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Monday, 20 August 2012

Speech on MDG's

Opening Speech
for the UNDP Millennium Development Goals Workshop
20-22 August, Papua New Guinea University of Technology UNITECH, Lae.

Dr. Albert Schram
Twitter: @albertschram

Dear students and alumni, honourable Minister, distinguished visitors, UNITECH faculty, professional staff, ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured and excited today to welcome you at the opening the MDG workshop. I am delighted UNITECH is again host to an event where issues of national importance are addressed through collaboration of national academic and officials, with international experts. I would like to thank especially the UNDP, the major sponsor of this event.

In the coming days, you will deepen your understanding of the MDGs, and acquire some skills in the field of statistics. For this, you will be rewarded with a certificate of participation, if you manage to participate in a meaningful manner during the full 3 days of the course.

Now I would like to share some thoughts with you, not on the MDG but on development itself. These ideas are not new, but they may be somewhat controversial and thus stimulate meaningful interactions amongst yourselves and with your trainers.

As Stephen Covey wrote maybe "The way we see the problem is the problem".


Let us define the main concepts. Economic growth is conventionally measure as yearly percentual growth in Gross Domestic Product of a country. GDP is the size of the economy as measured by the statistical offices following UN system of national accounts.

One of the main engines of economic growth is technological innovation which increases productivity of labour, land and other production factors. Another important engine for growth is international trade. Countries that grow rich through trade, follow a so-called export-led growth model.

Economic development is measured either by GDP per capita, or by a composite measure such as the Human Development Index, which includes mainly dimensions such as health and education. The MDG's reflect such a broader definition of development. For practical purposes, the economic growth and development measures are strongly correlated.

Official Development Aid

We all know that PNG is a developing country. We also know that PNG as a developing country, somehow, is entitled to development aid in a manner that an OECD country like Korea, for example, is not. This workshop is financed, for example, through development aid budget.

In order to pay development aid, rich countries set aside part of their budget for development aid. A number of like minded Northern European countries – the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries – have even pledged to set aside 0.7% of GDP for aid. The support for this level of spending, however, is quickly eroding, due to lack of results, and increasing fear of globalization in those countries. Due to economic growth of 9% and over, only China and India have made substantial progress towards achieving all MDG goals.

Apart from a small-minded debate on the legitimacy of this spending per se, there is a broader public debate on aid transparency, or how to ensure that other feedback loops can ensure a degree of necessary corrective steering, where normal democratic feedback can not. The aid budget, is one of the items of the national budget where the beneficiaries are not part of the electorate. Bill Easterly of New York University has tried to document the lack of transparency in development aid delivery. A major finding of this research is that multi-lateral aid delivered through the World Bank or the UNDP is quite transparent, but the bi-lateral agencies, with the exception of USAID and DFID, are doing much worse.

The second public debate about aid is the one about aid effectiveness. What percentage of aid actually reaches the intended recipients, or is it all boomeranged back to consultants and companies in the rich countries of origin?

Some authors, such as Oxford University's Peter Collier or Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs believe that by tinkering with the delivery mechanisms of aid, aid effectiveness can be dramatically improved.
Others, such as Dambisa Moyo from Zambia (formerly World Bank economist, Morgan Stanley and now Barrick Gold) argue in her book "Dead Aid" that aid is part of the problem not the solution.
Despite almost 600M spend on aid to African countries since independence, for example, the typical African country today is no richer than 40 years ago. Most developing countries seem to have wasted the first 4 or 5 decades of independence, while receive huge amount of aid. Developing countries are not developing at all. Why is this?

There are several explanations, but one of them is Dutch disease. Large inflows of money into an economy – whether from aid or mining – encourage corruption and outright stealing, and through currency markets cause the national currency to appreciate, thereby making exports more expensive, or inhibiting the development of an export sector all together.

