Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 13th 2014 Contents APRIL 13 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
IN MEMORIAM | SBG17
real world of government, economics and politics.
My reflections on the lessons learnt continued for several
years: initially I focused on the role of the IMF; subsequently
I emphasised the nature and dynamics of the internal political
economy as decisive factors in the failed experiment. My paper
for the conference on the 1970s, Not for Sale, should be read
by anyone with an interest in that turbulent period and in my
interpretation of events.
Shortly after the fall off the Manley Administration, in 1981,
I accepted an appointment in the research arm of the United
Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations in New York.
This was my first experience as an international civil servant.
The work was interesting---I prepared a chapter in the Centre s
Third Survey on TNCs, and studies of TNCs and the transfer
of technology and of their role in non-fuel primary commodities;
the last being a kind of reprise of my earlier work on bauxite.
But it was also frustrating---although the Centre was created
to strengthen the hands of developing countries in dealing
with transnationals, we were not allowed to publish anything
that might offend the Americans or the Russians.
During this period, I also directed a series of month-long
training workshops on technology transfer and development
in Africa and the Caribbean; my book with Kurt Hoffman
distils the substance of what we learnt and tried to communicate
in this project.
In 1985, I was happy to return to Jamaica and to academic
life at the Consortium Graduate School (CGS) of Social Sciences
on the Mona Campus of the UWI; first as a faculty member,
and then as director from 1987. Here I was challenged to
provide leadership for an experimental multidisciplinary pro-
gramme of postgraduate training in the applied social sciences.
I view with satisfaction the fact that under my stewardship
the CGS produced around 100 graduates, many of whom went
on to make notable contributions in academia and government;
and established a reputation for excellence in research and
The responsibility also encouraged a degree of cross-dis-
ciplinary excursion on my part. I found myself engaged in
Rethinking Development as well as discussing Jamaica s external
debt; in reflecting on Jamaica s experience in community
development as well as researching the impact of new infor-
mation technology; in speculating on the relationship between
economics and the environment as well as bemoaning the
social consequences of Jamaica s currency liberalisation.
Cross-disciplinary orientation is most explicit in a book
resulting from the conference on Poverty, Empowerment and
Social Development and a monograph on the Caribbean rather
provocatively entitled Societies at risk?
During my CGS years I began to think of myself as a kind
of "transdisciplinary political economist"; a hybrid creature
that does not command ready acceptance in an academic
environment marked by increasing disciplinary specialisation
For the same reason my idea that the CGS model of post-
graduate training could form the basis for the creation of a
single graduate faculty in the social sciences did not find favour
with colleagues in the regular departments.
The epistemological issues related to inter-, multi- and
trans-disciplinarity were explored in a paper I co-authored
with Kirk Meighoo.
Although interest in this subject appears to have died, I
believe there would be value in revisiting it. My recent report
on a Vision for Caricom employs a holistic multidisciplinary
perspective; and its positive reception suggests that this might
be an effective approach for building stakeholder consensus
around developmental goals.
Another aspect of my work in this period was Caribbean
In 1987 I had helped to found the Association of Caribbean
Economists (ACE), the brainchild of my colleague George
Beckford, as a pan-Caribbean association of economists in
the critical tradition of the New World Group. ACE has held
regional conferences and workshops and published books on
structural adjustment, the social aspects of development, alter-
native development strategies and regional integration. I was
particularly interested in strengthening links between the
English and non-English speaking countries of the region as
a means of enhancing their sovereignty in the wider world
and especially vis-a-vis the hegemon of the North. For instance,
there was the need for collaboration in confronting the challenges
posed by the FTAA project.
The opportunity to work on this from the inside came when
I accepted election as the second secretary general of the Asso-
ciation of Caribbean States (ACS) to serve from February 2000
to February 2004. My efforts were aimed at rationalising and
prioritising the ACS s programme by focusing on functional
cooperation in trade, transport, sustainable tourism and natural
disasters; and to build bridges between the English- and non-
English speaking countries.
I succeeded in the first task but not as well in the second.
Caricom countries tend to give priority to building the CSME
and to their extra-regional trade relations; the Central Americans
opted for a trade agreement with the US (Cafta-DR), and the
countries of the Group of 3 and Cuba have preferred to pursue
their regional goals through bilateral programmes.
The ACS experience is evaluated in my book, Cooperation
in the Greater Caribbean. During these years I did a number
of occasional lectures on various aspects of Caribbean inte-
gration, and wrote a weekly newspaper column; many of these
can be still be found on the ACS Web site or in the book.
On leaving the ACS I returned again to academic life; at
the UWI s Institute for International Relations in St Augustine,
Trinidad, as professorial research fellow. I have continued to
work on Caribbean integration, specifically the Caricom Single
Market and Economy (CSME), focusing on the problem of
the "implementation deficit," issues of sovereignty, and the
limited benefits expected from a purely market-centred approach
I have proposed that the vision for the community s devel-
opment should be all---encompassing, and not just about trade.
My report on this subject was approved by the Caricom Heads
of Government as a framework for the future development
of the region.
I have been assisting the Caricom Secretariat by co-ordinating
the preparation of a regional strategic development plan.
I have also deepened my interest in the development of
Caribbean economic thought and on issues of knowledge and
power. This subject has become topical because of growing
disenchantment with neo-liberalism (and its correlate, cor-
porate-led globalisation) and renewed interest in contextually
grounded economic analysis.
It was interesting to revisit Caribbean dependency thought
after a break of over three decades and to speculate on its
contemporary relevance. This review led to papers on the New
World Group, on the contribution of Arthur Lewis, and on
the relationship between Lewis s work and that of the plantation
school. I have drawn on this work to explore issues of policy
autonomy in the Global South.
A recent paper on power imbalances and development
knowledge is an overview of North-South relations from a
political economy perspective and on the use of knowledge
as an instrument of domination/empowerment. I subscribe
to the view that true sovereignty begins with independent
and critical thought, which this must remain the goal for those
who have been subjected to centuries of colonisation and met-
ropolitan imposition of one kind or another.
One particularly enjoyable offshoot of my work has been
preparing tributes to outstanding individuals with whom I
have been associated in one way or another. These include
George Beckford, Lloyd Best, John and Angela Cropper, my
father DTM Girvan, CLR James, Kari Polanyi Levitt, Arthur
Lewis, Michael Manley and Surendra Patel. These appreciations
have helped me to better understand the intellectual, social
and political currents that shaped me personally and the times
in which I lived.
The years have passed quickly.
I am still startled when I meet young people who were not
yet born at the time of the New World Group, the Rodney
Riot in Jamaica, Trinidad s Black Power Revolution, or the
1970s. Absence of personal memory is understandable, less
so is absence of knowledge of these and other events, and of
the people who helped to make them, among the younger
We cannot chart our future unless we know our past; nor
can we see further than those who came before us unless we
"stand upon their shoulders." Reading is a constant source of
pleasure and discovery and I enjoy writing even more now
that the pressures of academic publication are absent. The
world has obviously changed a great deal since the 1960s: to
old problems, such as global inequality, have been added new
and infinitely more complex issues, notably the environmental
In my youth the fear for the future of mankind was of
nuclear annihilation. Today it is of damaging our planetary
life-support systems beyond repair. It is also astonishing to
me that the kind of 19th century imperialism that was thought
to have been banished by the middle of the 20th century has
returned with renewed force in the 21st.
I do not see how thinking and informed people of today
can fail to address these issues; or at least can fail to take
account of them in the work that they do.
He was a 'transdisciplinary political economist'
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