US group to fund UG's business school innovation prize
The US-based philanthropic organization, the Guyana Economic Development Trust is partnering with the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) of the University of Guyana (UG) to provide funding for an annual Guyana Innovation Prize to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
The organisation’s founder Oslene Carrington told Stabroek News yesterday “Several tens of thousands of US dollars are on the table for them to grow their businesses”.
Carrington, who made a presentation during one of the sessions at the SEBI Inaugural Entrepreneurial Conference 2018 held over the past three days at the Ramada (Georgetown) Princess Hotel, at Providence, told Stabroek News yesterday that soon the Guyana Innovation Prize will award students, faculty and alumni who are engaged in innovative projects and innovative research that is connected to technology and agro-processing.
Eligible candidates for funding will be selected from applicants who presented their ideas at UG’s undergraduate conferences held in 2017 and 2018. Eight to ten projects with working ideas which have been tested, she said, are ready for further evaluation.
“They are phenomenal ideas and if they are funded, they can actually generate new products and services that are made in Guyana and can be stamped as ‘Made in Guyana,’” she said.
Those evaluating the projects, she noted, are seasoned bankers, technologists and academics.
“All of us have had businesses, or currently have businesses. We will fund those business ideas based on our collective agreement and provide mentoring and support to those businesses to the point where those students can go and seek out equity financing, and loans and so forth to grow them even further,” she noted.
The Guyana-born Carrington, a banker and an academic, further said, “Those ideas could then become companies that employ people. We have young people who are really smart with great research ideas. Converting those ideas into businesses can enable them to become fully employed and to employ other people. That is the aim of the Guyana Innovation Prize.”
Giving a background to the founding of the trust, Carrington, who left Guyana for the US at six years, said ten Guyanese, of whom seven are based in the US and three in Georgetown, are its board members.
UG School of Business opens innovation conference
An Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference was opened yesterday, providing members in the local business arena an opportunity to network with their international counterparts.
Dean of the UG School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI), Professor Leyland Lucas said, according to the Department of Public Information, that the conference stemmed from conversations among stakeholders, on the tools needed to boost and transform free enterprise in Guyana.
“Everybody is talking about entrepreneurship, but do we really understand some of the dynamics that are important to entrepreneurship. We thought we needed to put on this conference to be more than just a talk shop,” Professor Lucas said.
Established businesses, budding entrepreneurs, students and academics are among those participating.
University of Guyana’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith said the forum provides a more hands-on outlook. “The annual conference will not only be conversations, dreaming and doing of entrepreneurship. They will be setting the stage as part of SEBI celebrating entrepreneurs.”
The two-day event at the Ramada Princess Hotel will include panel discussions and the presentations of papers.
SEBI to host Inaugural Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference
The School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI), University of Guyana, is set to host its first Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference titled Economic Transformation through Entrepreneurship & Innovation.”
The conference will be held from May 20-22 at the Ramada Georgetown Princess Hotel. The event is intended to bring together academic scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers to examine how entrepreneurship has and can continue to support economic transformation in a developing economy. The conference will provide an opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of researchers and practitioners in understanding the importance of entrepreneurship to the future of Guyana.
The event is a collaboration between SEBI, the Ministry of Business and Small Business Bureau. Several public and private entities have shown their support for the conference through sponsorship; among those are telephone giant Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, Institute of Private Enterprise Development, Ground Structure Engineering and Consultants Inc, Grace Kennedy, Go Invest, Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Limited, Caribbean Containers, Republic Bank, Bazilio Cobb Associates, Exxon Mobil Guyana, Ministry of Business, Small Business Bureau, Demerara Bank, WT George & Co. and Ministry of Education.
The SEBI Inaugural Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference will not only set the environment to advance discussions around entrepreneurship and innovation, it will also give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to exhibit their products and services, and a Business Pitch Competition has also been added to the programme.
Registration for the conference can be done at the UG Bursary, Berbice Campus, Citizens Bank or online at entrepreneurshipconference.uog.edu.gy
Contact SEBI on:
Tel. #: 592-222-4932 / 592-623-0926
UG IN BRIEF
With a current enrollment of some 8,000 students, The University of Guyana (UG) has graduated more than 20,000 students who have gone on to successful careers locally, regionally and internationally. The University is also a major contributor to the national economy and to business and industry. Established in 1963 on a part-time basis with shared space at Queens College, UG moved to its own campus at Turkeyen in 1970 and expanded in 2000 with the addition of the Tain Campus. It now offers more than 60 Under-graduate and Post-graduate Programmes including Engineering, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Urban Planning and Management, Business, Entrepreneurship, Tourism Studies, Education, Creative Arts, Economics, Law, Medicine, Optometry and Nursing. Several online programmes are available and UG also offers extra-mural classes at four locations through its Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE). The UG also offers the opportunity for student engagement in debating, sports, and cultural, religious and professional activities.
