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The Editor Speaks: Rollunder NOT rollover

Colin WilsonwebI hope the number one priority for the new Cayman Islands Government is to scrap the 7 year term limit – the ROLLOVER!

There are approximately 1,400 persons currently working here who are past their time.

I am not referring to the time limit stamped on your grocery goods. Past sale date food is often thrown away.

This time limit is when workers here on work permits were being rolled over but were given an extension to October 2013. That is only four months away.

It is not fair to either these workers nor their employer to have this question mark hanging over their heads. Are you staying or going? The majority of these work permit holders are either domestics or employed in the tourism industry.

It is going to be a difficult decision, with a number of voices already screaming that the rollover should stay because of the high unemployment Cayman currently has, especially the Caymanian labour force.

However, one must always look behind the picture.

Cayman depends for its revenue mainly from tourism, banking, insurance and real estate.

Despite the impressive numbers of sales that the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers’ Association (CIREBA) keep producing it is not the true picture.

Toni Paolini of Cayman Real Estate told me last week these sales are almost all from a small number of huge developments with only a few of the “big boys” involved. And these “big boys” are here already on Cayman. There is very little, if anything, from overseas investors. He said only small houses are selling at the moment, “nothing over $300,000” and to Caymanians only.

The rental pool of apartments, rooms and office space is still increasing as people are leaving and/or shops and offices closing or moving to smaller and cheaper locations.

He said as soon as the rollover policy was introduced this market started to drop and it also affected the building industry. Then came the hint of a tax on the expatriate workforce. Next has come the policy threat to condominium owners in a development of losing their property to a developer who buys the whole development their property is on. This, even if they did not want to sell it to him. When they had purchased their condo it took every owner to agree to the sale but the proposal is to down the number to 75% of the owners. How’s that to attract an overseas customer? And, of course, the owners already here are very angry.

I once heard the very well respected and admired Caymanian, Dr. Edlin Merren, tell me, “It is very easy, Colin, to slow down and stop a carousel from spinning. It is very difficult, however, to start it up again.”

How true. Our carousel of almost 100% employment was spinning and everyone on the ride was enjoying it. Then some of our politicians listened to the cries of some out of work employees who quite frankly had themselves mainly to blame and ‘bingo’ our carousel slowed down.

In an article published in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette last April under the heading “ Cayman eyes Bermuda’s move to scrap term limits” it spells out what I am trying to say very clearly. The article also quotes pieces from the Cayman Compass’s story also on the Rollover.

“……according to many, the current system of the (seven-year) rollover is not working,” said an article in the Cayman Compass.

“Bermuda, which functioned as the model for the introduction of a term limit in Cayman, scrapped its six-year rollover policy with immediate effect after general elections in December of 2012 resulted in a new government. The new Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said the measure was one of the steps Bermuda needed to take for its economy to grow. He also stated that the rollover policy in Bermuda had been identified as a barrier to job creation.”

Rod McDowall of Cayman Red Sail Sports said that to date a lot of the focus on the issue had been its effects on the financial industry.

“The issue is equally strong within tourism; finding quality people to fill positions is always priority and then when you do get those people having to replace them, particularly en masse, really is going to impact on the customer service,” he was quoted in the Compass as saying. “Customer service is at the heart of our industry and striving for that is the single thing everyone agrees on whether Department of Tourism, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, hotels, restaurants, watersports — everybody.”

Janette Goodman at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman said there was a potential ‘brain drain’ in the tourism industry.

She told the Compass: “How do we take everything from someone who has been here for five or more years, who are a favourite of repeat guests? We are always concerned about losing talented staff and being able to supplement a new staff member with a seasoned professional that can pass on their knowledge.”

iNews Cayman’s Publisher, Joan ‘Watler’ Wilson, a PPM supporter, was ‘thrown out’ of her party because she wrote a scathing letter to the Cayman Compass saying how the rollover would be disastrous and affect all of us when the PPM government immediately took power in May 2005 and introduced the current policy.

Only time (and it is running out fast) will tell how fast they roll it under the ground. That is, if they actually do.


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