This blog is essentially a review of the book by Alister McIntyre, The Caribbean and the Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career (University of the West Indies, (UWI) 2016. It is dedicated to his colleague and very good Friend, the late William Demas . It portrays a man of exceptional talent; a brilliant academic, a revered administrator, highly skilled negotiator, inspirational thinker, creative leader, massive global reputation and a magnificent human being.
Dr Compton Bourne, the author of this review is former President of the Caribbean Development Bank, former Pro Vice Chancellor, UWI and Principal of UWI, St Augustine. He is currently a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons for the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence and Professor Emeritus, UWI.
This absorbing book is about the life and career of Sir Alister Meredith McIntyre, a quintessential Caribbean man. it is also about issues, personalities, policies and events central to the social and economic development of the Caribbean in a changing global system.
His childhood and early life in Grenada revolves around a strong supportive mother. it also details the impact of the rise and collapse of his father’s business at the end the Second World War, which was an early lesson in how imperial trade policy can harm domestic enterprise and devastate Caribbean households.
As a precocious exceptionally gifted student at the Grenada Boys Secondary School, he negotiated with the authorities to take economics as one of his examination subjects, having discovered one of Arthur Lewis’ seminal works. At 16, he entered the active labour force and continued in several jobs, including that of radio disc jockey. He then grasped an opportunity presented to study at the London School of Economics. He excelled: gaining a first class honours degree in Economics before going to Oxford University to undertake graduate work.
In London, McIntyre evolved into a 'Caribbeanist' . He recalls his optimism about a Caribbean Federation based on the brilliance of the Caribbean political leadership of Norman Manley (Jamaica), Albert Gomes (Trinidad and Tobago) , Grantley Adams (Barbados) and Albert Maryshaw (Grenada) at a London conference arranged by the British Government. His hopes like so many, were to be dashed by the subsequent break-up of the Federation in 1962. These fluctuating experiences were to imbue McIntyre with a passionate desire to assist in rekindling the flames that would contribute toward achieving an integrated Caribbean.
Making UWI relevant to Caribbean Development Issues
His stint as a lecturer at the then University College of the West Indies began in August 1960. He encountered considerable resistance by an English faculty led by Professor Charles Kennedy to incorporate Caribbean content in the teaching of Economics. However, Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Philip Sherlock, two successive UWI Vice Chancellors provided opportunities for McIntyre to research, write and lecture on Caribbean development. Lecturing at Princeton University, Columbia University and UNECLAC and attending the very influential Inflation and Economic Growth Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1963 provided him with the opportunity to write papers on Decolonialization and Trade Policy in the West Indies. It also allowed him to situate the Anglophone Caribbean within the global debate on 'unequal trade and development' started by Raoul Prebisch, Director of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) and Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This initiated scholarly interaction and collaboration with Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean. Herein lies hallmarks of his growing academic fame and the foundations that were subsequently to benefit the UWI and the Caribbean Community.
McIntyre's assignment to the UWI St Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago in 1964 was significant. He establish the Faculty of Social Science there; made the case for the introduction of the honours programme in Economics and the undergraduate degree in Management Studies. Returning to the UWI Mona campus in 1967 as Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research further underscores McIntyre's inspired leadership. He created a robust research programme, pioneered the expansion of ISER to the St Augustine and Cave Hill campuses; recruited multidisciplinary teams of researchers, mobilized substantial resources, and established the Regional Monetary Studies Programme, later to be named the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance,. This was a collaborative venture among the central banks, monetary authorities, and UWI. When he left ISER and UWI to take up the position as Secretary General of the Caribbean Community Secretariat in Georgetown, in 1974, it seemed to be a natural progression toward leadership of the regional integration process.
