Mr Benson’s Label and the importance of being Caymanian

| 04/10/2023 | 103 Comments

Nick Joseph writes: Long story short: In 1959, Castro assumed control of Cuba. In 1969, Pindling assumed control of the Bahamas and led them to independence in 1973. In 1962, Jamaica became independent and in 1972, Manley assumed leadership. Capital and human flight from those countries ensued, with “brain-drain” exacerbating very serious pain (and for a period at least, near ruin) for the societies involved.

What caused such dramatic change and turmoil in three of our closest neighbours? There are many reasons, including Cold War agitation between superpowers actively seeking to destabilise, but key to what happened was a perception of economic and socio-economic dominance by persons not of those island countries. A disaffected local population, marginalised and excluded from the best their own countries had to offer, became angered. Their poverty gave them little to lose. They agitated for change.

“Don’t upset the apple cart!” and “Don’t rock the boat!” came the refrain of economists and businesses.

“Do you understand how ludicrous those words sound to persons who never get to sell (or eat) apples and who never get to ride in a boat?” came the (sometimes reasonable) retort from many in the populations concerned.

Too many.

“Unnah mus fi mad!” was the way many in Jamaica described it, but that beautiful country’s most famous musical artist, Robert Nesta Marley, may have best conveyed the sentiment in words known to almost all readers, but perhaps (previously) understood by few.

I and I plant the corn
Didn’t my people before me
Slave for this country
Now you look me with that scorn
Then you eat up all my corn
We gonna chase those crazy
Chase them crazy
Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

If it looks like a partial call for ethnic cleansing, it’s because, in some respects, it is.

“Out of many, one people” (Jamaica’s national motto) seems to have come true, but perhaps not in the way its authors intended.  

Meanwhile, facing not dissimilar populist sentiments, and beginning in 1969, Lynden Pindling declared “The Bahamas for Bahamians” with a similar impact on those islands’ financial services Industry (and many aspects of the wider economy).

Crazy (and sane) “baldheads” (and bankers from the Bahamas) needed somewhere to go. Cayman stood ready to receive some of them. We laid the groundwork — but our outstretched arms of welcome were not any noble invitation that the world give us its (to paraphrase the words inscribed at the feet of Lady Liberty) “tired, poor, huddled (and homeless) masses yearning to breathe free”.  

Soon, baldheads were not the only ones leaving Jamaica. Nurses, teachers, police officers – whole elements of society with critical (and transferrable) skills left. By 1976, another Jamaican artist, Pluto Shervington (whose song “Ram Goat Liver” is considered by me to be the highest artform ever expressed by anyone, anywhere — move aside Michaelangelo!), was singing a celebratory nationalistic song of his own, “I Man Born Ya”:    

I nah leave yah
Fe go America
No way sah
Pot a boil ya
Belly full ya
Sweet Jamaica

A year later, in 1977, he too was gone — with many “baldheads” — to America. Today, there are more than 1.8 million Jamaicans living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom alone. Tens of thousands more (this writer included) live in the Cayman Islands. There were 15,391 Jamaicans here on work permits as at 18 September 2023, but many thousands more who are dependents, permanent residents or (today) Caymanian in addition to being Jamaican.

When any country has such a high proportion of its nationals seeking opportunity and safety in foreign lands, something has gone terribly wrong at home.

In 1962, the year of Jamaica’s independence, the murder rate in that country was 3.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. One of the lowest in the world. By 2021, Jamaica reached the disdainful record of 52.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. The highest in the world. By comparison, in 2021, the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants is reported to have been 29.2 in the Bahamas and 4.5 in Cayman. According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force, there have been more than 1,000 murders recorded in Jamaica every year since 2003.

Aspects of the tragedy that befell Jamaica (and the Bahamas and Cuba) were foreseen. Cayman’s leaders (and many others) saw it coming. They asked themselves whether Cayman, with its unique society, culture and way of life, could invite in foreign interests and people and NOT ultimately suffer the same fate as our much more established and resourced neighbours. We wanted the best of both worlds — economic development and growth but NOT at the sacrifice of our own people and way of life.

The answer from Cayman’s leaders was timely, and it was brilliant. They called it the Caymanian Protection Law, 1971.

It took effect in 1972. The Legislation’s Memorandum of Objects and Reasons provided:  

“By reason of the tax advantages afforded to many people by taking up residence in the Cayman Islands, and the unprecedented prosperity of the tourist industry, there has arisen a grave risk that the social character of the Islands as well as the way of life of the population, may be adversely affected by the influx of private and business settlers, and other consequential factors. It is sought to enact legislation calculated to control this situation by affording means of protecting the traditional way of life of the Islanders by cushioning the impact of the establishment of international business interests and of settlement here by people who formerly had no interest in the public and private affairs of these Islands.”

With such legislation in place, we could have our heavy cake and eat it. It was genius. And it worked.

Cayman’s population in 1970 was 10,000. By the year 2000, it was 40,000. In those first three decades following the implementation of the Caymanian Protection Law, it appeared Caymanians participated fully in the growth. They were employed in all manner of positions, and great emphasis was placed on their training and opportunity. Sons and daughters of the soil (with a disproportionately large proportion being those having traces of Cayman Brac Bluff rock in their DNA) rose to the top of accountancy firms and law firms and international banks and hotels and tourism ventures.

The Law required the protection and promotion of Caymanians and of Caymanian interests. The world was welcome — but subject to strict conditions. The resulting Covenant inscribed:

If you compete, you must be in business WITH a Caymanian.

If you have skills, you must take reasonable steps to equip a Caymanian with those skills.

If you wish to work, you must prove that there is no Caymanian available to do that work.  

If Cayman is made weaker by your presence, and you had, therefore, been erroneously permitted to come and remain here, you must leave.

You also needed to be self-sufficient. The ability to demonstrate the capacity to maintain yourself AND your dependents was to be key.

