Editorial for 11 July: Cayman GDP on the rise

Good economic news was hard to come by since the financial

The latest economic data for Cayman shows that the economy
is improving. After a three-year recession – most other countries worldwide
experienced only two years of economic decline – Cayman’s gross domestic
product increased for the second consecutive year in 2012. A GDP of 1.6 per
cent is not quite a return to pre-crisis levels, but given the global economic
environment, it is a positive development.

Especially the important tourism sector sees more cruise and
air arrivals and room rates are no longer heavily discounted. The high season
going into this year was equally positive.

Construction activity is back for the first time in four
years and new projects are imminent. Dart Realty plans to start construction on
the new 263-room Kimpton Hotel on Seven Mile Beach in September. Other
developments such as Health City Cayman Islands are in full swing or, like WaterColours
or Casa Luna, nearing completion.

Even the financial sector, despite a mixed performance, has
returned to 2 per cent growth.

Together with the stronger economic performance, the
population in Cayman is growing once more to more than 56,000. This is good
news for the retail and rental markets and for government revenues.

But there are structural issues that need to be examined.

One is Caymanian unemployment, which increased by 0.7 per
cent and now stands at 10.5 per cent, despite unemployment overall declining
slightly.  Before rushing to any
conclusions about Caymanians not benefitting from the economic growth, it must
be noted that there were 725 more Caymanians looking for a job in 2012 than a
year earlier.

Of those more than 500 found a job, while fewer than 200 did
not. In total there were 1,100 more people in employment than a year earlier.

This indicates two things: the economy is strong enough to
create new jobs for Caymanians. But many of the 1,925 unemployed Caymanians
cannot find a job because their qualifications do match the jobs that are

This means tightening the immigration and work permit system
is not the solution. The only way to enable jobseekers to find employment is to
give them the necessary qualifications.

Helping unemployed Caymanians calls for training and
retraining initiatives that provide the ones willing to learn with the
necessary tools to find a job. Neither government nor the private sector can
develop such a programme effectively on its own. A dialogue is needed.