The only way to fix Cayman’s economy in the short to
medium term is to bring more people to the Islands, according to a panel of
local business and education leaders.
“The misconception we as Caymanians had for a very long
time is that it’s a zero-sum game,” said Canover Watson, one of the six
panellists participating in the recent debate. “If we got rid of an expat that
would lead to a job for a Caymanian. That has been a fundamental flaw in our
policies and the applications of them.
“It’s not how we get rid of expats, but how do we create
The debate, bore the lengthy title: Things tough! So
don’t cut my pay, tax me less and give me more free services…and so something
about crime…education…and jobs. And what about those expats?’
It lasted for more than hour and included contributions
from attorney Sherri Bodden-Cowan, UCCI President Roy Bodden, architect Burns
Conolly, accountant Theo Bullmore, and financial consultant Tom McCallum.
Austin Harris, the host of the Cayman Crosstalk radio
show, moderated the discussion and posed several questions that are often the
topic of debate on his programme. The
debate group appeared as the final part of the Fidelity Cayman Business Outlook
forum Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
“As Caymanians, we
appear to be hostile to increasing foreign control of the economy in our
country. How can we have our cake and eat it too?” Mr. Harris asked.
Mr. Conolly responded
that the question was based on a “very interesting premise”.
“We keep talking
about our economy being tourism and finance,” he said. “…Until we diversify,
which may or may not be possible, we have to fuel development and consumption.
It’s critical that we continue to actively bring in foreign investment.”
The architect and
former political candidate said that the country had generally not done a good
job of explaining to the population how its economy works.
“We are telling our
local Caymanians that they are really not getting their fair share and the evil
people are the people who are coming off the aircraft,” Mr. Conolly said. “I
think that has to change.”
said it was partly her job as Work Permit Board chair and as head of the
government’s Immigration Review Team to let outside investors know that Cayman
is “open for business”.
“In the short term,
we do need to continue to grow the population by bringing in more people from
overseas,” she said.
As those individuals
become more established, Mrs. Bodden-Cowan said, government could then look at
integrating those considered good candidates for permanent residency into
society – essentially the purpose of the country’s current Immigration Law.
Mr. Harris asked
panel members whether they believe there is “hysteria and panic” over the
current economic situation and if any of them believe the country should return
to “simpler times”. “Absolutely not!”
said Mr. Bodden.
“I would be a madman if I advocated that. We are on a treadmill from which
there is no way off.
“We have to improve
the level of service that we offer and improve our knowledge,” Mr. Bodden said,
adding that he believes education is the largest single issue facing the Cayman
education will work only in the longer term, and the aspect of 10 per cent of
the Islands’ population leaving over the past two years has put Cayman in some
serious economic straits, Mr. Bullmore said.
“You can look at
Friday’s [Caymanian] Compass and see how many apartments are for rent,” Mr.
“The first thing
we’ve got to do is get the population up to where it was,” he said.
“There are two ways of doing that: Caymanians could
procreate more…[or] the alternative is to get more expats on Island.”
Mr. Bullmore advocated making some positive moves to
welcome expatriate workers and foreign investment back to the Cayman Islands.
“Caymanians should, and this is only metaphorically, hug
an expat a day,” he said.
“At Cayman Crosstalk we’re about to come out with some
T-shirts and I think you’ve given me an idea for one of them: ‘Have you hugged
an expat today?’”, Mr. Harris joked.
On a more serious note, Mr. Watson pointed out that there
was no point on bringing people to the Islands if there were no jobs for them
He gave an example of his company that started as a
five-person operation, with himself as the only Caymanian worker.
It has grown into a 100-person staff with 50 Caymanian
“We were able to build a bigger pie because we were able
to grow,” Mr. Watson said. “That is the only way we can protect Caymanian jobs
for today and for the