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The Cayman Islands ( or ) is a British overseas territory located in the western Caribbean Seamarker. The territory comprises the islands of Grand Caymanmarker, Cayman Bracmarker, and Little Caymanmarker, located south of Cubamarker and northwest of Jamaicamarker. The territory is a major offshore financial centre in the Caribbean.

History

The Cayman Islands were sighted by Christopher Columbus, on 10 May 1503 on his fourth and final voyage to the New World. He named them Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles there. The first recorded English visitor to the islands was Sir Francis Drake, who landed there in 1586 and named them the Cayman Islands after caiman, the Neo-Taino nations' term for alligator.

Cayman Islands National Museum
first recorded permanent inhabitant of the Cayman Islands, Isaac Bodden, was born on Grand Caymanmarker around 1661. He was the grandson of the original settler named Bodden who was probably one of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers at the taking of Jamaicamarker in 1655.

The Cayman Islands remained largely uninhabited until the 17th century. A variety of people settled on the islands, including pirates, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, deserters from Oliver Cromwell's army in Jamaica, and slaves. The majority of Caymanians are of African and British descent, with considerable interracial mixing.

Great Britain took formal control of the Cayman Islands, along with Jamaica, under the Treaty of Madrid in 1670. Following several unsuccessful attempts, permanent settlement of the islands began in the 1730s. The islands, along with nearby Jamaicamarker, were captured from the Spanish Empire, then ceded to England under the Treaty of Madrid (1670). They were governed as a single colony with Jamaica until 1962 when they became a separate British Overseas Territory and Jamaica became an independent Commonwealth realm.

The island of Grand Cayman, which lies largely unprotected at sea level, was hit by Hurricane Ivan on 11 and 12 September 2004, which destroyed many buildings and damaged 90% of them. Power, water and communications were all disrupted in some areas for months as Ivan was the worst hurricane to hit the islands in 86 years. However, Grand Cayman forced a major rebuilding process and within two years its infrastructure was nearly returned to pre-Ivan levels. The Cayman Islands have the dubious honor of having experienced the most hurricane strikes in history. Due to the proximity of the islands, more hurricane and tropical systems have affected the Cayman Islands than any other region in the Atlantic basin (brushed or hit every 2.23 years).

The Cayman Islands historically have been popular as a tax-exempt destination. Legend has it that Caymanians in 1788 rescued the crews of a Jamaican merchant ship convoy which had struck a reef at Gun Bay during a hurricane, and that the Caymanians were rewarded with King George III's promise to never again impose any tax.

Geography

Map of the Cayman Islands
George Town waterfront


The Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean Seamarker. They are the peaks of a massive underwater ridge, known as the Cayman Trench, standing 8,000 feet (2,400 m) from the sea floor, which barely exceeds the surface. The islands lie in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and west of Jamaica. They are situated about 400 miles (650 km) south of Miamimarker, 180 miles (300 km) south of Cubamarker, and 195 miles (315 km) northwest of Jamaicamarker. Grand Caymanmarker is by far the biggest, with an area of 76 square miles (197 km²). The two "Sister Islands" of Cayman Bracmarker and Little Caymanmarker are located about 80 miles (130 km) east of Grand Cayman and have areas of 14 square miles (36 km²) and 10 square miles (25.9 km²) respectively.

All three islands were formed by large coral heads covering submerged ice age peaks of western extensions of the Cuban Sierra Maestra range and are mostly flat. One notable exception to this is The Bluffmarker on Cayman Brac's eastern part, which rises to 140 feet (42.6 m) above sea level, the highest point on the island.

Cayman avian fauna includes two endemic subspecies of Amazona parrots: Amazona leucocephala hesterna, or Cayman Brac Parrot, native only to Cayman Brac, and Amazona leucocephala caymanensis or Grand Cayman Parrot, which is native to the Cayman Islands, forested areas of Cuba and the Isla de la Juventudmarker. Another notable fauna is the endangered Blue Iguana, which is native to Grand Cayman. There is also the agouti and the Booby Birds on Cayman Brac.

Climate

Demographics

The Cayman Islands have more registered businesses than they have people. The latest population estimate of the Cayman Islands is about 52,000 as of 2006, representing a mix of more than 100 nationalities. Out of that number, about half are of Caymanian descent. About 60% of the population is of mixed race (mostly mixed African-European). Of the remaining 40%, about half are of European descent and half are of African descent. The islands are almost exclusively Christian, with large number of Presbyterians and Catholics. Caymanians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. The vast majority of the population resides on Grand Caymanmarker. Cayman Bracmarker is the second most populated with about 1,500 residents, followed by Little Caymanmarker with around 200 permanent residents.

