Population drop fuels economic decline, premier says

Premiere Bush

For only the second time within the past 25 years, the
Cayman Islands’ overall population fell in 2009, according to final estimates
released in the government’s Compendium of Statistics.

That drop is partly reflective of the declining
international economy. However, Premier McKeeva Bush also told the Legislative
Assembly on Wednesday that the population slide is partly to blame for Cayman’s
own recent economic woes.

“In a country that’s dependent on services of all
kinds…this also means that when people in great numbers leave here, there is
the loss of their economic contribution,” Mr. Bush said.

According to figures at the end of 2009, there were
52,830 people living in the Cayman Islands, 59 per cent of them Caymanians.

Although the Caymanian population dipped slightly, a
nearly 14 per cent drop in the non-Caymanian population accounted for most of
the drop-off. By the end of 2009, statisticians estimated that non-Caymanians
made up 41 per cent of the Islands’ population.

The only other time since 1985 that Cayman’s overall
population has fallen during any one year was 2004. That drop was largely
temporary due to the devastation from Hurricane Ivan.

The last time the non-Caymanian population dropped from
year-to-year (excepting the anomaly caused by Hurricane Ivan) was 2003.

The country’s estimated non-Caymanian population during
2008 was 25,152; last year that number fell to 21,665.

“To some people…this would be fantastic,” Mr. Bush said.
“But, to me, one of the reasons we don’t have a good economy today is we don’t
have as many people.”

The premier admitted that – as late as the 1990s – he was
among those “convinced” that fewer people in Cayman would have been better for
the country.

That’s not so now.

“We know that is not the case,” he told lawmakers. “It
would be ideal if we had all the money in the world. But 31,000 Caymanians
cannot sustain this economy and cannot sustain the way of life that we have.”

“We are all so interdependent on each other.”

Mr. Bush said he believed Cayman was able to benefit from
the failures of other Caribbean countries in the 1950s and 1960s to maintain
and attract foreign investment. However, he said the country has not learned
from its past successes and today is starting to make the same mistakes the
other jurisdictions made, driving business to jurisdictions like Canada and

“It happened because people brought their money, we
allowed them to invest, and we benefited,” Mr. Bush said.

“When we move people out, spending goes down. Call me a
fool, call me short-sighted; the facts are the facts.”


Population notes 

The 2009 statistical report also reported these facts
about the makeup of Cayman’s population:

The largest single population group of any in the
statistical report was Caymanians from birth to age 14. That group made up an
estimated 24.5 per cent of the total Caymanian population.

As far as working-age people, the age 25-34 group and age
35-44 group were still made up of a majority of non-Caymanians. According to
the report, there were a total of 8,480 Caymanians between the ages of 25-44
living here in 2009, while there were 13,220 non-Caymanians of that age group
living here.

At 45 and older, those numbers were reversed, with Caymanians
making up the majority of those 45 and over on the Islands.

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  1. Instead of stating the obvious that the economy is down due to lack of expats, maybe the premier can focus on how this happened and what is being implemented to prevent it from happening again?

    On another note; I hope the premier can give an update on the sale of residency status for $1 million? Was that 1 million JA dollars?? Still too much..

  2. It is a real shame that the number of Ex-pats coming onto the Island has dropped but being an ex-pat myself I can understand why to some extend.
    I recently went into George Town and looked at what was on offer for tourists. It’s fairly grim, shabby buildings, over-priced gift shops and a very limited choice of places to spend your money. Including a lack of restaurants offering choice. Many of the best places to eat on the islands are miles away from the tourist areas. That being said we are talking about ex-pats working here. Well it’s the same principle, if you don’t offer the facilities that people expect then they simply will not come. Take for example the shopping facilities on the island, apart from food stores the ability to buy clothes here is almost non-existent. Private schools are full and located in areas that have traffic Jams in the morning, something that most of us were trying to move away from. The nightlife is probably too quiet for most people to comprehend. Sometimes the beach is not simply enough to attract people to a small island.
    The government needs to take a look at what is on offer for the people they would like to attract and ensure that everything people expect is in place like schooling for example!

