||Central Bank Of Barbados
Since 2014, Barbadians have been exposed to insights from internationally recognised economists who have influenced international public policy and initiatives through the Central Bank of Barbados’ Distinguished Visiting Fellow programme.
Dr. Fred Bergsten and Dr. Simon Johnson of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) in Washington DC; former Central Bank of Ireland Governor, Dr. Patrick Honohan; Dr. Andrew K. Rose, the B.T. Rocca Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; and Dr Peter Blair Henry, Dean of the Stern School of Management of New York University, and a member of President Obama’s transition team in 2008, all shared ideas related to their specific areas of research and work, and focused Barbadians on new trends impacting global economics and finance.
Bergsten, the first Distinguished Visiting Fellow, cautioned against Barbados trying to diversify its economy by branching out into too many areas. While acknowledging that it is important not to become over-reliant on any one sector, he advised that “small economies like yours...really do have to focus on a relatively small number of economic niches” or “they run the risk of doing nothing well”. “Do more of what you do best” was his advice.
Jamaican-born Henry, the Bank’s second Distinguished Visiting Fellow, talking about countries trying to recover from economic challenges, said a successful recovery depended on three elements: discipline – what he termed “a sustained commitment to a long-term vision,” – clarity of purpose and direction, and trust, which he argued would be earned when leaders demonstrated the first two qualities.
In 2016, Johnson, a former Chief Economist at the IMF, focused on the revolution taking place in the currency market: the emergence of digital and crypto currencies. He also asserted that blockchain technology, on which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built, also had other applications that could improve efficiency in governments’ operations.
Honohan, who visited in 2017, shared insights from his experience helping to shepherd Ireland through its worst financial crisis in a generation. Speaking of his country’s decision to go to the IMF to get support for its home-grown plan, he noted,
“Once you get into that programme, every three months they come around and say ‘this part of the programme, have you delivered it? Because if you haven’t delivered it, you don’t get the next tranche.’ That creates a dynamic which works, but is not very pleasant.”
The Central Bank’s most recent Visiting Fellow, Rose, spoke about the implications of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, for the Caribbean region:
“That’s going to lead to tremendous uncertainty for anything that’s related to British commerce. And certainly Barbados is very seriously affected because the UK sends lots of tourists down here, and they’re involved in lots of other businesses directly. That’s not going to be good news for the countries in the Caribbean that do lots of business with the UK.”
For five years, the Central Bank of Barbados’ Distinguished Visiting Fellow programme has provided Barbadian’s with food for thought from international luminaries who have risen to the tops of their field. In May 2019, the Bank will welcome its latest fellow, Dr. Linda Tesar, who will be the guest at the 6th Caribbean Economic Forum, which takes place on Thursday, May 23. The forum will be broadcast live on television and radio stations across the region and streamed on the Central Bank’s website and Facebook page. The topic of that discussion will be “In a World of Rising Debt, How Can Caribbean Countries Stay Afloat?”
*Adapted and updated from “Getting Out the Message”, Economic Insight.bb (Summer 2016)