Civil service: Sit. Stay. Do not 'rollover'

A little more than a decade ago, the Cayman Islands government took a pistol, loaded it with ammunition labeled “rollover policy,” meticulously squared the private sector in its sights, and shot this country right in the foot.

We now observe, with some unease, that the government is reloading, and re-aiming — this time at the public sector.

The economy is hurting badly enough from the first government-inflicted wound. In a global competitive marketplace, the second could prove devastating.

This Editorial Board is a strong proponent that government should be as small as possible; however, government should also be as professional as possible and deliver public services at the highest-quality level. That means being able to hire, and fire, whomever they want from wherever they reside. If government thinks of its civil service as an “employer of last resort,” it needs to do some serious rethinking.

Currently, government employees are exempt from the immigration rollover policy that applies to the private sector, limiting how long non-Caymanians may live and work in the country without obtaining permanent residence, or without leaving Cayman for at least one full year.

In an editorial published Sept. 26 last year, we rhetorically asked why, if the rollover policy is such a good policy, has it not been extended to the civil service?

The answer, while unspoken, is obvious to anyone in the private sector: The government to date has not embraced the rollover policy because it is onerous, unfair and incredibly disruptive to business operations.

High-ranking Caymanians in the civil service (or in the private sector) do not hire foreigners because they’re “against Caymanians.” They hire foreigners because they need the best people in order to get the job done.

The rollover policy isn’t just illogical; it is absurd. Under the rollover regime, the foreigners who have lived in Cayman the longest, who have verified their ability to support themselves, who are the farthest on their way down the path of cultural assimilation, who (at least in the private sector) are demonstrably the “best” employees a company has — those are the people we regularly order to leave the island.

Even using political justifications as benchmarks, the rollover policy has failed. The rollover has not reduced the population. It has not provided jobs for Caymanians. It has not prevented foreign workers from obtaining Caymanian status and the right to vote.

Infused with the spirit of tit-for-tat retribution, some may be tempted to encourage government to adopt the rollover policy, so it can experience firsthand the hardships it has imposed upon the private sector.

But that, too, would be nonsensical.

The rollover policy was a bad idea for the private sector. And it’s an equally bad idea for the public sector.

It might, in fact, be worse: Applied to the private sector, the rollover policy hurts individual companies to varying degrees, depending on whom, and when, they hire.
Applying the rollover policy to the public sector — and removing en masse many of the best performers from some of the most critical areas of government (such as criminal justice and education) — on the other hand, will immediately weaken the provision of public services, and directly and negatively impact the country as a whole.

The rollover is one of the worst policies the government has ever inflicted on Cayman businesses. Now they want to inflict it on themselves?


  1. Truly speaking if I was a foreigner, I would definitely be against the roll over policy too, unless I had a seven year plan; and even then you find people want to continue to stay for more than one reason.
    Now the question that we are faced with, is, has it been really working?. let us look carefully at a few questions. Has it reduced the population of expats, has it provided more jobs for Caymanians, or prevented foreigners from becoming Cayman citizens? Obviously the answer is No, so what purpose is it serving anyway.
    I do not think it is fair to have only the private sector employees rolled over and not the Civil Servants also. What is the sense, to me it creates an animosity between the two bodies. What ever is decided, it should be fair across the board, and where the police and other armed forces are concerned, I believe they should earn, being giving a stay after seven years like everyone else, To say the least, what is the use of just having an ordinary cop with no special skills; that is something we can recruit here. The roll over policy needs fixing because it is not working.

  2. The one thing I have to say is that it seems really hypocritical of the CIG to tell the private sector that they can work and run their businesses without the rollover policy negatively effecting their businesses, when they don’t want to deal with it themselves. When you see these politicians saying that the private sector needs to step up to the plate and try to replace expats with local workers, they need to take a look in the mirror because this is just the pot calling the kettle black.

    My personal belief regarding Work Permits is that the government relies so much on the millions of dollars in revenue generated from them that you will never see them put up a real effort to lower those numbers, anyone saying anything differently is full of it. Make no mistake about it the bottom line is that Expats are worth more to the government than local workers are because they do not make money from local workers. The only way to change this would be to implement income taxes on local workers to replace the revenue loss if there were less work permit fees and we all know no one will agree with that.

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