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    The Cayman Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba, from which they are separated at the closest point by about 240 kilometers (see fig. 19). The three islands are an outcropping of the Cayman Ridge, a submarine mountain range that extends west from the Sierra Maestra mountain range in Cuba. Grand Cayman is the largest of the islands with a total area of 195 square kilometers. Cayman Brac, 142 kilometers northeast of Grand Cayman, is only 20 kilometers long by 2 kilometers wide. Little Cayman, eight kilometers west of Cayman Brac, is sixteen kilometers by two kilometers in size. The total land area of the three islands is 260 square kilometers, or approximately that of Austin, Texas.

    All three islands are low lying and are composed of limestone and consolidated coral. A seventeen-meter hill at the northwest tip of Grand Cayman is its highest point. The highest point on Little Cayman is only twelve meters in elevation. Cayman Brac is distinguished by a forty-three-meter limestone cliff that rises from the sea on its eastern tip. Vegetation is largely scrub with mangrove swamps covering about a third of all the islands' area.

    The climate is tropical, tempered by the northeasterly trade winds. Temperatures are fairly constant, ranging from summer maximums of 30C to winter minimums of 20C. The rainy season extends from mid-May through October; the remaining months are relatively dry. Hurricanes pose a threat from midsummer until November, although no hurricane has struck the islands directly since 1932.


    The total estimated population of the Cayman Islands in 1985 was 20,000, growing at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. Ninety percent of the population lived on Grand Cayman; most of the remainder lived on Cayman Brac. Little Cayman had very few inhabitants, but the construction of tourist facilities there was increasingly attracting workers and other residents. Immigrant workers comprised about a third of the total population on the islands and held 20 percent of the jobs.

    The population density per square kilometer in 1985 was moderate at 75.8. In 1984 the average life expectancy at birth stood at seventy years. In 1984 the birth rate was moderately high by world standards at 21.4 per 1,000; infant mortality stood at 5.9 per 1,000 births. Twenty-nine percent of the population was under the age of fifteen. The people of the Cayman Islands had varying ethnic backgrounds: 25 percent were black; 20 percent, white; and 55 percent, mulatto.


    In the mid-1980s, the Cayman Islands were one of the most prosperous areas in the Caribbean. The gross domestic product (GDP- -see Glossary) in 1985 was approximately US$254.5 million, with a per capita GDP of US$12,789. Approximately 75 percent of all workers were employed in the service sector. Industry accounted for an additional 23 percent of workers; the remaining 2 percent were in agriculture. Forty-two percent of adult women were in the work force in 1979. As with most Caribbean islands, imports to the Cayman Islands greatly exceeded exports. In 1983 imports totaled US$140.4 million, while exports totaled only US$2.4 million. Major trading partners were the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Britain, and the Netherlands Antilles.

    Until 1970, fishing generated most of the Cayman Islands' income. In the 1960s, however, the islands began systematically to nurture two industries--offshore financial services and tourism. The territory passed new banking laws and made extensive investments in infrastructure, including roads, airports, and wells and desalination plants for water supplies. By the late 1980s, the islands had become the Caribbean's leading tax haven. Citizens, permanent foreign residents, and corporations paid no income, property, inheritance, or capital gains taxes. In 1985 approximately 19,000 companies were registered in the islands, including 498 banks and trust companies and 369 insurance companies. Revenues from company registration fees, trust and insurance licenses, and stamp duties brought in almost US$18 million during 1983. About the same amount was collected in import duties, and total revenue exceeded government expenditures by almost US$2 million. Banks on the islands handled an estimated US$1 billion a day in Eurocurrency (see Glossary) deals. External assets of banks licensed in the Cayman Islands totaled US$127 billion at the end of 1982.

    The Cayman Islands also has succeeded in building its tourist industry. Infrastructure for tourism has been developed substantially, and new hotels and condominiums have been built on all three islands. Tourist arrivals soared 300 percent between 1973 and 1984, largely because of more cruise ship arrivals. In 1986 more than 382,000 tourists visited the islands, including 216,000 cruise ship passengers. In 1985 tourism contributed US$75 million to the economy and employed one-fourth of the work force.

    Despite the relative prosperity of the Cayman Islands, problems remained. The tourism boom had inflated land prices to such an extent that young islanders found it difficult to build homes. Agriculture was almost nonexistent in the Caymans because of low rainfall and poor soils. Over 90 percent of the islands' food was imported, a major part of the Caymans' import bill. However, development efforts had made the islands self-sufficient in eggs and bananas, and beef, oranges, and tomatoes also were produced.

    Serious questions also had been raised about the offshore banking industry. In the early 1980s, United States officials became concerned that Cayman banks were becoming havens for illegally obtained drug monies. The United States Department of Justice estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of the US$76 billion generated annually by illegal narcotics trafficking in the United States and the Caribbean was laundered through offshore banks in the Caribbean, where criminals were shielded from investigators by secrecy laws. The United States government therefore put pressure on Britain and the Cayman Islands to modify bank secrecy regulations to allow the United States attorney general access to Cayman bank and business records. On August 27, 1984, the two countries and the Cayman Islands signed a pact requiring the islands' administrators to obtain requested records within fourteen days of receiving a certification that the records were needed for an investigation of a drug-related offense.

    The Cayman Islands had a modern communication system in the 1980s. The British firm Cable and Wireless operated an entirely automatic system of over 9,000 telephones. A small ground satellite station and submarine cables provided international links to the United States and Panama. Four radio stations on Grand Cayman served the island, broadcasting on 1205 and 1555 kilohertz and on 101.1 and 105.3 megahertz. The Cayman Compass and the Sun were both published five times a week.

    Transportation among the islands was relatively good. In 1984 the territory had 252 vessels over 100 gross tons; the large number reflected the islands' sizable charter boat business. Georgetown was a major port. Populated sites on all three islands were linked by 160 kilometers of all-weather roads. Municipal buses ran between Georgetown and West Bay on Grand Cayman. Owen Roberts International Airport outside Georgetown and an airfield at the western end of Cayman Brac had paved runways to accommodate international flights. There were no railroads or inland waterways.

See also: Jamaica News - Cuba News - Mexico News - Belize News

All of the Cayman Islands
are one time zone at GMT-5,
with no Daylight Savings time.

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  Cayman Islands News

    The Cayman Islands were colonized from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries, and were administered by Jamaica after 1863. In 1959, the islands became a territory within the Federation of the West Indies, but when the Federation dissolved in 1962, the Cayman Islands chose to remain a British dependency.
    CIA World Factbook: Cayman Islands

Area of Cayman Islands: 262 sq km
1.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Population of Cayman Islands: 46,600
July 2007 estimate

Languages of Cayman Islands:

Cayman Islands Capital: George Town

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  Cayman Islands Reference Articles and Links

Wikipedia: Cayman Islands
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BBC Country Profile: Cayman Islands
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