We are prepared to applaud – albeit lightly and politely – the government’s commitment to putting into place immigration reform measures that, if enacted, would give comfort and security to nearly 2,000 foreign workers who otherwise would be forced to leave the islands when their term limit exemptions expire in late October. We will be prepared to offer a standing ovation once suitable legislation is actually in place.
It is unthinkable to us that, given the Cayman Islands rather lethargic recovery from the worldwide recession, that any government would contemplate the expulsion of approximately 2,000 workers and their families from these islands. The economic consequences of such a reduction in population would be devastating – including reduced commerce for local establishments such as supermarkets, restaurants, retail outlets, utilities, and the list goes on, impacting every sector of the economy.
Likewise, government coffers would be severely impacted with fewer fees coming in through import duties, gasoline taxes and, of course, work permit payments themselves, among others.
The so-called “rollover policy,” which will be addressed in the expected legislation, has been an unmitigated disaster for the Cayman Islands. More than any other measure, it has divided the community between Caymanians and expatriates – to the benefit of neither. It has required businesses to send home after seven years (barring a slight reprieve for those who are granted “key employee” status) their best employees.
Certainly the rollover policy is too crude a mechanism to ensure substantial increased employment for Caymanians. The Education Ministry, not the Immigration Department, is the place to start to achieve that desirable outcome.