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EDITORIAL - Jamaica-Cayman cooperation opportunity

Published:Friday | July 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

We are happy that the Cayman Islands authorities, as has been reported by the territory's premier, Mr McKeeva Bush, are trying to think of ways to ease the visa restrictions they placed on Jamaican travellers.

But while Mr Bush's suggestion of opening entry to Jamaicans who already hold US visas can only be considered a first step, we assume that it is proffered in a genuine spirit of cooperation while both sides pursue a more practical fix.

Indeed, if the Caymanian and Jamaican authorities are serious, we can soon get this wrinkle in relations behind us and the two countries can get on to what really matters: the business of developing trade and commerce between the countries.

Indeed, when the Cayman Islands instituted the visa regime five years ago, it was our view that it was a bad idea, an overkill to which Jamaican authorities displayed equally poor judgement by retaliating.

Deep connections

After all, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are close neighbours and have deep historic and social connections. Once, during the British colonial period, the Cayman Islands were administered from Jamaica, and there are strong family relationships between the people of the countries. Indeed, Mr Bush himself claims Jamaican heritage.

In any event, the problems ostensibly posed by illegal Jamaican residents could not be so large and grave as to be beyond the competence of the Caymanian immigration and law-enforcement authorities. It is hardly likely that Jamaican illegals and/or criminals could be lost in George Town, or elsewhere in the territory.

Moreover, the offshore banking sector, which is the mainstay of the Caymanian economy, under pressure from global regulators, was beginning to show significant signs of stress. Indeed, the Cayman Islands are having to rethink their business model, which is where both countries may have opportunities for a broader relationship.

Clearly, the future of tax havens of the type that the Cayman Islands is, or used to be, is not, in the long term, sustainable. Survival will demand offering clients a wider range of financial services at cheaper costs, in a business where costs are primarily a function of wages and technology.

Possible partnership

Here is where a partnership may be possible with Jamaica, which harbours - or used to harbour - ambitions of transforming itself into a financial services sector.

Jamaica is flush with a large number of professionals capable of providing much of these services at a price substantially cheaper than in George Town. But the Cayman Islands already have the institutions and the clients.

In other words, if both sides think about it creatively, there may be a possibility, to put it crudely, for a sort of 'production-sharing'.

The Cayman Islands, in that sense, would represent the front office, with the grunge work, or the back-office operations, being done in Jamaica.

As an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and a British overseas territory, it should not be difficult for the Cayman Islands to subscribe to any regulatory mechanism that CARICOM would adopt for its financial services sector, especially given that George Town is itself adjusting to changing circumstances.

Additionally, as Mr Bush himself said at the 31st Heads of Government Meeting of Caricom in Montego Bay this week: "Some of the best workers in the Cayman Islands have come from Jamaica. I have no problem hiring Jamaicans."

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.