On International Men’s Day this Sunday, Bookshelf spotlights a book by that rare creature, a politician whose integrity is intact and who unstintingly advocates for the people of this country.
Professor Winston Dookeran, former Finance Minister and Governor of the Central Bank, a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and University of Manitoba, Fellow and Scholar at Harvard and the United Nations University (Helsinki), former Professor at the Institute of International Relations of UWI, and the University of Toronto is that statesman amidst us.
Dookeran, as an academic, technocrat and politician, uses all his platforms to bridge the gap between theory and political practice, to encourage politicians to deliver promises, and has never played to the gallery for popularity in a political landscape that substitutes race for ideology. Focussed on policies over personalities, he has not pandered to base racial politics, never wavered from issues close to his heart, micro and macro-poverty, ill-health, unemployment, education, health, infrastructure, the development of our small island state, and our region, in the best interests of T&T, a land he clearly loves, and has worked for all his life.
Dookeran, a recipient of T&T’s highest honour, the Order of the Republic of T&T in Economics, and India’s prestigious overseas award, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (PBSA) for meritorious achievements in public service, launched his new book last week - Resetting Caribbean Policy Analysis in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The book, which reads like a passionate plea for politicians to put their promises into economic and institutional action and to have a long vision, comes as a balm and an advocate to the population of T&T who for years has been beaten down by two-party politics of race, hostage to generations of underworld employment, embedded gang and gun crime.
Dookeran told his audience at the launch at the Central Bank Auditorium that his book is “not a roadmap, but a vision in the tunnel that sees a light at the end.”
It’s what T&T desperately needs: a road map on “institutional change” to end the “endemic inertia that exists today, and the false promises built on unstable premises and about doing something Dookeran says the country desperately needs, “linking the logic of economics with the logic of politics.”
Dookeran traced the path towards this new book from his previous work, The Caribbean on the Edge (University of Toronto Press), saying his “heart was filled with pride, over the support of Bonnie Mc El Hinny and Melanie Newton, of Toronto University, who encouraged him to explore further.
“A book rarely stands on its own - it comes from somewhere and sometimes travels unknown paths. When I returned to UWI, and after discussions with Sir Hilary Beckles, I decided to work on a missing piece, “predictive analytics’ which became more evident in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. I began to travel the unknown paths that the epilogue in the Caribbean on the Edge spoke about.”
Excerpt with permission from the author:
Preface Development and Diplomacy: Resetting Caribbean Policy Analysis in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“This book is a conversation on policy solutions after COVID-19. It places the Caribbean at the centre but may have broader applicability to small countries elsewhere as it attempts to shape the contours of a general theory in fragile global politics. It is located in the history of economic thought, digs deep into today’s economic challenges, and explores a synthesis between the logic of economics and politics. It is a study of development economics and small-states diplomacy.
Adding the Pandemic to Caribbean Economic Thought Caribbean thought since independence saw the influence of the New World Group in the 1960s, the structuralist of the 1970s, and the rise of the market power of the 1980s.
By the turn of the twenty-first century, politics became a crucial variable in development models, creating a new focus on political economy issues. For each period, we saw a distinct set of policy directions. In the early period, harnessing more economic and institutional space was led by the role of the state. Policies aimed at control of the main pillars of the economy and building institutions with developmental mandates became a centrepiece.
Soon, the structuralists’ thinking came to the fore as the economy’s structure to build resilience and export potential led to the industrialisation strategy by invitation. By the 1980s, the Washington Consensus and its reliance on the power of the markets took the main stage as the region sought to insert itself into the global economy. By the turn of the twenty-first century, political discontent and rising expectations of society saw a new meshing between the political and economic forces at work and a greater focus on the workings and relevance of political behaviour. The quest for sustainability in the political economy became critical.
Closing the Gap between Theory and Practice
Linking theory and practice has become a critical challenge in public policy. The university’s test of relevance is increasingly being measured by this challenge. Closing the gap between theory and practice is an act of scholarship to converge knowledge creation with tangible benefits to society in the present and the future. It is a complex relationship, and like so many complexities, universities are a starting point for this discovery. Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, in his search for a “broader and more diverse university system”, formulated the Triple A strategy – Access, Alignment, Agility – aimed at shifting the key performance pillars of the institution – dedicated to revitalising Caribbean development.
The Sequel to Synchronise the Logics of Politics with the Logics of Economics
I have always been fascinated by linking politics with economics. It became my research preoccupation over the years and informed my career choices in my long journey of policy action. My earlier edited book, Choices and Change: Reflections on the Caribbean (Dookeran 1996), took stock of the issues that noted scholars must confront in the Caribbean. Some years later, during my stint in government, I began to see the issues in a political framework, as published in Power, Politics and Performance: A Partnership Approach to Development (Dookeran 2012).
In the foreword of the book, P.J. Patterson (2012, xi), the distinguished former prime minister of Jamaica, referred to that work as “a fascinating collection of Essays of ideas which span the gamut from Thomas Hobbes to Mahatma Gandhi and against the background of writing from Machiavelli to Marx.”
While affirming that it is high time that the perception of politics as an obstacle to the advancement of the Caribbean be removed, Patterson noted that the insights and prescriptions in the book are, in large measure, also valid for universal application and that the ideas serve as an intellectual bridge to fill the gap between expectations and performance.
It is partially to address this gap that Crisis and Promise in the Caribbean: Politics and Convergence (Dookeran 2017) was written. Arguing that the ideas in the book chart new development spaces, Paula Morgan (2017, viiii), in her foreword to the book, described that work as “A comprehensive offering . . . that combines bedrock pragmatism with a fierce insistence on the higher ground of transcendent aspirations and ideals.”
In this sequel of writings, and with time to reflect, I put together The Caribbean on the Edge: Political Stress of Stability, Equality and Diplomacy (Dookeran 2022), which traces my ideas on the Caribbean as developed over the years. In a time of persistent uncertainty, fragile eco-structures, the politics of “populism,” and the limits in institutional leadership, that publication sets the baseline for the road map into new shifts in globalisation and regionalism for the countries on the edge of history in the Caribbean Sea.
Then, an event titled “Forum on the Future of the Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago,” attended by nearly 600 Caribbean scholars (primarily young) and practitioners, resulted in Shifting the Frontiers (Dookeran & Elias 2016) with contributions from a broad cross-section of persons from within and outside the Caribbean region. That Forum and the pandemic that followed prompted the work presented now in this edition.
My sequel ends with this co-edited volume with M. Raymond Izarali, Development and Diplomacy: Resetting Caribbean Policy Analysis in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It forges a rethink of development in the geostrategic shifts, as the world and the Caribbean navigated a COVID-19 pandemic reset to reignite Caribbean progress in the years yet to be travelled.”
End of Excerpt
Winston Dookeran completed this book as a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. He taught at the University of the West Indies for many years and most recently was Professor of Practice Institute of International Relations, UWI, St Augustine, Trinidad.
- Ira Mathur is a Guardian columnist and the winner of the non-fiction OCM Bocas Prize for Literature 2023. (www.irasroom.org)