Public Relations Division
May 15, 2018
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UG School of Business hosting inaugural entrepreneurship forum
A significant step in the direction of forging the long sought closer ties between the University of Guyana and the country’s business community will be taken this weekend when the university’s recently established School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (SEBI) commences its first ever Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference under the theme “Economic Transformation through Entrepreneurship & Innovation.”
The Conference, which will held from May 20 to May 22 at the Ramada George-town Princess Hotel gives effect to an undertaking given by UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith during an extended interview with the Stabroek Business some months ago that he was aiming to have SEBI play a role in creating meaningful linkages between UG and the local business community.
SEBI was launched in July last year by Vice Chancellor Griffith who said at the opening that the institution was geared towards providing the nation with the entrepreneurial and business requirements it needs to develop, equip and certify persons in both the public and private sectors.
Earlier attempts to develop ties between UG and the business community had been limited largely to contributions of gifts to University by private sector entities. The establishment of SEBI had been preceded by consultations between UG and various interest groups including the private sector.
SEBI envisages the delivery of a curriculum that embraces elements of the liberal arts, critical thinking, foreign languages, business simulations and case studies. The SEBI Faculty draws on the skills and experiences of local business leaders.
While the forum is a collaborative initiative that involves the university and a number of state agencies including the Ministry of Business and the Small Business Bureau, Turkeyen can claim considerable credit from the extent to which it has pressed the private sector into service in support of the forum. A statement issued by the conference secretariat lists no less than a dozen private sector entities including the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, (GTT), ExxonMobil, the Institute of Private Enterprise Development and several local commercial banks as partners in the this weekend’s initiative.
“The SEBI Inaugural Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference will not only set the environment to advance discussions around entrepreneurship and innovation, it will also give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to exhibit their products and services,” the statement from the conference secretariat said.
Both public and private sector observers will also be mindful of the fact that the forum has attracted a number of distinguished speakers and panelists, including Guyanese residing in the diaspora. The Conference, the statement says, will bring together “academic scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers to examine how entrepreneurship has and can continue to support economic transformation in a developing economy.” It will also “provide an opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of researchers and practitioners in understanding the importance of entrepreneurship to the future of Guyana.”
As much as anything else this weekend’s event will provide a yardstick with which to measure SEBI’s capacity to deliver on its promise to create a working partnership between the public and private sectors. Among the commitments made by SEBI was that it would provide a facility that would serve both to develop the capabilities of serving entrepreneurs as well as to cater to the more formal training needs of employees holding positions in private sector institutions.
When Stabroek Business visited SEBI earlier this year classes also included several students pursuing formal degree programmes at UG.
Co-operative movement needs 'enlightened management'
- Dean of UG Business School
Even as the local co-operative movement seeks to recover from its decades of doldrums, not least its countless failed and abortive excursions into start-stop business ventures that have left groups across the country in a condition of acute disappointment, a University of Guyana business Professor insists that there is a way back for the sector.
Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation at the University of Guyana Dr. Leyland Lucas says that co-operatives and credit unions can be important tools in the pursuit of efforts to create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Guyana.
In an article scheduled for publication in The Guyana Review in April, Professor Lucas asserts that credit unions in their role as “guardians of significant financial assets” must begin to “see themselves as enablers of economic activity rather than guardians of savings,” a posture which he says, “changes their standing in the national economy.”
The observation is likely to resonate with many credit union members across the country who have, for years, challenged the imbalance between the considerable liquidity of some of the country’s larger credit unions and their inability over the years to utilize the financial power to exert greater leverage on the country’s economy. When Stabroek Business put Professor Lucas’ perspective to a board member of one of the country’s largest credit unions the respondent replied that the decisions made by credit unions in the matter of the disbursement of their finances “is usually in the hands of the membership”.
But Lucas insists that “with enlightened management and not much risk” credit unions can play a pivotal role in helping to develop entrepreneurs and a new group of wealth generators. He offered as an example a retiring member of the security forces whom he said may be able to use support from the associated credit union to embark on a new post-retirement venture. According to Lucas “within the last five years we have seen institutions such as the US military establish programmes with universities to offer accelerated training in the basics of entrepreneurship.” Lucas says he believes that similar training can be undertaken by credit unions in Guyana to spur the growth of entrepreneurship among current and retiring members of the disciplined forces here.
