In 1503, Christopher Columbus first sighted the Cayman Islands whilst on a detour on his fourth trip to the New World, en route to Hispaniola. The three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, are located in the western Caribbean about 150 miles south of Cuba, 460 miles south of Miami and 167 miles northwest of Jamaica. The capital is George Town, on the west coast of Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, which has an area of about 76 square miles.
The Cayman Islands was originally under the governance of Jamaica, but when Jamaica achieved independence in 1962, the Cayman Islands opted to remain under the British Crown with an administrator appointed from London assuming the responsibilities previously held by the Governor of Jamaica. The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory and the constitution currently provides for a Crown-appointed Governor, a Legislative Assembly and a Cabinet, which comprises three appointed official members and five ministers elected from the fifteen elected members of the Legislative Assembly. The Governor retains responsibility for the police, civil service, defence and external affairs, but handed over the presidency of the Legislative Assembly to the Speaker in 1991.
The Cayman Islands has fairly equal periods of day and night year round and therefore remains on the same time zone of -5 hours Coordinated Universal time (UTC). This means the Cayman Islands is on Eastern Standard Time (EST=-5 UTC) with New York from November to April but when the USA switches to Daylight Savings Time in April, Cayman is then in the same time zone as Central Daylight Time (CDT=-5 UTC) and Chicago.
The main industries are financial services, tourism, and real estate sales and development. Service industries, such as construction, hotel and restaurant operations, retail trades, and scuba diving and boat rentals are ancillary to the main industries. The financial services sector encompasses investment funds, structured finance, captive insurance, trusts, banking services and aircraft and shipping registration.
The Cayman Islands is one of the world’s largest financial centres, is host to over 80,000 companies and remains the pre-eminent domicile for regulated investment funds, of which there are currently more than 9,000. Essential features contributing to the success of the jurisdiction include the following:
- Political and economic stability
- Good infrastructure and communications
- A legal system based on English law
- High quality professional service providers
- Low direct taxation with tax exemptions for certain classes of companies and types of business activity
- No capital gains, gift, withholding, inheritance or wealth taxes.