Editorial: Cayman’s high cost-of-living impacts us all

“How much is a carton of milk?”

It’s a popular question posed to politicians everywhere during election season to test how in touch they are with the people they hope to represent.

For any candidates prepping for the campaign trail in Cayman, we can tell them this – it’s expensive.

At $7 for a gallon jug, we are paying twice as much as shoppers in the US and three times as much as the average Brit.

The same, or similar, can be said of almost every item in every aisle in the grocery store.

It is a trend that extends well beyond the supermarkets and has implications for the standard and quality of life of everyone in these islands.

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In a detailed report in our Issues section, we examine every aspect of the cost of living in Cayman.

The headline conclusions of that exercise are perhaps not so surprising. We all know that Cayman is an expensive place to call home.

A premium on food, rent and other essentials comes with the territory.

But the extent of the mark-up is, in some cases, quite staggering.

The average house price in Cayman comes in at just under a million dollars – triple the average for England or the US.

Even after a COVID-influenced exodus of expats, rent is still more than $2,000-a-month –  double the US average.

Everything from broadband and gym membership to a trip to the movies and a taxi-ride home costs substantially more in Cayman.

But before we drown our sorrows in premium-priced beer, we should also note that salaries follow the same trend.

Cayman Islands residents earn marginally more than US workers and a whopping $10,000-a-year more than the average Brit.

When you consider that we don’t pay income tax, that $50 steak dinner begins to look a bit more reasonable.

It is a question of balance and the numbers only tell part of the story.

Over the next month in the Cayman Compass Issues section, we will take a deeper look at Cayman’s cost of living and how it impacts ordinary people.

Are owning a home and starting a family rights that are realistic and affordable for everyone?

Is it possible to survive on the minimum wage in these islands?

What power do decision-makers really have to control these costs?

For any candidate running in Cayman there is no excuse for not knowing the price of milk, or any other basic necessity. The more pertinent question might be, “Why is it so expensive and what will you do about it?”

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  1. Politicians set policies. As Marla Dukharan infers in her article today, Cayman has (factually) a highly regressive taxation system. Cayman could choose to move to a progressive one. Imagine a Cayman where those earning over $100,000 paid even 10% of their income in tax, those over $500,000 paid even 20% (both rates far lower than, say, US or UK). Someone earning $500,000 paying $100,000 in tax gives CIG far more room to support a lower cost of living ( eg dropping import duties on food) and will go a lot further than the kind generosity of the (untaxed) well off donating, say, to the food banks Cayman now has.

  2. I am glad to see you examine this issue. It is a concern of mine as a home-owner for over 20 years. I am fortunate in that 1) I can keep up with the increasing costs and 2) only reside here about 5 – 6 months out of the year. That being said, I see a very big erosion for the Caymanian population. An ever widening gap between people that can afford and those that can’t. Increasing those that can afford are often not Caymanian. This gap between the Haves and the Have Nots is widening.

    This also in my opinion results in a decrease in people willing to visit. If I can go to Mexico or another destination for a fraction of the cost, is the diving that much better in Cayman?

    • YES The diving is that much better They speak English which as an American is a plus and most of all it is safe. Leave your wallet on the beach in Mexico and see how long it will be there. In Cayman an hour later it is probably still there with the money in it
      You get what you pay for

  3. These average home prices for the UK and USA depend entirely where you live. A home in San Francisco for example is much more expensive than, say, Alabama or North Dakota.
    Homes on 7 mile beach at $2,000 per sq.ft. seem very expensive till you compare them with Manhattan, New York or Knightsbridge, London. Or Monaco at $6 million for a 1,000 sq.ft. apartment.
    Groceries are certainly pricey.

  4. Oh, my dear friends in the Caymans – cost of living is an issue in every nation. The alternatives are far more damaging, including a progressive tax system mentioned in the first comment. You currently essentially have a single tax to monitor – duty. Many here in the States have longed for a single flat or consumption tax. If you lived in New York City, for instance, you would pay federal income tax of 10% to 37%, federal social security tax and federal Medicare tax – then you’ll pay a 4% state sales tax, state and local property taxes, a 4.5% city sales tax and a state income tax between 4% and 9%. With all of that, there exists poverty and homelessness that would shock most Caymanians. Do continue to work with your elected officials to help decrease costs of goods and the cost of living, but don’t ever believe the alternative is a better taxation system.