Bahamas prime minister urges UWI to play greater role in development
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie has called on the University of the West Indies (UWI) to be more engaged in the area of research and public policy.
Addressing the UWI Annual Business Meeting of Council taking place here, Christie said that too often those in the arena of politics and public policy fail to take full advantage of what should be an integral link between what is taught and being researched and what is done in the formulation of public policy.
“By the same token, there are some in the academy who fail to see the practical application of that in which they are engaged in enhancing development outside the walls of academia.
“But even when we both acknowledge that what we as policy leaders require and what the academy provides can be beneficial to a wider world, there is no suitable bridge, no common meeting ground through which such open dialogue and frequent encounter can take place.”
Prime Minister Christie told the Council meeting being attended by UWI Chancellor Sir George Alleyne and Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris, that in the case of the Bahamas, the need for a closer link between research and public policy became clearer as his administration grappled with formulating a policy that would bring about the creation of the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).
“This will be placed in Andros which is the largest island in The Bahamas. This is a landmass which is larger than the island of Trinidad but with a population of less than ten thousand people. I am seeking to make a concerted effort for The Bahamas to develop its agricultural potential, and train farmers and fishermen who will not only conduct research and development but will grow food for our country. This is a determined effort to make the country more self-sufficient in food production.”
He said the Bahamas government has sought the considered expertise of scientists and others engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, marine science, and curriculum development and large scale commercial farming.
“In particular, we have sought assistance from the University of Miami and the University of Florida. Both universities have indicated their willingness to help the project along, no doubt, because they see that their activities on Andros Island would be consistent in supporting their own research and knowledge in an area in which they have a keen interest.
“The University of the West Indies as the premier regional institution should be front and centre in this interchange. I should not have to look to the University of Florida or the University of Miami alone for the expertise to develop some of our own institutions,” he said, noting “this is one example where there is this nexus between the academy/university and the world of public policy”.
He told the Council meeting that another area where the University should lead and be keen to co-operate with regional governments is in the planning and development of the tourism sector.
“We all know the value of tourism to the overall economic strength of the Caribbean. It is the golden apple that has for the main part supplemented or in some cases replaced the agricultural economy in terms of its foreign exchange earnings and its employment multiplier.
“It would be interesting to know just how much collaboration there is between the hallowed halls of the University and this most vital sector of our economy. In the case of tourism I would also note that there is a strong link to the environment and here again, how much of the University’s research on the environment – weather patterns, hurricanes, deforestation, marine disasters and the pollution of our waters make their way into the policy matrix of governments in the region.”
Prime Minister Christie said the financial services sector which has now become a more intricate and academic area of research and monitoring is another area where there has to be this linkage and connectivity involving the UWI.
“The making of a great financial services centre involves the process of ensuring that your services-based economy works well, while also ensuring that your economy supports creativity and innovation.
“As governments, we need to share our concerns on this area of challenge to our economy and if necessary we must commission those with an academic interest in these matters to provide studies and to create resource base from which our governments can draw on in formulating public policy,” Christie added.