Regardless of the merits of the seven-year term limit, it is hard to imagine a worse time for the implementation of the rollover policy.
Had the policy been implemented before Hurricane Ivan when many sectors of the economy were booming and life was generally good for everyone, perhaps the roll-over policy would not have created the turmoil it has over the past year.
Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin pointed out last week that the rollover policy is not designed to reduce the number of expatriates in the Cayman Islands, only to reduce the number of permanent residents over time.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said it is expected that all the expatriates that leave because of reaching their term limit will be replaced by other expatriates coming to the island.
Yes, Cayman still offers the potential expatriate resident many of the same attractions it did in years past; there’s the warm, clean sea and beautiful beaches; there’s temperate year-round weather; there’s the chance for the experience of living the good life in the Caribbean.
But make no mistake: this is not the Cayman of old, and as one prominent person in the financial industry said recently, Cayman is no longer the prettiest girl at the ball.
The post-Hurricane Ivan cost of living is hurting all but the top-earning expatriates. It is nearly impossible for most expatriates, especially those that are single, to afford to rent an apartment of their own.
Food, gasoline, insurance, electricity and entertainment costs have all risen, while salaries have not.
The bottom line for many expatriates is that they cannot afford to maintain the same quality of life they used to have here.
Cayman is also still healing from Ivan psychologically as well. There’s an edge of disenchantment in the air, possibly because many people are still suffering economically. While Cayman is still friendly compared to other places, it’s not as friendly as it once was.
Add to that the increased threat of another hurricane strike, traffic woes and increasing crime and it’s easy to see why Cayman might not be as attractive a place to live and work as it once was.
Indeed, when you see the number of expatriates leaving who haven’t even reached their seven-year term limit, it drives home that point.
It’s a fact that Cayman needs imported labour in order to keep its economy going. Any success of the roll-over policy is predicated on Cayman being able to attract the quality and quantity of expatriate labour needed.
Given the current situation in Cayman today that expectation may prove easier said than done.