On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) headquarters in Port of Spain hosted an expert group meeting (EGM) which discussed the ECLAC study “A global value chain analysis of offshore medical universities in the Caribbean.”
The study takes a closer look at the Caribbean offshore medical university (OMU) cluster. It examines the contributions that the OMUs make to their host countries. Other factors affecting the competitiveness and long term viability of the OMU cluster in the Caribbean were discussed by experts from Barbados, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The OMUs are distinct from traditional regional medical universities; the former target and train students seeking to practice medicine in the North American market, while the latter train students to practice in the Caribbean territories. The factors favoring the Caribbean as a location for OMUs include close proximity to the US, lower tuition costs, language similarities, low requirements for setup, and the excess demand for medical education in the US.
The OMUs provide a series of distinct economic benefits including the expenditures by students and faculty as they spend on accommodation, travel, personal expenses and other goods and services. The OMUs also contribute to their host economies by: i) the corporate and student taxes paid by the medical universities and their enrolled students; ii) the income tax paid by the local faculty staff in the medical universities; and iii) the tariffs charged upon imported products.
The ECLAC meeting found that the benefits of hosting OMUs could prove especially significant for some of the smaller economies of the subregion, such as those of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Dutch territories which have undiversified revenue earning potential, lack mineral natural resources and rely mainly on agriculture and tourism to earn revenues.
The study provided several policy recommendations for improving the competitiveness and optimizing the economic contribution of the OMUs to regional economies. Some of these include: i) avenues for further integration of the sector, e.g. exploring options for increased utilization of regionally trained nurses along the value chain; ii) the harmonized accreditation of the OMUs in the cluster; and iii) using the industry to improve general health care domestically.