An Unfolding Talent in great demand
McIntyre's numerous assignments demonstrated his boundless talents. Under the wise tutelage of Sir Harold Robinson in London, he worked successfully on preparations for negotiation of Trinidad and Tobago’s citrus agreement with the UK. He collaborated with William Demas in 1969 on a development response to social problems and youth alienation which were deeply troubling Prime Minister Eric Williams. In Jamaica, he worked on the literacy campaign, the successful Bauxite negotiations and on the Task Force on Financing Tertiary Education. In Guyana, his assignments included the bauxite negotiations between the Canadian company and the government, the Commonwealth Expert Group on Development and Adjustment based on the wide-reaching economic reforms and the Herdmanston Accord of 1998 for an early resolution of political conflict through a shortening of the timetable for general elections.
Other assignments included chairing the Technical Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform in the Leeward and Windward Islands and the OECS Commission on Tax Reform and Administration.
A catalyst for CARIFTA and the Shaping of CARICOM
Eric Williams so impressed by McIntyre's paper, ”Aspects of Development and Trade in the Commonwealth Caribbean” requested its distribution throughout the region and suggested an expert group meeting which UWI duly hosted at its Mona campus. This paper was one of three documents presented to Caribbean Heads of Government meeting in Barbados 1967. The others were the Report of the UWI Mona Meeting of Experts and the Dickenson Bay Agreement, drafted by Shridath Ramphal , then Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs. That meeting agreed to establish CARIFTA with its Secretariat in Guyana and the Caribbean Development Bank in Barbados . William Demas, oversaw the transition from CARIFTA to CARICOM, thereby being its inaugural Secretary General in 1970.
Alister McIntyre was a natural fit to lead the regional movement in 1974. His discussion of his tenure at CARICOM illustrates a still recurring problem of ambitious regional ideas and plans that go unmatched by financial and human resource capacity. For example, The Caribbean Food Production Plan, the brainchild of Prime Minister Williams was diligently prepared by William Demas and other experts. The plan collapsed when Williams withdrew funding after Guyana and Jamaica decided to seek associate status with COMECON. Trinidad and Tobago subsequently dis-engaged from CARICOM and for seven years did not participate in CARICOM Heads of Government meetings.
Consequently, The West Indian Commission was conceived by A.N.R Robinson who served as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago between 1986-1991. He was concerned about the loss of the integration momentum and the long dis-engagement of his country in CARICOM. The seminal Report of the Commission, which included approximately 20 Commissioners, titled Time for Action was drafted by Shridath Ramphal and William Demas with the support of Alister McIntyre. It was based on consultations with a wide range of stakeholders in the Caribbean and the Diaspora and provided useful recommendations for revitalizing regional integration. Among the recommendations identified to address the critical implementation problem was the appointment of 3 CARICOM Commissioners and a Chairman. Rumours of which political leaders were identified for the positions so divided CARICOM Heads at their meeting in Port of Spain in 1992 that in McIntyre’s words “the report sank like a stone”. That report stands as a landmark document . It is worth reading or rereading. See Overview to the West Indian Commission:
The demise of Time for Action happened after Alister Mc Intyre had returned to UWI as its Vice Chancellor. So he will no doubt take some comfort that included in the Grande Anse Declaration, UWI was designated a regional institution "in perpetuity'' .
Flourishing on the International Stage
In between leaving the CARICOM Secretariat in 1977 and returning to UWI in 1988, Mc Intyre commanded the international stage. He had long ago signalled his outstanding negotiation skills. Among the major earlier achievements include negotiations at Lomé I to Lomé IV and the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Meeting in Jamaica in April 1975. He credits these successes to thorough preparation, identification and assessment of the interests of the various countries, consultation and compromise, and the building of coalitions towards mutually acceptable outcomes.
Moving from Director of the Commodities Division to Deputy Secretary-General and Officer in Charge of UNCTAD, was seamless. Mc Intyre succeeded in getting agreement on the Common Fund for commodity producing countries, organised and managed UNCTAD VI and dealt with preliminary preparations for the Generalised System of Movement in short order Trade Preferences. At UN headquarters, he was engaged in a review of the Economic and Social Secretariats and in the Administrative Coordination Committee which is central to the administration of the UN system.