Particularly from the Caymanian perspective, all fair enough, but to set the system in motion, there had to be a clear concept of who is Caymanian. The word had to be defined. The Act defined it and provided a path for those who were not Caymanian to seek to become Caymanian.

Enter Benson’s Label.

As he stated on 27 September 1971 in describing the formal legal definition of “Caymanian”: “We are not really conferring a nationality on ourselves. This is impossible. We are all citizens of the British Commonwealth, that is the United Kingdom and Colonies, and this is merely a label that will enable us to control certain activities within our own shores.”

What were the activities the “Label” was intended to enable us to control? Those benefits are supposed to include freedom to enter and remain in the Islands, freedom in employment, and freedom in business ownership.

Access to free education, stamp duty waivers, scholarships, and free housing and healthcare for those in need were also added. In accordance with our immigration laws, those who are not Caymanian, particularly if they are also not permanent residents, are generally not supposed to be accessing many of these benefits. Their doing so, particularly if at a substantial cost to the Caymanian people, is usually contrary to the foundational intentions behind aspects of the immigration legislation.

The Caymanian Protection system operated fairly well for its first three decades because it worked with the (often enthusiastic) consent and willing participation of Caymanians. The Caymanian people could see, feel, believe, and even know, that if they met an expatriate, that expatriate was doing a job that no Caymanian could or was available to do. If the expatriate was skilled, local people could know that the expatriate or the expatriate’s employer was training Caymanians.

In consequence, the number of Caymanians unable to fulfil roles continually decreased. Expatriates were often investors. Their projects and funding created opportunity and revenue for thousands of Caymanian workers and hundreds of Caymanian-owned businesses. Expatriates were customers and teachers and were prohibited by law from being competitors unless they were competing on behalf of another Caymanian. Expatriates were also friends and colleagues, assimilating and working hand in hand with Caymanians every step of the way.

Every local business employed Caymanians, served Caymanians, and profited Caymanians — directly.

Everyone had to pay into a system, but only Caymanians could (routinely) take out of it. Membership had its privileges.

Social harmony continued and even increased. A true symbiosis developed between Caymanians and expatriates. If you do well, we do well, and vice versa.

Those expatriates who came in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were often a capable but humble bunch. They participated fully in all the Islands had to offer, but did so as guests, largely understanding the conditions and expectations of what was required of them. And ultimately, if they did everything asked of them, there was every prospect of them becoming Caymanian. They also had to deal with the realities of no television, cistern (or even well) water, mosquitos, and sometimes sporadic electricity. Such sacrifices were worth it. The quality of life was amazing.

The standards imposed on the growing thousands of expatriates joining Caymanians on the journey were high.

My recollections of those days include a senior government legal officer who inappropriately approached a woman at Sunset House bar, and an enthusiastic (and drunk) expatriate who saw fit to set fire to a Union Jack on West Bay Road. My recollections as to his state of (un)dress are less clear. In any event, the “miscreants” shared a common fate. Both departed our shores, permanently, within days. You see, all outsiders had to not only earn their right to be here but also deserve their right to stay. Caymanians liked to see that. It helped everyone, including the many expatriates who came to settle amongst them, to leave their doors unlocked. And they did.

The high standards expected of those who come to be amongst us, as well as the expectations as to competition, training and placement of Caymanians in the workplace, are still, effectively, the law today — at least from an immigration perspective, but not everyone looks at the rules from an immigration perspective.

Around the early 2000s, much changed. The deference hitherto expected, even demanded, for the Caymanian people suddenly abated. The double “hits” of Hurricane Ivan and the influx of a large number of persons with previously little to no connection to the Islands, including the mass status grants a year prior, appear to have overwhelmed “the Covenant” and the immigration authorities charged with monitoring and enforcing it.

The questions of whether a Caymanian could do a job, whether an employer had in place “adequate” training measures designed and intended to equip Caymanians with the skills required, and whether there was really (despite what the paperwork said) 60% Caymanian ownership and control in local businesses, abated. The laws (although we renamed some of them) did not materially change. Only seemingly our ability — and willingness — to impose them, or to even follow them with any consistency.

Many businesses continued to do the right thing and still do to this day. But it is striking how competing businesses, one with 70% Caymanians on staff and another, trading in a similar field, with (almost) none, were suddenly being seen. Compliance with some of the rules started, in some respects, to appear “voluntary”.

Part of the problem was that there was significant confusion over who was Caymanian and who was not.

“Who you fah?” could no longer be relied on.

Prior to 1973, Cayman operated a “jus soli” (right of the soil) system, by which, if you were born here, you were Caymanian. That system is familiar to North Americans and others from our region. But by 1977, we transitioned to “jus sanguinis” (right of blood), by which, to be Caymanian, merely being born in Cayman was not determinative. The status of your parents, including their domicile, had to be taken into account, and the country of your birth became largely irrelevant. Then, the whole question of citizenship needed to be grappled with, for we were (at least supposed to be) subjects, not citizens. The question of citizenship arose subsequent to and quite aside from the question of Caymanian status.

Societies, particularly outside of the Anglosphere, struggled with the distinctions, and some, unfamiliar with them but now in positions of influence in both the private and public sectors, however unwittingly, started to ignore them. Many with a British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) (Cayman) passport or born in the Cayman Islands after 1977 seem to have been treated as Caymanian, even when they were not, including by some agencies of the Cayman Islands Government.

This continues today, although to a much lesser extent. Even the Department of Customs and Border Control asks on the customs form: “Are You a Citizen of the Cayman Islands?” and has (at least historically, but I gave up asking years ago) declined to tell anyone (or at least me) what that means. If you are an American citizen with the Right to be Caymanian but NOT a BOTC, do you tick yes? What about the person who has a BOTC (Cayman) Passport but is NOT a Caymanian and may have no right to live in Cayman — do they tick yes?

Within recent months, a tourist visitor entering on a BOTC (Cayman) passport had to struggle with officials at the airport to gain admission as a visitor. Meanwhile, in that same month, a third-generation Caymanian was, in effect, treated as a tourist visitor when circumstances (the renewal of her Cayman passport) compelled her to travel to Cayman with another country’s passport.

