Government lawyer: long-term duty exemptions are important for foreign investment

Doctors Hospital

The Cabinet’s ability to grant broad, long-term duty waivers is needed to help attract significant foreign investment to the Cayman Islands, says the lawyer representing the government in Doctors Hospital’s challenge to the deal. Health City’s decades-long concessions.

On Thursday, Tom Hickman, QC, told Judge Richard Williams, who is presiding over the judicial review hearing, that there is no reason to suggest the government’s contracts with Health City and Aster Caribbean Holdings were illegal, and that the Cabinet has the discretion to grant waivers as a means of encouraging investment in the Cayman Islands. The ability to grant such waivers, he said, was an “important element of the government’s economic strategy”.

In his submissions, Hickman described the legal challenge over Health City’s tax breaks as “academic” and was filed too late – more than a decade after the contract was signed granting the duty and license fee waiver. work at East End Hospital.

He also argued that Doctors Hospital was not a party to the contract and therefore had no standing on the matter.

He said Doctors Hospital did not challenge the contracts when they were signed and was using this judicial review as a platform to indirectly attack Health City and Aster and their contractual agreements with the government. Health City and Aster are listed as interested parties in the judicial review, while the Cayman Islands government is the primary defendant.

The United Democratic Party government granted waivers to Dr Devi Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya Private Ltd, which set up Health City, in a contract signed in 2010, while the Progressives-led administration agreed to similar concessions for Aster when she signed a deal with the company in 2020 to pave the way for a hospital project in West Bay.

The court had heard Wednesday from Doctors Hospital lawyer Chris Buttler, QC, that while the waivers granted hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions to hospitals over decades, Doctors Hospital had no such agreement and had paid more $1 million in medical supplies duties over three years.

Hickman argued that because the contracts with the hospital corporations were not illegal, this question of whether current and future governments might be required to continue granting the waivers was “an academic question.”

He also rebutted a claim by Buttler that waivers could only be granted for individual items or groups of items once a bill of rights had been filed, rather than being granted as a general measure. spanning decades.

Hickman said the Customs and Border Control Act grants Cabinet discretion to grant waivers, and it would be utterly impossible for Cabinet to have to determine a duty waiver on every item. that a company imports into the country.

The relevant section of this Act states: “The Cabinet may, in any particular case, waive or order the reimbursement of any duty, package tax or part of any duty or package tax which would otherwise be due or not be not recoverable under this Act, subject to such conditions as Cabinet may see fit to impose.”

Hickman told the court: ‘It is very difficult to see how the Cabinet can be expected to sit down and determine every individual request for dispensation from service…on every item that has arrived on the shores of these islands. It is obviously intended that the Cabinet will use this power for strategic purposes which would require forward planning and agreements…because you want to encourage investment in the Cayman Islands.

He also addressed Buttler’s argument that no policy is publicly available that describes the criteria for granting duty waivers, saying that while it is desirable to have such a policy, it is not there is no legal obligation to have one.

Institutionally Registered Establishments

Buttler, who also spoke on Thursday morning, noted that until less than a week ago when the government issued guidelines for residential registered medical establishments, there were no criteria for the designation of establishments in which medical personnel registered in an establishment could practice.

Currently, three facilities are institutionally registered – Health City, the government’s Health Services Authority and Total Health.

Buttler said the new guidelines, released Friday, did not include a review process to ensure standards are maintained for such facilities. He told the court: “Once appointed, they cannot be left to fend for themselves. There must be a review process.

In response, Hickman told the judge that he had been informed that such a review process would be implemented.

Thursday’s hearing ended mid-afternoon, earlier than expected, after Hickman presented the court with a belated affidavit drafted in response to Buttler’s claims that registered medical personnel at the facility were not not held to the same standards of education, qualification and experience as their counterparts. registered on what is called a “master list”.

Hickman said his client does not accept that under the current two-tier system of physicians on the institutional roster and the master roster, there is “a risk to patient safety.”

He pointed out that under the Health Practice Act, all health facilities, including those designated as institutionally registered, are subject to inspections and certification. He also noted that by law all registered practitioners, on either list, are required by the Medical and Dental Council “to undertake such continuing professional education as the Council may determine to be in the interest of protecting the health of the public”.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Friday.

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