Who are we?

| 03/09/2008

Karl W. Deutsch defines a nation thusly: “A nation is a group of people united by a common mistake regarding its origin and a collective hostility towards its neighbors.”

This definition may seem strange, but those who live on what was originally an uninhabited island by default have ancestors that were immigrants. Scientists, in tracing mitochondrial DNA, have found that the entire human race can be traced back to a very small gene pool in southern-most Africa. We are therefore all related, however distantly.

We now live and compete in a globalised world. We may not think about this fact or we may try to ignore it, but without skilled workers from overseas your phones and Internet might not function and your garbage would lie rotting outside your home.

This is a function of having a very small population of belongers. There are not enough skilled Caymanians to fill all the necessary positions to enable this society to function. Therefore, to keep the society working smoothly the Cayman Islands needs to keep attracting skilled workers. Now think about this for a moment and you may conclude that all financial centres and small societies need to attract skilled workers. I mentioned globalisation previously in this article, and one of the paradigms of globalisation is that we are all competing for the same resources, be it oil, clients, tourists or doctors.

Prospective employees have choices. They do not have to come to the Cayman Islands; they can go to Bahrain or Dubai, Hong Kong or the Channel Islands. They can go where the conditions are to their liking and advantage. With globalisation, the world has shrunk — i.e., the offshore financial community or the legal community communicate among themselves in numerous ways, both officially and socially, and if a jurisdiction has the reputation of being unfriendly, word will spread quickly.

The Cayman Islands cannot afford to be complacent, as tourism and finance, on which our economy is based, gives a prospective client many options from which to choose. These islands must constantly be evaluating themselves against other holiday destinations and other offshore financial centres. We must ask ourselves if we are pricing ourselves above the level of service that we provide. We should also be asking if our competition is doing a better job than we are.

Looking back at the economy of the Cayman Islands in the 1960s, those of you old enough to remember will also recall that some of the only employment was for the men to go to sea with National Bulk Carriers and other shipping lines. The women raised the children on their own. Not an ideal situation for raising a family.

The islands started to change when immigrants started to settle and make investments. Over the next twenty years as development progressed, more jobs became available, allowing men to find employment locally and stay at home with their families. I would hazard a guess that very few of us would want to return to the conditions of the 1960s.

For the Cayman Islands to survive in a globalised world, faced as we are with global competition, rapidly rising oil prices and a worldwide disruption of our climate, we must provide the best service that we can. Value for dollar spent is what needs to be maintained. However, to provide first-class service we need first-class personnel, and to attract and keep them we need to undertake self-examination of the conditions under which guest workers reside in the Cayman Islands.

It is in the interests of all the inhabitants and the government of these islands to do their utmost to promote social harmony and cohesion. Those people who have been granted citizenship should be regarded as assets to these islands; they have skills that we need to keep the Cayman Islands functioning. Calling them "paper Caymanians" is demeaning, and is a term that is looked upon as cultural violence and is unacceptable in the Cayman Islands of today. It is no different from taking the American flag and throwing it on the ground and trampling on it in front of a patriotic American.

In some countries, "A person commits an offence if he prints, publishes or disseminates any material, whether by audio or video-cassettes or by written, photographic, electronic, digital or any other method which incites religious, sectarian or ethnic hatred." Perhaps we too need such a law if as a society we cannot temper our intolerance to those that come to these islands to assist our development.

Many Caymanians have American citizenship, and we all are all British citizens with the right to live and work anywhere in the European Union. This allows our children to attend some of the best universities and gather experience in London and exposure to things our forefathers could only have dreamt of!

To look at the larger picture, it must be borne in mind that we, the human race, live on a small insignificant planet that is, if the truth be known, a very fragile biosphere. The numbers of us on Earth are growing at an alarming pace and the necessary resources to support us are diminishing. By 2050 there will be over nine billion of us struggling to survive, and the only way to do so is by cooperation between individuals, towns, and countries, and globally. We must see ourselves as members of the human race, all members of the same tribe; and therefore we must start the process by treating each other, Caymanian and expat alike, in a manner that might give us all hope of a world of tomorrow existing in the future.

Nick Robson is Chairman of The Cayman Institute




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  1. war gold says:

    Similarly, there is nothing inherently efficient about free markets – they do not of themselves promote sound investment or wise management. Rather, when markets are conceived wholly in terms of price and return, and when asset wealth and the leverage that this provides becomes as concentrated as it was in the 19th century (which is a scenario we are approaching), then markets encourage nothing other than gambling masking itself as sound investment.

  2. Kerry Horek says:

    thank for adding my comment and i always use my name when i submit any comment to your forum.


    Kerry Horek

  3. Kerry Horek says:

    I have to comment on this article, although I know that everytime I do comment this newsservice refuses to publish my comments and therefore I can only ascertain that this is their way of being biase against Caymanians who wish to voice thier opinions. 

    Nevertheless, I will comment what yo do with it is your business there are other avenues that are more accessible.  The fact that Caymanians are fighting to hold onto what little bit of culture and nationality they have left is what many are trying so desperately to abolish.  Why is it that we have such shallow minds.  Yes, Mr. Robson the foreigners came to our shores a long time ago and they blindsided our people who were not smart to the slithering moves of the man with the money in the suitcase who undermined them into selling off their prime beach land instead of offering to lease these properties so in time the land would revert back to their family etc.  What is more shameful is SOME of our forefathers engaged in this deceptive act and encouraged our people to sell by telling them the land was worthless.  This is what our people faced many years ago, because they were limited in their education they were taken for granted. 

