Cayman's mendicant government

An event held at the end of September raised $27,000 toward a new ambulance for the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority. So far, the nonprofit Cayman Heart Fund has brought in more than $43,000 in donations for the new emergency services vehicle, which has a price tag of around $150,000.

We offer our congratulations and best wishes to Cayman Heart Fund, its volunteers and the donors who are contributing to this cause. As many of our readers are aware, the government’s current “fleet” of five ambulances – two of which are aging ungracefully – is insufficient for the tasks demanded of our medical responders.

That’s why Cayman Heart Fund most definitely should not be raising money for the government to buy a new ambulance.

Don’t get us wrong: Cayman desperately needs (at least) one new ambulance, and it should be bought – but by the public, not the private, sector.

We empathize with the altruistic intentions of those kind souls who want to do something positive for the well-being of the Cayman community. However, the furtherance of public health is a function of government, and a key one.

We understand that in many places the private sector is increasingly stepping up to supplement the delivery of important services, especially in healthcare, particularly when revenue-starved governments simply cannot afford the required expenditures on their shoestring budgets. But “cash-strapped” and “lean-budgeted” are two adjectives that do not apply to Cayman’s sprawling bureaucracy, which, like an irresponsible octopus, has extended its tentacles into many areas where it has no business (including direct competition with private business) while neglecting its core duties.

Every dollar in private donations that goes to the government for a necessary service frees up a dollar (or, using governmental arithmetic, two or three) that the government can allocate to something optional, unwise or unnecessary.

The proceeds of such goodwill result in the masking of government’s deficiencies, and so fundamental imbalances are never addressed.

Imagine a person, on public assistance, who exchanges their “food stamps” at the grocery store for a bag of Doritos. Then, still nutritionally lacking, that person goes out to the parking lot to beg other customers for fruits and vegetables. The problem here isn’t that the person doesn’t have fruits and vegetables; it’s that the person wasted their food stamps on Doritos. Giving them what they “need,” after they’ve already gotten what they “want,” only encourages the repetition of the deleterious behavior.

It’s a similar scenario with Cayman’s government. After binging on extravagancies such as the monumental high school in Frank Sound, the long-running turtle circus in West Bay, and various other money-burning exercises, including its attempt at running a national airline, the government is going around, cap in hand, collecting spare change to pay for something that should have taken precedence over all of the above.

This isn’t just about the new ambulance. Take, for example, the medical robot donated by the Seafarers Association, the school lunch assistance programs from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, or the Humane Society’s futile efforts to control the stray pet population. We could go on.

We consider it admirable, indeed applause-worthy, when individuals and groups make it their mission to care for the sick, the poor, the old, the young and the otherwise vulnerable. For those community champions, we have nothing but respect.

However, in a wealthy (and heartily taxed) society such as Cayman, in many instances those charities are fulfilling needs that have not arisen out of a scarcity of public resources, but have been created by government’s misallocations of revenue.


  1. Let’s stay with the health sector for a minute.

    The reality here is that we have a private health insurance market that is mostly interested in providing health insurance for people that are young and healthy (this makes good business sense). The problem with this approach is that the government, because it has taken the position that it will not deny health services to anyone that is in need, has to cover the costs for anyone that can’t afford to pay for health insurance or health care services.

    In talking with a number of elderly people over the past few years it has become clear to me that despite saving for retirement many of these people are finding that the cost of health care in their golden years is quickly wiping out their savings and putting them in a situation where they are more dependant on the government. This would seem to suggest to me that the current system is not working.

    I don’t have all of the answer’s but it might be time that we take another look at how health care is paid for and provided in the Cayman Islands with a view to making it affordable for all while at the same time reducing the financial burden on the government.