The Cayman Islands has experienced unprecedented growth and success across multiple sectors in 2017. If you are a resident in the Cayman Islands you will no doubt have heard about the many 'hot button' topics such as the country's rapid development and how it is impacting the environment.
In fact, the volume of construction taking place in Grand Cayman, especially along the Seven Mile Beach corridor, not to mention the transformational nature of some of these new projects such as Dart’s highway tunnel, have rendered certain parts of the country almost unrecognisable. The paradigm is indeed shifting.
In healthcare, not only did Cayman successfully manage the threat of Zika (the travel advisory was lifted in July of 2017), but a new maternity ward was opened at CTMH Doctors Hospital, and a contract was signed for Cayman’s first long-term mental health care facility. With the completion of the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa and Margaritaville Resort, the tourism sector continues to expand.
As the country’s population continues to grow (1.6% increase from 2015 to 2016), the Government is also moving ahead with large capital projects. The finishing touches are being put on the Owen Roberts International Airport, which is in the process of being fully modernised to accommodate up to 2 million passengers per year (current capacity is 250,000), with more efficient processing (increased number of security lanes, new check-in and baggage systems) and family friendly areas.
In addition to bricks and mortar projects, the Government has also been actively working on policy changes that benefit the greater community. To enhance the business sector, legislation was passed to allow for the formation and registration of Foundation Companies that do not require shareholders to operate. In public education, several critical assessments were undertaken and the recommendations, which include improving teaching standards, increasing support for special needs students and the gifted, and offering more support and behavioural modification solutions for children involved in anti-social activities, have begun to be implemented. Onus is on senior civil servants in the Ministry of Education and of course the Minister of Education, Hon Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, JP, to continue the momentum of change and improvements to the public education system.
The backlog of Permanent Residency (PM) applications began to be heard in the summer of 2017, and since August 2017 approximately 90 applications have been decided. Over 1,000 people applied for PM between October 2013 and July 2017, all seeing permission to remain in the Cayman Islands for the rest of their lives. The process of clearing the back-log is expected to take some time.
Concerns continue in other areas as ongoing construction threatens to encroach on sensitive ecological areas and the protection of Cayman’s natural resources is of grave concern. One project that has been creating waves is the proposal to remove beach rock from a Marine Park zone on Seven Mile Beach. The National Conservation Council and a growing number of individuals, are pushing for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out to measure how the removal of beach rock will affect wave patterns, beach erosion and the marine environment.
With climate change becoming an irrefutable reality for the world, and super storms such as Irma and Maria hitting the Caribbean basin in quick succession in 2017, Cayman must think carefully about removing valuable beach rock that protects the integrity of the shoreline. Beach rock in the Seven Mile Beach area is not only essential habitat for fish and other marine life, but it acts as a storm buffer such as mangroves and reefs. There is also the port development in George Town, and the significant reduction (said to be 15 acres of reef) of a marine park, which is another concern. What few have voiced is how George Town’s infrastructure and antiquated sewage system will cope with more cruise ship passengers, and where all the garbage from 2.5 million visitors will go. Hopefully, this will be mitigated by the new plans for the George Town landfill that was just announced in October 2017.
A Dart Group construction company, DECCO in partnership with a consortium of companies, was awarded the contract to build Cayman’s first Integrated Solid Waste Management System that will have waste-to-energy capabilities plus a modern recycling and composting plant. The Dart Group is also in final talks with the government to sign a public/private partnership deal, which will have a Dart-owned company overseeing waste management on all three islands, plus capping and eventually closing the existing landfill.
In other good news for Cayman’s fragile environment, a 22-acre solar farm opened in Bodden Town in 2017. Farther east, Health City is building a four-acre solar farm to power the hospital.
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 2017.
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.