50 years ago: Weighing Cayman’s future currency

In the Aug. 9, 1967 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, a front page article titled “Will we go decimal? Dots and dollars,” discusses what currency will be used in the Cayman Islands.

“With Britain changing to a decimal currency system in 1970 and the Jamaican Government having announced its intention of doing so in September 1969, it is obvious that the Cayman Islands will not be able to deal in sterling for many more years.

“It appears that the choice before us is to follow the mother-country and Jamaica (whose currency we use at the moment) and whatever currency they introduce, or to change to U.S. currency and introduce the use of their dollars and cents completely.

“Those who never did understand decimals and always manage to move the darned dot in the wrong direction will view the prospect of going ‘dotty’ with grave misgiving and wish they could stay with the familiar £, s, d, while those maths fiends who do see the point will vote to go decimal.

“Be that as it may, the government of the Cayman Islands will shortly have to make a decision in this important matter and we understand that it is under active consideration.

“Talking with local bankers on the matter, it was agreed that some change in the currency of the Cayman Islands would have to come when Jamaica goes decimal and brings in a new currency.

“To produce our own money would be extremely expensive and quite impracticable as we would have nothing as a reserve or guarantee and we could not go on the world money market without our own security. So that idea is, by and large, ruled out.

“To use the U.S. dollar would put us outside the sterling area which would mean that to deal with Jamaica, we would have exchange control. We could get grant-in-aid from Britain only if they had U.S. dollars available as no sterling could then come in, and as a lot of our investment and a huge part of the world trade is still done in sterling, we would be at terrific disadvantage in many respects. It would, of course, also be necessary to have the consent of the U.S. Treasury, and it is hardly likely that such a proposal would be acceptable to them.

“It is understood that when Mr. Maurice Edelman and Mr. D. Dodds-Parker, Members of Parliament from Britain, were here, this matter of currency was discussed. The suggestion was made that we could use British currency, but as it is illegal for British money to go overseas, it would be necessary to have it over-printed in some way specifically for the Cayman Islands. The MPs did not think that this was a very good solution and suggested that we should eventually change to U.S. currency, even thought that would create many problems ….

“Summing up, more important than the decimal point is the currency, for whatever country’s currency we use, we shall have to use their system.”

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