Although Caymanians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, about 90% of the islands' food and consumer goods must be imported.
From the earliest settlement of the Cayman Islands, economic activity was hindered by isolation and a limited natural resource base. The harvesting of sea turtles to resupply passing sailing ships was the first major economic activity on the islands, but local stocks were depleted by the 1790s. Agriculture, while sufficient to support the small early settler population, has always been limited by the scarcity of available land.
The advent of modern transportation and telecommunications in the 1950s led to the emergence of what are now considered the Cayman Islands' "twin pillars" of economic development: international finance and tourism. In 2000, there were more than 40,000 companies registered in the Cayman Islands, including almost 570 banks and trust companies.
Banking assets exceeded $500 billion. Tourism has grown to represent about 70% of gross domestic product and 75% of total export earnings. Unspoiled beaches, duty-free shopping, scubadiving, and deep-sea fishing draw almost a million visitors to the islands each year.
Education is compulsory to the age of 16 and is free to all Caymanian children. Schools follow the British educational system. Ten primary, one special education, and three high schools are operated by the government. In addition, there is a technical school, a law school, and a community college.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $930 million (1997 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5% (1997 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $24,500 (1997 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 95.4% (1994 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (1998)
Labor force: 19,820 (1995)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 1.4%, industry 12.6%, services 86% (1995)
Unemployment rate: 5.1% (1996)
revenues: $265.2 million
expenditures: $248.9 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1997)
Industries: tourism, banking, insurance and finance, construction, construction materials, furniture
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 290 million kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
other: 0% (1998)
Electricity - consumption: 270 million kWh (1998)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)
Exports: $2.17 million (1997)
Exports - commodities: turtle products, manufactured consumer goods
Exports - partners: mostly US
Imports: $432 million (1997)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, manufactured goods
Imports - partners: US, Trinidad and Tobago, UK, Netherlands Antilles, Japan
Debt - external: $70 million (1996)
Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: 1 Caymanian dollar (CI$) = 100 cents
Exchange rates: Caymanian dollars (CI$) per US$1 - 0.83 (3 November 1995), 0.85 (22 November 1993)
1 April - 31 March