Former Premier McKeeva Bush has suggested the Cayman Islands should follow the lead of Bermuda and abandon the “rollover” policy compelling foreign workers to leave after seven years.
Mr. Bush said the policy was damaging the islands’ economy and handing an advantage to competitors in other jurisdictions.
Speaking at a United Democratic Party meeting in West Bay last Tuesday, Mr. Bush told supporters: “The misapplication of the rollover policies has created unemployment and hardship for our people.
“You might say more people, more permits, less jobs. But when companies in the financial industry pull up their socks and leave then our secretaries, our clerks, our young Caymanian girls that work in those industries lose their job.”
He added: “As most of you have read, Bermuda has abandoned its rollover policy and introduced alternative policies.
“We have no time to waste and failure to address this issue will continue to affect our livelihood in an increasingly negative manner.”
Mr. Bush was leader of the territory until December when he was forced out of office after being arrested in a corruption probe. He has yet to be charged with any crime and maintains his innocence.
While in office he made no move to abandon the “rollover policy”.
Speaking to the Caymanian Compass after the meeting, he said he had argued against the policy but had lacked support within his own administration to follow through.
He said that despite his image as “some kind of dictator” he needed support from colleagues to push his ideas through.
But he insisted the rollover policy was harming the Cayman Islands and should be dropped as part of a wider effort to rid the financial industry of the burden of red tape and excessive bureaucracy.
“That is my personal position and as I said at the meeting it is something we have to address as a party,” he said.
It is not clear if Mr. Bush would have the necessary support in a new UDP administration to end term limits.
The party now has a very different make-up than when he was premier, with five key members breaking away to form a minority government.
Mr. Bush said the policy was something the new group would have to discuss and agree on collectively.
He made his personal opinions quite clear at Tuesday’s meeting, telling a crowd of around 300 supporters: “With our poor immigration policies we succeeded in getting viable economic activity in other people’s countries.
“We need to change that situation. It needs to be reversed immediately.”
He said the previous People’s Progressive Movement government had been responsible for increasing regulation and red tape while in power.
“Our immigration policies must be attractive to investors while at the same time we ensure Caymanians and our young people are given priority for available positions,” Mr. Bush said. “This is not rocket science. Immigration must be and can be beneficial to all.”
He said a new UDP administration would need to look at the whole issue of immigration, with the rollover policy just one part of the problem.