More than 500 people have applied for permanent residence status under the new Cayman Islands Immigration Law in the past two years. This is how many people have been granted PR status under the new law: Zero.
We hope the Progressives’ approach to immigration isn’t going precisely according to plan.
For those who might cheer the lack of new permanent residents as an indication that the country is becoming more “Caymanian,” or at least, less “foreign,” we regret to inform you that, at last count, there are 22,618 people here in Cayman on active work permits — an increase of about 10 percent since September 2013, before the new law went into effect.
We, when it comes to population figures, welcome increases across the board, in any category — Caymanian, non-Caymanian, residents, visitors — so long as they translate to better employment numbers, and most importantly, a higher standard of living for everyone in these islands. To put it another way, we are unabashedly pro-growth and pro-development.
To those who decry the disappearance of the “Cayman of yesteryear,” lament the loss of pristine vistas and rue the hurrying-up of our country’s beloved laid-back lifestyle … we hear you. Those are all problems associated with growth and development. And who wouldn’t, in an ideal word, prefer a Cayman with secluded beaches, open roads and an easygoing business environment? That, after all, is what brought many of us here in the first place, and what has encouraged many of us born here to stay.
But Cayman, sadly, already has had a metastasizing growth problem — of the civil service, whose salaries, pensions and healthcare have to be paid for by somebody (meaning everyone else). There are two solutions to this problem: dramatically reduce the size, and cost, of the civil service (which we will believe when we see); or increase the stream of revenue to the public sector’s proverbial trough.
Duty rates and fees can only be hiked so much before they begin to have a downward impact on the total amounts being collected, so the surest way to increase tax revenues, in the long term, is to increase the tax base — i.e., the number of taxpayers, that is, residents, workers and visitors — and to facilitate the conduct of business in the country.
In the absence of a reduction in the size of the government payroll — and government spending on important (if not essential) services and capital projects — growth is the only way to go if we want to keep Cayman’s economy watertight.
That is why we disagree fundamentally with the view, practiced if not openly preached by the Progressives, that having fewer new residents is better for Caymanians.
What we find even more troubling than the recent 11 PR applications being denied by the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board is the fact that hundreds more remain stuck in the gears of the bureaucracy and so haven’t yet been considered.
In addition to the apparent lack of respect being shown by government officials for those people whose only offense is wishing to live in Cayman forever, we also observe potential fodder for challenges in court, following the scathing August ruling by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie.
In his judgment, the chief justice blasted the Immigration Appeals Tribunal for perpetrating a “miscarriage of justice” in two instances he reviewed, and then more generally stated “immediate and obvious concerns” about the Immigration Law’s “points system” for permanent residence.
Ironically, if the government makes an effort to alter the system in order to conform to Justice Smellie’s guidance, that may result in even further delays for the PR applicants, potentially generating more reason to appeal the future rejections that now seem to be predestined.
Putting a draconian immigration policy in place is not the best economic strategy, but if done transparently, and in line with constitutional and international laws, it’s perfectly fair. Cloaking policy intentions in bureaucratic red tape, on the other hand, is not.