The work permit numbers show Cayman’s
population is declining. Indications are that over the next few months, as
seasonal workers leave and the current school year ends, there will be another
rash of foreign workers leaving.
One line of thought is that
everyone who leaves can be easily replaced when needed. Although it is always difficult to replace
expertise and local knowledge, at one time it was at least easy to replace the
bodies that left.
Cayman should not be so sure that is
the way it will be in the future. It now has a higher cost of living than ever
before; crime rates are higher than ever before; the animosities between
Caymanians and expatriates are higher than ever before; and the threat of
taxation looms, even if the government is fighting against it. Cayman still is a special place, but it has
some serious problems right now. Recruiting good people will likely be a challenge
for some time to come.
There are also consequences of a
declining population. There will be fewer people to support the many
Caymanian-owned businesses; less support means that some businesses will close
– meaning more unemployment – and others will have to reduce their selection of
goods and services. Some of the things
we have taken for granted will start to disappear.
Caymanian landlords will also find
it difficult to rent their accommodations and with decreasing demand will come
a corresponding decrease in rents. Mortgages will then become more difficult to
But even more critically, there’s
this to think about: a declining population means there are fewer people to
support the expenditures of government.
Right now, expatriates help pay the tax bill through consumption taxes,
licensing fees and so forth. Fewer
expatriate workers mean more of the tax bill is left to Caymanians.
All of these reasons are why
Premier McKeeva Bush is advocating growth, through new projects and more
liberal immigration policies.
It’s true that there are some
negative things about growth as well, but the alternative is not very attractive