After three years in government, Dave Kaplan, former chief economist at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is set to return to the world of academia next year when he takes up an unusual new dual role at UCT.
Kaplan will join the faculty of the university's Graduate School of Business (GSB) as the new Allan Gray Professor in Business-Government Relations in January 2004. He will also continue his strong association with the School of Economics in the commerce faculty.
His return is eagerly awaited by both UCT quarters. For the GSB, the appointment of Kaplan - who has earned much praise and distinction during his three-year tenure at the DTI - contributes directly to one of the school's central aims: to build a business school that is relevant to the context in which it operates.
"Kaplan's work will make a significant contribution to the School's body of knowledge of the socio-political context in which business is conducted in South Africa," said GSB director, Professor Nick Segal. "Specifically, it will enrich our understanding of the critical interface between government and business. And this can only be of enormous benefit to both parties.
"A prospering business sector is the key to sustained economic development and it is vital that government policies and regulations are tailored to this end - within socio-political constraints - and that business and government work together to develop and implement appropriate economic policies."
Kaplan, who prior to his DTI spell served as director of UCT's Science and Technology Policy Research Centre (STPRC) and the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), both based within the School of Economics, has been working in a number of key areas over the past three years. Notably, he has been involved in the tracking and analysis of the economy and the impact it has had on manufacturing performance and policies.
At UCT, Kaplan intends to home in on specific areas of his work at the DTI with his students on both campuses. "What I particularly envisage bringing to the School of Economics is a discussion on how changes in economic circumstances and variables impact at the firm level," he said.
He will run classes on how economists can write for the "policy realm" and, noted Associate Professor Anthony Black, Director of the School of Economics, he will teach on the school's new postgraduate policy analysis course.
This will extend to the work he plans to do at the GSB. "It dovetails nicely with the sort of work that I want to do at the GSB. I think we need much more case study work, if you like, on how firms operate and invest in this environment, in response to changing economic circumstances. In addition, I am keen to investigate how business can interact more effectively with government in the development and implementation of economic policies," he said.
Although his contract with the DTI ended officially in May, Kaplan - currently on sabbatical - is still undertaking work with the DTI. Until the year-end, he will be steering a survey for the DTI and the World Bank on the factors that impact on a firm's performance and firm-level investment in South Africa, as well as tracking changes in the local manufacturing sector.
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