Students tackle CAL privatization question

| 09/06/2010

(CNS): More than forty students from a variety of the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI)’s graduate course engaged in a heated academic discussion recently on one of the country’s most controversial topics – the privatisation of the national flag-carrier Cayman Airways. UCCI’s Air Transportation Management Lecturer Edward Jerrard proposed the privatization of the airline and former cabinet minister turned radio talk-show host Gilbert McLean opposed the topic in a debate designed to encourage the students to question established opinion.

Director of Graduate Studies and Executive Training Dr. Carolyn Mathews explained that a primary UCCI objective is to help students develop their critical thinking skills, which, is why the college chose such hot topic.

“We intentionally select contentious topics that encourage students to ask questions and challenge established opinion,” she said. We want our students to be thinkers …..to understand that university education goes beyond preparing a skilled practitioner and develops skills of critical analysis. That way students go on to become society’s problem solvers.”
 
Edward based his privatisation proposal on the changing nature of the airline industry, citing the link between alliances and profitability; and between privatisation, liberalisation and success. “Airlines are service businesses,” he argued. “To be successful they must be effective in attracting and retaining their customers, as well as in managing their fleet, people and finances.”
 
He added that privatisation did not necessarily mean the complete absence of government involvement because essential services such as evacuation during natural disasters would still need to be subsidised.
Arguing against privatisation, McLean challenged the belief that privatisation equals profitability saying very few airlines operate profitably – including those that have been privatised. “Theassumption that the ‘private-sector does it best’ has not been adequately tested,” he said citing the recent US Government bailout of major US banks and the automobile industry as examples of private sector mismanagement. He also doubted that a private owner of CAL would take on the Sister Islands’ airports since they are less than profitable.
 
UCCI confirmed that this was not the usual academic debate format and no votes were taken before and after the presentations to see if the speakers had achieved the goal of swaying the audience to their position.
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