CI population at 52,466

Post-Ivan reconstruction and the continued growth of the financial sector set new population estimates for the Cayman Islands at 52,466, an 18.7 per cent increase over pre-Ivan estimates.

Good economic times also mean a rise in per capita income from $38,173 to $39,801.

These numbers were announced Friday as part of the findings of the Annual Economic Reports produced by the Portfolio of Finance and Economics for 2004 and 2005.

The findings were presented by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson at the opening of the August-September session of the Legislative Assembly.

They reach June 2006, and include updated data for 2004.

Placing the Cayman Islands within the worldwide financial picture, Mr Jefferson explained that global inflation rates were a rather low 2.3 per cent among advanced economies facing a 41 per cent rise in oil prices and outlined the key role the United States plays in sustaining Cayman’s economy as its main source of capital, consumption and intermediate goods.

While regional inflation reached 6.3 per cent in 2005, Cayman fared worse with a 7 per cent increase in 2005.

However, consumers will hail an overall downward trend with a drop from 11.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2004 to 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2004. The slowdown comes from progress made in restoring the supply of goods and services.

Total imports grew from 2004 to 2005 by 36.4 per cent from $725.9 million to $990.4 million, with a 32.4 per cent increase in intermediate goods including construction materials.

While real GDP growth was estimated at 0.9 per cent in 2004, real GDP growth was estimated to be 6.5 per cent in 2005, in favourable contrast to the global rate of 4.8 per cent.

Mr Jefferson cited the exceptional role the construction industry and other sectors related to construction and real estate played.

Building permits doubled in 2005, from $142 million to $336.8 million, while planning approvals surpassed $550 million.

In real estate, the total value of property transfers increased by 32.9 per cent, mirroring a 32.2 percent rise in volume, from $339.2 million in 2004 to $450.8 million.

The financial sector also made a significant contribution to the country’s economic growth.

The data gathered by the Economics and Statistic Office showed stock exchange capitalization topped financial sector growth from 2004, increasing 41 per cent, with mutual funds in second place climbing 19.8 per cent.

Stock exchange listings and new company registrations also showed sizeable gains.

Bank and trust licenses were the only exception, declining by 5.3 per cent, attributable to increased consolidation within the banking industry.

While the financial industry continues its upward trend, the tourism sector still showed weak improvement.

Visitor arrivals increased less than one per cent over 2004 levels, reaching 1,966,800. Cruise levels rose by 6.2 per cent to 1.8 million but air arrivals slumped 35.4 per cent, reaching a mere 167,801.

This is accompanied by a 22 per cent increase in the employment rate and a decrease in unemployment to 3.5 per cent, the lowest since 1994.

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