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A Stunningly Bad Appointment
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2015

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 17, 2015

On July 16th the Express reported that Mr. Jwala Rambarran, governor of the Central Bank, appointed Dr. Sandra Sookram to be a deputy governor. It was a stunningly bad decision; a continuation of the demonstrated incompetence Mr. Rambarran has shown since he became the governor in 2012. Such an appointment represents Mr. Rambarran's continuing practice of sidelining strong competent people and elevating weak and incompetent acquaintances from which he can expect no challenges.

When Mr. Rambarran was appointed governor, I noted that his lack of experience unsuited him for the job. In an article, "When Race Trumps Reason," I reminded the public that "we are still to learn of any major contributions that Jawla has made to his field or what in his experience makes him a fit candidate for the governor of our central bank." His decisions over the last three years have demonstrated that he is completely out of his depth, a position that Dr. Terence Farrell, a former deputy governor, has made time and time again.

Now Mr. Rambarran has outdone himself. He has appointed a deputy governor whose major qualification is her acting as an Academic coordinator at Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and supervising students in the MSc and M.Phil./Ph.D programs. She has also worked on issues relating to the informal economy, small business, climate change and poverty. She has done nothing on monetary policy, the banking system and macroeconomic policy.

The "Governor's Circular" of July 10 informed us that Dr. Sookran will be responsible for research; financial stability; statistics; finance and accounting; domestic market operations; banking operations; and the payment Systems, a heavy load for even the most competent economist. This raises the question: how can an economist with absolutely no background in monetary or macroeconomics manage the monetary and fiscal affairs of our country when she has absolutely no experience in these areas? It took Joan John, a former deputy governor, forty years to acquire her skills in banking operations.

In putting Dr. Sookram in charge of this massive portfolio, she subsumes the work of Dr. Alvin Hilaire, a more experienced and competent deputy who has served the bank with distinction. When Dr. Hiliare joined the bank in June 2009, he had worked for the IMF for several years. From 2006 to 2009 he was IMF's representative in Guinea and Sierra Leone; from 1997 to 2005, he worked at the IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. in the Policy Development and Western Hemisphere Department that included countries such as Croatia, the Cameroons, Columbia, Nicaragua and Thailand. He is a seasoned economist.

In this new scheme, Dr. Sookram is elevated over Dr. Hailaire who has demonstrated his research and financial abilities at the international level; the former has demonstrated her academic abilities at SALISES in a limited way. In granting such a sweeping mandate to Dr. Sookram, is it that Dr. Hilaire will be put in charge of bank's security? What an enormous humiliation?

Under these circumstances, how can we ask our professionals to act at their highest professional level and to serve our country conscientiously when, in one fell swoop, they can be relieved of all of their responsibilities and replaced by someone of who is inferior to them in skills, experience and education?

The Central Bank, once a well-respected and trusted institution renowned for its professionalism, was built under the sterling leadership of Victor Bruce, Eric Bobb, Ainsworth Harewood, Winston Dookeran and Ewart Williams. Once Rambarran entered those hallowed halls, he was determined to destroy everything his worthy predecessors had put in place and to implement an Anand/Lalla mandate that emphasizes race over competency. One gets the uneasy impression that Dr. Roger Hosein, a Cambridge University-trained economist, demitted his position as a Board member because of Mr. Rambaran's incompetence.

Monetary policy, the main mandate of the bank, is now in shambles. Mr. Rambarran has made a total mess of the foreign exchange regime. The public still cannot get foreign exchange on a timely basis. Moreover, the absence of the bank's policy framework led directly Moody's downgrading of the country's rating. Saddling a neophyte with such a large portfolio is not likely to solve the monetary of financial challenges that face our society.

Committing financial hari-kari with one of our most trusted institutions is not an option. Every serious person should rise up against this stunningly bad appointment.

Professor Cudjoe served as a director of the Central Bank for nine years.

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