Coalition for Cayman continues advocacy

After a period of post election down time to allow the new government to settle in, the Coalition for Cayman is continuing its advocacy and public awareness role between now and the next election.

We have established committees to correspond with each of the portfolios established by the new government. Our intention is, from time to time, to review the actions which are proposed or have been taken by the government and compare those to the promises made in the People’s Progressive Movement manifesto. We will report on any disparity as between what was promised and what is proposed or has been done.

Our intention is also to study the issues of the day and provide each ministry with reasoned possible solutions to our country’s problems crafted by private sector individuals who have knowledge in each specific area. The intention is to advocate for effective governance, to make the public aware of the policies (and their impact) being implemented and provide suggestions where appropriate.

While we fully intend to hold government accountable to the promises they made, we have no intention of simply criticising the government for political point scoring. We believe this is an excellent way for government to get productive coordinated input from individuals and not simply from private sector business driven organizations.

We have been reviewing immigration more generally as part of the portfolio it compromises. We will be publishing our views more generally at a later date. However, the urgent pace and scope of the current immigration bill has meant we needed to look at that in isolation as we have some strong concerns. To try an understand the rationale for the current bill, we have taken a step back to consider what we think should be the overriding concerns.

1. Economic growth

The primary objective for any economic growth in the Cayman Islands should be to benefit Caymanians. This is achieved by working with true business partners to ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians.

This is quite different than looking at economic growth simply to increase the country’s GDP and economic activity. Unfocused growth which is not managed to provide the maximum benefit to the citizens can result in those citizens becoming increasingly left out. This will eventually lead to social disharmony.

2. Guest workers

In a perfectly planned economy, there would be a national plan which forecasted the jobs of tomorrow and informed the schools and colleges of the exact category, number and timing of new jobs becoming available so these could be matched to school leavers/graduates of all levels, unskilled, skilled and professional. Once Caymanians were employed, employers would have comprehensive plans under which the necessary training was delivered and maintained by experienced staff (brought in on work permits if needed).

This training would go hand in hand with a succession plan under which most guest workers were replaced by the Caymanian staff as and when they reached the acceptable level of experience. To be fair to the current government, we think that is where they are trying to go with the national workforce development department and acknowledge that they are essentially starting from scratch.

3. Permanent rights

There will always be some guest workers who would be invited to remain permanently in Cayman, but these individuals should be limited to persons who:

are able to financially support themselves and their dependents;

are integral to the success of the business that employs them;

are integral to the national plan (including by creating direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians);

are integral to the establishment of a new industry;

have a positive impact on society

A number of factors over the last 10 years appear to have contributed to the belief that guest workers should have a right to receive citizenship. This simply is not the case. Citizenship in Cayman has always been something that a small proportion of guest workers have earned the privilege to apply for and there are good reasons why this should be the case.

When a work permit holder receives permanent residency with the right to work, the job they hold is generally permanently removed from the pool of job opportunities available to Caymanians. If it is not so removed, it is normally because that person has used their new status to move jobs or start their own business and compete with their original employer, usually a Caymanian.

The grant of permanent residency, almost always then leads to citizenship. The granting of citizenship to a person permanently removes the job they occupy from the pool available to the other Caymanians. In addition, granting citizenship results not only in one person receiving citizenship, but generally results in that person and all of their current and future dependents receiving citizenship and therefore taking on the preferential treatment, together with other Caymanians, to direct employment and business ownership opportunities.

4. Term Limit Extension Permits (TLEP)

Approximately 1,500 work permits expired during the previous government administration. These guest workers were not key employees. The last government made a political decision to extend theses work permits for up to two years with the express condition that the additional two years could not be used to apply for permanent residency.

The employers of these guest workers, previously knew for seven years that other persons would need to be hired to replace those guest workers. They were then given an additional two years to find replacement employees.

The current government is considering allowing the 1,500 employees to use their extended time to now allow them all to apply for permanent residency. The rationale appears to be that the impact of this number of workers leaving would cause hardship for their employers and the economy.

5. C4C’s position

Does the current government’s proposal in dealing with these 1,500 guest workers ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians? The answer must be no, in fact there are a number of potential negative repercussions.

It will create an administrative burden to process applications and appeals. The cost of this to the government should not be underestimated.

It will not provide any incentive for employers to become true business partners for Cayman by properly providing employment, training, development and progression opportunities for Caymanians.

Removing those jobs for an even longer period of time (perhaps permanently) from the pool of jobs available to Caymanians.

Potentially creating a much larger pool of new citizens than the mass status grants of 2004. The bill would inflate the current pool of around 600 key employees to potentially around 20,000 individuals entitled to apply for permanent residency.

C4C would encourage the current government to adopt the following approach in dealing with the current issue.

Final extension of three to six months for the current 1,500 guest workers who would not be given the right to apply for permanent residency.

Employers to use the final three to six months extension to recruit replacement employees with qualified Caymanians being given priority.

The only provisions in the bill that need to be dealt with right now are the provisions to deal with the TLEPs. There is no urgency on the remaining provisions. We think the government should re-consider the current proposed approach to immigration reform to one which again puts the primary objective of economic growth being to ensure the effective creation of direct employment and business ownership opportunities that benefit Caymanians.

James Bergstrom, Gary Rutty, Clarence Bot
hwell, J.C. Calhoun and Johann Moxam

on behalf of

Coalition for Cayman