task Force to try to combat the increasing problem of
childhood obesity.

 

Residents respond to call for
prayer

In Mid April residents from
all parts of Grand Cayman gathered in Heroes Square to answer the national call
to prayer that Premier McKeeva Bush had issued just one week earlier.

The premier’s concerns about
the economic recession and rising crime became the themes of prayers offered by
various church pastors through the Cayman Ministers Association.

Several hundred people
packed downtown George Town for the prayers while thousands more had access to
the event through live radio broadcasts.

Pastor Al Ebanks, was asked
by Mr. Bush to organise the devotion, and the pastors focused on separate
issues in brief prayers.

Topics included
relationships and stresses within the family, businesses and employment and
young people seeking guidance in difficult times.

One prayer leader noted that
people were asking God to stop the crime – but God was not committing the
crime, he pointed out. People are. Everyone was encouraged to co-operate with
authorities and speak to friends or family members who they thought were doing
wrong.

Mr. Bush addressed the crowd
briefly, sharing his thoughts on the need for prayer and he advised parents to
make sure their children attended church. He then thanked the ministers for
their participation, urging them to speak out from their pulpits about wrong
doing.

Pastor Al Ebanks encouraged
people to continue to pray but also become more involved in the community
through good works. The ministers association pledged to help by spearheading a
campaign called “Do Something Cayman”.

 

Auditor General’s contract
not renewed

April saw the appointment of
a new Auditor General, Alistair Swarbick. Dan Dugay who had held the government
watchdog post for the past six years, admitted he was disappointed at his
contract not being renewed, but that he wished the new auditor general well.

The outgoing auditor
however, expressed concern that his work in the past six years was apparently
not considered in the hiring process as he noted that, “According to the
Governor’s press release, the only consideration was the interview itself.”

Of the 58 applications that
were received for the position only two of the applicants were Caymanian.

The auditor general reports
to the Legislative Assembly on the performance of various government agencies
and also does routine financial audits of all government departments.

Since the previous year, Mr.
Duguay and members of the House’s Public Accounts Committee had sparred
publicly over issues regarding how and when the auditor’s reports should be
released to the public. Typically, Cayman’s auditor general is given a
three-year contract. That is a shorter contract than the complaints
commissioner or the information commissioner – both are independently appointed
government oversight offices.

Mr Dugay had indicated in
the past, that having competition for the auditor general’s post could have an
effect on future auditors’ performance. “If the auditor general has to go every
three years and fight for his job, he might have that in the back of his mind
when deciding what audits to do and what to say,” said Mr. Dugay.

 

North Sound pollution

Photos circulated around the
Island by email depicting what was described as raw sewage floating in the
sound initiated a denial from The Water Authority Cayman into claims from
private citizens that its sewage treatment plant was leaking waste into the North
Sound.

Water Authority Director
Gelia Frederick van Genderen said claims made in that e-mail were incorrect.

However, both the authority
and Department of Environment officials said that pollution was occurring and
it was showing up in the form of little green and brown coloured plants growing
in the water.

According to Department of
Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie marine plants tend to proliferate in
tropical waters where higher levels of nutrients are available. Waste is one of
those nutrients that can cause plant life to flourish.

A department study conducted
since 2003 revealed that marine plant growth is occurring along some areas of
the North Sound shoreline though the reason why it was happening was not known.

According to a statement issued
by the Water Authority and the Department of Environment Possible contributing
factors included “leachate (liquid that drains) from the unlined George Town landfill, our current
methods for on-site wastewater treatment and disposal, poorly planned canal
developments, fertiliser-enriched run-off from golf courses and other
landscaping, and inputs from recreational use of the marine environment.” The
Department of Environment also noted that large-scale removal of coastal
mangrove wetlands to accommodate development, particularly on the western side
of the North Sound, had reduced the ability of the environment to make up for
the effects of pollution.

Growth of algae and other
marine plants can cause the water to turn green and cloudy. They can also cause
a reduction in oxygen levels in the water at night and reduced sunlight
exposure to plants like turtle grass. Lack of oxygen in the water can also kill
the local fish population, or drive it away. 

In their joint statement the
Water Authority and Department of Environment stated that it was not possible
to turn back the clock but that changes and improvements needed to be made in
the ways in which future developments were planned and existing developments
managed.

 

Governor signs pension
holiday

Pensions were a big topic of
discussion in April when Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor signed
legislation that allowed private sector companies to suspend statutorily
required pension payments for both Caymanian and non-Caymanian employees.

The
signing was the last major step required to make the National Pensions
(Amendment) Bill, 2010 the law.

Lawmakers had unanimously
approved the pension changes in March.

Under the law, any
suspension of pension payments was to be mutually agreed between a company and
its employee.

If a suspension period was
then agreed upon, the employee could still pay their five per cent salary
contribution into the pension system or alternatively choose to receive that
five per cent contribution in their pay cheque instead. 

Employers were exempted from
paying their matching five per cent pension contribution for the suspension
period. Despite garnering “yes” votes from all sides of the LA, some members’
support for the pension suspension seemed reluctant.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller
had concerns about how it was going to be monitored and if it was voluntary.
Mr. Miller said that “everyone” should include the Cayman Islands Civil
Service, but Civil Service leaders stated that government worker’s pensions
would not be suspended. Mr. Rolston Anglin, who first proposed the pension
suspension, agreed that opposition members and Mr. Miller’s concerns were real
but the government needed to do something to offset the rising costs of work
permits to assist businesses in difficult times.

He added that he hoped
private sector companies would not use an opportunity to take advantage of
their most vulnerable workers.

 

Mt. Trashmore scrap metal
removal begins

April saw the beginning of
what could be a long process in tackling Cayman’s solid waste problem when
contractors begun the task of removing thousands of tons of scrap metal from
the George Town landfill.

The two local contractors
had just one week to ship out around 6,000 tons of baled scrap metal. This
involved them baling loose metal and having to crush cars to get them ready for
shipment.

Cardinal D. Ltd and
Pan-Caribbean Energy Ltd paid $50 per ton to remove the scrap metal. They were
then selling it on to Hong Kong-based Hong Luen Metal Trading Company.

This was the second attempt
to remove scrap metal debris from the landfill. In March 2007, Matrix, a joint
Caymanian-Canadian company, signed a $1.2 million tender contract to remove the
scrap, but ultimately paid only a quarter of that sum to the government for the
scrap metal. The contract was cancelled in September 2007.

Earlier in April The Government had to pay almost $281,000
to 19 sub-contractors who had been hired by Matrix in 2007 to help with the
scrap metal removal but who had not paid them for their work.

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