Cayman Islands Running Off Ex-Pats – Some Lessons For Barbados

Dear Sir:

I was in two minds about sending in this letter because of a concern about some sort of reprisal but then felt that there are some things that have to be said…

Letter to Cayman Net News from a South African Ex-Pat (link here)

Those of us who are native-born Bajans know of the conflicted thoughts and struggles we have over foreigners coming to live longterm on “our” island. On one hand, we as individuals and as a nation enjoy considerable cashflow from the thousands of ex-pats who live, and sometimes work, on Barbados.

On the other hand, ex-pats sometimes take jobs away from Bajans and drive housing and the cost of living into the stratosphere because they can pay far more for everything than most average working Bajans.

So we are often caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place – restrict foreign residents, but then lose the foreign investment we have come to rely upon.

The ex-pat debate is obviously heating up in the Cayman Islands. Here are some letter excerpts from an ex-pat who fears retaliation for having written to Cayman Net News

Dear Sir:

I was in two minds about sending in this letter because of a concern about some sort of reprisal but then felt that there are some things that have to be said.

For as long as Cayman Net News and Cayman Compass have been on the internet I have been an interested reader of news and views from Cayman without opinion or comment until the rollover issue came to light.

As an outsider I have no right to comment on the Cayman’s internal politics but I am an affected and interested party in that I have a daughter who has been working on Grand Cayman for the past seven years.

She also has money invested on Cayman. I also spent some time on Grand Cayman some years back and have fond memories of a happy and contented place and people and certainly no hint of the mood I am picking up now. It saddens me to see what is going on and I feel compelled to add my views.

Listening to all the arguments from those strictly for the implementation of the policy I would say they are being myopic and not seeing the big picture. I also see an exhibition of conservative paranoia fuelled by the politicians.

The saying goes that ignorance is bliss but ignorance is also a source of fear – fear of the unknown which is what the politicians are playing on in the minds of the more conservative, less enlightened citizens of Cayman.

This was very well said in the editorial in the Cayman Net News on 1st September. “Fueling of civil war” (I hope the good citizens of Cayman are taking note of Cayman Net News editorials – wise words are flowing from the pen of the Editor.)

If some readers thought the article sounded melodramatic they should consider what happened and what could have happened in a country like South Africa when the apartheid regime came to an end.

It may sound strange to compare Cayman and South Africa which are many thousands of miles apart but there are many parallels and perhaps lessons to be learnt. Had Afrikaner conservatism and polarization been allowed to flourish, the peaceful transition into the new South Africa would have been a very different picture despite the efforts of a great man like Nelson Mandela.

At the end of the day what do the Caymanians want? My understanding of human nature is Caymanians want the same as any human being wants anywhere in the world… peace, prosperity and a better life for their children. To the citizens of the Cayman Islands I say please don’t be blinded by rhetoric and see the big picture.

Who are those against the rollover policy in its present form?

They are the enlightened, worldly wise expats and Caymanian people who have also traveled beyond the borders of their comfort zone. Because of their experiences they have a broader view and understanding of the world and bring new ideas to invigorate the environment in which they live and also become part of the global village in which they will prosper and grow. The alternative is to wither and die.

Ironically, I see a parallel in another recent article in Cayman Net News “Genetic disorder fading” 3 September 2006. The article says, I quote “… and with the growing trend of Caymanians marrying expatriates, the chances of having the disease or even being a carrier are gradually disappearing”.

Can you imagine what the people of Cayman would be like if this had not happened. It’s the expat that ultimately will save the Islands from more than just a genetic disorder. Just by the way, are not all those Caymanians who call themselves true Caymanians descendants of once upon a time expats on the island?

Who is this roll over policy going to hurt the most for now?

Obviously those expats who have been here for some considerable time and approaching “their sell by date”. Since they have not left the island beforehand they must be happy with how the Cayman Islands are. They have grown to love Cayman and the lifestyle and are solid, experienced and committed islanders, or shall I say were committed until the reality of the roll over policy started impacting.

Before, whenever my daughter came home on vacation she would speak with pride about her little island which she called home but now it’s spoken of with sadness and disappointment.

Does the fact that many have given a good chunk of their productive lives not show commitment?

Does settling into homes and acquiring pets and possessions not show commitment?

Does putting heart and soul into the restoration of the island after Ivan….doing reef clean ups, getting businesses back on their feet whilst living under the most appalling conditions not show commitment?

Does staying on after Ivan and rebuilding their lives after losing everything without any compensation not show commitment? If they were there just for their own selfish reasons and didn’t feel for the islands, they could have gone home and waited for the Caymanians to sort their problems out, or they could have abandoned Cayman completely by staying home or moving to some other more expat friendly island.

Does putting up with rising cost of living and all the other little inconveniences of life not show commitment?

There is no threat to Caymanian identity and culture from these people.

Expats will move on and build up their lives again but those who are going to hurt the most in the long run are the Caymanians.

And this not only in the tourism sector – it’s in all sectors. Many other islands and even Qatar are aspiring to and vying to become top tax free, offshore financial centers.

Finally, I won’t even comment on the decision regarding the time period an expat must stay away from the island, its tantamount to rearranging the furniture on the Titanic.

I wish the Cayman Islands only the best.

Beefy Mance,
South Africa

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