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Jan 06, 2017 Editorial, Features / Columnists
It is without question that Guyana’s economic outlook does not seem promising, as the prices of the country’s biggest financial earners – sugar and rice – continue to fall on the global market while the price of oil is increasing. Except for gold, there is less international demand for these products, which is a setback for the economy.
In the past, mere lip service has been paid to the urgent need to diversify the economy and to lessen the dependence of the country on sugar, rice and bauxite, the three main pillars of the economy. The government must embark on measures to stabilize the economy from these external shocks. It presents the perfect opportunity for the administration to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset that can lead to new developmental strategies, innovation and value creation. In a shrinking economy like what Guyana is currently experiencing, there is little debate that the entrepreneurs must be the drivers of needed expansion.
The dwindling economy has led to high unemployment and underemployment among youths. Employment opportunities are slim for the thousands of high school and university graduates each year. The onus is on the government to have the University of Guyana train students not only to pass exams but for them to aspire to be entrepreneurs – essentially to create jobs rather than to knock on doors looking for jobs.
More than ever, the government needs to focus on institutionalizing an entrepreneurship education programme at UG. This would require an ongoing cycle of learning and innovation that will bring about sustainable job creation in a tight job market, in addition to boosting the economy.
This is the perfect opportunity for the University of Guyana, the premier post-secondary education institution in Guyana, to integrate the development of entrepreneurial skills, attitudes and behaviours into its core curriculum. We reiterate that students acquiring this skill set will seize the opportunity to imagine and create successful ventures, by shifting their focus away from finding jobs to creating a space for themselves in the marketplace. They will in essence turn obstacles into opportunity.
For decades, governments have always made speeches about the need to diversify and expand the economy, but not much has been done to match words with actions. The depreciation of oil prices by more than 50 percent in the past year had provided a great opportunity for the government to expand the economy. This should have been its focus, especially at a time when there were clear signs that the economy was sliding. It should have been a no-brainer for the coalition government. But now that oil prices are rising again, it will be difficult.
Entrepreneurship education is vital. It was not on the agenda of the last administration, which left several unfinished projects all over the country for the current government to complete. Unfortunately, that administration did not realize how significant entrepreneurship education was or even took the time to invest in the idea. As a result, it did not make any plans in that regard.
If serious consideration had been given to this and the vast resources of the people were pooled to really tackle it, the country may not have been in the dilemma it is today.
In a period of economic uncertainty, there are all sorts of problems. It is time for the government to take action to improve the economy. It is pitiful that our governments have continuously relied on foreigners, who have very little knowledge of Guyana, to develop the economy. This administration needs to break away from that mentality and allow Guyanese experts to help in the pursuit of meaningful change in all sectors. The country will not find its way if it is always depending on foreigners to rescue it.
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