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Letter: Looks like a medicine man is mesmerising Cayman

Published on Thursday, May 6, 2010 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Dr Devi Shetty should be commended for opening government officials’ eyes to the possibility of making Cayman a medical Mecca but, in return, are the Caymanian people truly willing to provide a pipeline of protected profits from the US directly to India? Would the Cayman Islands not be far better served if those profits stayed in Cayman in place of just Dr Shetty’s promise of an unguaranteed number of jobs at unguaranteed wages?

The government’s release of the details of their agreement speaks volumes. By doing so, it is giving residents fair warning that they cannot complain later if they do not like what’s happening, and the government is making promises on behalf of the Cayman people that are binding for 50 years. The agreement will outive most Cayman residents, even Dr Shetty, so it behooves every citizen, every resident, every person who loves these Islands to pause a moment, take a deep breath, and read critically every line, every single word of this agreement, and absorb it through crystal-clear lenses.

Yes, the Cayman Islands are an ideal location for medical tourism, but perhaps the one attribute that puts it highest on Dr Shetty’s list of locations is the one that is never mentioned: The Cayman Islands is in such dire financial straits its judgment can be clouded. Its people are in desperate need of jobs. Its government recognises that it must provide jobs, or its days are numbered. What better climate to ensure that no one will closely scrutinise any agreement to determine true outcomes as long as jobs are promised? They do not need even to offer guarantees, or remedies should they not fulfill their promises.

Have you heard of Appalachia? It is one of the poorest areas in the United States, comprised of the mountainous regions of several states, stretching from New York to Alabama and encompassing all of West Virginia, where I lived as the wife of a coal miner for 23 years. I saw first-hand the effects on residents of tax-empted coal company profits that flowed out of that state, leaving behind sub-standard schools, pot-holed roads and decimated ecosystems.

No, it was not all deprivation. Those who sold their land and mineral rights for a dollar or so an acre were tickled to get some cash in hand, and the standard of living for miners was far greater than their counterparts. With coal wages—after the United Mine Workers organised them into a powerful union—they could put glass panes in the windows of their homes, they could buy a real kitchen table and chairs, they even could buy their own truck, but the opportunities for their children, which should have been vast had coal profits been invested locally, led straight back into the mines to make a decent living. Or move away.

You may see few or no parallels between West Virginia 40 years ago and the Cayman Islands today, but I do, and you are right that I have no vested interest in what happens there. I am not a citizen. I am not a resident. I have never even lived there, but over the past decade I have visited many times, I know a few people quite well, and I read its news every day. I have a deep attachment to that place and its people, and it saddens me that they may be rushing headlong down a path that they will sorely regret, as I have seen in other places at other times.

Cayman already has what it needs in place to become a medical tourism destination. The country does not need to give away the store to get its bread. Dr Shetty needs the Cayman Islands worse than the country needs him. Why make the kinds of concessions and provide the protectionism he has demanded for so little in return?

The Hon Mark Scotland, minister of health, environment, youth, sports & culture, in a Government Information Services release, recently said it best: “Medical tourism is a growing industry, and we already have all the attributes necessary for success: an established tourism product, our geographical location for easy access by American visitors, political stability, and a reputation as a safe destination in the Caribbean. Not to act on it would be a missed opportunity.”

You also have direct flights, several a day, from Miami and New York and Washington DC. You already have established the Health Services Authority—and ah, yes, did you notice that the agreement permits Dr Shetty to use your own doctors in his facility to create his own direct-to-India profits and that you will ensure he has no competition for the next 50 years?—that with the proper investment could become the premier medical tourism facility in the Caribbean, in the Western Hemisphere.

You already have the University College of the Cayman Islands that, with the proper investment, could develop its own medical college. You already have facilities that care for the elderly that with the proper investment could be expanded into world-class, assisted-living for the wealthy.

If you permit yourself to think about it a moment, to take off the Shetty blinders and consider the possibilities, then you will demand that the government be creative about finding funds for an initial investment to start development of its own medical tourism facility, which will assuredly support its own growth and enrich its own people. You will demand that the government abandon the course it has currently taken that makes a few people richer, especially Dr Shetty, and leaves everyone else standing with a few grains of sand on the Cayman shore.

Barbara Clowdus
Miami, Florida
Reads : 1194


I certainly understand the writer's concern; that is shared by all. As a former resident of Cayman (and a West Virginian!), I must mention the danger of stereotyping. Yes, the southern region of my state has unfortunately been hard hit by the fact that the citizenry has not generally chosen to diversify their opportunities for education, and thereby, employment because of the long familial transfer of the perception of virtual access to mining industry jobs. Easy to understand though. Look at the US dependence on coal derived electricity. But that is a small part of my state. I come from a high tech region that is home to large installations for NASA, Pratt Whitney, Bombardier Aerospace, and the world's largest government facility...the FBI Optical Fingerprint ID Facility. When the CIPS checks your prints...guess where it goes? My hometown. Remember that when you assume we are all hicks from Appalachia! I certainly enjoyed learning from, and benefiting from, the hospitality of all the Caymanians I have met. I hope that by meeting me that they realize that I was a West Virginian and eliminated whatever stereotype, such as the writer mentioned, does not apply to all of those within my home region. I will continue to mention to all how pleasant it was to experience meeting the Caymanian's I was privileged to know and the non-Caymanians alike that I was privileged to meet and interact with. It is diversity and openness to the experiences of others that makes life enjoyable, not insular ideologies. One day I hope to return to experience all that Cayman can offer.


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