Cayman Islands - Tips

Cayman Islands Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Cayman Islands

The Mariner's Memorial in George
Town, Grand Cayman, May 10, 2003. [©
AP Images]

Flag of Cayman Islands is blue, with the flag of the United Kingdom in the
upper hoist-side quadrant and the Caymanian coat of arms centered on the
outer half of the flag.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Cayman Islands

Geography
Area: 259 sq. km. (100 sq. mi.) on three islands: Grand Cayman (76 sq. mi.),
Cayman Brac (14 sq. mi.), and Little Cayman (10 sq. mi.).
Capital: George Town (pop. 20,626.
Terrain: Low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs.
Climate: Tropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Caymanian(s).
Population (2007 est.): 46,600.
Annual growth rate (2007 est.): 2.496%.
Ethnic groups: Afro-European 40%, African 20%, European 20%, other 20%.
Religious affiliations: United Church, Anglican, other Protestant, Roman
Catholic.
Language: English.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. Literacy (age 15 and over)--98%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--7.8/1,000. Life expectancy--males 77.45 years;
females 82.74 years.
Work force: 23,450.

Government
Type: British Overseas Territory.
Constitution: 1972; called the Cayman Islands Order.
Branches: Executive--Governor and Governor-in-Cabinet (representing British
monarch), Cabinet. Legislative--unicameral Legislative Assembly (15 elected,
three appointed members). Judicial--Summary Court, Grand Court, Cayman
Islands Court of Appeal, Her Majesty's Privy Council.
Subdivisions: Eight districts.
Political parties: People's Progressive Movement, United Democratic Party.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (2004 est., purchasing power parity): $1.939 billion.
Growth rate: 0.9%.
Per capita income (2004 est., purchasing power parity): $43,800.
Natural resources: Scenic beaches and underwater attractions, favorable
climate.
Agriculture: Products--Minor production of vegetables and livestock, turtle
farming, aquaculture.
Industry: Types--tourism, banking, insurance, mutual funds, finance, and
construction.
Trade: Exports (2004)--$1.2 million: turtle products, manufactured consumer
goods. Major market--United States. Imports (2004)--$722.4 million:
machinery, manufactures, food, fuels, chemicals. Major suppliers--U.S.,
Jamaica, U.K., Netherlands Antilles, Japan.
Official exchange rate (Nov. 2003): CI $0.82=U.S. $1.

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS
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 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 and that the Caymanians were rewarded with
King George III's promise to never again impose any tax.

The Cayman Islands, initially administered as a dependency of Jamaica, became
an independent colony in 1959; they now are a self-governing British Overseas
Territory.

ECONOMY
Although Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the
world, about 90% of the islands' food and consumer goods must be imported.

From the earliest settlement of the Cayman Islands, economic activity was
hindered by isolation and a limited natural resource base. The harvesting of
sea turtles to resupply passing sailing ships was the first major economic
activity on the islands, but local stocks were depleted by the 1790s.
Agriculture, while sufficient to support the small early settler population,
has always been limited by the scarcity of available land.

The advent of modern transportation and telecommunications in the 1950s led
to the emergence of what are now considered the Cayman Islands ' "twin
pillars" of economic development: international finance and tourism. In 2004,
there were more than 70,000 companies registered in the Cayman Islands,
including 446 banks and trust companies. Forty of the world's largest banks
are present in the Cayman Islands.

It is estimated that financial services represent 40% and tourism between
30-40% of gross domestic product. Unspoiled beaches, duty-free shopping,
scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing draw almost a million visitors to the
islands each year.

Education is compulsory to the age of 16 and is free to all Caymanian
children. Schools follow the British educational system. The Government
operates 10 primary, one special education, and two high schools. In
addition, there is a university and a law school.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Cayman Islands' physical isolation under early British colonial rule
allowed the development of an indigenous set of administrative and legal
traditions which were codified into a Constitution in 1959. Although still a
British Overseas Territory, the islands today are self-governed in nearly all
respects. The Constitution, or Cayman Islands Order, that now governs the
islands came into effect in 1972 and was amended in 1984.

The Cayman Islands' political system is very stable, bolstered by a tradition
of restrained civil governance, sustained economic prosperity, and its
relative isolation from foreign policy concerns by virtue of its colonial
relationship with the United Kingdom. Public discussion revolves around
public sector expenditure and social services, the pace of additional
economic development, and the status of the large foreign national community
on the islands.

