Miller: Findings back rollover
(CNS): Although the Term Limit Review Committee has recommended that government drop the controversial seven year term limit for foreign workers, Ezzard Miller says the findings of the report show that the policy has worked. The independent MLA says that, despite the recommendations made by the authors, their findings indicate that rollover has not driven business away but has worked and limited the number of people who are now eligible for Caymanian status. He said that removing the seven year limit and allowing everyone to apply for PR is nothing more “than kicking the can down the road” and will raise unrealistic expectations among foreign workers.
Miller is likely to be a lone voice on the issue, however, as it seems government, the opposition and large parts of the community are set to support the committee’s recommendation to push the term limit back to ten years. Nevertheless, despite being one of the few remaining supporters of rollover, Miller believes it is still the best policy.
He said the idea that because government will let all people who stay here for ten years apply for PR, more people will be granted residency is misleading as it cannot afford to allow many of those who apply through because it will not have the money to take care of low paid workers once they retire. He warned that making the system seem fairer to allow low income workers the right to permanently reside may sound politically correct but it wasn’t a realistic option.
Miller warned that allowing everyone to stay longer than eight years so they could apply for PR would place the Cayman government at risk of human rights challenges and would create false expectations because, while everyone would then apply for residency, government would have no intention of granting all but a few of the applications.
Although he admitted it might not be a perfect system, Miller told CNS that he supported the key employee system. “There is nothing wrong with principle behind the ‘key application’ process. I don’t agree with the TLRC that it’s the employer making the decision,” he said. “The decision is made by the board based on a lawful set of criteria.”
The independent member noted that to improve the application process, those given key status should meet all of the criteria established by government, not just one.
Miller emphasised that the report found that rollover was not the main issue impacting the Cayman economy so there was no real reason to remove it. He said that it was a fallacy that thousands of people had left because of the term limits. “As I’ve said many times before, immigration isn’t the problem. It’s simply not true that people have left en-masse. This was confirmed by CUC who had not lost the thousands of customers that they should have done if the exodus was a reality.”
Miller said the problem is government’s imposition of high fees and policies, which were crippling existing small business and preventing new entrepreneurs from launching start-ups. The North Side representative said the cost of borrowing was too high and the cost of fees even higher.
“Government has been addressing the wrong problem all along,” he added, pointing to endless amendments to the immigration law since the UDP administration took office. “But there have been no amendments to legislation to help small businesses. With the exception of bending laws and policies to meet the wants of his favoured major developers, who are lauded as economic saviours, the premier has done nothing to help the backbone of the economy.”
Miller told CNS that, given the current economic circumstances and the number of Caymanians out of work, the government should be turning its attention to reducing the number of permits. He said new jobs are no longer being created, which means young Caymanians need to be given the work that is currently held by migrant workers.
He conceded, however, that this was unlikely to be a priority for government considering the amount of revenue it now collects from work permit fees and its dependence on that money to pay for the ballooning public sector.
See full TLRC report here
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