  3. Mr Bush’s statement requires some statistical backing: for example, what work, if any, were those who have gone, doing? Was it productive, or were they just living on others’ earnings in their household? What is the cost of imports to sustain these people? What is the cost of building, staffing etc schools and hospitals for them? How many were criminals, whether caught or not?
    Back to the drawing board, Mr Bush.
    I endorse jamaicanmecrazy’s point about the cost of residency status. A statement needed here, too.

  4. I hope he is not thinking about having Cabinet grant another 3000 status applications without Immigration Department’s assessment. The grants in 2003 by Cabinet was controversial and it did nothing for the economy but ensured many Caymanians unemployed

  5. Premier: The Ritz Carlton still owes millions in back duty that they agreed to pay after they completed their resort. Can you please address how this $5 plus million could be better utilized by the CI Government then in the bank account of of Ritz Carlton an Co.??

  6. I’d echo the comments from Cayman Blogger below.

    Georgetown seems to be set up purely for the benefit of short-term cruise visitors. There are no "real" shops, hardly any parking, few restaurants and zero night-life.

    Which would be more beneficial to the Cyaman economy as a whole: tourists spending money in half a dozen jewellery shops, or a living breathing community?

    If you want the economic benefits of being a financial services centre with an expat community, you also have to acccept the consequences, you have to make the island a place that those businesses and people want to be in, and you have to welcome them. If the cost of operating or living here is too high, or if the standard of living is too threadbare, all that mobile capital and workfirce will move elsewhere.

  7. Why do we not have a mall?

    how many small business’s are out there, trying to make ends meet. Paying high rents on places that don’t give them much traffic.

    Cayman needs a REAL mall. Enclosed, airconditioned. What a waste caymana bay was. All that walk way space, wasted, on blue and pink bubbled seats and small waterfalls. Would have been better to enclose that whole place, of caymana bay. And allow small shops to open up kiosks on the walk ways, like they do in any other part of the world. Give small business’s a break and the needed traffic.

    Allow a one stop shop, where business’s can help other business’s increase thier pedestrian traffic, and where parents know where their kids are, cause there is a place for them to hang out, with other kids. In a safe airconditioned place.

    A place for tourists to go. To spend thier money.

    How many MILLIONS of dollars does Cayman lose each year, because even the most loyal caymanian and expat alike, goes to miami to shop.

  8. WEll blow me down, the Premier has suddenly realised that expats are a necessicity for these Islands economy. Perhaps he really needs to look at why expats have left. The Caymanians who are left don’t have the right mix of skills to replace some of these higher qualified expats. So it is time to look at the way to get the skillmix required and invest in the youth of these Islands and do as some of the Middle East countires have done. Educate the people and sponsor them to study the right courses and then bring them back to be mentored by the expats with experience before they take over. Oman and Bahrain have gone down the road of certain jobs for nationals only and they are now seeing the rewards of this but it has taken decades to achieve. I have worked in the Middle East and seen the best and worst of nationalision of jobs. It is no use nationalising a job unless you have the right educated national to replace the expat. To do otherwise only fools the national that they are good enough and the end result can be disasterous for the country.

    I get the impression from comments in your paper that Caymanians believe it is their right to be employed whether they have the right skill or not. Wake up and stop deluding the young Caymanians, let them learn as expats have that success only comes through hard work and good education.

    Both sides of the LA need to get together and work for the best in Cayman.

  9. Cayman’s economy is in a recession because there is a world-wide recession. Business can point there fingers at immigration policies and work permit fees as the reason, but we all know that when consumers curtail their spending, business start laying off staff.. To blame Cayman downturn on the number of foreigners leaving is rubbish. Houses in some parts of the US are selling for a few thousand dollars; their government are injecting tens of billions to sure up the economy, has immigration policy also infected them. The last I remember several states were enacting policy to close parts of their border to immigrants. Business pursuit of the bottom line have seen them abandon their nation to ship their factories overseas in pursuit of cheap labor. Cayman’s favorable tax policies is an anchor to which many has tied. Import of labor is the model used here. So as they muddle up the water and spread fear that the sky is falling, remember they will remove the pillars of a nation to add to the bottom line. Stick and stones are mere remnant in a write off procedure when they pull up anchor. Keep us happy or we will send chicken little after you..

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