Premier Alden McLaughlin has denied there is a deliberate policy by his administration to increase both the population and the number of work permits.

Instead, he told legislators the pains being felt on local roadways and in the rental market is a result of Cayman’s economic success.

McLaughlin made the comment in response to questions from George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan in Finance Committee on Monday.

Bryan pressed the issue of traffic congestion and the increase in work permits as legislators deliberated on the $3.46 million allocated to Cabinet Office for development and coordination of government policy.

Speaking on the funding, Bryan questioned whether any “Strengths Weakness Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)” analysis was done to determine the negative impacts of increasing the population.

The premier said no such studies were conducted as government did not have enough funds to expend on that analysis. He said the focus was on reducing Caymanian employment from the high of 10.5% when he first took office to the current 5.1%.

He argued that he would prefer to deal with the present challenges with infrastructure and rental costs than to grapple with thousands of Caymanians looking for employment.

“I wish there was some convenient tap that we could turn off and say we have had enough now. Mr. Supermarket owner, Mr. Construction owner, you cannot get any more work permits so you cannot expand your business, you cannot grow. What we are dealing with are the challenges of success. There are challenges without a doubt,” the premier said.

According to the latest Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman (WORC) data, work permits increased by more than 3,000 in the past 10 months. The numbers, released in November, showed a record-high 30,298 work permit holders compared with 27,263 in February of this year.

This, as a knock-on effect, has driven costs in the local rental market up by some 20%.

McLaughlin said government is not “insensitive” to the challenges being experienced by those in the community, and was looking for solutions through studies into what can be done to incentivise developers to build for the lower- and middle-income bracket.

“Because with a booming economy we have a scarcity of land, developers are tending to build for the upper end of the market,” he said. In the interim, he added, government has renewed the Government Guaranteed Home Assisted Mortgage (GGHAM) programme and removed stamp duties to help Caymanians buy their own homes.

Number of work permits