“Dazzling” population growth must be managed

(CNS): Prime Minister Wayne Panton couldn’t say “how much is too much” as he revealed the Cayman Islands population as of October 2021 was 71,432. Marking the release of the 2021 Cayman Islands Population and Housing Census report, Panton said the target population of 100,000 cited by the PPM-led government was arbitrary, as many will believe the census figure today is already too high. The Prime Minister said the number was less important than managing expectations and providing the right balance and quality of life in the future around the country’s “staggering population growth”.

However, he warned that a static population could undermine economic growth as the Cayman Islands still had to find a way to increase productivity and create jobs and business opportunities.

Panton said data from the full report, which was released today (Friday), was key to shaping future policy and the country’s development. But he said it was clear Cayman needed to plan its population growth properly, because alongside the benefits there were concerns and negative consequences of “unplanned and uncontrolled” growth.

“As a country, we have to decide what an appropriate growth rate is and try to design policies that fit that instead of just letting the market generate runaway, unchecked growth, which is effectively what has happened so far,” he said.

Panton said that over the years, the population increase has been largely fueled by immigration policies, which were fundamental to the country’s economic growth and success, but which had led to unintended consequences.

“It brought a lot of economic opportunity…but because a lot of that growth was ad hoc… it has left us without proper systems to optimize growth,” he said, noting struggling infrastructure and the lack of a national development plan.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the growth has supported government revenues and created jobs and business opportunities, but has also created challenges, particularly with regard to affordable housing and the impact on the environment.

“It brought us a lot of economic benefits,” he said. “But…the breakneck pace of growth has left many Caymanians and long-time residents feeling a sense of frustration which is only exacerbated today by the problems we have encountered with significant increases in the cost of living. , soaring housing costs, traffic problems and lack of school places.

How the population will grow in the future has significant implications, he added, and the Cayman Islands will need more managed and paced growth to address the negative consequences with a sustainable development strategy. Panton said that was the challenge currently facing the PACT government, and that census information would form the basis of those plans.

The Prime Minister said the next step is to create policies that reflect the desire of the people, as it is important that they have a say in the direction the country should take. Census data should provide the basis for such an exercise, much like Vision 2008.

“We need to make plans that reflect the wishes of the country,” Panton said, to improve people’s quality of life and strike the right balance.

Highlighting the dangers of quoting an arbitrary number, he added: “I don’t know if we will ever be able to say what the number should be, but we should plan and try to ensure a reasonable level of growth instead of this uncontrolled growth and unpredictable. , leaving us behind and trying to catch up in terms of services.

Panton said the census information will be important for all ministries as the results have wide policy implications for all social and economic areas, noting that the national development plan was an important part of this management. He said he expected the plan to be half-finished by the end of this administration.

See the full census report on the ESO website.

Watch Thursday’s census press conference on CIGTV below: