Opinion: Cayman-construction

POSTED: 10/27/11 12:19 PM

Ever since this newspaper revealed for the first time that the American University of the Caribbean pays almost half of the salaries for faculties through a company in the Cayman-islands, there has been an eerie silence around the subject.
On May 7, during a law suit featuring a fired professor and said university, the attorney for the university admitted that there was an agreement with the inspectorate of taxes about the construction. The purpose of paying almost half of the reasonably hefty salaries out of the Cayman islands was to ease the tax burden for the university.
That construction puts honorable professors in a rather awkward position. They teach medicine and other courses in Cupecoy to students who fork over more than $280,000 for the pleasure of earning a medical degree under the tropical sun in a 48-month program, and they probably also teach them a thing or two about integrity.
The Cayman-route may ease the tax burden for the university, but it does not change the fact that these payments are part of the income the professors make.
Should they therefore declare that income? Are they being advised not to do this and to let sleeping dogs lie? We don’t know, but we have come to realize that a company like this private university probably has a lot of muscle and what’s more, it knows how to use it.
In August De Vry Inc., a global provider of educational services, bought the university for $235 million. A press release from De Vry stated at the time that the estimated projected revenue for this year is $50 million.
With so much money going around, it is legitimate to ask: what’s in all this for St. Maarten? If the university gets a free pass on its taxes, as its attorney has freely admitted in court, who gets the pay-off?
With our young country in such dire financial straits, is it not about time to review this generous tax agreement? Or, at least, could the citizens of St. Maarten get an insight in the incentives that were granted to the university and into the benefits the country and its people receive in return?

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