Economy of the Cayman Islands

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{island, water, area}
{land, century, early}
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{country, population, people}
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{ship, engine, design}

The economy of the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory located in the western Caribbean Sea, is mainly fueled by the tourism sector and by the financial services sector, together representing 70-80 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).[1] The Cayman Island Investment Bureau, a government agency, has been established with the mandate of promoting investment and economic development in the territory.[2]

The emergence of what are now considered the Cayman Islands' "twin pillars of economic development" (tourism and international finance) started in the 1950s with the introduction of modern transportation and telecommunications.[1]



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. Fishing, shipbuilding, and cotton production boosted the economy during the early days of settlement. In addition, settlers scavenged shipwreck remains from the surrounding coral reefs.

The boom in the Cayman Islands' international finance industry can also be at least partly attributed to the British overseas territory having no direct taxation. A popular legend attributes the tax-free status to the heroic acts of the inhabitants during a maritime tragedy in 1794, often referred to as "Wreck of the Ten Sails".[3] The wreck involved nine British merchant vessels and their naval escort, the frigate HMS Convert, that ran aground on the reefs off Grand Cayman. Due to the rescue efforts by the Caymanians using canoes, the loss of life was limited to eight.[4] However, records from the colonial era indicate that Cayman Islands, then a dependency of Jamaica, was not tax-exempt during the period that followed. In 1803, the inhabitants signed a petition addressed to the Jamaican governor asking him to grant them a tax exemption from the "Transient Tax on Wreck Goods".[5]

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