Those things, no matter how exasperating after spending more than 15 years trying to get them fixed, are irritations. None of these things should be happening or causing any problems at all.

But now, many of the irritations are becoming much more serious.

The notice below appeared on the Department of Education website in the summer of 2023. It is still there.


Standard and Late Registration are now closed for the 2023/2024 academic year.

Please note that any applications received between 1st July, 2023 through 6th August 2023 for Reception to Year 12 will be processed the week commencing 7th August 2023.

Registration for Nursery at East End Primary School will open on 1st July 2023 and will close on the 31st July 2023.


  • Clifton Hunter High School: All year groups
  • John Gray High School: All year groups
  • George Town Primary School: Reception and Year 1
  • Red Bay Primary School: Reception, Year 1 and Year 6
  • Prospect Primary School: Reception, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 5 and Year 6
  • Joanna Clarke Primary School: Reception, Year 1, Year 4 and Year 6
  • Theoline McCoy Primary School: Reception and Year 1

A number of Caymanians appear unable to place their children in government schools. Many of them are economically vulnerable. They cannot afford to put their children in private schools, even if there are spaces, and often there are not. In some cases, we are hearing anecdotally that some Caymanians may even be compelled to withdraw from employment to remain with their children and homeschool them.

Some of the government schools are overstretched. Thirty students in a classroom, as some have suggested to be the case, is too many. Even those children fortunate enough to have a place in a government school may be being short-changed. Of course, any deficiencies in our people’s ability to access education and reach their full potential quickly harm us all.

This is not an opportunity to be critical of the Department of Education Services. In recent years, I have been repeatedly impressed by the professionalism, expertise and dedication of several of their key personnel.

Concerned by the anecdotal stories we were hearing, we made an FOI request. We are impressed by the timeliness and completeness of the response. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there have long been significant numbers of expatriate children in government schools. As at 19 September 2023, there are 5,503 students enrolled in the government system. Of those, 866 are recorded as not being Caymanian. Furthermore, a significant but unknown number of Caymanians will cease to be Caymanian on their 18th birthdays.

The rates of enrollment are interesting. In the period since April 2020, some 2,087 Caymanians are recorded as having been admitted into the system, as have 689 expatriate children.

The department has kindly given us a breakdown of those expatriate children:

  • 5 are refugees/asylum seekers
  • 29 are expatriate dependents of Caymanians
  • 301 are expatriate dependents of expatriate civil servants
  • 238 are expatriate dependents of PR holders
  • 113 are expatriate dependents of work permit holders

Since April 2020, around a quarter of all children admitted into the government system are not Caymanian.

However we confront these facts, there are 866 non-Caymanian children in government schools — at the expense of the Cayman Islands Government. That, in and of itself, will not be a tremendous issue to many. Where it gets serious is at the realisation that, for the first time in our modern history, Caymanian children may be being denied access to those same benefits.

Some 40 Caymanian children are presently recorded as “awaiting registration”. Many others will have felt “compelled” to access (perhaps the last) places in private schools. Although I am all for school re-integration (indeed, I think it critical), excluding Caymanians is not the way to achieve it.

Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis, taken together with difficulties in finding school places for their own children, is making a bad situation worse. Some teachers are leaving.

We may not need to upset the apple cart. Apples are spilling all about us anyway.  

None of this should be taking us by surprise. We have had years of notice and opportunity to prepare for the numbers presenting at our overloaded systems. We (the Cayman Government) have issued birth certificates and/or (for those who are not born Caymanian or in Cayman) immigration permissions (whether as a dependent on a work permit holder, a permanent resident or a government employee) to everyone.

We knew they existed. We knew how old they were. We knew when they would HAVE to start school. We even seem to have chosen NOT to count thousands of temporary work permit holders — or, it seems, their dependent children — as part of our official census data.  

Of course, ALL children within the jurisdiction must be able to access education. However, if we do not have the space for them and the parents are unable to ensure their paid-for education elsewhere, then following our Immigration (Transition) Act, what are they even doing here in the first place?

That we appear unprepared to deal with the consequences of having so many children here is troubling — and we are still a year away from the “Covid Baby Boom” hitting our education systems properly, given the age that compulsory education commences.

Mr Benson’s Label — and who it is assigned to — is clear. There is no grey area for 99% of those who are Caymanian. Those with “the Label” are entitled to certain benefits. Those same benefits are supposed to be available to others only in limited and exceptional circumstances — and almost never in preference to, or the exclusion of, Caymanians.

The ability of any expatriate to “maintain themselves and their dependents“ remains described as “of paramount importance” in the regulations concerning the grant of permanent residence. That importance, no matter how great, is not uniformly followed.

Applicants for points-based permanent residence with children of school age are deemed to have CI$15,000 less income than they in fact have in order to, in part, take account of the expenses incurred in accessing private education. Most work permit holders with children had a requirement on their work permits that their children be in private school. Someone, somewhere, crossed out the word “private” and replaced it with “local”. Whilst that error is being corrected, the knock-on effects are concerning.

We have tried to extend the range of application of Mr Benson’s Label (fishing rights, the right to practice Cayman Law overseas, health insurance, free school lunches) but appear to lack the will to do so. So we end up extending almost all rights to all — and then wonder why our reefs, infrastructure, and finances cannot sustain it.  

We do this to ourselves.

Let’s hope that the Caymanian people continue to feel they are gaining adequate benefit, nevertheless. The stresses are building. You do not have to read billboards to understand that we are well out of balance.

Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I remind the government agencies charged with regulating all of this of other lyrics of the late, great Bob Marley:

Please don’t you rock my boat, no
‘Cause I don’t want my boat to be rockin’

Some are starting to feel seasick.

We need to seek calmer waters, but as we adjust our course, we must also understand the reefs and shoals that lurk beneath. We need a steady hand at the helm. There is potential danger ahead.