Government Structure
The Cayman Islands form a British Overseas Territory with a large measure of
self-government. The present constitution, which came into effect in 1972,
provides for a system of government headed by a Governor, a Legislative
Assembly, and a Cabinet, which administers the islands. The Governor is
recruited from the U.K. Government Service, serves as the British government
administrator, and retains responsibility for the civil service, defense,
external affairs, and internal security.

The Governor also chairs the Cabinet and appoints to the Cabinet the Chief
Secretary, the Attorney General, and the Financial Secretary, while the
Legislative Assembly elects the Cabinet's other five members. Unlike other
Caribbean Overseas Territories there is no Chief Minister but a Leader of
Government Business. The Leader of Government Business is an elected
politician, while the Chief Secretary is the most senior civil servant.
Currently, the Leader of Government Business is also the Minister for
District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing.

Responsibility for defense and external affairs resides with the United
Kingdom; however, the Chief Secretary has responsibility for the Portfolio of
Internal and External affairs, and the Cayman Government may negotiate
certain bilateral matters directly with foreign governments. The elected
members of the Cabinet divide the remaining administrative portfolios.

The 18-seat unicameral Legislative Assembly is presided over by an
independent speaker. Elections are held at the discretion of the Governor at
least every 4 years. Members of the Assembly may introduce bills, which, if
passed, are then approved, returned, or disallowed by the Governor. The U.K.
Government also reserves the right to disallow bills approved by the
Governor.

The four-tiered judicial system is based on English common law and colonial
and local statutes. The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal is the highest court
on the islands, but Her Majesty's Privy Council sitting in London may hear a
final appeal.

Political Coalitions
Since 2000, there have been two official political parties: The 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. In May 2005 elections, the People's Progressive
Movement won, receiving nine of the 15 seats.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor--Stuart Jack, since November 2005
Leader of Government Business--The Honorable Kurt Tibbetts, since May 2005

The Cayman Islands are represented in the United States by the United Kingdom
Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC 20008; tel: 202-462-1340;
fax: 202-898-4255.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, with offices in Miami, New York,
Houston, and Chicago, also may provide travel information.

U.S.-CAYMANIAN RELATIONS
Although the United Kingdom is responsible for the Cayman Islands' defense
and external affairs, important bilateral issues are often resolved by
negotiations between the Cayman Government and foreign governments, including
the United States. Despite close historic and political links to the U.K. and
Jamaica, geography and the rise of tourism and international finance in the
Cayman Islands' economy has made the United States its most important foreign
economic partner. Following a dip in tourists from the United States after
September 11, 2001, over 200,000 U.S. citizens traveled by air to the Cayman
Islands in 2004; some 4,761 Americans were resident there as of 2005.

For U.S. and other foreign investors and businesses, the Cayman Islands '
main appeal as a financial center is the absence of all major direct taxes,
free capital movement, a minimum of government regulations, and a
well-developed financial infrastructure.

With the rise in international narcotics trafficking, the Cayman 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 its
facilities for money laundering operations. In June 2000, The Cayman Islands
was listed by multilateral organizations as a tax haven and a non-cooperative
territory in fighting money laundering. The country's swift response in
enacting laws limiting banking secrecy, introducing requirements for customer
identification and record keeping, and for banks to cooperate with foreign
investigators led to its removal from the list of non-cooperative territories
in June 2001.

U.S. Representation
The United States does not maintain diplomatic offices in the Cayman Islands.
Diplomatic relations are conducted through the U.S. Embassy in London and the
British Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Cayman Islands are, however, part of the consular district administered
by the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. Inquiries regarding visas to the
U.S. or other consular matters should be directed to the consular section of
the U.S. Embassy, 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica; tel: (876)
702-6000; fax: (876) 702-6001. There also is a U.S. consular agent in the
Cayman Islands to assist in providing services for American citizens.
Address: Unit 222, Mirco Center, North Sound Road, Georgetown, Grand Cayman;
tel: (345) 945-8173; fax: (345) 945-8192. For after-hours emergencies call
the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, tel: (876) 702-6000. The Consular
Agency in Georgetown is open to the public: M-W-F 0730 to 1100 and T-Th 1200
to 1530. The office is closed on U.S. and Caymanian public holidays.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/
Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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