Cayman Islands

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Cayman Islands
Flag of the Cayman Islands Cayman Islands Coat of Arms
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: He hath founded it upon the seas
Official language English
Capital George Town
Capital's coordinates 19.20N, 81.24W
Largest city George Town
Governor Bruce Dinwiddy
Leader of Gov't Business Kurt Tibbetts
Political system Constitutional monarchy
 - Total
  - % water
Ranked 221st
260 km²
  - Total (2005)
  - Density
Ranked 212th
  - Total ()
  - GDP/capita
$35,000 (2002)
Currency Cayman dollar $ (KYD)
Time zone UTC -5,
Creation 1963 (Split from Jamaica)
National anthem God Save the Queen (Royal Anthem)'
Internet TLD .ky
Dialling code 1-345

The Cayman Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the western Caribbean Sea comprising the islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman.



Main article: History of the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands - often referred to as The Caymans, or (more correctly) just Cayman - were first visited by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503 during his fourth and final voyage to the New World. The first recorded English visitor to the islands was Sir Francis Drake, who landed there in 1586 and named them the Cayman Islands. The islands, along with nearby Jamaica, were ceded to England in 1670 under the Treaty of Madrid. They were governed as a single colony with Jamaica until 1962 when they became a separate British overseas territory and Jamaica became an independent commonwealth realm.

The island of Grand Cayman was severely damaged by the Category Five Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, which destroyed many buildings and damaged nearly all. Power, water and communications were all disrupted. Ivan was the worst hurricane to hit the islands in 86 years. The island has made rapid recovery since Ivan, with most of the infrastructure now restored.


Main article: Geography of the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean sea. The three islands are situated about 480 miles south of Miami, 150 miles south of Cuba, and 180 miles northwest of Jamaica. Grand Cayman is by far the largest, with an area of 76 square miles. The two "Sister Islands" of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are located about 90 miles east of Grand Cayman and have areas of 14 square miles and 10 square miles respectively.

The Bluff on Cayman Brac
The Bluff on Cayman Brac

All three islands were formed by large coral heads and are mostly flat. One notable exception to this is The Bluff on Cayman Brac, which rises to 140 feet above sea level, the highest point on the island.


Main article: Demographics of the Cayman Islands

The population of the Cayman Islands is 34,763 as of July 2000. Out of that number, about half are of Caymanian descent. About 60% of the population is of mixed race. Of the remaining 40%, about half are Caucasian and half are of African descent. The islands are almost exclusively Christian, with large number of Presbyterians and Anglicans. Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the West Indies. The vast majority of the population resides on Grand Cayman. Cayman Brac is the second most populated with about 2,000 residents, followed by Little Cayman with around 200 permanent residents. Approximately one quarter of the Islands' population left following Hurricane Ivan, due to the myriad of problems, financial and otherwise, caused by the hurricane.

The capital and major city of the Cayman Islands is George Town, which is located on the west coast of Grand Cayman.


Main article: Economy of the Cayman Islands

The economy of the Cayman Islands used to be built around turtling. However, this industry began to disappear in the 20th century and tourism and financial services began to become predominant due to the advent of modern transportation. The United States of America is the Cayman Islands' largest trading partner.

With an average income of around $35,000, Cayamians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. The islands print their own currency, the Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD), which is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of 1 KYD = 1.227 USD. Thus, the C.I. Dollar's rate of exchange with all other world countries is directly tied to the U.S. Dollar's rate of exchange with those same countries.

The government's primary source of income is indirect taxation. An import duty of 20% is levied against goods imported into the islands. Few goods are exempt; notable examples include books, cameras & baby formula. Duty on automobiles is charged on a sliding scale with the duty reaching 40% for expensive models. The government charges a flat licensing fee to financial institutions that operate in the islands. A small fee is also charged to each tourist that arrives on the islands.


Tourism accounts for 70-75% of the annual GDP of the Cayman Islands and is hence a major part of the economy. Of the millions of tourists that visit the islands annually, 99% of the them stay on Grand Cayman. George Town also serves as a major cruise ship port, which brings in 2000-3000 tourists a day, 5 days a week.

World-Famous Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman's West Shore
World-Famous Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman's West Shore

Grand Cayman's major tourist attraction is the world-famous Seven Mile Beach on which most of the island's hotels and resorts are located. SMB was recently named the "Caribbean's Best Beach" by Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine and is regarded by many as one of the best beaches in the world.