The capital of the Cayman Islands is George Townmarker, which is located on the south west coast of Grand Cayman.

Economy



With an average income of around $42,000, Caymanians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. According to the CIA World Factbook, the Cayman Islands GDP per capita is the 12th highest in the world. The islands print their own currency, the Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD), which is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of 1 KYD = 1.25 USD.

The government's primary source of income is indirect taxation - there is no income tax or capital gains tax or corporation tax. An import duty of 5% to 20% is levied against goods imported into the islands. Few goods are exempt; notable examples include books, cameras and infant formula.

Tourism

Aerial view of West Bay, Grand Cayman.


One of Grand Caymanmarker's (GCM) main attractions is the world-famous Seven Mile Beach on which a number of the island's hotels and resorts are located. Seven Mile Beach is regarded by many as one of the best beaches in the world. Historical sites in GCM such as Pedro St. James Castle in BoddenTown also attract visitors. The Sister Islands - Little Cayman and Cayman Brac - also supply their own unique charm.

The Cayman Islands is regarded as one of the world's best scuba diving destinations because of its crystal-clear waters and pristine walls. Cayman Bracmarker and Little Caymanmarker are also elite SCUBA dive destinations. There are several snorkeling locations where tourists can swim with stingrays including the popular Stingray City, Grand Caymanmarker. Divers find two shipwrecks off the shores of Cayman Brac particularly interesting including the MV Keith Tibbetts.

Other Grand Cayman tourist attractions include the Ironshore landscape of Hell, the marine theme park Boatswain's Beach, also home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, the production of gourmet sea salt, and the Mastic Trail, a hiking trail through the forests in the centre of the island. The NationalTrust for the Cayman Islands provides guided tours weekly on the Mastic Trail and other locations.

Financial services industry

The Cayman Islands are a major international financial centre. The biggest sectors are "banking, hedge fund formation and investment, structured finance and securitization, captive insurance, and general corporate activities." Regulation and supervision of the financial services industry is the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA).

The Cayman Islands are the fifth-largest banking centre in the world; with $1.5 trillion in banking liabilities. They are home to 279 banks (as of June 2008), 19 of which are licensed to conduct banking activities with domestic (Cayman based) and international clients, the remaining 260 are licensed to operate on an international basis with only limited domestic activity.

One reason for the Cayman Islands’ success as an offshore financial centre has been the concentration of top-quality service providers. These include leading global financial institutions (incl. UBS and Goldman Sachs), over 80 administrators, leading accountancy practices (incl. the Big Four auditors), and offshore law practices (incl. Maples & Calder and Ogier).

Since the introduction of the Mutual Funds Law in 1993, which has been copied by jurisdictions around the world, the Cayman Islands have grown to be the world’s leading offshore hedge fund jurisdiction. In June 2008 it passed 10,000 hedge fund registrations, and over the year ending June 2008 CIMA reported a net growth rate of 12% for hedge funds.

Starting in the mid-late 1990s offshore financial centres, such as the Cayman Islands, came under increasing pressure from the OECD for their allegedly harmful tax regimes, where the OECD wished to prevent low-tax regimes from having an advantage in the global marketplace. The OECD threatened to place the Cayman Islands and other tax havens on a "black list" and impose sanctions against them. However the Cayman Islands successfully avoided being placed on the OECD black list in 2000 by committing to regulatory reform to improve transparency and begin information exchange with OECD member countries about their citizens.

The Cayman Islands had previously appeared on the FATF Blacklist in 2000.

In 2004, under pressure from the UKmarker, the Cayman Islands agreed in principle to implement the European Union Savings Directive (EUSD), but only after securing some important benefits for the financial services industry in the Cayman Islands. As the Cayman Islands are not subject to EU laws, the implementation of the EUSD is by way of bilateral agreements between each EU member state and the Cayman Islands. The government of the Cayman Islands agreed on a model agreement, which set out how the EUSD would be implemented with the Cayman Islands.