We have now lost two ministers responsible for immigration (so far) this year. Neither were able to complete their work, and we now face being deprived of solutions. Solutions exist, but they will require much work and joined-up thinking and participation from every minister (and ministry) and the private sector to safely bring us ‘round. Even if we chart the course correctly, every loose end left streaming in the water risks fouling our props. This is a time for extreme caution and not a time to rush for easy answers.

Shining a light on our circumstances, however we may have got here, does not change where we are. This lengthy piece is fervently intended NOT to fuel any divide but rather to place the concerns of some in context and to energise those genuinely seeking solutions. We now have the opportunity to understand and reverse dangerous trends and secure a sustainable and enduring future for these Islands, including residents, investors and, importantly, all who proudly wear Mr Benson’s Label.

Nick Joseph is a partner at HSM.

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Comments (103)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this piece, especially the historical info. 32 years old Caymanian and learnt some history from this, will definitely do some research to verify some things. I wasn’t taught much Caymanian history in school, so I am constantly learning. Thanks much.

  2. Nautical-one345 says:

    1) The Civil Service (with the blessing of the powers that be) are in many ways to blame here as they import a very significant number of staff on contract. Contracts at the stroke of a pen / with no work permit hurdles.
    2) Encouraging intelligent Caymanians to run for political office is only a part of the ongoing problem. A major hinderance is the systems are designed for a select few to appease (read buy!) a small subset of voters, to get elected.
    3) We need a major change in our political system. One that allows every single voter 19 votes. The ability to vote for each and every seat! It will then be impossible for any candidate to “be friends” with every voter.

    • Anonymous says:

      3 is actually a brilliant idea.

    • Andrea says:

      To quote Nick Joseph – taken from this Article –

      “There were 15,391 Jamaicans here on work permits as at 18 September 2023, but many thousands more who are dependents, permanent residents or (today) Caymanian in addition to being Jamaican.”

      Try do the math! ????? There’s untold consequences!

  3. Anonymous says:

    These problems are not caused by sheer numbers of expats but by government incompetence. The government takes in enough money to provide excellent education for every Caymanian child on the island but squanders / mismanages it.

    Cayman needs more competent ministers who can spend / invest government resources more efficiently.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >Solutions exist, but they will >require much work and joined-up >thinking and participation from
    >every minister (and ministry) and >the private sector to safely bring >us ‘round.

    Please elaborate.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. Remove the exemption of All Civil Servants from the Immigration Regime. Make them subject to the same work permit rules as the Private Sector including as to demographic balance in the workplace, the training and mentoring of Caymanians, and the availability of Caymanians to do the job.
      2. Make everyone who has foreign dependents here abide by the same rules. These include making arrangements for their education, housing and healthcare.
      3. Create an accurate list of Caymanians – and provide a mechanism for persons who have slipped through the cracks to become Caymanian.
      4. Clamp down on fronting.
      5. Cancel work permits and remove anyone demonstrating clear criminal tendencies. Hold employers responsible for the cost.
      6. Incentivize the training and mentoring of Caymanians in the workplace. Apprenticeships are often the best way to learn.
      7. Fix the PR Points system and stop rewarding harmful conduct.
      8. Ensure that only truly deserving people become Caymanian.
      9. Fix the minimum wage system. Minimum wage should only be available for entry level and unskilled positions. There must be mechanisms to motivate improvement and promotion.
      10. Automate more roles that otherwise end up requiring the importation of poverty.
      11. Ensure that all work permit holders (and their Caymanian colleagues) are in fact paid for a minimum number of hours each month.
      12. Demand truth in advertising for jobs. What is the expected remuneration in total?(not just $4.50 plus tips).
      13. Apply the Labour Act to most positions in the Civil Service (including as to termination for misconduct).
      14. Rationalize the work permit fee schedule, including raising the cost of certain entry level permits as part of the incentivisation of employment for local school leavers.
      15. Build neighbourhood Crèches so that young parents can leave their babies somewhere safe while they go to work.
      16. Allow expatriate children into Government school on paying fees. Those fees can vary based on immigration status, but should reflect the cost to government of providing the service.
      17. Provide vouchers to assist less privileged Caymanians who meet academic or other criteria, to attend private schools.
      18. Require the police to immediately inform WORC and CBC of the arrest of any foreign national, for any reason.
      19. Fix the rules relating to Term Limits and strictly enforce them.
      20. Revoke a status grant when circumstances warrant. This myth that they cannot be revoked must be exposed for what it is.
      21. Require ALL Permanent Residents to file an annual declaration.
      22. Stop importing poverty (people who clearly will not be able to support themselves at an acceptable level).
      23. Stop social promotion in schools (at least until reading and writing have reached acceptable levels).
      24. Require pensions of everyone working for an employer for 3 months. The current exemption of new work permit holders for 9 months makes it more expensive to employ a Caymanian than an expat.
      25. Expedite decision making.
      26. Make termination of employment for misconduct and non-performance fairer. Employers should not be penalized for taking risks and given a local person a chance to succeed.
      27. Measure every decision against whether it helps or harms the Cayman Islands and their people.

      There’s 27 suggestions that immediately come to mind. This stuff is not Brain Surgery.

      • Anonymous says:

        16. the cost is 17k per pupil. who is going to pay that to go to a government school?

        • Anonymous says:

          The cost is that high because of government incompetence. But the point is valid – an expat kid entering public school shouldn’t be at taxpayers expense. If the cost of the public school is higher than the private, they have a solution. Of course, the real issue is not so much expats getting a $17K freebie – its why the hell does it cost us $17K to educate a Caymanian kid? At that price government could just get out of education altogether and pay for the kids to go to private school

          • Anonymous says:

            “an expat kid entering public school shouldn’t be at taxpayers expense. ” As an expat I agree with your sentiment although I think you mean at Caymanian expense. Last time I checked us expats were “taxpayers” too.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is “social promotion”, in this context, please?

