Living conditions report released

A final report on the assessment of living conditions, which found just under 2 per cent of Cayman’s population lived below the poverty line, has been released.

Minister for Health and Human Services Anthony Eden presented the final report to the Legislative Assembly last week. The report is a final version of a draft which was released in May.

Mr. Eden said it laid the groundwork for future, in-depth studies of social and economic conditions in Cayman and would be used as a foundation to implement policies and initiatives to combat poverty and social ills.

It is the first time a country-wide assessment of living conditions has been done on the three islands.

Mr. Eden said the Ministry of Health and Human Services was carrying out a detailed analysis of the report, and he called on members of the Legislative Assembly, the private sector, community agencies and individuals to examine the report and help come up with proposals for policies and programmes to help those in need.

‘We cannot let the people of our islands fall further into socio-economic difficulty. Every one of us has had dealings with some people in need of our help,’ he said.

The report showed that 1.9 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line, deemed to be those living on CI$10.90 per day, or CI$3,983 per annum. That means 989 people, out of an estimated population of 53,292 are living in poverty.

The report stated that this would make Cayman the territory with the lowest rate of estimated poverty in the Caribbean.

The poorest one-fifth of consumers spend 20 per cent of their income on food, while the top spends less than 10 per cent, the report stated.

It also reported that of all the districts, Cayman Brac had the highest percentage of people living in poverty, with seven per cent of the Brac’s population living below the poverty line when the study was carried out between October 2006 and July 2007. It showed that Cayman Brac was also more expensive than Grand Cayman for necessities.

No poverty cases were reported in Bodden Town and North Side.

The report stated that 55.5 per cent of those under the poverty line were non-Caymanians.

It also found that quarter of the population is estimated to suffer from chronic lifestyle-related diseases, like high blood pressure and diabetes, with slightly more women than men suffering from such diseases.

It showed that 80 per cent of the population has health insurance and that more men are covered than women.

Mr. Eden said the report showed that living conditions of the poorest women are worse than those of the poorest men, with women being more likely to be unemployed, paid less and uninsured. It also found that women headed about half of the poorest households.

He said that the report had also highlighted how poverty was fuelling the drug culture in the Cayman Islands. ‘It is being addressed with the help of new anti-drug strategy by the National Drug Council,’ he said.

On the subject of drug trafficking, the report stated: ‘The international narcotics syndicates have not left the Cayman Islands untouched and there are tell-tale signs of some elements of the society [becoming] engulfed in the sector.’

It said the Cayman Islands was serving as a ‘warehouse for some of the South American and Central American operators… A long and lightly policed coastline makes the island a soft target for such operators.’

The report continued that Cayman was also a market in itself with some marginalised youth becoming drawn into the drug trade, leading to increased gang activity and the use of guns to protect turf.

It said housing conditions among the lowest income groups were acute and exacerbated by the large influx of low level labour.

The report called for an introduction of a minimum wage, saying that its absence created conditions for open exploitation, especially of unskilled guest workers.

The National Assessment of Living Conditions report was carried out by Kairi Consultants in collaboration with the National Assessment Team of the Cayman Islands, and was commissioned by the Caribbean Development Bank.

It listed 25 key recommendations including: devolution and improvement of the government structure through local government, starting with the Sister Islands; entrepreneurial training for Caymanians; elimination of barriers to women in fields dominated by men; development of capacity in agriculture and fisheries to address food prices; and a study of literacy and lifestyle functioning skills.

Other recommendations included introduction of a minimum wage; development of a public transport system; expansion of investible resources for housing; better pre-school care; improved protection for the elderly; combating drug trafficking and crime; and better care for elderly people suffering from chronic diseases and not covered by CINICO insurance.

The report found no instances of indigence. It warned, however, ‘There is evidence of social dissonance as the rapid pace of urbanisation and change leaves some groups behind.’

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