A report published by the International Monetary Fundmarker (IMF), in March 2005, assessing supervision and regulation in the Cayman Islands' banking, insurance and securities industries, as well as its money laundering regime, recognised the jurisdiction's comprehensive regulatory and compliance frameworks. "An extensive program of legislative, rule and guideline development has introduced an increasingly effective system of regulation, both formalizing earlier practices and introducing enhanced procedures," noted IMF assessors. The report further stated that "the supervisory system benefits from a well-developed banking infrastructure with an internationally experienced and qualified workforce as well as experienced lawyers, accountants and auditors," adding that, "the overall compliance culture within Cayman is very strong, including the compliance culture related to AML (anti-money laundering) obligations."

On May 4, 2009, United States President Barack Obama declared his intentions to curb the use of tax havens by multinational corporations. In his speech, he singled out the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter. The next day, the Cayman Island Financial Services Association submitted an open letter to the president detailing The Caymans' role in international finance and its value to the US financial system.

Transportation

There are three airports in the Cayman Islands, one for each island.

George Town, as well as the rest of Grand Cayman, is served by nearby Owen Roberts International Airportmarker. Cayman Brac, is served nearby Gerrard Smith International Airportmarker and Little Cayman is served nearby Edward Bodden Airfieldmarker.

Cayman Airways is the national flag carrier of the Cayman Islands. With its head office in Grand Cayman, it operates mainly as an international and domestic scheduled passenger carrier, with cargo services available on all routes and a limited charter service offered. Its operations are based at Owen Roberts International Airport, Grand Cayman.

Island Air Cayman Islands is a small airline in the Cayman Islands providing services between Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman.

Government

The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory, listed by the UN Special Committee of Twenty-Four as one of the last non-self governing territories. A fifteen-seat Legislative Assembly is elected by the people every four years to handle domestic affairs. Of the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), five are chosen to serve as government ministers in a Cabinet headed by the Governor. The head of government is the Premier.

A Governor is appointed by the British Government to represent the monarch. Governors can exercise complete executive authority if they wish through blanket powers reserved to them in the constitution. They must give Royal Assent to all legislation, which allows them the power to strike down any law the legislature may see fit for the country. In modern times, the Governor usually allows the country to be run by the Cabinet, and the civil service to be run by the Deputy Governor, who is the Acting Governor when the Governor is not able to discharge his usual duties for one reason or another. The current Governor of the Cayman Islands is Stuart Jack and the current Deputy Governor is The Honourable Donovan Ebanks.

The Cabinet is composed of two official members and five elected members, called ministers; one of whom is designated Premier.

The official members are the Deputy Governor and the Attorney General. They are appointed by the governor in accordance with Her Majesty's instructions, and although they have seats in the Legislative Assembly, under the 2009 Constitution, they do not vote.

The five ministers are voted into office by the 15 elected members of the Legislative Assembly. One of the ministers, the leader of the majority political party, is appointed premier by the governor.

After consulting the premier, the governor allocates a portfolio of responsibilities to each Cabinet member. Under the principle of collective responsibility, all ministers are obliged to support in the Assembly any measures approved by Cabinet.

Almost 80 departments, sections and units carry out the business of government, joined by a number of statutory boards and authorities set up for specific purposes, such as the Port Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Immigration Board, the Water Authority, the University College Board of Governors, the National Pensions Board, and the Health Insurance Commission.

The defence of the Cayman Islands is the responsibility of the United Kingdommarker. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service provides police services in the country. The Cayman Islands Cadet Corps was formed in March 2001.

Since 2000, there have been two official major political parties: United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's Progressive Movement (PPM). While there has been a shift to political parties, many contending for an office still run as independents.

Taxation

There is no direct taxation imposed on Caymanians and Cayman Islands companies. The government receives the majority of its income from indirect taxation. A 20% duty is levied against imported goods. Some items are exempted like baby formula, books and cameras. Duty on automobiles depends on the class and make of the model; duty can reach up to 40% for expensive models. Financial institutions that operate in the islands are charged a flat licensing fee by the government. A 10% government tax is placed on all tourist accommodations in addition to the small fee each tourist pays upon getting on the island.

Education

Primary and secondary schools

The Cayman Islands Education Department operates state schools. Caymanian children are entitled to free primary and secondary education. Various churches and private foundations operate several private schools that offer American and British based studies starting from nursery up to A Levels.