        “ 23. Stop social promotion in schools (at least until reading and writing have reached acceptable levels).”

        • Anonymous says:

          It is advancing students through the years, including to graduation, based on their age rather than their academic achievement.

    • Anonymous says:

      One of the best pieces I have ever read and so realistic. Thanks, Nick & CNS

  5. Ethel says:

    It just makes me very sad to see wa the situation on our fair lil Island has come to – sorry to say but there r just too many people here – we r outnumbered by some really crazy figures- where else in the world does such a situation exist?? Most people r here for the BIG dollar- us and our children r bring pushed aside – many being sacrificed on the alter of greed – “am going to get as much as I can with out concern for how many people I have to trample “ seems to b the mentality of the most – wa I have found to my grief n sorrow is that so much happens here DOES NOT fit into a sensible mentality- don’t rock the boat don’t make waves has brot us to where we r My prayer every day is for The Lord above to help us – I cannot see any other way out. We r now bursting at the seems !!! We just cannot help every person that comes to our shores – it is just not possible!!!
    The Education system is another story- WHAT is happening to our children there is criminal- they r put in too young to start – which sets them up for failure- many come out the other end “functionally illerate” a label given them years ago !!! The truth is that the less Caymanians that can hold a job is the better for expatriates/foreigners. May The Good Lord have mercy on us!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      “Too many people here”…
      I will point to Singapore once again- larger sq km, but not a whole lot. Higher elevation, that creates more space too. However they have 5.2 million people.

      In 1900, the population of Singapore was about the same as Cayman today- 75,000- fuelled strongly by immigration.

      In 120 years will Cayman have 5.2 million people? Not a chance. Could it have 500,000? Perhaps. Maybe even more.

      Thanks to the internet, and social media in particular, no place that is desirable remains a secret. All one has to do is follow the public Facebook pages to read the number of new visitors to Cayman who love it AND state they have decided to relocate and/or buy property. This will only continue.

      Leaders need to study the rapid growth of Singapore, their challenges, and particularly focus on how they solved for housing, traffic, education, and waste management- oh and enforcement too. Singapore did not evolve into the island nation it has by using a light touch enforcement policy.

      What Bermuda has done may be informative in some ways. Same with Channel Isles. I choose Singapore as the gold standard to model a society after- its not perfect, but it is desirable and definitely 1st world imo.

  6. anon says:

    We weren’t permitted to send our children to government schools as part of our understanding of work permit requirements[I wished we had been able to as I feel private v public school systems cause/maintain social divisions (but that is a different conversation)].
    It would have been nice to have had the choice to support the CI’s educational system by paying (that $15k we had to be earning per child) for my kids to attend government schools. Perhaps such a policy of inclusion could have had a positive impact instead of increased social/cultural separation as more and more private schools are established…

    • Nautical-one345 says:

      Many of us Caymanians have long advocated for what you suggest, unfortunately such advocacy falling on ears of ignorance or worse personal greed and lack of care. It makes absolutely no sense to insist on separating school children and then crying those same people years later lack a sense of togetherness. That’s not how it was when I went to school here decades ago. The lack of tangible and sensible planning here has been a shame…and continues to be a shame!

  7. Realist says:

    Superb article, Nick. Thanks for writing it. I defer to your far greater knowledge and tact, and I would therefore be fascinated to hear your views in future how on Cayman’s electoral system could be reformed to fix these issues. As you note yourself ,”We have now lost two ministers responsible for immigration (so far) this year. Neither were able to complete their work, and we now face being deprived of solutions. Solutions exist, but they will require much work and joined-up thinking and participation from every minister (and ministry)”. Change will only happen through politics.

    Also, one specific question another person asked on a previous article ( was how many people in Cayman are actually eligible to stand for election, and (perhaps presumptuously, but nonetheless understandably) suggested that Wendy ask you. If you know, or could hazard a guess, it would be fascinating to hear.

    Finally, and addressed to a wider audience, FWIW I’ve deliberately been provocative in some of my previous comments, but as I’ve noted, I’ve seen a remarkable decline in my decades here, and I blame the calibre of the MLAs. I’m very open to the idea that the solution is something other than expanding the electorate, but I have yet to hear alternative solutions. Wendy’s article about donkeys (see previous link) implicitly raised the prospect that, e.g. term limits, campaign finance rules, funding transparency, bans of vote buying, etc. may be enough – but that’s just my speculation. I’m tired of being a Cassandra. I would liked to have stayed in Cayman to contribute, and assist the many great Caymanians who I employ, but I fear that simply won’t be sensible given the direction of travel. My time in Cayman will therefore likely be up in 5-6 years. My previous comments therefore have been in sorrow, not anger, and directed not at the vast majority of Caymanians, but that narrow slice who have secured power and exploited it solely for their own ends. Hence, my focus throughout on MLAs, and question to Nick, above.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There is a reason refugees are flocking to US borders and that too via Mexico. No one is sticking around in Mexico. This is because of US being a welfare state. You attract flies with honey and not vinegar. And welfare honey flows free in Cayman Islands. Any determined individual will try to taste this honey by any means necessary. Anyway, this is a great article. But in a way I am being implied that I should expect to rent a car in Cayman Islands and not buy it. If this is the case, please let me know who takes a rental car to a car wash.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Outstanding! Nick trained me in 2010, a phenomenal experience!

  10. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the “Label” is that it was irreversibly damaged by the mass status grants: the consequences of a sudden massive expansion of the “Caymanian” franchise at the stroke of a pen, with limited or no due diligence, are now embedded and irreversible.

    Although I think that Nick sees further than most, calls for a return to the ‘good old days’ aren’t a practical solution, and nor is the common fantasy (which Nick admirably avoids) that the skill base found in what is a tiny Caymanian population can ever service the needs of a global financial centre without a significant need for imported labour. That creates its own issues because quality imported labour will not be willing to work in a system which doesn’t afford them reasonable rights and certainties.

