Diversity, both within the local economies and the local populations, of the remaining British Overseas Territories is one of the major challenges facing the small island-states; particularly those in the Caribbean.
That’s according to a survey of responses compiled by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office following a consultation with the overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, last year.
Cayman Islands residents participated most actively in the UK survey-taking, according to a tally of responses. Local residents contributed 182 out of 517 total website and written submissions for the exercise; about 35 per cent of all the responses received by the foreign office.
The British Virgin Islands submitted 104 responses; the United Kingdom submitted 82 responses and Bermuda – Britain’s Atlantic territory – submitted 50 responses. No other British Overseas Territory submitted more than 23 responses to the survey.
According to the section of the review that focused on economic development challenges, a main concern among the territories was in finding alternative sources of income to tourism.
“The topic was … raised prominently in the officials response by the government of the Cayman Islands and by individuals – often based in the Caribbean and Bermuda,” the report noted. “Economic diversification was raised by a wide variety of respondents to the consultation. It was a concern for residents of the UK as well as the overseas territories.”
“Economy is too dependent on the tourism sector,” noted one response to the survey from Anguilla. “As a consequence, [we are] at the mercy of the global economy.”
Cost of living
The cost of living was one trouble area identified in the UK-compiled report and the issue was mentioned by several of those who responded to the survey from the Cayman Islands.
“The cost of living in the territories was raised in four submissions and the cost of petrol was raised twice,” the UK report stated. The cost of importing goods in general was also raised as an issue.
In a website comment sent to the foreign office, one respondent noted: “… high increased cost of living, low wages compared to cost of living. No employment available for school leavers due to people over 60 still holding post.”
Sixteen responses to the UK survey raised issues surrounding demographics in the territories, mainly related to immigration.
“Six respondents in the Caribbean and Bermuda raised concerns about high levels of immigration into the islands,” the report noted. “[There was] a particular focus on older British citizens who were considered a financial burden due to welfare payments.”
Other respondents, from the UK, wondered why British citizens did not have more rights with regard to citizenship within the overseas territories.
“An overseas territory citizen has full rights to a UK passport, but as a UK citizen, it is quite difficult for me to settle long-term or permanently in some of the [territories],” one commenter said. Long-term
UK officials noted that the economic downtown worldwide had played havoc with the economies in many of the overseas territories, but that many issues appeared to be more “structural” in nature.
“A large portion of economic concerns related to problems that required long-term solutions and highlighted the need for diversification of the economy, or improved infrastructure to support a new economy,” the report noted. “This was particularly important for those who noted demographic challenges, both from immigration and an ageing population.”
The 43-page report will inform the issuance of the UK’s “white paper” on the constitutional relationship review with its remaining overseas territories. The discussion paper is due out next month.