West Bay, 3 March 1997
Q: When is a Dollar not a Dollar?
A: When you're in the the Cayman Islands!
. . . Seriously!
Let's look at the word dollar.
What does it mean? The longer you look at it,
the stranger it looks. What exactly is that thing we call a
The answer, of course, is that the
is a unit of currency, just like the
pound or the
yen or the
mark or the
It has no intrinsic value, but rather is
measured against other currencies or against a "standard," like gold. And just as there
are several different currencies called
there are several called
In fact, the
is the basic unit of currency in Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brunei, Canada,
Cayman Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kiribai, Liberia,
Nauru, New Zealand, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Solomon
Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United States, and Zimbabwe.
So far, so good. Where the problem presents itself is when we start dealing with
"exchange rates." The various
are not equivalent, nor are the different
certainly does not buy the same goods as an Egyptian
and the French
will not buy the same amount of gold.
Similarly, the Canadian
does not buy the same amount of goods and services that the U.S.
buys, which is different still from the buying power of the Cayman Islands
Canadians donít seem to have a problem understanding that their currency
now buys less than the U.S.
(US$), and even less than the Cayman Islands
(CI$). They may not like it, but they generally understand it.
Americans, however, who are accustomed to their US
being "worth more" than most other currencies, seem to have a problem with this concept.
For some reason, they seem able to accept that the British
buys more than the US
and they donít seem to mind that the Canadian
buys less than the US
but they canít seem to comprehend that there could be another
which buys more than theirs!
Since they are used to getting for their US
thousands upon thousands of
or whatever currency is used in the various countries or islands
they have visited, they are shocked to learn that their precious
has a fixed exchange rate of only $0.80
in Cayman Islands currency.
If we had called it the CI
when we changed over from the Jamaican monetary system in 1972,
it would probably now be
easier for them to accept. Or we could do what has been done with the Eastern Caribbean
(EC$). You get lots of them for your US
but a can of Pringles costs EC$9,
which ends up being about US$3.46, if memory serves.
A can of Pringles in Cayman only costs CI$1.79, which is US$2.24, so youíve saved
US$1.22 by buying them in Cayman instead of, say St. Lucia. Americans, however, still
complain because their
is worth less. I suppose that $9 for a can of Pringles is
so ludicrous that is becomes amusing; whereas a $1.79 price tag that requires over two
bills (US) to actually purchase is just irritating enough to get under your skin.
Perhaps we should re-evaluate the whole concept. Letís see, if we made it so that
you got two CI$ for one US$, then that can of Pringles would be CI$2.48.
Maybe that would do it!
[Note: Editor's subsequent suggestion that we rename it the
was tossed in the can.]
In addition to these essays, the wench also posts frequent short writings about her
View from West Bay.
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