Lucas contends that such initiatives by credit unions require both financial resources and a strong support system, “one that not only helps to educate the borrower/member of the challenges of entrepreneurship but provides the support mechanisms that will help to sustain them in challenging times.” Additionally, he says that the effective implementation of such measures also requires “personnel with the necessary knowledge to effectively perform these new duties and support programmes to aid entrepreneurship development.”
Meanwhile, Lucas says that like credit unions, cooperatives can also play a vital role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, “one that not only helps to educate the borrower/member of the challenges of entrepreneurship but provides the support mechanisms to aid entrepreneurship development………Whether these are agricultural cooperatives intended to engage in value-added production, technological development or some other form of economic activity, they can play a vital role in sustaining the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Lucas adds,
Meanwhile, Lucas says in his article that co-operatives can also contribute to the growth of the entrepreneurial system. Co-operatives, he says, “”can serve as the foundation for the revitalization of the village economies……..whether these be agricultural co-operatives intended to engage in value-added production, technological development, or some other form of economic activity. By combining their resources and members’ interests they provide a reinforcing mechanism whereby commitment to future success can be demonstrated,” Lucas adds.
And according to the UG Professor co-operatives can also serve as a safety net for new ventures. “The fact that benefits within co-operatives extend beyond economic rewards to include social and psychological benefits allow for a broader definition of entrepreneurial success to be embraced.”
The Oil Contract Debate
By Dr Leyland M. Lucas
In the late 1990s, Guyana signed an Oil and Gas exploration agreement with Exxon’s subsidiary, EEPGL. That agreement not only permitted significant activity by Exxon, but also provided Guyana with a small subsumed royalty of no more than 1%. The agreement was also in clear contravention of Guyana’s laws, which stipulated the number of blocks that could be offered to a single entity. Though there were clear violations in law, Guyana has chosen to honour that obligation rather than raise it in other forums or attempt to invalidate it. As a nation, our word has been our bond.
Fast forward to our current situation where we find much being discussed regarding the current contract, and whether or not the nation’s best interests have been considered. In fact, in the past few months, we have been privy to an ongoing debate around the contracts signed by the Government of Guyana and Exxon. This debate has gotten so intense that some have even questioned the integrity and negotiating ability of governments in other developing countries, where the exploration of oil and gas is ongoing. Yes, in the case of Guyana, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that better could have been done. But, who are we to question the outcome, when we were absent from the process? As my grandmother would often say when a family member chose to criticize others ‘make sure that your house is clean before telling someone else that theirs is dirty.’
In an earlier article on local content, I made the point that oil is no longer a critical commodity. There is an abundance of oil in the global market, prices are highly volatile, and the world has begun a gradual process of shifting from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. These are realities that cannot be ignored. For example, within our hemisphere, we see significant declines in oil and gas production, yet very little evidence of a major impact in the global marketplace. Likewise, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer with one-fifths of the world’s reserves, has also begun the process of delinking its economy from oil-dependency and looking for newer ways to stimulate growth and development. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has determined that, given the volatile prices, oil revenue can no longer be the foundation of economic development. Instead, the Kingdom has shifted towards renewable energy sources and undertaken significant activities towards transforming the foundation upon which the future economy will stand. Guyana, as a country, has also committed itself to a policy of sustainable development and, in so doing, must balance issues of production and protection. Afterall, we exist in a very fragile ecosystem.
Having made these observations, I’d like to proceed with a small contribution to this debate. As one of my former bosses, Mr. Clarence Ellis, would say ‘no matter what the situation, if you are seen to be truthful, reliable, and honest in your dealings, people will work with you.’ Therefore, my contribution to this debate for the most part will center on the words reputation and position. These words should be at the heart of any conversation about contracts and the subject of renegotiation. I hope that the importance of these words will be reflected and help to either advance or bring some closure to the debate.
The Oil Contract
To some extent, what we are dealing with here is a Prisoner’s Dilemma. In a simple tit-for-tat version, players attempt to match/better one another’s moves, with the hope that the victor will emerge with the Lion’s share. However, research has shown that such strategies seldom succeed. Eventually, parties come to recognize that continuous moves and countermoves are less productive, and that mutual cooperation works best. In essence, let’s find a middle ground rather than try to be the ultimate winner. This is an important point in the ongoing debate around the Exxon contract, because continuous negotiations and renegotiations will yield no fruitful results. Hence, the situation becomes one of finding an acceptable position of compromise, from which both parties can gain some benefit and continue to operate with mutual respect.
