For only the second time in the past 25 years, Cayman’s
population fell in 2009, the other time being in 2004, when many residents left
temporarily after Hurricane Ivan.
The largest portion of the population decrease has not
surprisingly been in expatriates, with there being about 3,500 less at the end
of 2009 compared to 2008. Many more expatriates have left this year.
Premier McKeeva Bush said there are some Caymanians who
believe the population decline, especially in expatriates, is a good thing, and
that going back to a time when there were fewer people here would resolve a lot
of the country’s woes. Mr. Bush disagrees with those sentiments and so do we.
As Mr. Bush pointed out, 31,000 Caymanians simply cannot
sustain today’s economy and the way of life here. For one thing, the current
size of the civil service has been predicated largely on a larger population.
As the population declines, so should the size of the civil service. But that
isn’t happening at the same rate of decline as the population, which is one of
the reasons for Cayman’s current budget crisis.
There are others who believe a declining expatriate
population would lead to unemployed Caymanians getting the jobs vacated. But
what we are seeing in many cases is that the jobs are leaving with the
expatriates, either to be outsourced to another country or made redundant here.
The only result of the loss of the expatriate workers is less money being spent
in the local economy.
Despite these developments, callers to radio talk shows
continue to clamour for further reductions in the expatriate population, with
some asking the government to pass legislation differentiating between ‘born
Caymanians’ and ‘paper Caymanians’ when it comes to job placement. Although
some might dismiss these as radical ideas coming from the lunatic fringe, it’s
having an affect on the expatriate population. They might be disenfranchised
from voting in elections, but expatriates are now voting with their feet as
they leave the island in greater and greater numbers. Unless Caymanians are
willing to go back to simpler, less materialistic times with a lower standard
of living, the government had better do something quickly to stop this exodus.