by Larry Smith
GEORGE TOWN, the Cayman Islands -- The political status of this tiny British Overseas Territory south of Cuba, which enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living, is often described by local intellectuals as "voluntary colonialism".
As late as the 1950s, the Caymanos - to use an earlier name - were known as "the islands that time forgot". But today they are home to a dazzling array of high-end tourist and financial infrastructure, populated by a cosmopolitan and largely affluent workforce of 36,000 - more than half of which is from other countries.
Grand Cayman has managed to preserve its position as a top financial centre in the face of a crackdown on international money laundering and tax evasion, as well as the recessionary impact of the global credit crisis. And tourism grew by more than 5 per cent last year, for a total of 1.9 million visitors. In fact, the island is buzzing with activity.
The Cayman islands are no longer a backwater. Despite being subject to British colonial rule (and occasionally whining about it), Caymanians are way ahead of Bahamians in terms of holding their government to account. In addition to a national ombudsman and an independent auditor-general, the legislature unanimously approved a freedom of information law in 2007.