“I think it’s just foolishness not to recognize the creativity that you can unlock in the corporate world.”
— International rock star and philanthropist Bono
For ages, Cayman Islands politicians, pundits and residents alike have focused on the issue of immigration — grants of permanent residence, status, the issuance of work permits, who benefits, who does not . . . creating a cacophony of unproductive division and dissent.
Our concern, increasingly, is not local resistance to physical immigration, but, rather, resistance to ideas and assistance that may not have been “born and bred” in Cayman. The consequences of intellectual isolationism are well-known and well-documented, from our nearby neighbor of Cuba to the faraway dystopia of North Korea.
In this newspaper, we report regularly on remarkable dysfunction in the delivery of what ought to be the routine provision of municipal services, including healthcare, education, transportation and waste management, to name just a few. To address these issues, we need access to the best minds, regardless of country of origin, that are at our disposal and are willing to assist.
Currently, our scores of government boards are populated almost exclusively by a relatively small number of individuals, the common denominator being that they have “Caymanian” status. Because this universe is so small, many board members serve on multiple boards. It is a closed system not open or hospitable to “non-belongers.” For the betterment of these islands, this needs to change.
Perhaps an illustration will make our point more clearly:
Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention knows that Cayman faces a healthcare crisis that is existential in its magnitude. Our unfunded healthcare liability for the public sector alone is approaching $2 billion. The cost of health insurance, even for the most-minimal coverage, is straining — no, strangling — both personal and business budgets. Nearly $100 million in unpaid bills remains outstanding, and largely uncollectible, on the Health Services Authority’s books. This week, Canover Watson (current address: HMP Northward) will be back in court as Cayman tries to recover nearly $7 million he and others skimmed/scammed out of the HSA when he served as chairman of the authority’s board of directors.
And yet, we have in our midst perhaps the world’s foremost expert on providing the highest quality healthcare to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible cost. His name, of course, is Dr. Devi Shetty, who founded and funded Health City Cayman Islands.
We know (because we know Dr. Shetty) that he has the greatest affection for the Cayman Islands. Does anyone in government even know that a decade ago Dr. Shetty founded a micro-pay insurance company in India that now insures more than 5 million policyholders — most of them poor? Their monthly premium: approximately 22 cents (no, that is not a typo). Many countries are approaching Dr. Shetty for guidance on how they can more efficiently deliver healthcare services. Is Cayman?
Or consider this: Ben Torchinsky, a Canadian engineer who passed on a few years ago, was best-known in Cayman for developing the Hyatt Resort. His firm, Agra Inc., was one of the largest in the world, employing thousands of engineers, who, in turn, engaged in building the massive Three Gorges dam in China, gas pipelines in Western Canada, Toronto’s Highway 407 toll road, etc.
Mr. Torchinsky, who loved these islands and is now interred in the West Bay cemetery, offered to send a few of his engineers to Cayman — at no cost — to help us sort out our worsening roads and transportation issues. The response from government: No thanks; we will handle it ourselves.
Then there was the “Miller-Shaw” Report, spearheaded by James C. Miller III, budget director for U.S. President Ronald Reagan. It was likely the finest report EVER on Cayman’s fiscal future, the size and cost of the civil service, and our challenges and opportunities going forward. Its fate: interminable (meaning terminal) inaction. Its successor, the “Ernst & Young report,” drew many of the same conclusions as did Mr. Miller. It met a similar fate.
Our point is that Cayman must not close its mind to outside ideas or outsiders who are able and willing to contribute to the well-being of these islands. They are a resource far too valuable to turn away.
Close our borders? Let the debate go on . . .
Close our minds? At our own peril.