    The other fact Mr. Robson is that whilst the foreigners of long ago who settled here needed the guidance and expertise of those locals and engaged their services for priceless information and labour contributions certainly clearly and concisely demonstrates that the newcomers could not do it alone.  They needed us for almost everything and I am sure that a long list of these jobs can be obtained by interviewing a few old-timers who are still alive and remember the days of the 60’s fairly well. 

    In closing when you are going to high-light what a foreigner has done for this ‘Island Nation’ please remember the Caymanians played a major role in helping as well.  When you want to stop the bickering, start acknowledging everyone not the select few.

    If Caymanians have dual citizenships then they should pay the taxes as per the what is required of them to do.  In the Cayman Islands, everyone who obtains Residency should pay an annual tax to this Country for the previlage and I can assure you that this will be hammered to those running in the next general elections. 

    Kerry Horek

    CNS note: Kerry, as far as I know, unless you have done so anonymously, you have only submitted a comment once and that was indeed posted. I do not post all comments, but this does not depend on a point of view. I delete comments if they seem abusive or just plain mean to a particular individual or nationalities (i.e. name calling), especially if they are anonymous and even more especially if they are potentially defamacious – we really don’t need a court case on our hands. I also delete anything submitted as rumour or unsubstantiated fact. Opinions are always welcome so long as they are about issues and not personal attacks (there’s wiggle room for politicians and potential politicians).


  4. Olivaire Watler says:

    Balance vs. Bias

    While Mr. Robson makes some valid points in his article, it lacks balance and misses some important points. Many persons who acquire Caymanian status (now known as the right to be Caymanian)- 

    • live here merely as an economic convenience
    • do not regard these Islands as home
    • do not identify themselves as Caymanians (but rather according to their country of origin);
    • are hostile to the interests of native Caymanians and hold us in contempt; and
    • are not loyal to these Islands.
    In those cases, ‘paper Caymanian’ is very apt.  On the other hand, they are those (whom I admire greatly) who are fully integrated into this community and make real contributions to the betterment of our society. We ought to, and I believe do, embrace them warmly.

    Unfortunately, Caymannewsservice.com seems to have degenerated into a hot-bed of anti-Caymanian sentiment now aided by the cloak of anonymity. Apparently, xenophobia and racism may only be identified if they are attributable to Caymanians.

    I think you will find that a little more intellectual rigour and honesty about these issues will be more productive than patronising lectures to the people you would cast as mindless bigots and xenophobes. How is it that the Cayman Islands could have based a successful tourism product on the friendliness of its people and yet, according to some, hate foreigners?  

    • Anonymous says:


      Well said Olivaire Watler

      You are spot on with your comments and observations with not only this article but generally!

      I pose the following questions, …. If things were so good at the homeland of some of the persons who come here to now tell us what to do, why did they not stay at home in the first place and improve their own lot?

      Could it be that they were uncompetitive in their homeland, and unable to succeed, or make a difference?

      We need to start believing in our own people in a hurry!


    • Anonymous says:

      Olivaire asks why CI has manged to have such a successful product on the friendliness of its people. Look at the employment statstics, most jobs in the hospitallity are held by expats, there you go, a good factual answer.

      All you have to do is turn on your radio on in the morning to listen to all the racist bigotry. Imagine if the Caymanians emmigrating to Honduras and Cuba were treated with the same hatred in the 1800-1900’s when there was not enough land to support the Caymanian population, and Caymanians were afraid of the changes from the freed slaves in their society after Emancipation.

      Look to the bible for guidance, Levitcus 19.33 and 34:When foreigners reside amoung in your land, do notmistreat them.

      The foreigners amoung you must be treated as your native born.

      • Olivaire Watler says:

        The Cayman tourist industry was indeed founded on the friendliness of Caymanians. The current statistics for employment in the tourist industry are besides the point.  

        You are still missing the general point. All of this one-sided diatribe is counterproductive. One must dig a little deeper in order to get a true understanding of the issue. Unless the whole truth is acknowledged it cannot be addressed.

        I am all for treating all people fairly, not simply expatriates. I do not condone racism and bigotry in anyone.  

        Incidentally, are you sure you want to rely upon Leviticus as an ethical code for Cayman, or is it just this once?    

  5. Guy P. Harrison says:

    Brilliant. Very well done, Mr. Robson.

    If one just thinks a little it becomes obvious that the concept of nations is doomed. It simply can’t last if we are to last. A thousand years from now people will look back at our time and wonder how we could have been so silly to have taken imaginary lines on maps and the geography of birth so seriously.

    The sooner we figure out that our loyalties must be to the planet and to all people the better off we will be.


    "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."

    George Bernard Shaw

  6. Anonymous says:

    For all those Caymanians that enjoy dual USA citizenship, be prepared in this global computer world to have Uncle Sam ask for your pound of flesh to pay your back US taxes.  You actually cannot have your cake and eat it too if you are "American" you must file your taxes every year and provide your banking details.  As for paper Caymanians, that is silly.  Citizenship is just that.  Being recognized as a citizen with all the rights that come with it!  Xenophobic=ignorance.