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Cost of doing business, bank fees, and lack of affordable housing top concerns in State of Business survey results

Cost of doing business, bank fees, and affordable housing topped the list of members’ concerns in the annual State of Business Survey. The survey, sent out via email every year, enables members to identify the main issues affecting their business and the community and assists the Council with developing its annual advocacy agenda.

84 businesses took part by answering questions under three headings: “Business Issues,” “Community Issues,” and “Policy Changes.”  Respondents were also asked, “If there was one thing the Chamber could achieve that would make a significant and positive difference for your company, what would that be?”

Just over a third of respondents identified as micro-businesses – with less than five employees, while an additional quarter identified as small businesses with less than 15 employees, with the rest medium-sized businesses with more than 15 employees, and some larger companies with over 100 employees.

Nearly two-thirds of businesses (61.11%) said their overall revenue had increased during 2023, but this was offset by a similar increase in costs, so while just over a third (36.11%) said their company’s profits had increased, the same number said profits were down. Increases in bank fees, electricity costs, health insurance, labour costs, and fuel expenses were the most significant increases for businesses.

Over half (58.33%) said that their business plans to increase staff in 2024. 15.28% said they planned to outsource more work on-island, while 19.5% said they would outsource more work off-island. 16.7 % of respondents said they intended to reduce office space, while 6.9% said they wanted to lease additional office space.

Reducing red tape, streamlining all government applications, and generally increasing the speed and efficiency of dealing with all Government departments and agencies topped the list of the ‘Business Issues’ section. Respondents identified permanent residency and status application delays, and issues dealing with WORC: “Length of time taken to approve, and number of permits deferred, along with “Planning Department Issues.”

Enforcement of immigration, Labour & Trade & Business License Acts was also a concern, as well as “Employers who take money from employees but don’t pay it into a pension.” Enforcement also meant, “Protecting small businesses from foreign competitors operating on the island without licenses or Caymanian partners,” according to one respondent.

“Increased cost of living,” topped the list of Community Issues, as it did with last year’s survey, along with concerns about traffic and crime. Public transport, poverty issues, and unemployment among Caymanians were also listed, along with mental health support and affordable housing.

“Better Policing and tougher sentences for crimes,” “Setting up a small claims court,” and “Banning criminals from holding office,” were also listed. Protection for the environment encompassed new laws and the better enforcement of existing planning regulations.

Special Economic Zone companies need increased government scrutiny one respondent said, “Because there is a growing number of examples where local law firms are setting up a SEZC for IT staff to support a law firm’s Cayman-based staff.”

The final section asked members the question: “If there was one thing the Chamber could achieve that would make a significant and positive difference for your company, what would that be?

Answers included: “Encourage Government to look at cost of operations” “Provide lower cost housing,” “Streamline Planning processes and administration of regulation, and “Reduce planning department bureaucracy.”