As we focus on the current contract, one cannot ignore the fact that a contract previously existed. How do we renegotiate this contract? Within a Prisoner’s Dilemma framework, moves and countermoves will only make sense if one party has something that is vital to the other and can force the latter to respond to the actions of the former. In this case, we have a product that the world wants but does not need. Any moves by our negotiators could be easily ignored. Consequently, it makes no sense to engage in efforts to renegotiate a contract from a position of weakness.
Moves and countermoves also influence one’s position. Subsequent moves by a party only makes sense if this is being done from a position of relative strength. Hence, I pose the question ‘What is our strength?’ The simple answer to this question is nothing. We do not own the wells, we do not have the skills necessary to exploit them, and we do not have the technology to provide the value-added products. In fact, truth be told, at this stage we are struggling to meet Local Content requirements. One cannot renegotiate a contract from a position of future possibilities, but must do so within the current context. So, any conversations of renegotiation will take place from a position of weakness rather than one of strength.
This brings us to the issue of reputation. What does it say about a country that signs an agreement and then seeks to change it? Over time, governments and countries develop reputations as either reliable or unreliable bargaining partners. Each reputation comes with costs and benefits. If Guyana develops a reputation for being an unreliable partner, then all options for future development are lost. As a nation and as a government, we must realize that our word is our bond. If we cannot be relied upon to honour our obligations, then there is no place in the world of nations for us.
Recently, some have suggested to me that we can do this on our own. As I listened to these suggestions, I sensed subtle tones of nationalism and nationalization. While such suggestions are laudable, one must admit ‘that boat has sailed.’ Guyana and the rest of the developing world are full of examples of the consequences of nationalization, in the absence of an appropriate skill set. While it served its political purpose, the benefits of so doing left much to be desired. Oil, like sugar and bauxite, are primary products with volatile prices and much of the value-added downstream.
One of the issues that has been raised in this oil contract debate surrounds the product quality. Yes, there is a great deal of literature that suggests the crude is of an exceptionally high quality. Like an exceptionally well-tailored suit, superior quality commands a high price, provided that a market exists. Hence, one must ask the question ‘can quality command a high price in a saturated market?’ The simple answer to this question is no. As we know, primary product prices fluctuate quite significantly. So, a high price today might hit rock bottom tomorrow. For those of us old enough to recall, Guyana sold its sugar at a high price on the world market in the 1970s rather than honour its obligations to existing contracts. Not too long after, the bottom fell out of the world market. As a nation, we were profitable in the short-term, but suffered in the long-term, particularly with respect to our reputation.
Moreover, the wells are not owned by the Government of Guyana. They are owned by Exxon and its partners. How do we exact additional tribute from these companies simply because we have a product of exceptional quality, when the owner opts to not sell it? Guyana cannot force Exxon and its partners to pay a higher premium when they can choose to not pump oil and gas from the wells. Not doing so provides the government and people of Guyana with zero revenue. Hence the need to be cautious in one’s approach to renegotiating of contracts.
Placing this issue of quality into the Prisoner’s Dilemma framework, how do two players arrive at a mutually beneficial position, when one player ceases to participate? More specifically, how does one arrive at mutually beneficial positions when the dominant player withdraws? The fact is, under these circumstances, the game ends and there are no winners. It’s like that childhood experience where the owner of the ball runs home with it because he is unhappy with some decision. What we have left is a group of disgruntled children who grumble and look for something else to do. Unfortunately, Guyana has very few options and even fewer resources that can be summoned into action.
An interesting argument has recently been raised that Guyana would be better off receiving a sizeable up-front bonus, rather than waiting for later disbursements through royalties. While those numbers vary from the well-reasoned to the pie-in-the-sky estimates, one needs to look at the domestic reality. We are a nation with various needs from education to infrastructure. To address those needs, we will require a significant influx of financial resources. However, if that influx is not regulated, it will cause significant inflationary pressures. Such pressures will further damage the economy and leads to a significant decline in living standards. With a massive influx of cash, one does not speedily correct the errors of the previous decades. Engineers, scientists, agricultural experts, and doctors are not created overnight. It takes years of training to acquire these skills. If the nation is to acquire these skills, then it must be done over time. Let’s not forget that we are dealing with a product whose price is highly volatile. Where will the resources come from when an engineer needs specialized training in 5 years, but the bottom has fallen out of the oil sector? Yes, this may happen anyway. But, at least we would not recreate the conditions for another massive brain drain, as was experienced in the 1980s when resources for scholarship recipients were scarce.
