An eye on the UCCI
Like most everyone else in the world the people of the Cayman Islands are feeling the effects of the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression. While there are a few hopeful signs that the worst of the recession may soon be coming to an end in Germany, France and the UK, the expected economic turnaround in the USA is still some months away. Since the USA is by far the biggest market for both Cayman’s financial services and tourism our fiscal problems will likely continue to be challenging until 2011 or 2012.
Undoubtedly all of us will have to make significant adjustments in our lives. The Cayman Islands Government already has begun to address the fiscal impact of the global recession on public services and the national budget. Private firms are trimming back on operating expenses and looking for new sources of revenue; many young Caymanians are for the first time in a generation concerned about their immediate future and doubtful about the prospects of finding a good job. Truly these are troubled times that will challenge us all to be both more creative and more resilient.
In business studies we teach our students that every problem is also a potential opportunity. It is precisely in troubled times that some of the greatest advances are made and some of the biggest opportunities exist. One such opportunity is the chance now for many more Caymanians to use this period to acquire a college degree. Now that business is slow and the job prospects are fewer, people need to retool their marketable skills so that they can take full advantage of the economic recovery when it comes. Once the global economy turns around-and it will-then the people and countries that are best positioned will reap the greatest benefits from future global economic growth.
A strategy to prosper
There is very little we can do in the short run to change the macroeconomic conditions that threaten us-just as with the Caribbean hurricanes that come our way from time to time we need to batten down the hatches and try to survive. Yet we can also prepare for the life we want to lead after the economic storms have passed. We in Cayman understand that a speedy recovery after a big storm is key to keeping our national competitive advantages. We already showed the world after Ivan just how fast Cayman could get back in business after a historic disaster. Now we face an economic crisis but we can do the same thing by facing this economic tidal wave head on.
We know that the people of Cayman are the most vital competitive asset for the future economic success of our society. Other Caribbean venues may have similar resources-sand, sun and clear waters-but none of them has the spirit and ingenuity of the Cayman people. Many other off-shore financial centers share similar legal frameworks and tax advantages but none of them offer the same high quality of public services and the same pool of trained talent that Cayman can provide. Now is the moment for Cayman to widen those comparative differences and increase those competitive advantages.
Research by the United Nations shows that those countries with more highly-educated populations have significantly larger per capita GDPs. That same research shows that a more educated populace results in greater productivity and more sustainable prosperity than is achieved in less well educated nations. Studies in the United States demonstrate that individuals who complete a bachelor degree earn an average $1.3 million dollars more between ages 25 and 64 than people with just a high school diploma. Those studies also show that those individuals who go on to acquire a master degree can expect to earn an additional $500,000 in their careers compared to people with only a bachelor degree. From both an individual investment and national development perspective tertiary education is essential to Cayman’s future prosperity.
Read about the value proposition in tertiary education in the Cayman Islands as well as the benefits to be reaped now, all next month.