Background Notes: Cayman Islands

Contributed By RealAdventures

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Caymanian(s).
Population: 33,200.
Annual growth rate: 4.3%.
Ethnic groups: Afro-European 40%, African 20%, European 20%,
other 20%.
Religions: United Church, Anglican, other Protestant, Roman Catholic.
Language: English.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. Literacy (age 15 and over)--
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.4/1,000. Life expectancy--77 yrs.
Work force: 17,000.

The Cayman Islands remained largely uninhabited until the 17th century. A variety of people settled on the islands: 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. The most important religious denomination is the "United Church," a local combination of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Church of God, and other Protestant denominations are also present.

Great Britain took formal control of the Caymans, 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 haven. 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 Crown colony.

Type: British Crown colony.
Constitution: 1972; called the Cayman Islands Order.
Branches: Executive--governor (representing British monarch), Executive Council. Legislative--unicameral Legislative Assembly (12 elected, three appointed members). Judicial--Summary Court, Grand Court, Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, Her Majesty's Privy Council.
Subdivisions: Six electoral districts.
Political parties: No formal political parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor--John Owen
Chief Secretary, Executive Council--James M. Ryan

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 Crown colony, the islands toady 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.

GDP: $700 million.
Growth rate: 1.4%.
Per capita income: $23,000.
Natural resources: Scenic beaches and underwater attractions,
favorable climate.
Agriculture: Minor production of vegetables and livestock, turtle
Industry: Types--tourism, banking, insurance and finance, construction.
Trade: Exports--$10 million: turtle products, manufactured consumer goods. Major market--United States.
Imports--$312 million: machinery, manufactures, food, fuels, chemicals. Major suppliers--U.S., Trinidad and Tobago, U.K., Netherlands Antilles, Japan.
Official exchange rate (1995): CI $0.83=U.S. $1.

Although the United Kingdom is responsible for the Cayman Islands' defense and foreign 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 United Kingdom and Jamaica, geography and the
rise of tourism and international finance in the Cayman Islands'
economy has made the U.S. its most important foreign economic partner. In 1994, about 250,000 U.S. citizens traveled to the Cayman Islands; some 1,000 Americans are resident there. 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. There are no income, corporate, capital gains, inheritance, gift, or property taxes. Free capital movement, a minimum of government regulations, and a well-developed financial
infrastructure, including a pool of professional service providers, all contribute to the islands' attractiveness.

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.

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 visa applications to the U.S. or other consular matters should be directed to the consular section of the United States embassy, 2
Oxford Road, Kingston 5, Jamaica; tel: 809-929-4850; fax: 809-926-6743.

There also is a U.S. consular agent, John Foster, in the Cayman Islands to assist in providing services for American citizens; tel: 809-949-7955; fax: 809-949-6080.

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