In late August 2022 Deputy Premier Chris Saunders revealed that the upcoming Economic and Statistics Office’s Spring Labour Force Report showed that the population of the Cayman Islands has increased to 78,554.
Cayman’s Economic Outlook for 2022-2023
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The 2021 Census (taken in October 2021) showed our population had increased by 28.2% since the last census in 2010. Work permit numbers are also up from 26,967 in August 2021 to 32,184 a year later and, for the first five months of 2022, the Government showed a CI$179.5 million operating surplus, CI$30 million more than projected in the budget.
The Government’s operating revenues for the first five months of 2022 totalled CI$568.9 million, which is CI$51 million over the prior year, and CI$23 million ahead of budget. The Government’s income from stamp duty on land transfers, financial services fees and work permits all brought in more than budgeted. Our construction industry continues to flourish with 559 planning permits and 487 planning approvals issued as of early August 2022.
Amongst the resurgence in our economy comes a record inflation rate of 12.1% and a very real cost-of-living crisis. Our fuel prices have jumped by 37.3% and along with it the cost of electricity is up by 20.2%, housing/rents are up by 22.4% and food has risen by 7.9%.
Tourism & COVID-19
Residents were hugely relieved when all final travel restrictions were removed in August 2022 for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents and tourists. Travel Cayman was disbanded and travellers are no longer required to seek permission to enter the Islands. The hope is that tourism will now rebound and help our economy recover.
Salaries & Pay
Although the overall unemployment rate has dropped to 3%, the minimum wage stagnates at an impossible-to-live-on rate of CI$6 an hour, and the median salary of our population is CI$35,994. The 2021 census showed that at least 652 households did not have enough to eat due to a lack of money in the four weeks prior to the census being taken. When families have to choose between keeping the lights on and feeding their children, it is obvious why, as part of the PACT Government’s 2022-2024 Strategic Policy Statement, one of the first things they implemented was free school meals across all public schools.
With a vision to improve Caymanian’s futures through improving education and implementing social programmes, the Cayman government has rolled out a one-to-one laptop programme for public school children, raised the scholarship allowances for both Caymanian A Level students and university students (see the Education chapter for exact details) and, amongst a raft of other things, plan to reintroduce A Levels and non-Caymanians into public schools. They also intend to dramatically improve the under fives early years provision for children after an avalanche of research has shown that a person’s financial and social outcome is transformed depending on the way they are parented and educated in those first five informative years.
To put home ownership within reach of more Caymanians, the Cayman Islands Development Bank (CIDB) has set aside CI$15 million to lend to Caymanian mortgage seekers. The CIDB will lend borrowers up to CI$600,000 for up to a 30-year term with interest rates as low as 3.75% for two years.
With the Government’s National Energy Policy in mind and with its goal of increasing the amount of energy that Cayman derives from renewable sources to 70% by 2037, GreenTech Solar and Cayman National Bank have teamed up to offer expertise and 100% loans to those wanting to get solar panels on their houses. In July 2022 the Finance Minister, Chris Saunders, announced that 20% of the Government’s current surplus would be used to fund an energy assistance programme and CI$5 million was set aside to bring down electricity bills of those most in need during the hottest months of the summer (July, August and September).
Cayman’s prudent government planning and bonds issued in foreign and local currency, along with the Island’s strong fiscal policies, means that Cayman is financially one of the most robust countries in the Caribbean and is positioned to weather the challenges that the world economy faces due to rising interest and inflation rates. The Government’s 2022-23 budget projects that Cayman’s total net worth will be CI$1.349 billion at the end of 2023, total revenue will be CI$978.1 million and total expenses will be CI$950.3 million at the end of 2023. The Government covers all its operating expenses from revenue and only borrows money for capital investments if it needs to. Cayman has one of the lowest debit-to-GDP ratios in the world at only 5.3%. Moody’s credit rating for the Cayman Islands is Aa3 with a stable outlook, and the GDP was worth US$5.61 billion in 2020, according to official data from the World Bank.
2022 in Review
Grand Cayman's Roads and Traffic
Throughout 2022, the problem of Cayman’s roads and consequent traffic persisted. Despite previous efforts to tackle the ongoing issues on the roads, Cayman traffic, particularly during rush hours, can be unbearable. 2022 saw the pursuit of ongoing road projects and the beginning of others.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) made significant progress in 2022 on their various major projects. The main roads that were/are under construction are:
- the Linford Pierson Highway expansion
- East West arterial construction
- the Airport Connector Road
- the Crewe Road and Hurley Merren Boulevard widening.
In September of 2022, it was found that the number of people in the Cayman Islands currently in a job has grown by almost 15% since the census was completed less than twelve months ago. The combined number of people looking for a job or in work also grew to 11.7%, increasing the actual workforce here to a record level of 54,398 people, according to the latest Labour Force Survey. The survey also shows a whopping population increase of more than 10% since the census to stand at 78,554 people, almost entirely due to an increase in overseas workers.
More local people were back in work in April 2022 than in October 2021 as 21,299 Caymanians are now employed, an increase of 5.7% compared to the 2021 Census estimate. But more than 30,000 jobs here are now held by non-Caymanians, with over 27,000 of those on work permits. Meanwhile, over 1,000 Caymanians and permanent residents were recorded as being under-employed.
The problem of erosion along Seven mile Beach is nothing new and each storm serves to further erode the beaches around properties built too close to the ocean. The Cayman Islands Government has embarked on a proposed $21 million sand replenishment scheme as rising sea levels and over-development and too many hard structures on the beach fuel erosion. Following Hurricane Ian in September, at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, the problem of the near-permanent absence of the hotel’s beach was made even worse by a new headache: flooding across the bar and restaurant areas.
Last year saw the return of tourism in Cayman following the removal of travel restrictions related to COVID-19. There were 1,027,668 visitors to the Cayman Islands last year, of which 743,394 were cruise passengers and the remaining 284,274 were stay-over vacationers. The figures for both sectors surpassed the targets set by the government, with stay-over guests reaching more than half of the 2019 figures and well over the revised target of 250,000.
The above information on 2022 in Review was taken from Cayman News Service.