The Cayman Islands are also world famous as a Scuba Diving destination because of their proximity to the Cayman Wall and the Cayman Trench, which extend deep into the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are also considered to be elite dive destinations.

See also: Scuba Diving on the Cayman Islands

Financial services industry

Because the Cayman Islands are not subject to direct taxation by the British government, nor is there a local income tax, they serve as an international offshore banking hub and tax haven for millions of people and corporations. As of July 2000, almost 40,000 companies were incorporated on the Cayman Islands including 600 banking and trust companies with assets in excess of $500 billion. Approximately 6,000 out of the world's 8,000 hedge funds are also domiciled in the Cayman Islands.

Government and politics

Main article: Politics of the Cayman Islands

Although it is a British dependency, the Cayman Islands are largely self-governing concerning local affairs. A 15-seat Legislative Assembly is elected by the people every 4 years to handle domestic affairs. Of the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLA's, 5 are chosen to serve as government ministers. The head of government is the Leader of Government Business, which is currently The Honourable Kurt Tibbetts.

A Governor is appointed by the British government to represent the monarch. In modern times, the governor's powers are limited to handling defence, foreign affairs and the police force. Most of these affairs are actually handled by the Chief Secretary, who is the Acting Governor when the Governor is not able to discharge his usual duties for one reason or another, but on a day to day basis oversees the Civil Service including the portfolio of Internal & External Affairs. The current governor of the Cayman Islands is His Excellency the Governor Mr. Bruce Dinwiddy, CMG and the current Chief Secretary is Hon. George McCarthy, OBE, JP

The islands have been governed by a written constitution since becoming a British Crown Colony in 1962. Currently, the Governor has called for the Constitution to be modernised, an issue being debated by the Legislative Assembly, with Britain having made it known that such an action should originate within the people of the Cayman Islands and follow the referendum route.


As a tax haven both Caymanians and Caymanian companies are not subject any form of direct taxation. However, an import tax of between 5-20% is levied on almost all imported goods.


Main article: Military of the Cayman Islands

The defence of the Cayman Islands is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. Therefore, the islands have no established military. They do however have their own police force, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and in 2001, the small Cayman Islands Cadet Corps was formed in the place of a traditional army.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of the Cayman Islands

The foreign relations of the Cayman Islands are largely managed from the United Kingdom, as the islands remain an overseas territory of the UK. However, the Government of the Cayman Islands often resolves important issues with foreign governments alone, without intervention from Britain. Although in its early days, the Cayman Islands' most important relationships were with Britain and Jamaica, in recent years, this has shifted, and they now rely more so on the United States.

Though the Cayman Islands are involved in no major international disputes, they have come under some criticism due to the use of their territory for narcotics trafficking and money laundering. In an attempt to address this, the 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 their facilities associated with these activities. In more recent years, they have stepped up the fight against money laundering, by limiting banking secrecy, introducing requirements for customer identification and record keeping, and requiring banks to cooperate with foreign investigators.

Due to their status as an overseas territory of the UK, the Cayman Islands have no representation either on the United Nations, or in most other international organizations. However, the Cayman Islands still participates in some international organisations, being a full member of the Central Development Bank and International Olympic Committee, an associate member of Caricom and UNESCO, and a member of a sub-bureau of Interpol.

In fiction

Large parts of the novel The Firm by John Grisham takes place on the Cayman Islands. The main character works for a Memphis, Tennessee law firm that uses island banks for money laundering.

Frankie Flowers' 2004 film Haven takes place on Grand Cayman. Frankie Flowers is a native of the Cayman Islands.


Map of the Cayman Islands
Map of the Cayman Islands
  • Michael Craton and the New Historical Committee (2003) Founded upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People, Ian Randel Publishers. ISBN 0-9729358-3-5

External links

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Flag of the Caribbean Community
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti | Jamaica | Montserrat | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: Anguilla | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Aruba | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ member of the community but not the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy.

Countries in the Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Haiti | Jamaica | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago

Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Navassa Island | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands

edit British dependencies Flag of the United Kingdom
Overseas territories: Anguilla | Bermuda | British Antarctic Territory | British Indian Ocean Territory | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Falkland Islands | Gibraltar | Montserrat | Pitcairn Islands | Saint Helena (Ascension, Tristan da Cunha) | South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Crown dependencies: Guernsey | Jersey | Isle of Man
UK Sovereign Base Areas: Akrotiri and Dhekelia (in Cyprus)
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