    What is sorely lacking is any really coherent proposal as to how the situation can be improved in a balanced and manageable way. Political promises of “less foreigners, more people like you” are meaningless, and the narrative of “foreigners bad, Caymanians good” is an enormous oversimplification, not only in tarring the many arrivals from overseas who try their best to make the Islands a better place, but also in ignoring the abuses committed by established local families protected by a perception of their good name.

    • Wa ya say says:

      Our laws provide for the right of employment by foreign and local entities of foreign labor for a prescribed period of time, with protection of their universal human rights . Where and how we have lost control and indeed the plot is when we appointed egotistical , money grabbing persons to represent us in our parliament. These who we have given free liberty to govern in quite a number of cases never have and never will have a clue as to the true needs of this country past, present and future and if allowed to continue as Representatives will no doubt destroy what so many have worked tirelessly to build. A numb er of these politicos can hardly Spell Constitition or have never attempted to read it. What less understand it.

      If you have persons in leadership position of these islands whom pander to developers, getting largesse to feed the masses before during and after elections can we expect any better, and when a large segment of the voting populace have been so indoctrinated to beg for a fridge,car , boat, rent paid, groceries etc we have a disastrous situation on hand, for a number of people are then selling their vote for a non permanent commodity thus limiting their own progress and future.

      Do you see ignorance, greed and corruption has been and will continue to be out own worse enemy until we take a stand as a majority of people.

      It has oft been said in private circles that we will only have a semblance of cohesiveness and order in all aspects when we elect men and women not just with the emblem of “ Caymanian” but eith the deep desire and ability to serve and prosper these islands for the benefit of all the people and in so doing are willing to give their lives to ensure the mission is established and accomplished .

      We sincerely hope that there are still caymanians of that calibre amongst us and urge you all to consider placing your hands and hearts to the plow in the next z general election. We have had Enough of the local and foreign pirates amongst us , UDP, PPM. PACT and the Developers/Realtors Bloc and Others ( we know who you are). Some a ona gonna levertstraggart.

      • Realist says:

        This all makes sense. Electoral reform is needed though, otherwise the developer-funded oligarchic current MLAs will be impossible to replace, no matter how many capable and honest Caymanians attempt to do so.

      • Anonymous says:

        The failings are not of politicians. They pass laws and all the laws we need exist. The issue appears to be with those responsible for implementing, and enforcing, those laws.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article Nick. Thank you for the time you have invested to research the history and present the facts.

    Excellent article!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Fascinating article. Sadly, whilst we repeatedly elect convicted thugs,drug dealers and the severely educationally challenged I think the only immigration reform we can look forward to is that which will increase the former group’s voter majority. Ironically, with the best will in the world, love for this place and clear understanding of issues, solutions and unintended consequences, the likes of Mr Joseph can’t even stand! (Correct me if I’m wrong but he seems to imply he wasn’t born here)

    • Anonymous says:

      Jamaican. Came here when he was 2.

      • Anonymous says:

        Parents not Jamaican tho. He was born there, but does that make him Jamaican? You certainly are not Caymanian because you were born here!

      • Anonymous says:

        So he’s been here over 50 years and all you can say is ‘Jamaican’?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d vote for him!!

    • Anonymous says:

      He is an eligible to be an MP!!! see sections 61 and 62 of Schedule 2 to the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 [UKSI 1379 of 2009]

      Please consider running as an MP Mr Joseph. We desperately needs educated people in Office

      • Anonymous says:

        Interesting. Thought you had to be born here to qualify. I did hear that one new, very competent and highly respected person will be running next time round. There is hope!

      • Anonymous says:

        There are numerous eligible intellectual and ethical ‘Caymanians’…whatever the means, who could represent.

        But who wants to be seen only as the hand-out king of the constituency and have the expectations from constituents of turkeys, fridges, light bill money and other favours being available on-call, just for the vote?

        Garrison politics, many very suitable people can’t go there!

        Basically, the education levels of our constituents in general need to improve before we see improvements in our political system.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Like or dislike the op-ed, that was a beautiful piece of writing.

  14. Gregery Barnes says:

    Very nicely done. Factual and Balanced Nick. Every resident of Cayman should read this article.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Those 70’s to 90’s were the years of gigantic money laundering and tax evasion. Good times!

  16. Cayman Protection Law (revision ) says:

    Yearning for yesteryear politics and politicians means absolutely nothing it is equivalent to sympathy without relief don’t mean a damn . We need to act now to stop this terrible onslaught before it is too late or almost gone .The removal and exposure of enablers saboteurs and legislators who are encouraging and aiding the demise of these Beautiful islands whether their domestic or foreign needs to be address by those who live work and call these islands home pronto! We all know who they are this place is very small!

  17. Anonymous says:

    It isn’t clear from the article, or my own knowledge, but do expat children get free Government schooling, or do they have to pay? I think I read somewhere a long time ago that each child in school costs something like 10k or 15k a year to educate. Wouldn’t it be a simple solution to start charging expats that cost? This money could be used to build more schools, or employ more teachers. At 15k/head and 866 children that’s $13mio per year. That should encourage parents who are here with kids on a permit to leave or move to a private school or pay for new infrastructure.

    • Anonymous says:

      All expat kids can go to government schools if there is room. If the school then fills up you can’t kick the expat kid out which is now causing some Caymanian kids to have to be homeschooled or go to private school.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is NOT what our Immigration (Transition) Act says though, is it?

        “An applicant’s ability to provide for themselves and their dependents without relying on government support shall be of paramount importance in determining whether an individual or their dependents shall have the right to reside in the Islands” would be a fair paraphrasing of the Immigration Act.

        Who gave other Departments the right to act contrary to that core legislation?

        • Anonymous says:

          Civil Servants (sometimes not from here and in any event with no training, experience or understanding of the full effect of the buttons they push, and the levers they pull). They are indemnified from the consequences of their actions, and seem to lack any concept of accountability.

