Economy of the Cayman Islands

Twin Pillars of Economic Development

From the start, economic activity and growth in the island were affected by the limited availability of natural resources and hindered its remote location. The first major economic activity in the islands was the harvesting of sea turtles to supply ships passing through its waters with turtle meat. However, the demand greatly outnumbered the supply that before the end of the 18th century, the sea turtle population of the Cayman Islands was depleted. Due to the soil condition, topography and fresh water supply of the islands, farming was limited. The harvest was only sufficient to supply the handful of early settlers in the islands.

The beginning of modern transportation and telecommunication in Cayman Islands in the 1950s propelled the islands into what is termed twin pillars of economic growth which pertains to the tourism sector and international finance. The Caymans is home to over 70,000 conglomerates including over 500 banks and trust companies. It is a fact that over 40 of the world’s largest banks have offices in the Cayman Islands. Presently, about 80% of this British overseas territory’s gross domestic product (GDP) is tourism and financial services related.

Survey indicates that over a million tourists visit the islands to enjoy its pristine beaches, experience scuba diving, take part in deep-sea fishing, delight in duty-free shopping and basically enjoy what the islands have to offer.

The Cayman Islands is into diversification of its twin pillars economy. In connection, the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau (CIB) was established for the purpose of promoting economic growth and foreign investment in the territory. The territory has invested in technology and health care. In the East End is medical tourism hospital called Health City Cayman Islands. Wood products are now being manufactured in the islands. A technological, financial and educational investment hub is accommodated at Cayman Enterprise City economic zone.

The school system is patterned after the British educational system. Presently the government runs a special education school, 10 primary schools, two high schools, a university and a school of law. Education is free to Caymanians.

Latest Statistics

Official exchange rate (fixed): CI $0.80=U.S. $1.

GDP per capita: U.S. $48,290 (2007)

GDP: $2.569 billion (2007)

Growth rate: 2.2%

Natural resources: underwater attractions, scenic beaches and favorable climate.
Agricultural Products: turtle farming, aquaculture, small production of vegetables and livestock
Industry: tourism, banking, finance, mutual fund, insurance, and construction
Trade: Exports $25 million: turtle products, manufactured consumer good with the United States as the primary market. Imports total $1.057 billion which encompass supplies for manufacturers, machinery, fuels, food and chemicals with primary suppliers that include U.S., the UK, Jamaica, Japan and Netherlands Antilles.