2018 has seen rapid growth across multiple sectors. Most palpable is the explosion of development across the Island. The number of planning approvals granted has soared, with a reported 1,156 developments being given the green light. The Seven Mile Beach corridor, in particular, is thriving: The Grove, a 3½ acre retail and commercial space has broken ground, while a proposed 10-storey condo and commercial development has claimed one of the last beachfront parcels in the area.
Tourism also continues to grow. Air arrivals jumped to 418,400 and cruise ship arrivals were 1,728,400 in 2017. The airport expansion is nearing completion and the new 200,000 sq ft facility will handle up to 2.5 million air passengers annually. Cayman Airways has added two new aircraft to its fleet that have enabled it to add Denver, Colorado to its list of gateways.
The proposed port extension and cruise berthing facility in George Town, which is currently in the procurement process, remains controversial. Members of the community continue to voice concerns over the impact such a project would have on the marine and local environment, the cost and the benefits to the local economy. There are hopes for a people-initiated referendum to allow the Cayman community to have a say in the highly controversial project.
The future of the George Town landfill site has finally been determined. A Dart-led consortium of companies will take over waste management in the Cayman Islands for the next 25 years. The implementation of a new and comprehensive ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management System’ (ISWMS) was announced in late 2017. Construction for the first stage of the proposed strategy is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019. The current landfill site will eventually be capped and grassed over, providing recreational green space on the Island’s highest point.
Health City Cayman has announced the addition of a multimillion-dollar cancer treatment centre, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, to be completed by December 2019. After the passing of the long-awaited law in August 2018, organ donation is finally legal in the Cayman Islands.
Infrastructure is being improved in the face of this increased development: the National Roads Authority have undertaken major roadwork projects including the Elgin Avenue extension and the Linford Pierson Highway expansion. The completion of the latter will help reduce commuter time for those living east of George Town, where traffic congestion is a huge issue.
All this development has had a positive impact on the economy, as the region proves increasingly attractive to foreign investors. GDP has grown to CI$49,227 per capita. And in the first quarter of 2018, the public purse was enjoying a healthy surplus. The establishment of a new Ministry of International Trade and Investment was announced by Alden McLaughlin. Unemployment rates are down to 3.4% – the lowest level recorded since 2007 – and the number of workers employed by the Government, its authorities, and companies, has increased by over 4%. However, this is tempered by inflation, which rose to 3.2% in the first quarter of 2018, mainly due to the rising cost of fuel and electricity. In response to the rising cost of living Government has announced a 5% pay rise for civil servants. Despite economic growth, poverty also appears to be increasing in some sectors and the number of applications made to the Needs Assessment Unit grows annually. Reasons for this include the percentage of Caymanians ageing out of the work-force and inadequate pension savings. The issue is a growing cause for concern.
Also concerning is the vast amount of development and the impact it will have on the fragile environment of Grand Cayman. Local environmental groups have been calling for a long-term development plan that highlights sustainable developmental practices. In other green news, many restaurants and bars have pledged to decrease or eliminate single-use plastics. Growing numbers of invasive green iguanas continue to devastate local flora. Following a period of trial culls, the Department of Environment is now working to set up an official iguana cull. An estimated 1.4 million iguanas will have to be culled in the next year to keep numbers in check.
Lastly, a developed country would not be complete without a stable government. Cayman held its landmark elections in May 2017. Visit Government, History & Politics for more details on Cayman politics and why May 24, 2017 was a historic moment for the Cayman Islands.
There are major capital developments and big changes in Cayman’s infrastructure to look forward to in 2019.
Both the stay over and cruise tourism sectors are holding steady and with the new room stock in Grand Cayman, plus a new international airport in 2018, we expect to see continued growth beyond 2017.