Elon students headed to Cuba
Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 19:12 PM.
ELON — Some Elon University MBA and law students will get a lesson in globalization and economic contrasts with a trip to the Cuba and the Cayman Islands.
“We get to see all the aspects of globalization,” said Kevin O’Mara,professor of management at Elon’s business school, “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
O’Mara and Art Cassill, Elon professor of accounting, will take 14 law and MBA students to the Caribbean countries to study their contrasts.
The Caymans, O’Mara said, practice a raw form of capitalism, with a huge international financial industry, next to no taxes and a large percentage of expatriates living and working there.
The financial industry in the Caymans gives the country of about 50,000 people a gross domestic product of about $44 per person. The GDP per person in the United States is about $43, O’Mara said, and about $15 per person for the rest of the Caribbean.
But keeping the industry means extremely low taxes. The government makes most of its money from fees imposed on expatriates living there.
This leaves the country with a weak infrastructure, poor education system and limited options to improve.
For example, O’Mara said, the popular tourist destination cannot afford to build a dock for cruise ships coming to visit. As those ships get bigger, it is harder to ferry tourists to shore, and more of those cruise-ship companies are threatening to stop visiting.
The poor education system means bringing in people from around the world to work in that giant financial industry and to do other work.
Cuba has the opposite problem. The economy is getting more liberal, O’Mara said, but is still mostly under government control. On the other hand, the education system is excellent and the communist country exports doctors and lawyers.
It is still hard for Americans to get to Cuba, O’Mara said, but education groups are one of the exceptions to U.S. Government travel bans to the old Cold War enemy.
As most of his students were not born until 1990, the Cold War is a generation or more in the past to them. It is the same for a lot of the Cubans they will meet, O’Mara said.
The class leaves Jan. 9 and returns by Jan. 20.
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