Countries rich in natural resources which fail to develop, such as Nigeria, suffer from what is called the natural resource curse. There is no limit to the damage bad policies and institutions can do, but lamentably there is a limit with what you can achieve with good policies and institutions. There is nothing inevitable, however, about Dutch disease or the natural resource curse. Through enlightened policies – such as by parking the money in sovereign wealth funds - the effects of aid or mining booms can be neutralized. In those cases, - notably some of the Gulf states - the financial resources can be put to good use, and can be invested in infrastructure, health and education.

Steps towards a brighter future

Development happens not through aid or mining booms, but through homegrown efforts of conventional or social entrepreneurs – who create jobs and mobilize communities -, and social and political reformers – who clamp down on stealing – and make sure resources are directed to infrastructure, health and education, and create effective mechanisms for service delivery.

The MDGs form a set of specific and internationally agreed specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound SMART goals. They provide necessary focus, and invite cooperation and coordination between different public authorities and stimulate partnerships with private sector.

The challenge is now how to achieve the MDG's in PNG. I hope during this workshop you will find some answers to address this challenge. This week, international and national professionals are here to work with you, shoulder to shoulder, sharing knowledge and experience, not making you dependent but empowering you to lead.

All the trainers are  here to help, but will not stay forever. Take maximum advantage of their presence, and ask them lots of questions during the workshop, but also during the lunches and coffee breaks.
Part of the problem is defining the problem as one of not enough aid, while growing dependent on the resources and leadership of others. This is the wrong problem definition, and therefore not a basis fo a sustainable solution.

In the end, PNGeans themselves must determine their own development model, and direct their efforts towards achieving the MDGs by 2015, and the goals of Vision 2050.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Opening of Annual Certified Practicing Accountants National Conference



Dr. Albert SchramVice Chancellor
Papua New Guinea University of Technology UNITECH

At the CPA Papua New Guinea Lae Annual Conference 2012
(Thursday, August 9th – 10th, 2012)


Good morning, distinguished guests, speakers, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to officiate and address the Certified Practicing Accountants Papua New Guinea (CPA PNG) Annual Conference 2012, here in my home town Lae, because I am convinced accounting professionals has much to contribute in society.

As Peter Drucker famously said: managing is doing things right, but leading is doing the right things.

Leadership is always about change, since change can not be managed but must be led. But a leader can not limit her or his actions to communicating a sense of direction just talking about the "vision thing". Leaders need to understand management as well.

A leader should make evidence-based decisions, under time pressure and information constraints. It is here in this crucial area of leadership, where the accounting profession makes a unique contribution by providing the organized information, that allows us to weigh costs and benefits of any decision more objectively. The better and broader the information base, the better decision will be taken.

But it does not stop there. Accountants contribute to solving the so-called "wicked problems" in society, which are problems that are difficult to solve because of their interdependencies with other problems. For decision-making about these problems – how to respond to climate change, health care, population growth – accounting professionals provide the facts, and convert them into valid and reliable information thus providing indispensable guidance for leaders.

UNITECH runs the oldest program in accounting in the country, and trains a large part of the accountants in PNG. As a stakeholder in your progress over the years we stand proud to be associated with the accounting profession in the country.

Therefore, I am delighed to stand here before you to acknowledge your positive contributions to the economic development of this splendid country, and its wonderful people.

At this point, I would like to present two challenges for the conference participants. First what kind of leadership is required to promote innovation and entrepreneurship that the country needs to address its developmental issues?

The theme of your conference, "Innovation, Change & Entrepreneurship" presents us with a challenge. We know that technological innovation and entrepreneurship is the surest way of creating jobs in any economy and develop a country. But how to foster this when there are so many obstacles to both, and there is no strong record to build on? Are we trapped like Baron von Munchausen forced to save ourselves from drowning in the swamp by pulling our own hair? Or can you lead the change, that is required to achieve a higher level of innovation and entrepreneurship?

The second challenge is how to accelerate our learning and obtain the necessary knowledge for the leadership challenge mentioned above? Knowledge – information combined with understanding - is power. Can you obtain the necessary knowledge, and use the ensuing power to make a difference? Knowledge, after all, is the proverbial lever, long enough to move the world.

