Blog discusses roll-over

A new Internet blog started by Caymanian realtor Paul Aiken has created a forum for discussions about the seven-year term limit for expatriates.

In his initial post on 17 August, Mr. Aiken said he wanted to discuss issues that affect the Cayman Islands.

‘This blog is here to encourage open, direct and intelligent interaction between all,’ he wrote. ‘I especially want to hear comments on the rollover policy, which has been really bugging the hell out of me.’

His second post was written on 20 August and was titled ‘I am a frightened Caymanian’. That post was circulated through e-mail to many Grand Cayman residents on Tuesday.

‘Over the past two months, ever since the roll-over policy has been getting mass publicity, I have seen a steady decrease in my real estate business,’ he wrote in the post. ‘Other realtors in the industry have expressed the same concerns.’

Mr. Aiken suggests the government lower the time expatriates have to leave the island from two years to three to six months and he asks his Caymanian friends and colleagues to let the government know if they do not support the rollover policy.

Through Wednesday, the blog reported nine responses to his post, some lengthy, some short, some supporting the roll-over policy, some against it.

One person wrote of the possible ripple effect on the real estate industry.

‘Anyone who is subject to the seven-year rollover policy may have trouble selling because the market in average single family home units and townhouses is already saturated,’ an anonymous poster wrote. ‘If they cannot rent unsold units at an economically viable level, they may end up unable to cover their borrowing from banks.

‘The cumulative effect could be banks stuck with a portfolio of properties on which they have been forced to foreclose, which they can neither sell nor rent.’

Another anonymous civil servant wrote that a lot of people are losing sight or ignoring the real issue.

‘Why is it that everyone is trying to fix the rollover instead of putting their businesses in a position that it does not affect them?

‘Adhere to that little clause in the work permit application that says you must identify and train a Caymanian employee for the job!’

An expatriate in the financial industry wrote that he is already seeing consequences of the rollover with highly qualified people leaving the island.

The exodus of expatriates will, in the writer’s opinion, probably accelerate the trend of outsourcing work from the Cayman Islands to other countries.

‘Instead of creating an opening for someone (who at this time probably doesn’t exist as I believe there is full employment among qualified Caymanians) it’s quite possible the result will be a loss of two or more complimentary positions.’

Another poster wrote that some of the people complaining about the roll-over policy because they have to leave the country never really tried to become part of the community.

‘Yes, we see a lot of persons who have acquired property right after the government said you need to show proof that you have local assets… This is not a genuine act. It is merely a reactive approach to something that should have been so natural before if their intent was genuine.’

Not everyone who posted comments did so anonymously. Attorney Philip Ebanks wrote that he supported preserving and promoting Caymanians in the workplace.

Mr. Ebanks wrote about how expatriates sometimes contribute to the problem of blocking Caymanians.

‘One end of the problem is that many expat managers feel more comfortable at work (and at their parties and social settings) with persons of their own nationalities at the table.

‘Many will go to great lengths to keep or get other expats working with them and may even see this as a means to preserve their own tenure,’ he wrote. ‘After all, if you are an expat manager and your second (and maybe third) are from your neck of the woods, they are no threat.

‘But having a Caymanian coming through the ranks does present a problem of sorts in the medium to longer term, plus his presence may not be desirable in the social settings.’

Still, Mr. Ebanks wrote that he believes there are much better ways of accomplishing the promotion of Caymanians than through the roll-over policy.

‘Having forums where Caymanians in the workplace can voice specific grievances to the Business Staffing Board and specific sanctions against those businesses which provide no more than lip service towards employing and promoting Caymanians may be a much more effective way to fix these problems than the rollover policy.’

Mr. Ebanks said that from his point of view, the rollover policy would only serve to kill small and medium sized Caymanians businesses.

Contacted on Wednesday, Mr. Aiken said he wanted to get varying intelligent views on the rollover issue on the blog to help counter some off the commentary on the airwaves.

‘What I hear from random individuals spitting out stupidity on the radio makes me angry,’ he said.

Putting his name on the blog about such a controversial issue as the roll-over policy has brought harsh criticism from some people, Mr. Aiken said.

‘But so far, about 95 per cent have been with me on this.’

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