During the debate that ensued after the government’s
announcement of its now abandoned payroll tax on certain work permit holders,
it became evident that there’s a myth in the Cayman Islands concerning wealth.
The government’s stance seemed to suggest that the majority
of Caymanians were poor and the majority of expatriates are not. From the
statements of Caymanians at the public meeting held in West Bay to discuss the
budget crisis and the proposed tax, it is clear that some people believe the
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
As detailed in an article in yesterday’s newspaper, more
than 45 per cent of expatriates without security of tenure hold jobs that are
classified as either “elementary occupations” or “service workers”. The jobs in
these classifications attract some of the lowest pay of any positions of
employment in the Cayman Islands, and the people holding these jobs lead very
modest lives, often living in accommodations shared by many non-family members.
Another 22 per cent of expatriates hold skilled positions in
industries like the trades. These middle-class people make more money, perhaps
enough to rent their apartment, own a car and buy things like furniture, electronics
and so forth. But, by and large, these people’s salaries leave little in the
way of savings for the future.
The truth is, more than two-thirds of the transient
expatriate population struggles to earn a living and pay the bills. Of the remaining third, only a portion can be
Conversely, there are many Caymanians who are doing better
than most expatriates. They own homes, nice vehicles, luxuries like boats or
personal watercrafts and, in many cases, rental properties. It is true that
some of these people are struggling financially now, but is not because they
are poor, it’s because they are living a lifestyle beyond their means.
There are, of course, some Caymanians living in poverty, but
the imported poverty far exceeds their numbers.