Man who stood up to IMF
Dr DeLisle Worrell – Newsmaker of 2012
Amid the virulent political attacks, the string of downgrades by international rating agencies, the criticism of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the basic disrespect of the Central Bank itself, Dr DeLisle Worrell has held his head up.
After representatives from countries around the globe listened raptly to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde preach the gospel of devaluation and other front-loaded measures as the way to save weakened economies, including Barbados’, he rose alone in disagreement.
His bald pate glistening under the artificial lighting of the Japanese boardroom, he proceeded to dissect the view that devaluing the Barbados dollar would make tourism – the country’s main foreign exchange earner – more competitive.
In a tense verbal exchange, the forthright governor, who had just weeks before given a copy of his most recent publication on the unique vulnerability of small economies to IMF deputy managing director Min Zhu in Trinidad, stood firm and earned the admiration and support of many – except for some who said devaluation was “not an issue” at the time.
But it was, among other IMF-proposed austerity measures, and Worrell, vilified in 2011 over the disparity between the local unemployment statistics produced by the Central Bank and the Barbados Statistical Service – 11 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively – came out looking like a superhero from tiny Barbados, having dared to face head-on the dreaded Washington-based financial juggernaut.
Worrell had merely stuck to his view that maintaining the two-to-one parity of the Barbados dollar depended on critical management and protection of the island’s foreign exchange reserves. And having articulated that policy in the face of sustained attacks from fellow economists Opposition Leader Owen Arthur and Clyde Mascoll, it had become by 2012 his mantra in meetings with the IMF, the World Bank and regional organizations, and at home where he delivered several presentations this year.
The Central Bank, led by Worrell, also recently formulated a 13-part television series in an effort to get Barbadians to truly comprehend that foreign exchange is Barbados’ lifeblood.
Realizing the need to get information from the proverbial “horse’s mouth” to Barbadians who were bombarded with a host of opinions and analyses, he also engaged the media, and discussed the Standard and Poor’s downgrade with them on the same day it was announced, back in July.
With each passing review of the economy by the Central Bank, he also continues to issue Press releases one day and field reporters’ questions the next – thereby giving media houses adequate time to analyze figures and clear up points of ambiguity.
Away from the public eye, Worrell has been commended by his staff as a personable, helpful, “people-centric CEO” and a principal driver of emotional intelligence in his quest to create a more caring environment within the bank.
“He is passionate about seeing each central banker attain his or her maximum potential and insists that employees be given the opportunities and the space to so do. He’s also a very strong advocate of improving the Bank’s communications with its publics . . . .
“It’s as though he is on a mission to make sure that through information and interaction, people not only understand but also find answers to the multiplicity of economic issues confronting them,” said the bank’s public affairs officer Novaline Brewster.
Along with his love for calypso and the arts, Worrell’s appearances at Kadooment each Crop Over season and on Christmas mornings in Queen’s Park present an image of a down-to-earth man who is as much at ease in boardrooms with the world’s brightest financial minds as among humble Bajan folk.
Before being appointed as Governor on November 1, 2009, he worked at the Central Bank between 1973 and 1998 as manager of the research department and divisional director of research and information. Then he assumed the post of Deputy Governor with responsibilities for research, management information systems and banking supervision.
Between 1998 and 2008, he worked with the IMF’s monetary and capital markets department and served as executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance (CCMF).
A McGill University graduate and professor of economics at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, he has held research fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution, the Peterson Institute and the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, at Yale University, Princeton University, and the University of the West Indies.
He has also authored Small Island Economies and several other books, papers and articles, with topics ranging from Caribbean and South Pacific economies to economic modelling and forecasting.
A former consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and the CARICOM Secretariat, he is married to actress and event planner Monica Drayton, and most likely will be recorded in history as Barbados’ most visible Central Bank Governor – if not the most controversial.