He also worked in Tanzania and Zimbabwe where he engaged with President Julius Nyerere and briefly with President Robert Mugabe. He was an associate of the South Commission headed by Manmohan Singh from the Indian Planning Commission, his friend from Nuffield College Oxford University , who later became India’s Prime Minister. His account of the work of the South Commission, provides a glimpse of the views and attitudes on development of US President Jimmy Carter, Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt, and the World Bank President Sir James Wolfenson.
Back at UWI at the Helm
In 1988, Alister McIntyre returned to The University of the West Indies as Vice-Chancellor. He succeeded Ashton Preston who died in office from post-surgery complications. He indicates that he had harboured early views on the development of UWI and how it should situate itself in the academic world at large. An invitation from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago to deliver the Annual Eric Williams Memorial Lecture in May 1988 provided him with an opportunity even before he had taken up office as Vice-Chancellor to set out several key development objectives to enable the institution to quickly move towards 'Its ultimate aim in expanding its presence and impact within the region, with the direct objective of stepping up the latter’s economic growth and social impact.”
McIntyre envisaged a substantially expanded student enrolment on and off-campus and a stronger effort and performance in research, especially in science and technology. He was dismayed by the negative response of some UWI members and wryly remarked: “I underestimated the degree of difficulty I would encounter on assuming the post of Vice-Chancellor.”
Immediately upon taking up office, he was confronted with the challenge of substantially rebuilding physical capacity at the Mona campus in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert. The financial support of the Jamaican business community led by Denis Lalor was invaluable.
McIntyre led the formulation of a 10-year development plan for the university. The targets included a 50% increase in on-campus student enrolment; growth in outreach and off-campus enrolment; the strengthening of postgraduate studies and research; more multidisciplinary programmes of research and studies in emerging areas; increased R&D in science and technology; growth in humanities and the creative arts; greater inter-campus linkages and complementarities; mobilisation of US$300million through bilateral and multilateral development assistance, public appeals, private sector contributions and government contributions.
The notion of non-governmental funding to such an extent was novel to the UWI. The establishment of the UWI Foundation in the US was estimated to have raised more than US$1billion during his tenure.
A truly transformative funding initiative of McIntyre which he does not detail in the text was the exceptionally large IDB loan and grant for long term development of teaching and research capacity in science and technology combined with resources from the CDB for distance education capacity expansion. Not discussed also is the establishment of Institutes of Business at Mona and St Augustine and the introduction of undergraduate management studies programmes at Cave Hill with support from the local business communities and USAID.
A major pre-occupation of Vice Chancellor McIntyre was the financial viability of the UWI. Trinidad and Tobago at one stage owed the university about US$400 million.” UWI was in a financial crisis. The University leadership which in the mid-1980s could not envisage less financial dependence on governments, suddenly found itself not only with sizeable reductions in the university budgets approved by those governments but in major shortfalls in amounts actually paid up. This was the problem for which the successful McIntyre three- component financing strategy was developed.
One component was to eliminate the arrears and stabilize annual payments. The second was the drive for donations from the Caribbean and international business sector, private individuals, foreign governmental agencies and multilateral institutions. The was the reform of tuition fees to move from a situation of almost zero cost recovery to a target of 25 per cent.
McIntyre set in train the modernization of UWI .
Mc Intyre throughout this account credits the contributions of a wide array of colleagues friends and family and was particularly complementary the high quality of West Indian diplomats, national, regional and international public servants and scholars. He laments the Region's tendency to perpetuate an implementation deficit and failure to escape the limitations of small size by taking advantages of opportunities to link with other markets of the Region as a whole. He adequately summarises the underlying philosophy that drove his inordinate passion for Caribbean development: “I had always conceived that the best prospects for sustained development in the Caribbean might lie in a judicious combination of domestic, regional, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral opportunities for enlarging their domestic prospects. The Caribbean needs to develop a greater capacity for dealing with the rest of the world in pursuit of its own development”.
P J Paterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica adequately summarises our sentiments:
" the intellectual genius of Alister Mc Intyre , expertly sharpened on the whetstone of unparalleled experience, has generated this brilliant book that should attract a wide readership within the Caribbean and wider world".