Today’s Editorial August 29: What are the population facts?

When it comes to the numbers regarding the population here, it seems like everyone is just guessing.

The Economic and Statistics Office estimates that there were 52,466 people living in the Cayman Islands at the end of 2005. The ESO also estimated there were 20,679 non-Caymanians and 31,787 are Caymanians.

Given that various other sources in Government have said there are between 20,500 and 22,000 work permit holders here, plus their dependents, plus permanent residents, plus those on temporary work permits, plus those whose temporary work permits have expired who are now waiting a decision on their full permits, the ESO’s estimates seem understated. As Immigration Board Chairman David Ritch surmised last week, either there aren’t as many Caymanians as the ESO estimated, or there are many more non-Caymanians – and a higher population – here than estimated.

The Immigration Department is still trying to determine how many of the estimated 1,500 illegal over-stayers are still here and cannot in any case provide exact breakdowns of the number of expatriates here. When asked, the Cabinet did not know off hand how many expatriates would have to leave within the next year due to the roll-over policy.

It would seem then that this current Immigration Law review and drafting of a new law was done without some important facts known.

And despite the promise of a public consultative period, the seven-year term limit seems to have been implemented and now revised without collecting critical data about the people it affects most: the expatriates themselves.

Most rationale for the roll-over policy seems to suggest that all expatriates workers want to remain here forever, become citizens and vote. This is obviously not the case, but just how many plan to stay here long enough to be affected by the seven-year term limit, and from what industry segments do they come? Is there a higher percentage of labourers who want to remain here than skilled expatriates?

And of those who do want to stay, how many would be happy with permanent residency and would never want take the steps to become actual citizens of this country?

It would seem logical in the course of this comprehensive Immigration Law review to first get a good handle on the actual number of expatriates here, determine how many of them really want to stay, and look at their occupation demographics.

The government could then come up with a practicable population-growth rate, with an eye on maintaining adequate expatriates in a variety of occupations.

Any policy decisions about who should or should not receive exempted employee status then would then be done from a position of knowledge, rather than just supposition.

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