Panel: Cayman needs more people

    Top Lede

    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.”

    Mrs. Bodden-Cowan
    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
    Islands today.

    But effective
    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.
    Bullmore said.

    “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
    to do.

    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
    he said.

    “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
    long term.”

    Top Story

    The panelists, from left, are Canover Watson, Sherri Bodden-Cowan, Roy Bodden, Tom McCallum, Theo Bullmore and Burns Conolly. – Photo: Brent Fuller


    1. You might want to ask all those people who were unceremoniously throw off the Island with the rollover if they would like to come back only to be thrown off again.

    2. I like this subject, That said and If CI brings in 10000 new resident hopefuls @ 10000 each you will bring in 100,000,000 thats 100 million These people that pay are not poor people, neither are they rich people, But are people smart enough to save the money in the first place ,,,Some that are here will pay right away …some new people will come, some that arent anything more than workers will go when there time comes.. Most importantly these new people will Spend …in all areas of the economy and will be people whom want to be here …

    3. Cayman infrastructure is not ready for more people.Roads in particular not welcoming neither expats, nor tourists. Environmental impact on the island has to be addressed as well.

    4. XOXO, I Gotta say, you have a good idea there. I myself would gladly pay 10,000 to enjoy Cayman residency and wouldnt need to take a job from a Caymanian because I can support myself.

      If was able to do this, I would quickly buy my primary home most likely somewhere on the east end or North side and move my savings to Cayman Banks. I would also be happy to get involved in any community activities that I was allowed to.

      Although I have rental property in Cayman I have to admit that I am skirmish about investing so much into Cayman due to the fact that I cant buy a primary home on the Island and when I am on island I have no idea how long I will be able to stay, then theres that fact that the length on my stay is up to the whim of whichever Immigration officer I happen to speak to at the time, some have been very kind while others have just given me the "go back to your own country" type of attitude when I ask to stay longer. If I had residency status, Id be able to sell my home in the US and buy a primary home in the Caymans, I wouldnt need to work or send kids to school, so I dont see how I would be a drain on society. On the other hand my wife and I would most likely add by spending money at Restaurants, Grocery, furniture and Clothing stores and well as dive shops, not to mention utility bills. Wed also need help maintaining our rentals, which would be done by Caymanians wed hire, because I for one wouldnt be paying for a Permit, when I know I could find good employees locally.

    5. YOU THINK. Come on governmet what are you getting payed for, less people less monies spent. After the treatment they received who would want to came back. next time you think before you all act. we are not dish rags used then and when you have no more use for you throw them out

    6. Two years was plenty for me.

      Cayman has nice beaches, nice weather…….and nice beaches.

      Oh yeah! And no tax!

      Did I mention the nice beaches?


      Thats about it.

    7. We need to hold a march where people wear colored Tee shirts according to their field of expertise, so that it becomes evident how many Caymanians per field are unemployed. Is any company out there really training Caymanians to take over key roles or all theyre doing is applying for key employee positions while the locals look on? What is the purpose of the Business Staffing Plan anyway? Frankly, if Caymanians are given a chance to earn more, we would naturally inject more into our economy without needing more people.

    8. I am leaving in a week, with my husband (and cat!). We have had a lovely few years here but there have been nasty moments towards the end. Caymanian people I used to work with being openly hostile, and a sleepy immigration department helped make our decision. I am confused as to why former colleagues have turned so duplicitous. I lost my job to a Caymanian and was only given a weeks notice after 2 and a half years of service. One would think that I would have a right to complain but I did not. I vote with my feet. The thing about us ex-pats is we are talkers. We tell people about our experiences of living abroad and people who are thinking of trying to work abroad will value our thoughts. Wishing you all the best Cayman. Well choose to remember the happier times..

    9. People need to drop this since of entitlement they have, this is very detrimental to Cayman society. It seems that most Caymanians feel that there are entitled to be put first without any effort on their part. Most companies nowadays only hire experienced folks or people that have specific training in the field and thats not just in Cayman its everywhere. If people want to make more money and get better jobs, they really need to step up and go out and get the training and education needed to fill these positions instead of waiting for someone to hire and train them. That used to happen years ago but times have changed.

      Another bad thing is that folks are taking out their frustrations on expats chasing them away, when they should be taking a look inside. I myself get treated like crap by the immigration folks when I want to stay longer on the island and I dont even need a job to support myself, yet I still get treated like Im taking something away from locals and basically get that go back to your own country attitude.

      I really dont understand why Caymanians treat expats and tourists with such dismay when the proceeds that they add to the Cayman economy is actually what allows them to live in such a beautiful place with having to pay income and property taxes. Be careful what you ask for folks or you will find yourself without the foreign investments you currently have, causing the government to have to start direct taxation in order to provide the lifestyle you currently enjoy.

      I guess thatll be what you call going back to simpler times with Cayman for Caymanians, and a population of only 12000.

    10. Honourable Panel: your opening statement in this article saids it all, your goal is to fix Cayman in the short term.. Would you be so kind as to say how you envisage fixing Cayman in the long term