Today’s Editorial April 21: Strategy change welcomed

Those who have attended political rallies of the People’s Progressive Movement this year might have noticed a significant difference from their campaigning in 2005 with regard to their approach to expatriates.

Gone is some of the harsh ‘let’s take the country back’ rhetoric and it has been replaced by a much more conciliatory tone.

We fully understand that when it comes to campaigning for political office, candidates often have to appeal the best way they can to the voting constituency.

During the 2005 election campaign, in the aftermath of the 2,850 grants of Caymanian Status made by Cabinet, it was probably a good political strategy for the PPM to take a ‘Cayman is for Caymanians’ approach. Many voters, still in a foul mood from dealing with the recovery from Hurricane Ivan, eagerly latched on to what was basically an anti-expat message.

Although the strategy played well for the PPM, it did not do the country much good; indeed, Caymanian and expatriate relations probably hit an all-time low in the two years following the last election.

Given the current social and economic climate of the Cayman Islands, the PPM could very well have played the same anti-expat card during this election campaign. It’s human nature to seek scapegoats during tough times, and we’re sure many voters would gravitate to that message. Some of the independent candidates have taken this approach for precisely that reason.

So far during this campaign season, the PPM candidates have not taken that route, and for that, we applaud them. Had the PPM decided for an anti-expat tactic during the campaign, the results could have been extremely damaging for the Cayman Islands.

With earnings down throughout a struggling financial services industry, it probably wouldn’t take much to start pushing expatriates off to greener pastures, perhaps even to competitors.

Some might think this would be a good thing because it would open up jobs for Caymanians, but losing top notch expatriate talent to competitors could also push entire companies out of Cayman.

In addition, a declining population will inevitably lead to a contracting economy, which means Caymanian business owners would suffer.

We fully support the notion that if a Caymanian is ready, willing and able to fill any position filled by an expatriate, he or she should get that position. However, the truth of the matter is there are many, many more jobs than Caymanians to fill them. This country simply could not function from an economic sense without foreign workers.

There is also the fact that many Caymanians have married expatriates, and that trend seems to be expanding if anything. This will bring a change in culture here, no matter what anyone says or does.

It does no good for a candidate seeking political office to stand on a soapbox and rail against expatriates. The United Democratic Party doesn’t do it. The PPM isn’t doing it this year either. Let’s hope some of the independent candidates get the message and stop the expat bashing as well.