Over the years, people from overseas who have purchased a second or third home in the Cayman Islands have been motivated to invest here for a number of reasons. Years ago, they looked to Cayman because they were attracted by our tax neutral status which meant they could own and enjoy a property in Cayman without the fetters of property, capital gains or inheritance tax to bind them. In recent times, American politics have also played their part in ensuring that Cayman has seen a steady influx of US investors disagreeing with their government’s policies and unhappy with where their tax dollars are being spent.
In addition, there were many reasons why overseas investors sought out the Cayman Islands in particular as a base from their homeland apart from our tax neutral status. These have included our proximity to the United States, our wonderful comfortable living environment, stable government, sophisticated infrastructure and professional service industries, both from a business standpoint, such as lawyers, accountants and bankers, and also from a leisure standpoint, such as restaurants, boating and hospitality.
Add COVID-19 and the unrest as experienced in some countries very recently into the mix, and you realise that now, this jurisdiction has, even more, to recommend itself to foreign investors. We are a small country; we have the ability to control our borders and we have been able to keep our residents safe. This means our location makes the perfect spot for a ‘back-up plan’ for anyone looking to escape their current environment. We offer stability, safety and privacy, attributes that are highly sought-after the world over in this present climate.
The Cayman Islands has always been viewed as a particularly safe place in which to live and vacation, so this has not changed. But what has changed is the environment in other countries, which makes this attribute even more important for investors. The social unrest experienced particularly in the US and UK in recent weeks has made high net worth individuals nervous and, as a result, we in the real estate industry have seen an upswing in enquiries from such individuals about the possibility of owning property here. It should be noted that very wealthy people have the ability to ‘turn on a dime’ as far as where they wish to make their home base. If their current environment makes them feel unsafe, they can very quickly move elsewhere in the world. This means that Cayman is well poised for a ‘perfect storm’ of enquiries from overseas investors looking to make Cayman home.
That said, I believe we only have a small window of opportunity for attracting such investors before they will move on elsewhere if their jurisdiction of choice is unable to meet their requirements. If we don’t take action at the appropriate time and open our borders safely, that window may well shut-in favour of another jurisdiction. I am 100 per cent behind our government’s policy of making incremental headway in opening our economy again because safety and security must always be our priority, but we do need to bear in mind that there is currently a strong amount of interest by investors just waiting to call Cayman home and we cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity: for the sake of our economy and the sake of our country.