WHAT MATTERS MOST: One-of-a-kind economist
It is not often in life that the people you look up to are younger. It is even less likely that they are in your personal space. In my case, one was a male and the other is a female. The male was also a professional colleague, while the female is an eternal heart string. They both suffered renal failure and given what I saw of them, their strength of character remains unmatched.
Roland, also affectionately called Scout by a few of us, my colleague and friend, has gone to his eternal resting place, but what a human being he was. For me, he was among the most influential economists in the region for the last 15 to 20 years. His contribution, especially in the area of applied econometrics, helped to push the profession from its normative beginnings to its positive journey.
This was a natural progression which was somehow not fully appreciated in some quarters. The advent of technology and the expansion of the databases in the region created the environment for the avalanche of empirical work that followed. Professor Craigwell was at the epicentre as he familiarised himself with the theoretical advances and practised their applications.
While he excelled in the area of applied econometrics, he was also well-rounded and fundamentally sound across several areas of economics and finance. He was among, if not the most, published economists in the region and broke into quite a few international journals; a testimony to the quality of his work.
Perhaps his single greatest contribution to the profession came as he embraced a cadre of young economists from Jamaica to Guyana who bought into his penchant for empirical research.
The frontiers of applied econometrics had expanded with the computer age which brought into question the findings of previous empirical work. The gateway was therefore opened for the new approaches to be tested. He led the way.
His body of work will provide the basis for further investigation that will contribute to the finding of a Caribbean economics that features the peculiarities of the region. It has already started but must become sufficiently widespread to provoke the thinking that will eventually lead to the altering of established theories to the Caribbean experience.
Once I made the decision to pursue a doctoral thesis, the choice of Professor Craigwell, a world renowned and respected applied econometrician, was obvious.
The period of pursuit would prove to be as uplifting and engaging as I had anticipated. His commitment to my work was relentless, which was consistent with his reputation for being a hard taskmaster. He had a tough mind and a tender heart.
The tough mind was misconstrued by some students who, for the most part, live in a world of quick-fix and do not always possess the patience and tenacity to “tough it out” in the face of challenge. This approach was, however, much appreciated by the more mature professionals who rejoiced in the journey – those who understood that success is a journey, not a destination.
Roland was not just an economics professor; he had other interests. His love for cricket surpassed even that of the typical Barbadian boy born in the ’60s and raised in the halcyon days of West Indian greatness.
Like all of us lovers of the game, his enthusiasm never wavered even on his sick bed. He would still inquire of the team’s performance on its current woeful tour. But then again, he understood cricket beyond the boundary. I suspect that he dreamed about pursuing his talent within the boundary, like many of us.
In his early days, he was a disc jockey with an appetite for melodies and lyrics. This literally required burning the candle at both ends, especially on the weekends. He particularly adored the cultural richness of reggae music, while not forsaking the literary majesty of calypso.
Once his hand was fully dealt in his late 20s, he embraced his fate with a humility that characterised his outstanding accomplishments. He was simple without being simplistic; he was straightforward without being rigid and he was warm when it mattered.
In all of his glory, none was more exalted than his devoted and loving wife Peggy and their gifts of Jhane and Mone.
In the last five years, we renewed a fertile familiarity that blossomed into a friendship of mutual respect and admiration for each other.
I truly enjoyed his company and found comfort in his truth. His journey will continue in the seeds he sowed both personally and professionally. He was one of a kind!
• Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party adviser on the economy.