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Cayman eyes Bermuda’s move to scrap term limits

Bermuda’s move to scrap its term limit policy has become an election issue in the Cayman Islands amid reports of the tourism industry there worried about a rollover “Armageddon”.

“Immigration reform is one of the key issues in the upcoming election, not only because about 1,300 term limit exemption permit holders would have to leave the Islands by the time the exemption expires at the end of October but also because, 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.”

Cayman Islands’ general elections are in May.

The article this week went on to note how former Premier McKeeva Bush believed Cayman should follow Bermuda’s example and abandon the rollover policy where work permit holders have to leave the Islands after seven years unless they are granted “key employee” status.

Mr Bush had said at a United Democratic Party meeting in West Bay that the policy was damaging the Islands’ economy and handing an advantage to competitors in other jurisdictions.

The article stated: “Disputing the logic of ‘more work permits, less jobs’ he said that when financial services companies decide to leave the Cayman Islands because of an inflexible immigration regime ‘then our secretaries, our clerks, our young Caymanian girls that work in those industries lose their job’.

“During his term as premier, Mr Bush suspended the rollover for a period of two years to give government the time to commission a review of immigration policies. A Term Limit Review Committee presented its report in June last year. It recommended that the term limit for foreign workers should be maintained, but extended from seven to 10 years.

“The committee also recommended that the key employee designation should be abolished and that all foreigners are given the right to apply for permanent residency between their seventh and eighth years of residence.”

The Cayman government, however, had not implemented any of the changes recommended by the review committee. Mr Bush said in February that during his tenure he lacked the support from colleagues in his administration to force changes to the rollover policy.

Meanwhile, the islands’ tourism industry is concerned over the potential loss of significant numbers of workers in October is on the tourism industry’s minds.

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.”

Eye on Bermuda: Cayman Islands political candidates are talking about Bermuda's move to scrap term limits.

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Published April 03, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 02, 2013 at 7:36 pm)

Cayman eyes Bermuda’s move to scrap term limits

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