While going through your program, you have high profile speakers who have put their hands up to empower you further and nourish your intellectual capacity; and I urge you all to maximize your interactivity during this meeting by face to face conversation, but also by taking notes and using modern internet based communication tools.

While I stand here to commend CPA PNG for having grown into a vibrant professional body with branches in most major centers, I encourage you all to develop yourselves professionally in all respects during this conference and as active members of CPA PNG.

I thank you all and enjoy your two days of interactive learning at this conference…



Monday, 6 August 2012

Welcome back, second semester 2012

Welcome back!

This is a welcome back message for all students, professional staff and Faculty members at the start of the 2nd semester of the academic year 2012. I will record another message at the end of the semester.

First of all, I wish to thank you all for the trust you placed in me, and the manner in which you have supported the new management team. You made me and my wife Paulina feel especially welcome here, and allowed us, together with you, to start making a difference in Papua New Guinea.

I also thank the Chief Secretary and the Director General of the Office of Higher Education and the newly elected members of parliament, for the trust they have placed in my person and in the UNITECH community.

Let me indicate the three priority topics that the senior management team will be working on this semester and the next:
  1. first, a strategized approach to the necessary change and reform at UNITECH,
  2. second, improved financial management, and
  3. third better university governance through council reform.
1- The first priority: strategy. One of my roles as VC is as UNITECH's chief strategist. In this role, I am bound to uphold the Act, and ensure UNITECH can execute it's mission. UNITECH's mission is to provide teaching, research and community outreach of a high standard.

For all Faculty members, quality in teaching and research implies taking a disciplined and structured approach to teaching and assessment. For all others, quality means supporting UNITECH mission and operations. Regarding operations, we must remember that without committees UNITECH can not be governed.

It is important therefore the committee system be revived, and everybody contributes to decision making through committee work. We have to engage in continuous improvement of our quality management system, and measure progress towards our four strategic goals of:
  1. creating sustainable and feasible postgraduate programs in all departments,
  2. externalisation through contract teaching, research and consulting,
  3. fostering entrepreneurship, and
  4. achieving institutional accreditation for UNITECH, and professional accreditation for our programs.
Regarding this last goal, institutional accreditation is a very important strategic goal. Last month, all VC's signed the letter committing the universities to engage in institutional accreditation. This effort will be supported by the Office of Higher Education and AusAid.

Accreditation will be a major and long-term effort for all teaching and professional staff, and this is not the first nor the last time you will us hear talking about it. Embarking on institutional accreditation means we will be able to access the funding from the government and AusAid, which is reserved for this purpose.

Several departments have started working on accreditation by professional bodies, which is a similar type of effort, and will make institutional accreditation much easier. More importantly, it means in the future our graduates can be employed at a higher entry level, and access educational programs abroad more easily. Thus the UNITECH degree will acquire a higher value, and UNITECH will enhance and strengthen its reputation.

2- The second priority: improving financial management. As VC, I act as chief fundraiser, and chief representative of the institution towards the state and other stakeholders. The dependence of UNITECH on state finance creates a shortage of funding.

The 15% budget cut we got last year means each month we are spending over half a million Kina MORE than our budget allows us to do. All departments and sections are therefore invited to reconsider their activities and focus on increasing revenue and lowering costs.

Despite austerity measures, we need to continue to provide the services that students, staff and faculty members deserve. It is like repairing the air plane in full flight, but together we can do it.
A more coordinated approach to management has already brought results on the ground, while at the same time reducing wastage and increasing revenue.

Through our weekly senior management team meetings, bi-weekly Representatives Committee meetings and monthly meetings with all Heads of Departments we keep a tab on progress, and manage to stay focused on achieving results on the ground.