Let me use a simple example to further elaborate on this point. Think of someone in the desert with no food or water for an extended period of time. He/she is rescued and immediately placed in front of a large quantity of food and drink. If that person consumes everything without control, then he/she dies. How-ever, if he/she consumes in moderation, until the body is once more accustomed to consuming solids etc, then there is a greater likelihood of survival. The point I am making here is that a massive unregulated inflow of cash through a significant bonus may entice policymakers to undertake massive investment projects, which the economy cannot embrace with its limited skills inventory. Instead, a gradual inflow and expenditure might prove more beneficial to the nation in the long-run. So, while front-loading of contracts and securing large bonuses might be politically popular, it may prove to be economically disastrous.
In some circles, it has been suggested that Guyana deserves a larger bonus because of its contribution to Exxon’s bottom line. At least one commentator has made the point that, since the discovery of oil and gas deposits off the shores of Guyana, Exxon’s book value has increased significantly. In my humble opinion, to use book value as a basis for renegotiating a contract is not a sound position. Book values change on a daily basis. In fact, Exxon’s stock price like so many others in the market has been on a rollercoaster ride. One year ago, its common stock price was $82.83; today, it is $76.27; last month, the stock price reached a high of $89.07. Which stock price should we use as the basis for asserting book value and renegotiating this contract? Should both parties make offers and counteroffers? Following a pattern within a Prisoner’s Dilemma game, such uncertainty cannot be tolerated. Instead of embracing such uncertainty, both players will be forced to arrive at a mutually beneficial point. Moreover, how reliable a negotiating partner is a government when its position appears to change with every market fluctuation? Clearly, other nations and firms will not take us seriously, since stability is essential to the capitalist system of trade and exchange.
Over the past decade, commentators have noted a change in global relations. That change has seen a decline in nation states and the rise of the corporate state. That corporate state takes the form of transnational corporations, which have been able to influence global politics through their actions. For instance, in the US, we see massive amounts of money being poured into political campaigns by individuals and companies such as the Koch Brothers, George Soros, and the professionals on K Street. Why is this important within the Guyana context? The emergence of corporate states is important because they have the ability to alter things within a nation and change the balance of power. As stated by former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and later expressed by Henry Kissinger, ‘friends and enemies are not permanent, but interests are.’ In this case, the interests are Oil and Gas.
Understanding the permanence of interests is important within the context we are examining. Although there may seem to be a disagreement between Venezuela and the US, any perceived reluctance on our part to abide by negotiated agreements could significantly alter the regional balance. If Exxon or any other transnational deems it favourable to reengage with the Venezuelan government, then they will do so. A reliable bargaining partner is always better than an unreliable one. Who then will take up the mantle on our behalf if Venezuela flexes its military might against us? Are we to expect support from the US administration when we have acted against the interests of an American corporate giant? I think that an examination of history would reveal that the answers to these questions are not favorable.
Oil and gas have been found and they have the potential to offer a great deal of wealth to our beloved Guyana, if appropriately managed. This is already reflected in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports suggesting a change in our economic classification. Although we may argue about the royalty and signing bonus, it is merely an exercise in futility. We are in a Prisoner’s Dilemma, having originally negotiated a very bad deal. As a bargaining partner, one does not change the rules of the game unless one comes from a position of strength. Unfortunately, such strength does not exist in our case. We have a product that the world wants, but does not need; We lack the skills base and infrastructure to pursue this venture on our own; There is a global shift away from oil and gas towards renewable and sustainable sources of energy. As such, we are approaching all such negotiations from a position of relative weakness rather than strength.
As a nation, there is an expectation that we will honor our word. Our word is our bond and, as such, we must strive to establish and maintain a good reputation. Even within a Prisoner’s Dilemma framework, some reliability is expected. If a move is made, that player is expected to honour the consequences of that move, rather than default. When countries default on their obligations, their ability to reengage with other parties is seriously hampered. Particularly as a small and young country, we must strive to uphold a positive reputation, irrespective of the consequences. Good reputations are hard to come by, can be easily lost, and extremely difficult to regain. Let us focus on playing the hand we have been dealt, rather than continually questioning its validity. Maybe, for future generations, there is a lesson to be drawn from this experience. A nation should always focus on establishing high educational standards and building its skills base, lest it be found wanting.