        • Anonymous says:

          Having recently been through the whole WP/PR/Status marathon it was always my understanding and was certainly what I was told all along, that our kids HAD to go to private school… fine with me. I’m genuinely surprised there are so many expat kids at government school, I’d never heard of that before.

        • Anonymous says:

          I guess it depends on your definition of “government support”. Many would likely think that only refers to NAU. I doubt “government support” is defined in the law and even less likely to be defined by local case law.
          Could the government allowing everyone to drain their private pensions during COVID be categorized as “government support”?

          • Anonymous says:

            Money from Cayman Government to Expatriate – in cash or in kind = Government Support.

            If done in an emergency or rare/exceptional occasion = Caymankind.

            If done every day as part of regular course of spending the Caymanian public’s money, especially if it means there is no money to help Caymanians in need = Dumb.

          • Anonymous says:

            It used to be that the expat had to be making x amount of money. I’m sure that immigration doesn’t do due diligence on that or it is too low.

        • Anonymous says:

          A lot of these comments are wrong. Expat students pay termly fees as well as exam fees. Fees have only recently been waived for Caymanians as of January 2023.

    • Anonymous says:

      All free – or certainly no reflection whatsoever on the cost of providing the service – which is reputed to be around $20,000 per child.

      And – who said there is no such thing as a free lunch? Bw’oy, ‘dem sure got that wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman has the second best public funded education system on the planet at $17k per pupil. Where all that money actually goes is anyone’s guess because it’s apparently not class sizes or exam results. To put that in context, Cayman Prep costs considerably less…

  18. Anonymous says:

    Jamaica controls the government, including RCIPS and the judiciary. Form your own conclusion why that is so.

    The Brits control the private legal practise. Form your own conclusion why that is so.

    The South Africans! are forming a racket in the accountancy profession. Stop that while you can.

    The Recruiters are simply worthless leeches pretending to be HR professionals who do nothing more than sell shit to a toilet. Form your own opinion on why that is so.

    The Caymanians are stupid and (conditioned to be) ignorant and naive (as all hell) because they get paid a few dollars. I will explain why this is so.

    It’s slave mentality. Pay a pittance, reward good behaviour, condemn critical thinking, and you have “control”. that makes life easier for all of the above mentioned.

    Caymanians may be late but we are many and this is our land. F*** all the immigration and nationality rhethoric. We were born in this place by people born in this place by people who built this place. Everybody else is just visitors who got money to buy residency to run from their own shithole country where they get taxed to pay for other shithole people primarily just like them, but less fortunate.

    In the spirit of the post, RIP and respect to Bob. and shout out to Rage Against The Machine.

    • Anonymous says:

      Methinks you should have included Real Estate Agents…

    • Anonymous says:

      “We were born in this place by people born in this place by people who built this place.”.


      So are you claiming to be some “pureblood” Caymanian because all the generational Caymanians I know have plenty of non-Cayman-born relatives… or as you would call them, “shithole people” from “shithole countries”.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s some fine weed I must admit :).

    • Anonymous says:

      Well that was helpful, 5:28. I’m sure Mr Joseph will take your advice on board.

    • Anonymous says:

      shithole people? really? wow. Just wow.

  19. Cayman last Generation says:

    Here is one for you Nick joseph and followers this one comes from the good book Deuteronomy 28 verse 43 Foreigners who live in your land will gain more and more power, while you gradually lose yours, they will have money to lend you but you will have none to lend them. In the end they will become your rulers. Those who sold the first huge tracts of land to foreigners to benefit themselves and to create their own family’s legacy are the real sellouts and their entitle spawn who continue to perpetuate this entitled ideology of putting others first before their own fellow Caymanians are why you all can rewrite our history and slant certain truths about this place to suit your social dynamic, how convenient. Here is another famous quote those who don’t make a peace transition possible will make a violent one inevitable. Not advocating any violence but neither did the Fijians in 1987 and 2000 with Mr George Speight it was ironically one of our very own Governors George Peter Lloyd then chief Secretary of Fiji who warned the Fijians about safe guarding their independence in October 1970.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:03, not always easy to read and understand your post but your comments about that sensible and humane man Peter Lloyd are correct. He also warned us in Cayman before his retirement to be careful to come up with an answer to the “Fiji Question”.

  20. Steve says:

    Thank you Nick. Shining the sun upon the issues.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Ok. But half truths are no truths.
    Benson, Truman and the likes were of merchant family legacy of sellouts and social abusers. They used status and insider knowledge and position public and Private to secure legacies. While they also gave crumbs to a few more followers for political gain.
    by bending the old values and introducing questionable underdogs, they threw Cayman off course by a degree. that one degree now has us hundreds of miles off course.
    As he once said, Cayman is not a place for persons of low pedigree. irregardless of race or nationality. I will add.
    they doldrums off the government power company, now CUC, and the initial Government Savings Bank, and becamebanankibf magnates I. their own right. untouchables.
    Til today that model is followed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not saying they were perfect. They did make some mistakes, but what they used was EDUCATION and forward thought. Then we allowed that need to be belittled by younger politicians like Mac, etc who then HELPED us by granting status to 2000+ persons without scrutiny.

      • Anonymous says:

        2,850 (including an Attorney General and a couple of judge’s, who until that moment, everyone thought were Jamaican).

        It is a brilliant way to demonstrate that Caymanians are in high positions.

        How the Attorney General seemingly felt able to opine on the lawfulness of the grants remains one of life’s great mysteries.

        The lack of any overt RCIP investigation into even the most egregious of the grants is almost as confounding.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Nick, I arrived in the mid 90’s. At that time WP holders could only change jobs with a waiver letter from their employer. I never heard of a professional changing firms. When did this change? Also, at the time, you could apply for PR but it did not give you the right to work. Many who were granted PR under these rules had the time period of 15 years for Cayman status waived. In my 30 years here I have seen numerous non sensical changes to the immigration law and the results of all this short term tinkering has meant that Caymanians have lost control of their own country.

