The tumultuous past three weeks in the Cayman Islands saw
tensions between Caymanians and expatriates reach levels probably never seen
Since the government has abandoned the idea of a payroll tax
on work permit holders only, the way those tensions were expressed, to a
certain extent, were unnecessary. However, the prospect of an expat tax didn’t
cause the tensions; it only served as a catalyst to bring already-existing
tensions to the surface.
While some of what was written on Internet forums or said in
public meetings, on radio talk shows or in workplaces around the Islands showed
ugliness on both sides, sometimes airing these kinds of feelings serves as
catharsis, a blowing off of pent-up resentments.
This exhale of venomous steam can also serve as a good
starting point for future discussions.
What we learned over the past few weeks is that a rather
large segment of Caymanians seriously resent expatriates in Cayman for a
variety of reasons, starting with their perception that expatriates are
preventing them from gaining employment or getting promoted at their workplace;
that they have a condescending attitude; and that they have no real concern for
the welfare of this country.
From the other side, some expatriates perceive in Caymanians
a sense of entitlement that doesn’t correspond to their abilities or work
ethic, and an unwelcoming attitude to people invited to immigrate here. Many
expatriates also resent the claim that they don’t contribute, pointing to their
community involvement at church, service clubs, sport or other charities and
for being law-abiding residents who spend their hard-earned money in the Cayman
The truth is both sides have legitimate complaints that
should become part of the national discourse.
If there is a silver lining to what has transpired recently
it is that some Caymanians and expatriates have joined together to respectfully
discuss their resentments and to offer suggestions to address the budget crisis. Caymanians and expatriates need each other
and if the Cayman Islands is to return to economic prosperity, it’s going to
take a united approach of all residents to make that happen.