Colleges and universities

Grand Cayman is home to University College of the Cayman Islands, the only government run university on the island. The University College is located in George Town on Grand Cayman. The International College of the Cayman Islands is a private college and is located in Newlands, Grand Cayman about seven miles (11 km) east of George Town. The college was established in 1970 and offers Associate's, Bachelor's and Post Graduate degree programmes. Grand Cayman is also home to St. Matthew's University, which includes a medical school and a school of veterinary medicine. The Cayman Islands Law School, a branch of the University of Liverpool in the UK, is also based on Grand Cayman. Situated in George Town, the law school has been in operation since 1982.

The Cayman Islands Civil Service College, a unit of Cayman Islands government organised under the Portfolio of the Civil Service, is also located in Grand Cayman. Co-situated withUniversity College of the Cayman Islands in a building on the south side of the campus, the intent of the CICSC is offer both degree programs and continuing education units of various sorts. Further, the college is planned to develop as a government research centre. It opened in autumn 2007.

Health care

The Cayman Islands have a modern health care system. There are two hospitals in George Town, the government run George Town Hospital and the smaller, private Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital. Additionally, Faith Hospital is an eighteen-bed facility on Cayman Brac. The Government maintains a satellite clinic on Little Cayman.

Health insurance is handled by private insurers and a government-run company (CINICO). There is no universal health coverage as in the UK. All employers are required under Law to provide Health Insurance for their employees (although the employee may be required to contribute 50% of the premium). Full time employees also contribute US$10 every month to the "Indigent Fund", which helps cover care for the unemployed, elderly, and other groups in need of monetary assistance.

Currently the islands lack facilities for cardiac catheterisation, though many feel the population is large enough to support the procedure. Various attempts to establish a cath lab in George Town Hospital have stalled. There remains an urgent need for retinal surgery on the islands. Currently, residents with severe diabetic eye conditions or retinal detachments become blind, unless they have the financial means to seek prompt care on the mainland. The Cayman Islands lacked an MRI after one was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan, but in July 2007 a new unit was installed at the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital.

For divers and others in need of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, there is a two-person recompression chamber at George Town Hospital on Grand Cayman, run by Cayman Hyperbaric Services. The same organization has built a hyperbaric unit at Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac.

Work permits

In order to work in the Cayman Islands as a non-citizen, a work permit is required. This involves passing a police background check and a health check. A prospective worker will not be granted a permit if certain medical conditions are present which include testing positive for Hepatitis or HIV. Work permits are not issued after age 60. A permit may be granted to individuals on special work.

The Cayman Islands has a small population and therefore a limited work force. Work Permits are therefore granted to foreigners on a regular basis. On average, there are more than 40,000 foreigners holding valid Work Permits Work Permit Stats.

For a foreigner to move to the Cayman Islands, they must find a job first. Work Permits are applied for by the employer only. All fees associated with a Work Permit are paid for by the employer C.I. Government Website - Entry Requirements for Work Permits. Work Permits are not granted to foreigners that are in the Cayman Islands (unless it is a Renewal). The Cayman Islands Immigration Department required all foreigner to remain in their own country until their Work Permit has been approved. Foreigners typically use on-line resources to obtain job offers Online Employment Resources

The Cayman Islands presently imposes a controversial "rollover" policy in relation to expatriate workers who require a work permit. Non-Caymanians are only permitted to reside and work within the Territory for a maximum of seven years (non-renewable) unless they satisfy the criteria of key employees. The policy has been the subject of some controversy within the press. Law firms have been particularly upset by the recruitment difficulties that it has caused. Other less well remunerated employment sectors have been affected as well. Concerns about safety have been expressed by diving instructors and realtors have also expressed concerns. Others support the rollover as necessary to protect Caymanian identity in the face of large immigration of expatriate workers.

Concerns have been expressed that in the long term, the policy may damage the pre-eminence of the Cayman Islands as an offshore financial centre by making it difficult to recruit and retain experienced staff from onshore financial centres. Government employees are no longer exempt from this "rollover" policy according to this report in a local newspaper. The governor has decided to use his constitutional powers, which give him absolute control for the disposition of civil service employees to determine which expatriate civil servants are dismissed after seven years service and which are not.

This policy is enshrined in the Immigration Law (2003 revision), written by the UDP government, and subsequently enforced by the PPM government. Both governments agree to the term limits on foreign workers, and the majority of Caymanians also agree it is necessary to protect local culture and heritage from being eroded by a large number of foreigners gaining residency and citizenship.

Military

The defence of the Cayman Islands is the responsibility of the United Kingdommarker. The Islands have their own police force, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Regular off-shore marine patrols are conducted by the RCIP and Grand Cayman is a port of call for the United States Coast Guard.

