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The Cayman Islands are a group of islands in the Caribbean and British overseas territory of the United Kingdom.

History and Politics

Christopher Columbus discovered the archipelago during his fourth voyage of discovery on 10 May 1503, after his ships had drifted off course. Because of the many turtles found there, he named the archipelago “Las Tortugas”. The Portuguese cartographer Diego Ribero in the service of Spain noticed the numerous lizards, so that he named the islands “Lagartos” on his map of Turin from 1523. In the 17th century, the archipelago finally received the name “Las Caymanas” after the pointed crocodiles also found there. During this century, the islands were used by various European fleets for freshwater intake and to supplement their provisions by catching turtles. The first English arrival was Sir Francis Drake, who landed on the Cayman Islands in 1586 with a fleet of 23 ships.

Little Cayman and Cayman Brac were the first islands of the archipelago where settlements were established from Jamaica between 1661 and 1671. However, they were quickly abandoned because of the numerous lootings by Spanish buccaneers. In the Treaty of Madrid of 1670, Spain recognised English sovereignty over Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Until the 18th century, the Caymans remained the base of pirates, including Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch, one of the most famous English pirates of the time.

In the 1730s, the first permanent settlements were built, whose inhabitants mainly farmed. The main focus was on the cultivation of cotton and sugar cane, in which slaves were already used. In 1773, the Royal Navy registered 39 families, most of them living in Bodden Town. In 1788, ten Jamaican merchant ships were shipwrecked on their way to England off the coast of Grand Cayman. One of the ships was carrying a member of the English royal family. In gratitude for the rescue of all the shipwrecked, King George III freed the archipelago from all taxes and duties.

The Cayman Islands received its first self-government in 1831 with the establishment of five districts and its own legislature. The first seat of government was Bodden Town, on the south coast of Grand Cayman. Slavery was abolished in 1835, when there were still over 950 slaves on the islands. At the beginning of the 20th century the population was estimated at 5000 inhabitants. In addition to agriculture, shipping became an important source of income, providing about 20% of employment. George Town, situated on the west coast of Grand Cayman, became the new seat of government at the beginning of the century.

When the first cruise ship, the Atlantis, headed for the Caymans in 1937, the era of tourism was ushered in. In 1950 the first hotel was opened by the Englishman Benson Greenall, in 1953 the first airfield on Grand Cayman started operations. Until 1962, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica formed a common British colonial area. While Jamaica became independent in 1962, the Caymans continued to opt for colonial status as a British crown colony. Since 1946, the territory has been on the UN list of territories without self-government.

The first British governor was appointed in 1971 and a new constitution came into force in 1972. The Cayman Islands have been a member of CARICOM since May 2002. Hurricane Ivan caused severe damage to the islands in 2004, which could only be repaired a year later with a special reconstruction programme.

Geography

The peaks of a submarine mountain range, the caiman ridge reaching as far as Cuba, form the archipelago. The islands owe their name to the crocodiles living here, who were confused with the caimans at the beginning. The archipelago consists of the three islands Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and lies about 350 km south of Cuba. The islands together have an area of about 262 km², whereas Grand Cayman is the largest with an area of 197 km².

In the north of the island Grand Cayman between Rum Point and Conch Point is the 80 km² large bay North Sound. The bay is shallow, with depths of mostly 1.8 to 3.8 meters.

Districts

The territory will be divided into seven districts, which will be headed by district managers and will act, among other things, as electoral districts and regional statistical units. Five of the districts are on the main island Grand Cayman, while the two smaller islands Little Cayman and Cayman Brac each form a district.

Population

The population is concentrated in the three southwestern districts of the main island Grand Cayman George Town (capital), West Bay and Bodden Town, which have a much higher population density than all other districts. Here 89 % of the population live on 22 % of the area; in this area the population density is 618 inhabitants/km². The rest of the territory has an average population density of 22 inhabitants/km². About 90% of the 45,436 inhabitants live on the largest island, Grand Cayman.

The centuries have produced a mixed population, very proud of the harmony among the inhabitants of different origins. About 20% of the population are black, 20% are white and 40% are mixed. The remaining 20% of the population are immigrants from all over the world. Customs and traditions are still influenced by the first settlers in the 18th century who came from the British Isles. The dominant religion is Christianity.

