Two political hopefuls for the district of George Town West bemoaned poor attendance during recent candidate debates, not by audience members, but by the candidates themselves.

Only independent candidates Ellio Solomon and Dennie Warren Jr. appeared at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre Tuesday night to talk about issues affecting their district. Political party candidates David Wight of the Progressives and Jonathan Piercy with the Cayman Democratic Party did not attend.

Mr. Solomon said he wished to “register his disappointment” that his two opponents didn’t attend Tuesday. “I think that’s sad when persons running [for elected office] can’t give the voters that level of transparency,” he said.

Mr. Warren said he also was disappointed in the forum attendance on the candidate side.

“I have the flu and I have a back injury that I’m going to have treatment for [Wednesday],” he said. “I can’t think of a reason [the other candidates] shouldn’t be here.”

According to Chamber of Commerce representatives, both Mr. Piercy and Mr. Wight notified them before the debate that they could not attend for various reasons. Those two men are far from the only candidates who did not attend the Chamber-sponsored debates held in all 19 voting districts on Grand Cayman.

In George Town South, a similar situation occurred where both political party-backed candidates did not attend. Candidate no-shows also occurred in the North Side, Savannah, and Bodden Town West forums.

“We’ve invited every candidate,” said Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Wil Pineau on Wednesday. “It’s really up to them whether they want to attend or not.”

Health matters

The state of public health took center stage for the candidates who did attend the George Town West forum Tuesday night.

Both were asked for their ideas on reforming national healthcare costs, which are currently driving a $1.7 billion 20-year liability, according to government’s most recent estimates.

Mr. Warren said he was more concerned about the daily cost of healthcare to local families, who he said were paying more for the same care than that received by “medical tourists” at the Health City Cayman Islands facility.

“There seems to be something very different taking place at Health City than there is at the Health Services Authority,” he said. “I would like to investigate all the reasons that is the case.”

Mr. Solomon suggested setting up a “medical care fund” similar to a pension savings fund that local workers could contribute to in anticipation of when they retire.

Mr. Solomon said he also believed some local doctors would agree to performing some “pro bono” work for indigent patients a certain number of times a month to assist those who don’t currently have healthcare coverage.

Mr. Solomon also suggested approval of legislation that he has already drafted that sets up a council to govern medical research in the Cayman Islands, which could provide an alternate industry and more local jobs. He said diversification of Cayman’s current two economic pillars – financial services and tourism – was “absolutely required.”

“Medical research is a $36 billion a year industry in the U.S. alone,” he said.

Mr. Warren proposed allowing Caymanian businesses to grow cannabis for use in cannabinoid oils for export. He said this was a billion dollar industry worldwide and that demand was there for the services, particularly in the medical field.

“We should not sit around and wait for these opportunities to pass us by,” he said.

Pensions

The two men also took widely differing views on recent changes to the National Pensions Law that prevent foreign workers from “cashing out” their pension accounts when the leave the jurisdiction.

Mr. Warren said pensions were for a “specific purpose” – retirement income later in life.

“We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we were to allow people to take [money] out of their pensions funds and then return to the Cayman Islands and run the risk of becoming a burden to … society,” he said.

Mr. Solomon argued that a greater negative impact would be felt when a “significant number of persons” left the country.

“When we hurt our economy, we’re hurting locals,” he said.

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