Cayman poverty ‘marginal’

The National Assessment of Living Conditions study indicates only 1.9 per cent of the population in the Cayman Islands – which would amount to just more than 1,000 people – live below the poverty line.

The majority of those classified as poor are non-Caymanians, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said in a statement in Legislative Assembly Wednesday.

‘It is an immense source of pride to Government – and should be for Caymanians as well – to learn that the study found we have the lowest rate of poverty in the entire English-speaking Caribbean,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Cayman’s 1.9 per cent poverty level compared to 9.3 per cent in the Bahamas in 2001 and 11 per cent in the British Virgin Islands in 2002, he pointed out.

‘In most other Caribbean countries, the average rate is above 10 per cent.’

The National Assessment of Living Conditions, which was done in association with the Caribbean Development Bank, was the first scientific study of its kind ever conducted in the Cayman Islands. The final report will be released to the public Friday.

‘The study has yielded a considerable amount of valuable information,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘Government intends to put it to effective use in designing a social development strategy to benefit the poor and disadvantaged among us.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the government would target ‘the few pockets of poverty’ identified by the report for relief. Speaking of the non-Caymanian poor, Mr. Tibbetts said many of them choose to live in poverty because they send the bulk of their earnings back home.

The finding that the majority of those classified as poor are non-Caymanian ‘contradicts the false view being peddled that non-Caymanians, generally speaking, are doing better than Caymanians,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Another key finding of the report concerned health care satisfaction.

‘Where health care is concerned, the majority of respondents, – 93.5 per cent – said they were either very satisfied or satisfied with treatment they have received,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘This finding, too, contradicts the picture of our health services that is painted by mostly critics of the Government.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the findings of the study, based on scientifically gathered data, counters fiction with fact.

‘The key finding of the NALC study – namely that poverty is marginal in the Cayman Islands – stands in sharp contrast with the doom and gloom picture of living conditions painted by the Leader of the Opposition [McKeeva Bush] in his budget debate contribution a week ago,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘There was a deliberate attempt, for obvious political reasons, to convey the impression that life here was a living hell. The NALC study confounds the jaundiced perspective of the Leader of the Opposition.’