Life expectancy on the island is 81.2 years in 2016 (men: 78.5 years / women: 84.0 years). The median age of the population in the same year was 39.9 years. A woman had an average of 1.85 children in the course of her life. In 2017 there were 12.0 births and 5.8 deaths per 1000 inhabitants. The population is growing at 2% per year due to immigration from other Caribbean islands. The Cayman Islands are an important transit point for Cubans wishing to migrate to the United States. Some of these people remain on the Cayman Islands.

Economy

Former main exports were turtles and shells. Today, the capital George Town is considered a tax haven and the fifth largest financial centre in the world. Approximately 200,000 companies are registered on the islands (as of 2013). Most internationally active banks, including the largest in Germany, have branches here. In addition, around 40 % of all hedge funds are located on the Cayman Islands, making the Cayman Islands the largest hedge fund location in the world. This sector of the economy benefits from favourable framework conditions such as the tax exemption that prevails here. The Cayman Islands are considered a tax haven. They appear on the Grey List drawn up by the OECD in the run-up to the G20 meeting in 2009. The Cayman Islands do not appear on the black list of tax havens due to promises of compliance with various tax standards. The German federal government does not classify the islands as tax havens (January 2010).

  • The islands want to counteract their reputation by means of bilateral agreements which they have concluded with Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and South Africa, for example.
  • On 28 January 2016, the EU Commission presented a package of measures to combat tax evasion, including the appearance of the Cayman Islands on the black list of tax havens.
  • Government expenditure is financed exclusively by administrative fees and a 20 per cent customs duty on all imported goods. Motor vehicles are subject to customs duties ranging from 27.5% to 40.0%, depending on their value.
  • Recently, however, these revenues have no longer been sufficient to finance the budget, with the result that the British Foreign Office is pressing for the introduction of further levies.
  • In addition to the national currency Cayman Island Dollar (CI$), the US Dollar and the British Pound are accepted as means of payment as far as possible.
  • The per capita gross domestic product of 62,132 US dollars is one of the highest in the world (as of 2015).

Population

The population is concentrated in the three southwestern districts of the main island Grand Cayman George Town (capital), West Bay and Bodden Town, which have a much higher population density than all other districts. Here 89 % of the population live on 22 % of the area; in this area the population density is 618 inhabitants/km². The rest of the territory has an average population density of 22 inhabitants/km². About 90% of the 45,436 inhabitants live on the largest island, Grand Cayman.

The centuries have produced a mixed population, very proud of the harmony among the inhabitants of different origins. About 20% of the population are black, 20% are white and 40% are mixed. The remaining 20% of the population are immigrants from all over the world. Customs and traditions are still influenced by the first settlers in the 18th century who came from the British Isles. The dominant religion is Christianity.

Life expectancy on the island is 81.2 years in 2016 (men: 78.5 years / women: 84.0 years). The median age of the population in the same year was 39.9 years. A woman had an average of 1.85 children in the course of her life. In 2017 there were 12.0 births and 5.8 deaths per 1000 inhabitants. The population is growing at 2% per year due to immigration from other Caribbean islands. The Cayman Islands are an important transit point for Cubans wishing to migrate to the United States. Some of these people remain on the Cayman Islands.

Economy

Former main exports were turtles and shells. Today, the capital George Town is considered a tax haven and the fifth largest financial centre in the world. Approximately 200,000 companies are registered on the islands (as of 2013). Most internationally active banks, including the largest in Germany, have branches here. In addition, around 40 % of all hedge funds are located on the Cayman Islands, making the Cayman Islands the largest hedge fund location in the world. This sector of the economy benefits from favourable framework conditions such as the tax exemption that prevails here. The Cayman Islands are considered a tax haven. They appear on the Grey List drawn up by the OECD in the run-up to the G20 meeting in 2009. The Cayman Islands do not appear on the black list of tax havens due to promises of compliance with various tax standards. The German federal government does not classify the islands as tax havens (January 2010).

The islands want to counteract their reputation by means of bilateral agreements which they have concluded with Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and South Africa, for example. On 28 January 2016, the EU Commission presented a package of measures to combat tax evasion, including the appearance of the Cayman Islands on the black list of tax havens.

Government expenditure is financed exclusively by administrative fees and a 20 per cent customs duty on all imported goods. Motor vehicles are subject to customs duties ranging from 27.5% to 40.0%, depending on their value. Recently, however, these revenues have no longer been sufficient to finance the budget, with the result that the British Foreign Office is pressing for the introduction of further levies. In addition to the national currency Cayman Island Dollar (CI$), the US Dollar and the British Pound are accepted as means of payment as far as possible. The per capita gross domestic product of 62,132 US dollars is one of the highest in the world (as of 2015).