Article adapted from: https://www.stabroeknews.com/2018/business/03/23/the-oil-contract-debate/
UG School of Business upbeat after first semester
After we had spoken with Visiting Professor at the University of Guyana’s School of Enterprise, Business and Innovation (SEBI), Professor Leyland Lucas, and his support staff early last week, we headed across to the new facility created to house the School.
Stabroek Business had been told in an interview, months earlier, with the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, that much of the focus of SEBI would be on building a stronger ‘real world’ connection between the University and the business community, the thrust of his argument being that it made little sense having a University that was not really going anywhere in terms of helping to provide the skills needed to drive what has long been referred to as ‘the engine of growth,’ the private sector.
We had benefitted, as well, from an thorough earlier briefing from the Vice Chancellor, at a session that had also included SEBI’s Head, Professor Lucas, on the origins and purpose of SEBI and particularly on the role that local entrepreneurs and the wider business community had played in the conceptualization of the institution and including arriving at a determination as to the particular role that it would play.
An earlier attempt had been made to create just such a link between the University of Guyana and the business community under the Vice Chancellorship of Professor Lawrence Carrington. The reasons for its failure to get very far are unclear though there is really no persuasive evidence that the private sector was, at the time, keen on a long-term relationship with UG.
SEBI is currently focused on the staging of its May 20-22 Inaugural Entrepreneurship Conference, its first excursion into the kind of public discourse that brings together the business and academic communities as much as the students which, hopefully, will throw up ideas that can be applied across a wide spectrum of challenges, not least, those that have to do with helping to address some of the broader economic challenges facing the country.
The School’s ‘Call For Papers’ for the May forum, shared with the Stabroek Business by its Director of Communications and Corporate Relations, Rennie Chester, provides clear insights into the agenda. Numbered amongst the issues listed for discourse amongst participants academics, business leaders, state-run institutions and students at the forum are entrepreneurship and economic development; women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship; entrepreneurship and the informal sector; the role of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in economic development.
Professor Lucas holds the view that the institution’s role in providing a curriculum in disciplines that would lead to a formal academic qualification should not be allowed to obscure its responsibility to provide the sort of practical tuition directly related to enhancing entrepreneurial capabilities in the business sector.
Across the way from Professor Lucas’ office a small group of students had been kept waiting in the SEBI building to engage us. Three of them symbolized what we had earlier been told were the real objectives of SEBI. Paul Warner, Sean Langevine and Amika Persaud have enrolled at SEBI in order to further refine their business acumen in preparation for the task of enhancing the roles they already play in businesses. Warner and Persaud are already involved in the management of family businesses, Warner in the beverages sector and Amika Persaud in the gold-mining industry. Sean Langevine is a manager with the popular Oasis Café though he appears to be busying himself to embark on an entrepreneurial pursuit of his own in the future.
We had met earlier with Tracey Alves and Cassandra Karran, two seemingly keen and energetic professionals who serve as Academic Advisors to SEBI and the School’s Administrative Officer, Tamika Profitt. Ms. Profitt’s job, Professor Lucas explained was to ensure a sense of administrative order. The role of the two academic advisors has to do with the intellectual welfare of the students. Meetings between prospective students and the academic advisors occur before students are enrolled, part of the purpose being to offer curriculum-related guidance and to help students respond to such challenges as they may encounter at the University.
We ended our visit on an upbeat note. There is evidence that (though still to a modest extent at this juncture) the public/private sector partnership that underpins SEBI is working. It showed, particularly in the energetic responses of the three students that we interviewed to questions relating to the nexus between their experiences at SEBI and their business ambitions. It appears to be a more than promising start.
UG Business Professor wants more commercial bank backing for business startups
Visiting Professor at the School of Enterprise and Business Innovation (SEBI) at the University of Guyana Dr. Leyland Lucas is advocating more robust support from the commercial banking sector for startup business ventures “in their greatest time of need” as one of the building blocks for the creation of an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” in Guyana.
In an article written for publication in the forthcoming issue of The Guyana Review, Professor Lucas argues that while “regulatory demands” place constraints on banks’ lending practices, this does not remove them from “the realm of responsibility” for promoting entrepreneurship and supporting the ecosystem. Commercial banks, Lucas contends, must “find ways to embrace entrepreneurship and the creation of new entities.” He says that “special programmes must be designed by banks to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, such that the ecosystem can thrive and become self-sustaining,” adding that “banks cannot survive by simply lending to established businesses…if banks are not there for entrepreneurs in the embryonic stage and their greatest time of need, then how can they expect to be embraced later? Such behaviour is tantamount to the absentee parent who, upon a child’s rise to a position of prominence, suddenly emerges and seeks to benefit.”
