A Brief Guide To The Caribbean
The Caribbean can be a paradise for Expats. The weather, scenery and laidback lifestyle make it an ideal place to retire or even enjoy working at a slower pace. But with so many islands in such a small area, it can be difficult to know exactly which one offers the best balance between what you want and what you need. Below is a brief overview of some of the main Expat destinations in the Caribbean and what the relative merits, and drawbacks, are of each one.
Population: approx 300 000
As a former British Colony, Barbados naturally inherited a political system very similar to the Westminster model. With a stable government and economy, Barbados is overall one of the safest and most economically secure Caribbean islands. For the fiscally minded Expat, it also has a growing offshore banking sector, making it a good place to retire. Culturally, Barbados has a vibrant musical and sporting culture and between its size and the local language being English, it is ideal for Expats seeking a balance between an island small enough to be private and relaxed, but not so small that it’s boring.
Population: approx 55 000
With an average salary of £35 000 per capita, The Cayman Islands has the highest standard of living of any Caribbean island. This is largely due to its status as an international offshore banking centre and that there is no income, capital gains or corporation tax. However, VAT and import duty tends to be quite high, especially on luxury goods. It is also technically still ruled by the UK but in practice there is a small local government that overseas all local matters, and with a small population (largely Expats and foreign workers) and a high GDP, the economic and political landscapes are exceptionally stable. There is however some controversy over its status as an offshore tax haven, which may lead to future restrictions over it’s banking and tax practices.
Due to its size and population, the Cayman Islands offer relatively little in terms of culture and recreation, but it is ideal for Expats seeking a quiet and financial secure retirement. However, it is very close to Jamaica and several other islands, so it can work for those who occasionally want a taste of nightlife.
Language: English (Official), Jamaican Patois (Spoken)
Population: approx 2.8m
Politics/Economy: High Inequality/ Crime Rate
Politically and legally modeled on Britain, Jamaica has a similar government make-up to the UK but there are numerous problems with crime rates, poverty, inequality and economic growth. These largely occur in isolated areas but nonetheless affect the stability of the overall political landscape. Economically, Jamaica is undergoing a rough patch due to the global recession and the fact that many of the industries that used to provide a lot of jobs e.g. agriculture and mining, have now either closed or moved elsewhere. To counter this the government are slowly adopting more offshore banking services.
However, Jamaica has far and away the most vibrant culture and nightlife of any of the Caribbean Islands. It goes without saying that the music is exceptionally good and loved all over the world, and that Jamaica continues to produce world class music and genres that consistently match or better those of countries with a population hundreds of times it’s size. It is also worth mentioning that Jamaica is experiencing a lot of controversy over homophobia and hate crimes. Some have described it as “the most homophobic place on earth” and the stories of couples beating beaten or murdered, go a long way to supporting this claim.
Language: English (Official), French Creole (Spoken)
Population: approx 173 000
Like the previously mentioned countries, St Lucia is politically and legally modeled on Britain, with a parliamentary system modeled on Westminster. The small population, strong education and health systems and the growing economy based on tourism and offshore banking make it a highly secure nation. Though English is the official language, over 90% of locals speak a variant of French known as Creole. This makes it a great place for French or French speaking Expats. It should be noted that Creole has a strong accent and dialect, meaning even strong French speakers may struggle with it at first. As one of the main sources of income is tourism, the nightlife, culture and sailing/scuba diving are all excellent making it perhaps the best island for Expats seeking an active lifestyle.
Population: approx 10m
Politics/Economy: Strong/Stable (second largest economy in central America/Caribbean)
The Dominican Republic is the closest Caribbean island to the USA (bar Cuba) making it good for American Expats. Politically and economically the country is fairly sound though it shares its island with Haiti, which has numerous political and criminal problems. There are also significant problems with power shortages and the spread of AIDS. There are little or no offshore banking services but the economy has a strong agricultural segment and tertiary industries are making significant gains. Culturally, Baseball is the de-facto national sport and the tourism sector ensures a vibrant nightlife.
Trinidad & Tobago
Language: English (Local Variant)
Population: approx 1.3m
Despite the global recession the economy has had a strong growth period and it is becoming a large financial centre. The education system is one of the best in the Caribbean and is free up to and including bachelors level. Like Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago has a strong musical and sporting culture. Politically it is a Republic but one that is modeled on the two party Westminster system. Geographically it is the furthest south of the Caribbean islands making it good for those that want to be close to South America, and overall it has a great balance between a vibrant culture, easy going pace of life and a strong and stable political and economic landscape.
Best Culturally: Jamaica
Best Economically: Cayman Islands
Best Politically: Trinidad & Tobago
Best Overall: Barbados
By Aneil Fatania