Foreign relations

The foreign relations of the Cayman Islands are largely managed from the United Kingdommarker, as the islands remain an overseas territory of the UK. However, the Government of the Cayman Islands often resolves important issues with foreign governments alone , without intervention from Britain . Although in its early days, the Cayman Islands' most important relationships were with Britain and Jamaicamarker, in recent years, a relationship with the United Statesmarker has developed.

Though the Cayman Islands are involved in no major international disputes, they have come under some criticism due to the use of their territory for narcotics trafficking and money laundering. In an attempt to address this, the Government entered into the Narcotics Agreement of 1984 and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty of 1986 with the United States, in order to reduce the use of their facilities associated with these activities. In more recent years, they have stepped up the fight against money laundering, by limiting banking secrecy, introducing requirements for customer identification and record keeping, and requiring banks to cooperate with foreign investigators.

Due to their status as an overseas territory of the UK, the Cayman Islands have no representation either on the United Nations, or in most other international organizations. However, the Cayman Islands still participates in some international organizations, being a full member of the Central Development Bank , and an associate member of Caricom and UNESCOmarker, and a member of a sub-bureau of Interpolmarker.

Sports

Football is the national and most popular sport. Rugby is a developing sport, and has its own national men's team, women's team, and Sevens team. The Cayman Islands Under 20 rugby team has also qualified for the JWRT in Kenya 2009.

The Cayman Islands are members of The International Cricket Council, FIFAmarker, the International Olympic Committeemarker and the Pan American Sports Organization, and also compete in the biannual Island Games.

Music

The Cayman Islands is home to a number of bands which range from concert bands to steel pan bands. The modern forms of music composed in Cayman are primarily soca, rap and R&B.

Traditional Caymanian music was a 'kitchen band', which was composed of a fiddle, drum, spoon and bottle, washboard, and possibly a harmonica or guitar. There is currently a band of Caymanians who perform as the Kitchen Band during cultural celebrations, such as CayFest or Heritage Days during Pirate's Week. This type of music is often fast-paced, and bears similarities to country and calypso music.

A National Band exists, which caters to concert band musicians. This band performs on occasion, and plays almost any type of music.

A number of other singing bands also perform at celebrations regularly, and generally play various music forms.

The Cayman Islands are also home to three performing steel pan bands – Panoramers, Pandemix and Pandemonium. Panoramers is the oldest, being formed by Earl LaPierre, who also founded AfroPan in Toronto, Canada. All of the bands play a Caribbean base of music, but often play a range of music to cater to all members of the audience.

Film Production

Notable feature films that have been filmed in the Cayman Islands include: The Firm, Haven and Cayman Went. The Cayman Islands Film Commission provides assistance to productions utilizing the jurisdiction.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Grand Cayman's history with tropical systems
  2. Regions and territories: Cayman Islands. BBC News.
  3. The History of Cayman Islands Currency
  4. "This week's dream: diving and lazing on Little Cayman", (29 November 2008) The Week p. 39, Dennis Publishers, UK
  5. Skip Harper, "Adventuring in Cayman Brac",Head and Toe Publishers, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 2001, ISBN 0-9640645-2-0
  6. National Trust For the Cayman islands
  7. United States Government Accountability Office (2008). GAO Report to the Chairman and Ranking Member, Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate, p. 7.
  8. Places in the sun. (2007, 24 February). The Economist, no. 382 (8517 suppl.), 3-5.
  9. Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (11 July 2008), Regulatory Framework: Statistics. Retrieved 25 July 2008 from:
  10. Bringing Cayman's Mutual Funds Law up to speed (1 October 2005). Hedge Week.
  11. CayCompass.com (29 July 2008), 0,000–plus funds registered in CI.
  12. Natasha L. Rogoff (n.d.), Haven or havoc?.
  13. Appleby, Guide to the EU Savings Directive: Its relevance for Cayman Islands Investment Funds.
  14. Cayman Islands Financial Services (n.d.). International Cooperation.
  15. Obama Speech on Tax Havens May 5, 2009, [1].
  16. CIFSA Open Letter to President Obama, [2].
  17. University College Cayman Islands: About us.
  18. International College of the Cayman islands: Programs of Study.
  19. St. Matthew's University.
  20. Cayman Islands law School.
  21. Row brews over rollover, 22 January 2007 , Cayman net News.
  22. Government takes up permit issue, Editorial, 5 March 2006, Camanian Compass.


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