Lucas, meanwhile, is also calling for credit unions, which, he says, “are the guardians of significant financial assets” to play their role in the entrepreneurship system “as enablers of economic activity rather than guardians of savings,” a position which he says can be realized with “enlightened management and not much risk” and which can contribute to the creation of a new group of “wealth generators.” Such a move, Lucas says, requires personnel with the necessary knowledge to effectively perform the duties associated with the “new duties” of the credit union in terms of providing support for programmes designed to aid entrepreneurship.
According to Lucas, if an enabling entrepreneurship is to be created state policies must be designed to make it easy for entrepreneurs to access public sector systems and laws enacted to help promote entrepreneurship. Additionally, he writes that “regulatory frameworks must be developed to facilitate access to critical information, incentives created to support entrepreneurial ventures and effective enforcement mechanisms must be established.”
And while government has tagged the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) and the Small Business Bureau (SBB) as critical players in attracting both local and overseas private sector investment and supporting local small and medium-scale entrepreneurial ventures, respectively, Lucas opines that these alone are “not sufficient for entrepreneurship to grow.” The Ministries of Business, Trade, Communications, and our foreign missions, he says, “have particularly important roles to play in the development and sustenance of an entrepreneurship ecosystem.” And Lucas says that while the one-stop shop system which facilitates access to all government services has been the focus of government’s promotion of the country’s openness to foreign investment, what is seldom emphasized is “the importance of trust” to the smooth operations of this system. “Unfortunately, within our own society, this is a scarce commodity, Lucas adds.
In adding his voice to those that have already bemoaned the absence of supporting physical infrastructure for the creation of a convivial entrepreneurial ecosystem Professor Lucas alludes to the need for products created and ready for market to be supported by “effective logistics systems, reliable power supplies, and communications networks”. He says, “National resources must be devoted to creating an exceptional road and air transportation system, a reliable power grid, and a telecommunication system that is dependable. Products must be delivered on time to customers; delays in production due to power outages must be minimized; contacts between producers and customers must be reliable.” These support mechanisms, he says, are particularly important “within the context of business opportunities associated with the discovery and production of oil and gas. Entrepreneurship cannot thrive if these essential support systems are not dependable.”
Part of an enabling support infrastructure for an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Lucas says is a stable environment in which prospective entrepreneurs can work in which context he is advocating the creation of “regionally clustered entrepreneurship parks” within which various services should be provided to enhance the prospective entrepreneur’s experience, with the nature of these parks varying from one region to another.
Lucas sees 2018 as breakout year for UG's School of Business
Five months after the University of Guyana’s School of Entrepreneurship and Business, (SEBI) was launched, Dean of the new institution, Guyanese-born Professor Leyland Lucas has told the Stabroek Business that some of the challenges that repose in ensuring that the institution delivers on its mandate repose in the fact that “it is different. It is not an orthodox Business School”.
From the outset SEBI had committed to what it had determined from careful research was the need to respond to a counterproductive deficit in disciplines related to operating in both the public and private sectors in areas related to the effective delivery of goods and services. Not surprisingly, therefore, SEBI has found itself challenged by a student body that is anything but conventional, comprising as it does classes ranging from students with orthodox academic ambitions to those whose livelihoods depend on grasping the essentials necessary to run a business of their own.
“Some of our students have come to us with challenges that have nothing to do with academia. They are simply preoccupied with finding answers to those questions that have to do with running their own businesses,” Lucas told Stabroek Business. “Frankly, we recognize that some of our courses are still not fully developed to meet those needs. We hope that this will happen in the second term.”
But there is, he says, an upside to the complex mix of interests that comprise SEBI’s classes. Lucas embraces the outcomes of interaction on business issues that bring together the orthodox students and the ‘hard-nosed’ hustlers in exchanges that pit the orthodoxy of business theory against how it works in practice. Lucas believes that the outcomes of these exchanges are almost always more rewarding. What has transpired since July has reinforced his view that SEBI itself remains a work in progress and that the tweaking to ensure that it becomes the ‘correct fit’ to meet the needs of the students will have to persist for some time.
For the lecturers the ‘journey’ has been an interesting one. Lucas says that they have learnt to deal with the dichotomy between and amongst the interests that obtain inside the classroom. “What this means is that we tend to have conversations rather than lecturers. They are structured in a manner that allows for conversations rather than lectures. We want the business people to be part of the conversations.
