Area: 259 sq. km. (100 sq. mi.) on three
islands: Grand Cayman (76 sq. mi.), Cayman Brac
(14 sq. mi.), and Little Cayman (10 sq. mi.).
Capital: George Town (pop. 18,242).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Caymanian(s).
Population (2004 est.): 36,340.
Annual growth rate: -17.7%.
Ethnic groups: Afro-European 40%, African 20%,
European 20%, other 20%.
Religious affiliations: United Church, Anglican,
other Protestant, Roman Catholic.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16.
Literacy (age 15 and over)--98%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--6.4/1,000.
Work force: 22,420.
Type: British Overseas Territory.
Constitution: 1972; called the Cayman Islands
Branches: Executive--Governor and
Governor-in-Cabinet (representing British
monarch), Cabinet. Legislative--unicameral
Legislative Assembly (15 elected, three
appointed members). Judicial--Summary
Court, Grand Court, Cayman Islands Court of
Appeal, Her Majesty's Privy Council.
Subdivisions: Eight districts.
Political parties: People's Progressive
Movement, United Democratic Party.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2002 est., purchasing power parity): $1.6
Growth rate: 0.9%.
Per capita income (2002 est., purchasing power
Natural resources: Scenic beaches and underwater
attractions, favorable climate.
Agriculture: Products--Minor production
of vegetables and livestock, turtle farming,
Industry: Types--tourism, banking,
insurance, mutual funds, finance, and
Trade: Exports (2004)--$1.2 million:
turtle products, manufactured consumer goods.
Major market--United States. Imports
(2004)--$722.4 million: machinery, manufactures,
food, fuels, chemicals. Major suppliers--U.S.,
Jamaica, U.K., Netherlands Antilles, Japan.
Official exchange rate (Nov. 2003): CI
The Cayman Islands remained largely uninhabited
until the 17th century. A variety of people
settled on the islands, including 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
Great Britain took formal control of the
Cayman Islands, 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-exempt destination. 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 Overseas Territory.
Although Caymanians enjoy one of the highest
standards of living in the world, about 90% of
the islands' food and consumer goods must be
From the earliest settlement of the Cayman
Islands, economic activity was hindered by
isolation and a limited natural resource base.
The harvesting of sea turtles to resupply
passing sailing ships was the first major
economic activity on the islands, but local
stocks were depleted by the 1790s. Agriculture,
while sufficient to support the small early
settler population, has always been limited by
the scarcity of available land.
The advent of modern transportation and
telecommunications in the 1950s led to the
emergence of what are now considered the Cayman
Islands' "twin pillars" of economic development:
international finance and tourism. In 2004,
there were more than 70,000 companies registered
in the Cayman Islands, including 446 banks and
trust companies. Forty of the world's largest
banks are present in the Cayman Islands.
It is estimated that financial services
represent 40% and tourism between 30-40% of
gross domestic product. Unspoiled beaches,
duty-free shopping, scuba diving, and deep-sea
fishing draw almost a million visitors to the
islands each year.
Education is compulsory to the age of 16 and
is free to all Caymanian children. Schools
follow the British educational system. The
Government operates 10 primary, one special
education, and two high schools. In addition,
there is a university and a law school.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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 Overseas Territory, the islands
today 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.
The Cayman Islands form a British Overseas
Territory with a large measure of
self-government. The present constitution, which
came into effect in 1972, provides for a system
of government headed by a Governor, a
Legislative Assembly, and a Cabinet, which
administers the islands. The Governor is
recruited from the U.K. Government Service,
serves as the British government administrator,
and retains responsibility for the civil
service, defense, external affairs, and internal
The Governor also chairs the Cabinet and
appoints to the Cabinet the Chief Secretary, the
Attorney General, and the Financial Secretary,
while the Legislative Assembly elects the
Cabinet's other five members. Unlike other
Caribbean Overseas Territories there is no Chief
Minister but a Leader of Government Business.
The Leader of Government Business is an elected
politician, while the Chief Secretary is the
most senior civil servant. Currently, the Leader
of Government Business is also the Minister for
District Administration, Planning, Agriculture
Responsibility for defense and external
affairs resides with the United Kingdom;
however, the Chief Secretary has responsibility
for the Portfolio of Internal and External
affairs, and the Cayman Government may negotiate
certain bilateral matters directly with foreign
governments. The elected members of the Cabinet
divide the remaining administrative portfolios.
The 18-seat unicameral Legislative Assembly
is presided over by an independent speaker.
Elections are held at the discretion of the
Governor at least every 4 years. Members of the
Assembly may introduce bills, which, if passed,
are then approved, returned, or disallowed by
the Governor. The U.K. Government also reserves
the right to disallow bills approved by the
The four-tiered judicial system is based on
English common law and colonial and local
statutes. The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal is
the highest court on the islands, but Her
Majesty's Privy Council sitting in London may
hear a final appeal.
Since 2000, there have been two official
political parties: The United Democratic Party (UDP)
and the People's Progressive Movement (PPM).
While there has been a shift to political
parties, many contending for an office still run
as independents. In May 2005 elections, the
People's Progressive Movement won, receiving
nine of the 15 seats.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor--Stuart Jack, since November 2005
Leader of Government Business--The Honorable
Kurt Tibbetts, since May 2005
The Cayman Islands are represented in the
United States by the
Kingdom Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts
Avenue, Washington DC 20008; tel: 202-462-1340;
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism,
with offices in Miami, New York, Houston, and
Chicago, also may provide travel information.
United Kingdom is responsible for the Cayman
Islands' defense and external 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 U.K. and Jamaica, geography and the
rise of tourism and international finance in the
Cayman Islands' economy has made the United
States its most important foreign economic
partner. Following a dip in tourists from the
United States after September 11, 2001, over
200,000 U.S. citizens traveled by air to the
Cayman Islands in 2004; some 4,761 Americans are
resident there (2005).
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, free capital movement, a minimum
of government regulations, and a well-developed
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. In
June 2000, The Cayman Islands was listed by
multilateral organizations as a tax haven and a
non-cooperative territory in fighting money
laundering. The country's swift response in
enacting laws limiting banking secrecy,
introducing requirements for customer
identification and record keeping, and for banks
to cooperate with foreign investigators led to
its removal from the list of non-cooperative
territories in June 2001.
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,
The Cayman Islands are, however, part of the
consular district administered by the
Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. Inquiries
regarding visas to the U.S. or other consular
matters should be directed to the consular
section of the U.S. Embassy, 2 Oxford Road,
Kingston 5, Jamaica; tel: 876-929-4850; fax:
876-935-6019. There also is a U.S. consular
agent, Gail Duquesnay, in the Cayman Islands to
assist in providing services for American
citizens--tel: 345-945-1511; cell: 345-916-7326.