To wit: We need more people living in this country — be they Caymanian or expatriate.
Noting that Cayman’s population declined by about 1,000 people last year, Mr. Moxam launched into a clear explanation of the positive link between foreign workers and the local economy:
“While some in our society undoubtedly celebrate the loss of a thousand work permit holders competing for jobs with Caymanians, there are two sides to every story,” he said.
“The other side of the story is that 1,000 fewer residents means Cayman businesses have 1,000 fewer customers; Cayman landlords, 1,000 fewer tenants; restaurants, 1,000 fewer diners; the Cayman government, 1,000 fewer people spending money and paying fuel, stamp and import duties. That is real money, ladies and gentlemen, real money that is effectively really gone from our economy.”
In fact, Cayman is (and has been for decades) foreign dependent. Nearly everything in these islands is imported — from our food, to our tourists, to much of our workforce.
What Mr. Moxam says makes perfect sense. Rather than viewing each work permit holder as a competitor for a job, it is more useful to view each as a potential customer for the private sector — and a source of revenue for the public sector, the largest employer of Caymanians and provider of social services to the needy, sick and vulnerable in Caymanian society.
In addition to contributing to the local economy through their own efforts, work permit holders are also consumers — and taxpayers. The fact is, if the government hopes to maintain the civil service — and the salaries, benefits and pensions of civil servants — at a size greater than prescribed by the Ernst & Young and Miller-Shaw reports, then the government needs to collect more revenue.
The surest way to do that (and least-painful for Caymanians) is to increase the population: In addition to immigration and work permit fees, expatriates pay import duties and other consumption taxes.
Consider the obverse: Fewer expatriate taxpayers means less revenue for government, a less affordable (and, therefore, smaller) civil service, and far fewer dollars producing the “multiplier effect” in the local economy.
What Cayman desperately needs is more customers in shops, more diners in restaurants and more buyers looking to invest in the local economy.
From a strictly actuarial perspective, the only significant growth to the local population will be recorded at the Owen Roberts turnstile, not at the maternity ward at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
Business leaders and public officials cannot allow any anti-expatriate sentiment to dictate the debate on all-important, long-term policy decisions.
Whatever the particulars of future plans and strategies, the position of Cayman’s government must, first and foremost, be unequivocally “pro-growth.”