Cayman still well populated

Information from the Immigration Board, schools and businesses seems to believe the notion that the Cayman Islands has lost a significant portion of its resident population since Hurricane Ivan.

Figures from the Immigration Department last week indicated there were 2,187 less annual work permits on 31 December than the 15,586 that were valid 11 September.

However, the number of temporary work permits, which are valid up to six months, has nearly doubled since Ivan struck, with 6,672 now valid compared to 3,420 on 11 September.

When adding annual and temporary work permit numbers together, there are actually 1,065 more persons in the Cayman Islands on some sort of work permit now than on 11 September.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said the figures did not include any of the 2,003 temporary work permits that had been issued right after the hurricane under the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act, which have now all expired.

Cayman’s schools, at least the ones that have been able to repair their facilities, have not seen a large drop in enrolment either.

Cayman Prep and High School is missing only 48 students out of the 641 enrolled prior to the hurricane, meaning 92 per cent of its students have returned to school.

‘We have more and more returning on a weekly basis,’ said the school’s vice Principal Brian Wilson. He expects the high school to reach 380 students, or 97 per cent of its pre-Ivan levels by the end of next month.

St. Ignatius High School also reported that its enrolment is about 20 students, or 7 per cent, down from the pre-Ivan figure.

Errol Levy, the Government’s truancy officer said the number of students at Government schools was getting close to the number before Ivan, although the exact figures will not be known for a couple of weeks.

‘Our numbers are increasing every day,’ he said.

Some businesses in the financial industry have reported that they have lost a few employees, but those losses seem to have been more than offset by increases in the numbers of construction workers.

‘We have a much larger workforce now than we did before,’ said Terry Wilson of Wilson Construction, who thinks Cayman’s reconstruction process could last as long as three to four years.

‘The hard part is finding a place for all of our workers to live,’ he said.

Grocery consumption is also a sign of the population, although Cayman’s post-Ivan situation makes sales figures difficult to interpret.

Kirk’s Supermarket General Manager Mike Blackmore said his store is actually doing additional business compared to before Ivan.

‘But that is to be expected because there are two stores of significant size that haven’t reopened yet,’ he said, noting Foster’s at the Strand and Hurley’s at Eden Centre.

Foster’s Food Fair Airport store also reported increased sales volume, but not enough to make up for the Strand store being closed, which accounted for about 40 per cent of its total sales before the storm.