    • Anonymous says:

      A previous Chief Immigration Officer, it seems, working with a former Head of Policy, during the last administration, gave workers the right to “self release” from their permits.

      Happily, that issue at least, has now been fixed.

      • Anonymous says:

        What does this self-release thing mean, please? And how do/should WP holders change jobs?

        • Anonymous says:

          Absent abuse, or contractual breaches by your employer, you must have your employer’s consent to seek and obtain a work permit with a different employer. If your employer is happy for you to work elsewhere and that employer can get you a work permit, then you can change.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Jamaicans are in charge. It’s that simple. And it isn’t going back to the old days.

    Persecute and discriminate against Canadians, South Africans and Brits all we like but it will not change the core problem which is, our politicians are Jamaican by proxy first and Caymanian second.

    They do not care as they will jump into the ark with their developer money when the time comes leaving this place to whatever hellscape it has turned into.

    Then Jamaicans on Island will blame Britain for our new found hardships (caused by Jamaicans in the first place) and vote independence thus completing the “how quickly can Jamaicans bring anywhere they go to its knees” cycle.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Cayman has become addicted to slave labour. Get rid of tips and raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour or more and you will see huge changes, some for the good and some for the bad.
    Caymanians cannot treat people as slaves for years upon years and then not provide them the opportunity to stay forever. Pick your poison my brethren.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah you will see changes all right.. the cost of everything will sky rocket. Bosses pass on the cost of wage increases to the consumer. I’m not saying that the minimum wage shouldn’t increase but you are living in lala land if you think $20 is the answer..

    • Anonymous says:

      Fool. Forget the $20 per hour nonsense. We all want to be paid $1 million per year with 3 day work weeks. We’re Caymanian and we are entitled to it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Dubai all have successful guest labourer laws which allow, e.g. construction workers or childcare workers, to earn remittances but with no right to remain.

      The threshold for people to be permitted to live indefinitely in Cayman should be exponentially higher than that to just work in Cayman. Cayman does not benefit from giving any low-skill immigrants permanent residence.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can’t understand all thus rhetoric. Caymanians do not beg any of these people to come here. When they first arrive they beg us for jobs and they act like Angel’s. But after that first pay check they show up their true colours

  25. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant Nick, steady, factual and wise.
    Why can’t our Government make use of this remarkable intellect and resource on our midst.
    He is clearly someone who has our best interests at heart and can only benefit Cayman.
    Mr Premier…you listening..?

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey Kenny, climb down off your illegal billboards and ask Nick Joseph for some immigration reform advice.
      You may not understand what he says of course, and his advice may not suit your political ambitions, but it wouldn’t hurt to try to educate yourself a little.

      • Anonymous says:

        Kenny is not an idiot. He will understand. There just needs to be a willingness. Do not underestimate him, or his passion for his constituents.

        • Anonymous says:

          No thanks. The man is a plank. He cried in his car for ‘likes’

        • Anonymous says:

          “he has a passion for his constituents’.”….VOTES.
          You left out VOTES.

          • Anonymous says:

            It is irrelevant why he does it. The fact is, he does it. Rarely have I seen a politician anywhere near as concerned for the well-being of the people he represents.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately whilst Nick clearly has the long term interest of Cayman and Caymanians at heart, his law firm also represents people suing the government to get them to apply the law on PR and status as it stands rather than impose a knee jerk reaction to the wider issues by trying to freeze permits and status without a proper legal basis. That is not welcome, and the bigger the problem becomes the less interested those perpetuating it become in finding a proper solution. They would rather shoot the messenger. Ironically enforcing the regulations in all aspects as Nick points out would undoubtedly be politically popular – ensuring employers met their training obligations, preventing abuse of permits, ensuring Caymanian kids access to school – but all they see is the shortcomings of their head in the sand approach being made public. Just sad all around.

      • Anonymous says:

        So you’re arguing that law firms shouldn’t sue to require the government to follow the laws that the government wrote?

        They’re just supposed to stop everything and lobby for change? That’s called a lobbyist.

        Government is so bad it’s too easy to sue them for screwing up enforcement of the laws they themselves write.

        Listen to Nick when you draft the damn law and then you won’t get your ass handed to you in court by him (and just about everyone else).

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually, law firms are supposed to do both. Lawyers, as officers of the court, are required to do both, if they perceive regulators to be operating outside (and even contrary to) the rules. Their duty to act to support and uphold the rule of law overrides everything, including (in some instances) the desires of individual clients.

  26. Anonymous says:

    An excellent article, I learned so much from it.

    • Anonymous says:

      This article highlights how we miss the likes of Mr Benson in our politics of today.

      • Anonymous says:

        Mr. Benson’s statue should be in Heroes Square along with Dr. Roy’s rather than what’s there.

        • WAa Ya Say says:

          beg to differ ole heart the statues there present represent forthright and courageous leadership, which has been surely lacking for decades since their departure. DONT TALK NONSENSENSE BOUT YA YA HEAR.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Thanks Nick!…Probably the best Op-ed I’ve read on CNS.
    I’ve seen and comprehend our (Cayman) recent history just as you have recounted and described so eloquently.

    Thank you!

  28. Michel says:

    Great article Nick Joseph. Such a lack of vision and of course greed at the expense of Caymanians. How I miss that Caymanian Protection Board. Now there is a rumour that our own Public beach might be taken over.

    • Don't Stop The Carnival says:

      Excellent article. Seems to me the spread of commercial and entertainment centres beyond the George Town core has separated expats and locals. I came to Cayman in the 1990s, and we all hung out together naturally even if we didn’t work together. The destruction of restaurants and beach bars in South Sound post Ivan hastened the separation of people. Add the destruction of the Holiday Inn and Hyatt to that… opportunities for serendipity between communities has declined. Increasingly we are in our bubbles. There is yet hope.

    • Anonymous says:

      That happened a long time ago – why do you think CIG could not react in any legal way when all the beach vendors were running crazy?

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