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A Christmas toast to Cayman’s strong economy

A Christmas toast to Cayman’s strong economy

The Cayman Islands has experienced five consecutive years of economic growth. That’s cause for early Christmas cheer (no mug of eggnog required).

The new report from the Economics and Statistics Office isn’t all roses – there are always some thorns – but, on balance, the numbers show that Cayman continues to enjoy a strong, and growing, private sector.

Some highlights:

Cayman’s gross domestic product (a measure of the total size of the economy) reached $2.8 billion at the end of 2015, and grew a further 3 percent in the first half of 2016.

The economy grew faster in 2016 than it did in the first half of 2015, and it outpaced government’s forecasts.

As of spring 2016, Cayman’s population stood at 61,259 people, an increase of 3.7 percent from the year before.

The number of work permits continued its two-year growth trend, increasing to 23,411 as of mid-2016.

Concurrently, Cayman’s total unemployment rate fell to an infinitesimal 3.9 percent – and the unemployment rate of Caymanians dropped to a mere 5.6 percent, which is verging on the theoretical rate of “full employment” (meaning, a state where every able person who wants to work, is working).

Because of weakness in the European and Canadian markets, which are struggling with their own economic and currency issues, air arrivals to Cayman dipped slightly by 1.4 percent, putting them back on pace with still-sterling numbers from 2014.

Cruise arrivals, however, continued growing, this time increasing by 7.1 percent compared to the previous year. (Compared to the first half of 2013, cruise arrivals in the first half of 2016 increased by a remarkable 23 percent.)

A handful of high-value projects are driving activity in the construction industry, including notably Dart’s continuing expansion of Camana Bay.

The bullet points above aren’t just causes to celebrate “a job well done” in the past year, but are also reasons to be bullish on Cayman’s prospects for the coming year.

The upward trends aren’t the result of luck or “one-off” events, but are indications that Cayman is moving from “strength to strength” and are the product of dedicated investors and developers who have an interest in strengthening our country over the long term. Looking at the figures, there is no reason why Cayman can’t improve further on the positive points and can’t reverse course on the very few weaknesses.

For example, we expect our air arrivals to pick up once visitors to the newly opened Kimpton Seafire resort start being counted in government’s totals, and in the years to come, when other projects now waiting in the wings begin to take center stage, such as Dart’s future hotels, the Ironwood golf resort and the planned expansions to Health City Cayman Islands.

Some readers might expect us to criticize the premier for attempting to bask in the private sector’s limelight.

Not so. Premier McLaughlin is correct that one important measure of “good government” is how much the public sector has allowed the private sector to thrive, typically by giving businesses the freedom to do so.

With some exceptions – particularly in regard to matters related to immigration – this Progressives government, as well as past administrations, generally have understood the proper role of the public sector is to facilitate and support the private sector when (and only when) necessary.

With this perspective, it is entirely appropriate that Premier McLaughlin and his government take their share of credit for the health of the country’s economy.

During this holiday season, Cayman have much to be joyful about. After all, the strong economy isn’t just a bunch of figures on paper but represents the goods and services that are available and accessible to Cayman’s population – energy, food, healthcare, shelter, transportation, education, luxury items … including, yes, Christmas presents.