Central Bank newcomer shows promising profile
The choice of Jwala Rambarran as Central Bank Governor, succeeding Ewart Williams, brings a second fresh face to positions of critical economic and financial leadership. Larry Howai, newly appointed Finance Minister, pointedly welcomed Mr Rambarran and expressed keenness about working with him.
The new Governor's profile is of course more than that of a new face, notably younger than predecessors. His training and professional experience raise expectations for confident and capable performance in a demanding role.
The incoming Governor shares with the outgoing experience of working with the IMF. Despite scare-mongering by the official Opposition, Trinidad and Tobago appears in no danger of needing, in the foreseeable future, balance-of-payments succour from the Fund.
Mr Williams has noted T&T's healthy foreign exchange reserves, plus its untapped Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. Making the economy move out of Sargasso-type stagnation, far more than averting any shipwreck, appears to be the challenge inherited by the new Finance Minister and the even newer Central Bank Governor.
Already, Mr Rambarran has dismissed the "doomsday" scenario painted by critics, and pointed to promising signs: "There are pockets of growth and clusters of activity in this economy. What it needs is an injection of confidence."
Confidence has been hard to come by. Investible funds remain in the banks, unborrowed by enterprising local investors. Ahead of new departures in policy, such as might be revealed during the budget exercise, the viability test of the new appointments will be the extent to which their presence relaxes anxiety and reduces the risk-averse inclination of business people.
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar mentioned approval of the Rambarran appointment by coalition partner Congress of the People. The apparent consultation, which should be standard inside a ruling coalition, has not been consistently pursued, with negative effects for the People's Partnership's stability and survival.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar is obviously persuaded that Mr Rambarran will apply the qualities called for in the drive for economic growth.
"We need new thinking and dynamism," she said, "which we believe Mr Rambarran will bring by thinking outside the box in these very challenging times."
Immediate responses to the Rambarran selection have tended to be forward-looking. It will be, however, impossible to avoid looking back at what will surely blot the record of Ewart Williams's stewardship as governor. Mr Rambarran will enter the governor's office facing the considerable overhang of the CLICO debacle, which is widely seen as an instance in which the Ewart Williams Central Bank dropped the regulatory ball.
The toxic fall-out from the CLICO meltdown—under Central Bank watch—may well be the reason why no candidates for governor were considered from among Twin Towers executives.
Welcome, then, Jawala Rambarran, infused with clear understanding of what is needed for economic growth, and what is to be avoided in financial sector regulation.