At this point, I wish to thank the members of the senior management team for the work they did last semester. I congratulate the DVC with his continuous efforts to mediate and broker peace on campus.
I also commend Pro VC Academic for having made good progress implementing quality assessment and for leading the E-Learning Team which will bring distance and blended learning at UNITECH to a higher level.

The acting registrar and bursar and their staff have made excellent progress organizing their sections more efficiently. We hope to have a new Registrar and Pro-VC Administration on board in the coming months so that our senior management team can more effectively help to change the course of UNITECH.

The project office deserves special mention for managing projects such as the installation of the ATM, the upgrading of the campus roads and the building of the new dormitory. Last but not least, I want to thank the security services, clinic, student services, and all other sections that work hard to improve life on campus for everybody.

Finally, the VC's office is making a tremendous effort with our Port Moresby office and Heads of Departments to improve relations with government departments, international donors, partner universities and private businesses with the purpose of improving and enhancing the reputation of UNITECH. During the last months, we have already signed several new memoranda of understanding with important partners and stakeholders, thus ensuring access to more resources.

3- The third priority: improving UNITECH governance. The challenges in governance reform we face at UNITECH are not unique or new to me, and I have observed and experienced how university governance evolves over time in different countries.

Ever since obtaining my doctorate in 1994, I have worked in higher education in low- and middle-income countries, as Faculty member, program coordinator, and as professional staff member. Since higher education is ever more a global industry and its mission universal, I found my experience in Latin America, Turkey, India, the USA and Europe is especially relevant and applicable here in Papua New Guinea.

The government in the National Executive Council approved last year the Independent Review of the PNG University system - the Namaliu Garnaut report - which for over 1 year now forms the basis of higher education policy. The Review contains two principal messages: first the need for smaller University councils, and secondly a focus on quality of teaching.

Those Council members and executives opposing these policies got themselves into so much trouble the last semester. This is lamentable, but they have nobody else to blame but themselves. We invite them now to stop resisting and attacking the UNITECH community. After myself taking over as VC on 7 February 2012, the university has massively chosen for change. Now, we need to continue to work together to achieve it.

A number of governance and management issues need to be sorted out this semester. Fortunately, we know where we are going. We have a Vision 2030, and are working on a strategic plan by creating a balanced scorecard. There are clear government policies, and several external reports on UNITECH written by independent bodies which provide us guidance.

Last semester, we had another external evaluation. The report of the mediation team will be released in the coming weeks, and make specific recommendations pointing the way forwards. We need to proceed in implementing all these recommendations, and not let us be overwhelmed by details, or overcome by delays.

I would like to commend the UNITECH community for being patient, and working through issues the UNITECH way: without violence, without throwing stones, by dialogue and negotiation. The Chief Secretary and Director General of the Office of Higher Education have come out publicly in the national newspapers, saying that the reform at UNITECH is an internal governance issue which must be resolved quickly. Both have also publicly confirmed my position as UNITECH's Vice-Chancellor, and given me the chance to achieve results with my team, during my first term of 4 years.

Now to summarize. First, UNITECH's strategy focuses on improving the quality of teaching and research, which will lead to international, institutional and professional accreditation. Our students and graduates deserve this. Secondly, we need to reduce costs and find other ways to raise revenue. Hard choices need to be made, and we ask for your cooperation and understanding. Thirdly, we need to work together in order to achieve council reform in less than 2 months, so as not to endanger the continuous operation of the University.

UNITECH deserves a Council that can drive strategic change, and can truly hold management accountable, thus providing the necessary checks and balances.

As Vice-Chancellor I am not strong, smart or wise enough to implement all these changes on my own. Fate has given me the opportunity to make a difference here at UNITECH, together with you.

I know there is no limit what a focused management team, a supportive university community, and a contributing state and other partners can achieve. When I was in Turkey in 2009 at Kocaeli University, I witnessed how in less than 10 years a complete university could be rebuild after being flattened by an earthquake.

When we continue on this course together, I am convinced that in 3 years time, the learning environment and the management of UNITECH will be much improved.

Together we can do it, and indeed make UNITECH fly.