Imagine the Cayman Islands without expats. There would be only, say, 25,000 locals on these shores to take up all the employment there is. But are the Islands ready?
The first question to be asked is how many Caymanians have the necessary professional qualifications, expertise and experience to fill the roles vacated by the lawyers, accountants, doctors, and other professionals?
The second question is where the work is going to come from? Can the Islands attract work and compete in the global financial marketplace with its 25,000 Caymanians?
A more trivial question is whether Caymanians are willing to take up the jobs in the tourism and hotel industries, which are a significant source of revenue?
The answer to the first question depends on the number of Caymanians on the Islands, or abroad, already trained and equipped with the necessary qualifications, skills and expertise.
Employers, be they Caymanian or expat, would not jump through the many hoops and pay all the work-permit and relocation expenses for someone to travel from abroad unless there is a genuine lack of expertise, skill or required professional qualification on the Islands.
The remedy to this problem is one for the future and lies in the hands of government.
What is being done to ensure that the future generations can reduce its dependence on expats?
Are young Caymanians receiving world class education in local schools?
Are there schemes in place for bright, young Caymanians to train in universities of their choice, be it in the U.S., the U.K., or elsewhere?
Are there job placement schemes to assimilate these young minds into the workplace?
It is may be untenable to suggest that expats are currently displacing Caymanians from available employment.
As a matter of right, Caymanians are given first priority, and expats are effectively resources imported into the Islands as necessary.
The second question, where the work is going to come from, requires a study of the competition.
The Islands have ingeniously carved out a niche as a leading off-shore financial centre.
Its competition comes, mainly in the form of other tax-free and low-tax jurisdictions like the Bahamas, Barbados, B.V.I, Cyprus, Dubai, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Mauritius, New Zealand and Singapore.
The jurisdiction that attracts the greater talent, expertise and connected individuals should attract the greater amount of work from around the world, price and legal stability being among the other determining factors.
Singapore, for example, is a cheaper low-tax alternative bustling with talent and expertise.
At three times the size of the Cayman Islands, Singapore has a population of 4.5 million. Lacking in natural resources, Singapore sees knowledge and expertise as its competitive advantage and promotes the influx of talent from around the world to compete in the global financial and services markets.
Singapore provides world-class education and has two high-ranking universities, which equip Singaporeans with the qualifications and skills needed to compete in the global workforce. Compare this to the Cayman Islands.
As a matter of practicality, the Cayman Islands needs expats.
The issue that troubles Caymanians is one of residency and rights.
This can be addressed with putting acceptable rights and residency laws in place.
For instance, if residency was made possible only for those who have resided here for over 20 years, Caymanians’ concerns of sharing their rights with newcomers would be addressed.
However, the current policy, which could effectively keep expertise away from the Islands, may work against the Islands’ best interests.
Why would someone want to uproot and move to the Cayman Islands if the tenure of his employment has a limit and he has to seek new employment in the not too distant future?
The fact is very few expats would choose to live in the Islands forever.
There comes a time when expats, like migratory birds, fly home on instinct.
The Cayman Islands is an expensive place to retire in. Water and electricity costs alone are enough to drive even Caymanians to retire elsewhere.
Most expats will retire at home, and some might even roll up to sunny Singapore, where the food is gorgeous and everyone with something to offer is welcome, even Caymanians…