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Minister Hew Gives Update

Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Hon. Joey Hew

At the press conference today, Tuesday, 23 June 2020, Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Hon. Joey Hew provided updates on initiatives by various departments in his ministry. The full text follows.

Good afternoon everyone,

Thank you, Honourable Premier and other members of the panel for giving me the opportunity to share some updates from my Ministry with members of the viewing public.

Over the past few months, the departments and agencies under my remit have continued to provide most services to our customers - online or through remote delivery. We have been doing business, just not in the usual way.

Only a few of our services have been reduced or stopped as a result of COVID-19. These include those in-person services which we have been unable to transition online - written and driving tests for DVDL and some front counter services within Government Administration Building.

As the Government moves forward with further easing of restrictions, I want to reassure members of the public that we are in the process of implementing plans to return to full service delivery- in a safe way - both for employees and customers.

Before I provide updates from some of my departments and agencies, I would like to announce a new initiative across our three Cayman Islands, which has been borne from successful private/public sector partnership.

Ten (10) community Wi-Fi hotspots are now available across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for residents to enjoy, public access to free wireless Internet.

Having Internet access at this time, is more critical than ever, as we require more people to go online for essential services. This initiative will allow students, families and even young entrepreneurs to access online resources and keep in touch with friends and family.

A number of partners contributed time, expertise and materials to implement this project. I must thank:

  • Global technology company Cisco for donating the technology infrastructure and equipment for the public Wi-Fi hotspots;

  • OfReg for coordinating the overall project;
  • Local IT provider, Unified Technologies, for the installation of all the IT infrastructure;
  • Flow C& W, for the necessary bandwith access;
  • Ministry of CPI; and
  • A number of government agencies and departments for providing the locations.

The community Wi-Fi hotspots are located at:

Sister Islands

  • District Administration Building in Cayman Brac
  • Government House in Little Cayman; and

In Grand Cayman

  • George Town Public Library
  • James M. Bodden Sr. Civic Centre
  • North Side Community Centre
  • Seafarer's Association Meeting Hall
  • South Sound Community Centre
  • University College of Cayman Islands (UCCI)
  • West Bay Public Library
  • William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre.

Wi-Fi hotspots are accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All the hotspots mentioned are now live, with the exception of the UCCI location.

Members of the public are required to adhere to relevant safety and social distancing guidelines when visiting these locations.

Again, thanks to all the partners who made this possible.

Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development

Turning to other portfolio areas, the Government, through my Ministry, continues to provide support for micro and small businesses across our islands.

Last week Honourable Premier gave an update on the uptake of the Government's relief measures for micro and small business, offered through the Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development.

I just want to add that, as of yesterday, 22 June:

  • Seven Hundred and Forty Nine (749) applications have been received for the micro and small business grant programme. 83% of all applications received have so far been processed.
  • The total value of grant applications approved is $1,076,000.00. Of this amount, $660,969.41 has already been received by applicants.
  • For the low interest loan programme, 60 applications have been received representing 37% of available funds approved by Cabinet. Three (3) applications were recently approved by the Cayman Islands Development Bank.

In addition to current services, once we can safely begin in-house services - the Centre will provide a residential business incubator where micro and small business owners can operate rent free with business advisors on hand for financial and strategic guidance.

Department of Commerce and Investment

The Department of Commerce and Investment continues to provide exceptional service through their online platform and via remote working.

Between March 21 - June 17, over 2,900 trade and business licences have been processed and issued. This includes over 600 new trade and business licences, which I believe, speaks to the confidence in our local economy and demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

I want to remind members of the public that in March, Government temporarily waived the trade and business licensing application fees, (for both new and renewals), until 31July.

Late trade and business licensing fees have also been temporarily waived until 31July.

There is still a window of opportunity for micro and small business owners, in particular, to benefit from these waivers.

I also want to mention that all the Boards - Trade and Business Licensing, Liquor Licensing, Special Economic Zone and Film Commission - are up and functioning.

Thank you to the DCI team and members of the Boards for your stellar response during the past few months.

Department of Vehicle and Driver's Licensing

Turning to DVDL, over the past three months, staff processed a total of 10,181 vehicle licence renewals.

  • Of this number, 7,873 vehicles or about 132 vehicles/per day were renewed online. This is proof that the online system is working and I would like to encourage members of the public to continue utilizing the online platform.
  • DVDL will refine the online system to make it even more efficient and easy to use, with the hope that customers will not have the need to return to the offices in numbers previously seen.
  • There were 2,288 vehicles renewed over the counter for essential personnel and the elderly.
  • The total number of drivers' licences renewed during the period is 1,686. I would encourage the public to use the online registered user portal.

