||Central Bank Of Barbados
Remarks by Cleviston Haynes, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, at the Naming of the Grande Salle in Honour of Sir Courtney Blackman on Friday, December 15, 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen
Just over thirty years ago, Sir Courtney Blackman demitted office as Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados. Today we honour him for his exceptional service to the Bank. In doing so, I am mindful of the Shakespearian play Julius Caesar, and the reference to Caesar that “He doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus”. At the Bank, we consider this an apt description of the stewardship of Sir Courtney Newlands Blackman, the first Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados.
In a year in which the Bank celebrated its 45th anniversary under the theme “The Central Bank of Barbados at 45 – Celebrating Excellence, Stability, Innovation and Leadership”, we recognise the visionary leadership of Sir Courtney for the Bank’s successes have been shaped by his Vision “To create and maintain an institution of world-class excellence.” More critically, his role in the early execution of that Vision was formidable.
And so it is more than appropriate that we end this year of celebration by honouring his contribution in a facility that he literally and figuratively built. Indeed, we are pleased to hold this afternoon’s ceremony in the newly refurbished Frank Collymore Hall which represents an important part of his Vision and legacy.
With a background in history, economics and management, Sir Courtney accepted the responsibility for the establishment of the central bank of a still newly independent Barbados in 1972. He was the world’s youngest central bank governor at the time and faced daunting challenges. Lest we forget, oil prices rose sharply in 1973, the economy contracted and inflation by 1975 was almost 40%.
Starting with a staff of only five persons, and being what he termed “quite innocent of central banking operations”, he set out on his quest to build an institution worthy of respect at home and abroad. In his view, the Bank had to offer advice, assistance and expertise to other entities, and it had a responsibility to create an informed and engaged public because achieving macroeconomic stability requires the cooperation of all citizens. Pursuit of these two goals was essential to the national economic development of Barbados and these ideals have influenced each of his successors.
He possessed a sharp intellect and quick wit. His voice, at times controversial, depending on your perspective, helped to build the reputation for the Bank as an independent thinking and credible institution, devoid of the politics which can so easily engulf our national discourse. A disciple of the management guru Drucker, he was unrelenting in his advocacy of the need for strong leadership of public enterprises as a means of ensuring improved efficiency and financial performance. His consistent call for wage restraint, as a key element of the macroeconomic framework needed to support the fixed exchange rate, is now legendary.
I learnt first-hand of this commitment to wage restraint at my first official meeting with him. Having been interviewed for a position in the Bank, I could not be offered the post without the sanction of Governor Blackman. Eventually I was summoned for the final interview which I successfully navigated. The last issue was remuneration. He requested the salary scale and quickly made me an offer. I knew the scale and thought he could do better. In any case, I didn’t think I should accept the first offer. I countered and he asked me why he should pay me more. I saw an opening and promptly responded “because of my potential”. His response was equally prompt. “I’m doing that already.” End of conversation.
Sir Courtney understood that the only way that the Bank, a knowledge-based organisation, could be that centre of excellence was to invest in people by hiring, developing and maintaining the best minds in Barbados. He prepared his staff for leadership, and for the world. It is no doubt that he influenced each of our past governors who served with him either as employees or, in one instance, as a Board member. Moreover, he encouraged many of his employees to see the world as their oyster, and some have enjoyed attachments at international organisations, or have offered consultancy services to global institutions.
He also understood that knowledge workers, in his words, “cannot be coerced into high quality performance; they must give it of their own free will”. He saw that the success of the organisation hinged on staff having a shared sense of responsibility and ownership for the results. Being a professional was not determined by your title but by maintaining high standards in whatever you did.
This commitment to standards is best exemplified in the Bank’s delivery to the Minister of Finance of the Bank’s Annual Report, including its financial statements by March 31 in 44 of 45 years. It is my understanding that on the one occasion of slippage, it was delivered on April 1.
Sir Courtney considered it necessary for the Bank to have access to the latest technologies and to be housed in modern facilities. In planning for the Bank’s headquarters building, he articulated two requirements. The first was that the headquarters be built with an eye to being, as he put it, “a gift to future generations”. The second was that the building be community-focused. In particular, he believed the complex should have facilities that could be used for cultural activities. Both these arguments drew opposition. But time has provided redemption.
And those additional facilities – the Frank Collymore Hall and the Grande Salle – have become staples of the Barbadian cultural landscape. Together with the refurbished Exchange Museum which is anticipated to come on line early next year and the Church Village Green, Barbadians have a menu of options for cultural activities.
The Frank Collymore Hall that Sir Courtney with such foresight pressed for and which honours another outstanding Barbadian has hosted plays, recitals, and concerts by both local and foreign performers. And the Grande Salle, which will be named in his honour by the end of the evening, has been used for varied events including internal and external meetings and seminars as well as for art exhibitions.
Both of these facilities have been integral to achieving what Sir Courtney envisioned, an institution that was a part of and not apart from the Barbadian people.
On September 18, 1986 at the official opening of the Central Bank of Barbados Headquarters, then Governor Dr. Courtney Blackman quoted a passage by John Ruskin:
“When we build… let it be such a work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon them, “See, this our forefathers did for us.”
Sir Courtney, speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors, Management and Staff, past and present, we acknowledge you as our forefather, a Colossus in your time. You have laid the stones, you have created a pathway to an institution of excellence. We endeavour to stay faithful to your vision and we say thank you.