Long before SEBI had launched its classes it had been engaging both public and private sector institutions. Those discourses, Lucas says, persists, with agencies like the state-run Small Business Bureau which has already collaborated with SEBI to stage a business symposium.
Professor Lucas sees 2018 as a breakout year during which SEBI will intensify its engagements with both the public and private sectors with a views to determining how its offerings can improve the effectiveness of their operations. Outside of the state agencies that include entities like the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) SEBI’S 2018 ‘to do’ list also includes meetings with the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Guyana Association of Bankers.
In 2018 SEBI seeks to further promote what it has to offer. Professor Lucas told Stabroek Business that ongoing discussions with the banking community could lead to the rolling out of a Diploma in Banking and Finance. Next year will also see SEBI offering a Customer Service Certificate Programme for the medical sector.
Local Content policy must embrace strong regulatory practices to protect against 'fronting' - UG Business Professor
Dr Leyland Lucas, Visiting Professor at the School of Entrepreneur-ship and Business Innovation (SEBI) at the University of Guyana has said that the pursuit of an effective local content policy for the oil and gas industry must seek, among other things, to create a local content policy that seeks to bring an equity of benefits.
“Whenever new opportunities arise, there will always be efforts to accrue benefits by some who are not entitled to do so. Particularly in a country such as ours where control systems are stretched and dishonesty is pervasive, regulations must be enacted against such things as ‘fronting.’ Strong regulatory controls must be established to guard against firms using nefarious means to indicate their eligibility. While no fool-proof system can be designed, there must be enough sizeable penalties to serve as disincentives to those who seek to violate the rules,” the UG Professor writes in an article published in this issue of the Stabroek Business.
Professor Lucas says, meanwhile, that the building of a strong educational system is essential if Guyana is to benefit from an oil and gas-driven local content policy. “For me, a strong educational system is essential to benefitting from any local content policy. The educational system must provide the skills needed by local firms that are either positioned or are seeking to position themselves to benefit from any local content policy,” Professor Lucas says in a paper titled ‘Challenges to Local Content Policy’ prepared for publication in the Stabroek Business.
And according to Dr. Lucas, Guyana may, as yet, still not have such an education system. “Over the years, we have seen tertiary institutions receiving limited resources. One does not produce engineers, supply chain management experts, logistics personnel, managers and forensic accountants overnight, Lucas says, adding that “doing so requires years of investment in academic offerings.” The university academic says in his article that such investments “require the recruitment of highly qualified and committed faculty, capable and innovative academic administrators, provision of equipment on which state-of-the-art training can occur, construction of modern training facilities and a shift in the approach to learning,” which shift, her said, should emphasize both risk-taking and innovativeness “as against the current focus on rote learning and regurgitative practices.”
And Lucas says in his article that the requirement that a specific percentage of inputs be produced by local manufacturers represents one of the simplest ways in which local firms can benefit through backward linkages. However, he contends that in order to exploit these opportunities there is need for a vibrant manufacturing base, one that can deliver inputs in a timely manner. “To do so the manufacturing base must exist and delivery systems must be reliable. These are inseparable as products that cannot be delivered are valueless. Hence there must be some commitment, (locally) to building a manufacturing base supported by a reliable logistics system to ensure timely delivery.”
The strengths of a robust local content policy, however, do not gainsay the threatened downside of what he describes as a “Johnny come lately” effect on material supplies. He explained that firms capable of supplying items to the oil and gas sector, upon discovering that the prices being offered “are significantly higher than what is paid elsewhere may withdraw from the traditional market thereby creating an artificial shortage. “With that shortage comes rising prices and possible health consequences for the remaining populace. Thus, as part of local content policy one must attempt to ascertain the possible effects of supply diversion.”
Lucas says that similar instances of artificial shortages can also emerge for human capital in already undersupplied areas. He contends that “if nurses, doctors and other critical human resources determine that through local content policy they can benefit from increased earnings, then they will opt to pursue this option. By doing so it again creates artificial shortages in other already stretched areas.”
The UG Business Professor says, however, that amid concerns about artificial shortages, one possible unintended but highly beneficial consequence of any local content policy “could be a significant shift of population away from the coastline towards regions close to the oil and gas sector. He said that while it is possible that a significant number of supplies which can yield returns from local content policy are likely to come from the coastline and traditional regions of production, “incentives could be provided to encourage firms to relocate to areas currently underpopulated,” Lucas added.
- The University of Guyana