Latin America & Caribbean

Cayman Islands profile

Map of Cayman Islands

One of the world's largest financial centres and a well-known tax haven, this British overseas territory in the Caribbean has more registered businesses than it has people.

Tourism, banking and property are big money earners, making the islands financially self-sufficient. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503, Grand Cayman and its sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, boast beaches, coral reefs and abundant marine life. However, Hurricane Ivan pounded the main island in 2004.

Once a dependency of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands came under direct British rule after Jamaica declared independence in 1962. Granted greater autonomy in 1972, the islands gained a high degree of self-government under the 2009 constitution but its first premier, McKeeva Bush, was ousted in a corruption scandal in 2012.

Sometimes criticised as a haven for tax evaders, in 2009 the Cayman Islands were added to a "white list" of jurisdictions using recognised tax standards. In May 2013, the islands signed agreements on sharing tax information with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain as part of an international drive against tax evasion.

FACTS

Cayman Islands

British overseas territory

  • Population 55,000

  • Area 260 sq km (100 sq miles)

  • Major language English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 76 years (men), 84 years (women)

  • Currency Cayman Island dollar

Getty Images
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The authorities have had to enforce stricter banking regulations on the territory known as a tax haven

LEADERS

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor

Premier: Alden McLaughlin

Alden McLaughlin became premier in May 2013 following the success of his party, the People's Progressive Movement, in elections.

He was sworn in for a second term in May 2017 after forming a coalition government with the Cayman Democratic Party (CDP) after inconclusive elections.

MEDIA

Four TV stations are on the air in the Caymans, two of them run by religious organisations. Cable and satellite offer a variety of US and international stations.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of the Cayman Islands:

1503 - Navigator Christopher Columbus sights the islands.

1670 - Spain cedes the islands, along with Jamaica, to the English under the terms of the Treaty of Madrid.

1962 - Jamaica declares independence. Caymans stay under British rule

1972 - New constitution provides for a greater autonomy.

1994 - Constitution modified.

2002 - British Overseas Territories Act grants British citizenship to all Caymanians.

2004 - Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, causes widespread destruction on Grand Cayman.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Grand Cayman is home the Blue Iguana, an endangered reptile which was once common on the island

2009 May - US President Barack Obama singles out Cayman Islands in an attack on tax havens.

2009 August - Territory joins OECD's global "white list" of countries using internationally recognised tax standards.

2010 - British police brought in to help tackle gang-related crime

2013 - Cayman Islands sign agreements on sharing tax information with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain as part of an international drive against tax evasion.

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