The University of Guyana and the business community

Based on what he had to say on the issue during a recent lengthy interview for a forthcoming issue of the Guyana Review, it is clear that University of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith believes that the future of the university will be heavily dependent on the quality of the relationship that it can cultivate with the private sector.

This is not surprising given his international background in key university positions in the United States and elsewhere. Professor Griffith understands only too well the symbiotic relationship the informs interaction between universities and the business community in First World countries and his focus on building such a partnership here in Guyana would be driven pretty much by his knowledge of successful outcomes elsewhere.

It has to be said that the desirability of strong ties between UG and the local business community did not begin with Professor Griffith’s advocacy. The idea has evolved in fits and starts and one can think of instances of grand plans and grandiose gatherings, which, once they would have gotten past the stage of rhetoric, have simply fizzed out. This is not to say that some have not met with a measure of success. There are examples in the telecommunications, technology and other sectors, of protracted and useful, indeed successful relationship between UG and the private sector though the overall UG/business community relationship has come nowhere near to that level of success.

One of the views that appear to inform Professor Griffith’s perspective on the fortunes of UG has to do with the fact that it has, for years, had to endure the dead hand of politics and there is no reason to believe that this does not extend to the lack of any comprehensive success in the realm of UG/private sector relations. Here, in probing the likely reasons for the underdevelopment of the relationship, Professor Griffith makes a number of interesting points, not all of which can be ventilated here; one, however, which has to do with the quality of the relationship, is eminently deserving of mention.

On the whole, the various UG/private sector relationships that exist are mostly informed by the phenomenon of giving on the part of the private sector and receiving on the part of the university. If it may be unkind to describe this type of relationship as parasitic, Professor Griffith makes no secret of his belief that UG has to prove itself deserving of what is, in effect, the private sector’s investment in its growth and development. Here, he makes the point, and candidly, that whereas the private sector has been crying out for skilled UG graduates in a number of disciplines, UG has been ‘coming up short’ for some years now in terms of some of the skills that it has been sending to the private sector.  “We have to give them reason to be confident that when they give they will see a changed output,” is what Professor Griffith said during the interview. In other words, the support of the business community for the University of Guyana cannot be a matter of authenticity.

More than that, and since there is an expectation that UG will help provide the skills to make the business community what we commonly describe as ‘the engine of growth,’ Professor Griffith wants the private sector to be involved in curriculum building; hence private sector support for the Turkeyen/Tain talks and the various other initiatives that seek the participation of the business community in helping to fashion aspects of curriculum specialization linked to their own interests.

Perhaps the advantage that the Griffith initiative has over its predecessors is that it presses into service external skills and experiences that can mobilize the resources necessary to undertake the journey towards a raising of its standards though the point that he leaves with us is that nothing is promised to UG and that if it is to secure the invaluable support which the business community can clearly give, it must earn that support.


The Small Business Bureau…going forward

The materialization of a report that allows some insights into the performance of the much vaunted Small Business Bureau in terms of its role in kick-starting a transformation in the small business sector finally allows us the opportunity to evaluate what it has accomplished so far, what some of its failings are and what sorts of adjustments/corrective measures it might take.

Implementing 20% of state contracts to small businesses

It is widely believed that if smoothly implemented and scrupulously monitored the actualization of the provision in the Small Business Act of 2004 for a 20% allocation of government’s “goods and services” contracts to small businesses could make a major, positive difference to the country.

City Hall’s helplessness in another potentially emerging crisis

The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over.

Strengthening Guyana/Brazil economic relations

It would be entirely fair to say that successive political administrations in Guyana have, over time, continually squandered what, unquestionably, have been glaring opportunities to take advantage of the fact that Brazil, by far this continent’s largest country with the biggest economy, shares a border with us.

Influence peddlers ‘touting’ for would-be investors

During an extended discourse with the Stabroek Business on Wednesday, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin went to some trouble to make the point that the APNU+AFC administration was particularly keen to provide a convivial environment within which to attract investor attention and (in the presence of Go-Invest Chief Executive Officer, Owen Verwey) made the point that one of his Ministry’s priorities was to properly position and equip Go-Invest to provide the various services associated with investor inquiries.

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