The Department is now finalising procedures for the re-opening of the written and driving test, and the public will be advised accordingly. In the meantime, if you have a learner's licence that has expired, it can be renewed by completing the relevant form and emailing DVDL.

Members of the public can also contact DVDL at 945-8344 or via DVDL for information and queries.

Department of Planning

As it relates to planning matters, the Department of Planning has played a crucial role in the phased reopening of the construction sector. Planning personnel have provided in-field inspection services for those projects that had inspections pending (prior to the shelter in place regulations). They are now transitioning to multi-family and commercial projects as these projects come back on stream.

For the period, 15 March -19 June:

  • Number of Permits Issued - 108; valued over $44million;
  • Number of Certificate of Occupancy Issued - 38, valued over 59 million;
  • Number of Projects approved - 38, valued over 10 million;
  • Number of inspections completed - 663.

I am also pleased to report that the Department of Planning has partnered now with the Postal Service to allow customers to pay planning fees at three post offices - Airport, Savannah and West Bay. These locations are able to process cash and cheque transactions on behalf of Department. I want to thank the Postal Service for this partnership, which highlights efforts being made by the civil service to improve service delivery options to the public.

National Roads Authority

On the topic of infrastructure, the NRA began critical road works this month to take advantage of the reduction in the number of vehicles on roads.

  • NRA crews have already completed resurfacing on Shedden Road, Harbour Drive and Crewe Road.
  • In the coming weeks, they will begin resurfacing,
  • In George Town - North Sound Road (by Alissa Towers); and Elgin Avenue (by the police station),
  • Bodden Town area - Manse Road, Pease Bay, and sections of Breakers; West Bay Road; and sections of East End by the Blowholes.
  • Work is also underway for the widening of Chrissie Tomlinson roundabout and Rex Crighton Boulevard, which will be completed by the end of July.
  • In addition, work is set to begin on the Airport connector road in the coming weeks. This will connect the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Sparky Drive to alleviate heavy traffic through industrial park and also ease congestion onto the Butterfield roundabout.

On Wednesday of last week, I attended the NRA board meeting via zoom and we agreed to continue our focus on making our roads safer for all users by adopting the complete streets methodology where ever possible.

However, if space does not allow us, we will follow the shared streets methodology by using signage and road markings to identify and remind users that the streets are to be shared by motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

I would like to encourage everyone to continue to be cautious and take our time whilst using the roads. Just a couple weeks ago, we were restricted in our travel days and times and we seemed to have managed. Let us continue to show the same levels of patience, plan our days to reduce time on the road, and continue to share the roads with those of us who may walking, jogging, or cycling to get around or simply for exercise.

I have not touched on all the areas but I want to highlight the importance of the work E-Government Services Unit, particularly throughout this period. They have provided support government-wide, across agencies and departments.

During the shelter-in place, the EGov team have implemented a number of technology solutions across government:

These include:

  • The Covid-19 self-assessment tool;
  • The Chatbot assistant for site; and
  • Distribution via text message of ESID numbers to persons whose driver's licences are expiring to allow them to renew online with the registered user portal.

The E-Gov team are currently working with the Computer Services Department and vendors for the launch of a number e-commerce solutions in July. These include:

  • Online application for the Centre for Business Development which will allow for micro and small businesses to apply for the grants or loans;
  • Online system to facilitate the submission of items to be published in the Gazette;
  • Additional online services for DVDL such as new vehicle registrations and vehicle transfers; and
  • Online system to support the submission of applications for British Overseas Territory Citizen Naturalisation and Registration and proof of nationality.

This COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of digital services and the digital economy to the forefront. While we have benefitted significantly from the efforts to date with our existing online services, we have become more aware of major opportunities/gaps particularly in the digital sphere, a key one being the absence of a national identification system.

The good news is that E-Gov team have been working on this system and a few other projects. The team has made progress that will move the Cayman Islands forward significantly in the digital economy with implementation of the Population Register and National ID system.

The team have been working towards the procurement of a comprehensive suite of services, equipment, software and support in relation to the ID system. It anticipated that this will allow for the issuance of National IDs, starting in the second quarter of 2021.

The key dependencies to achieve this - is the completion of the population register; supporting legislation and the procurement process.

The Population Register is still on track for launch in the fourth quarter of this year with the majority of the technical solution currently implemented and ready.

Before I close, I want to thank E-Government and the Computer Services Department teams for all the work behind the scenes in supporting government to transition services online. Also, a big thank you to all the employees of the Ministry for their dedication in serving the people of these Islands. In spite of the circumstances under which we have been operating, they continue to give 100%.

Thank you.

For further information contact: Bina Mani