Rawle Farley, May 9, 1922 – November 6, 2010

Obituary

Professor Rawle Egbert Griffith Farley died on November 6, aged 88.
Rawle Farley was the most eminent economist in pre-Independent Guyana. He earned his doctorate in economics from the London School of Economics in 1956 and had been on the faculty of the University College of the West Indies since 1951. He published a raft of monographs on popular topics such as Trade Unions and Politics in the British Caribbean and Nationalism Productivity and Industrial Development in the British Caribbean. He was well-known, widely read and highly respected.

It certainly seemed then that Forbes Burnham – Farley’s old friend from Queen’s College – could not have chosen a more competent referee to resolve the ideological conflict that erupted in the People’s National Congress.  Soon after the PNC merged with the United Democratic Party led by John Carter in March 1959, friction between the two sides began. Forbes Burnham was already President of the British Guiana Labour Union, had strong support from the urban working class and was a self-declared socialist. John Carter was not.

Rawle Farley

The PNC’s new Central Executive Committee was reconstituted. Forbes Burnham remained party leader and his supporters occupied the left wing. John Carter became Chairman and his team comprised the right wing. The committee, however, was an incongruous combination of socialist and conservative opinions and this led to a divergent range of views. It became extremely difficult for the amalgamated committee to achieve consensus on the party’s official policy.

It was in an effort to solve one problem that another was created. Forbes Burnham invited Rawle Farley to mediate and to help draft a common manifesto. This was not achieved until a few months before the 1961 general elections. Elements of the conservative élite, opposed to Burnham in the amalgamated PNC-UDP, conspired to depose him from the party’s leadership and to elect Farley as party leader in his place.
Burnham was not one to be caught unawares by such manoeuvres and quickly mounted a campaign to consolidate his superior mass support. Farley prudently chose not to contest. He subsequently wrote a letter in the party’s New Nation newspaper in which he publicly supported Burnham’s leadership and committed himself to campaigning for the PNC in the impending elections.

That was the end of Farley’s political ambitions. Thereafter, he retreated to the more familiar territory of academia. Leaving the University College of the West Indies in 1961 after nearly a decade, he was appointed Professor of Economics and Chairman of the graduate programme at the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico the next year, 1962. After his tenure ended, he then moved on to become Chairman of the Department of Economics at the State University of New York at Brockport in 1966. Farley remained a professor of economics at SUNY, specialising in Development Economics, Development Planning, Urban and Regional Economics, Labour Economics, and Economics of Poverty. He was honoured by the National Economic Association “for outstanding achievements in economics” and named Professor Emeritus in 1995.

Professor Rawle Farley served, among his many academic and government posts, as visiting Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley and United Nations Economic Development and Planning Expert in Libya. He was also President of both the New York State Economics Association and the State University of New York Faculty Association for African Studies.

He was a prolific writer and published a number of studies that helped to shape economic thought in the developing world. These included Planning for Development in Libya: The Exceptional Economy in the Developing World and The Economics of Latin America: Development Problems in Perspective. Earlier, during the 1950s, he had published numerous monographs among which were The Caribbean Trade Unionist; Nationalism and Industrial Development in the British Caribbean; Trade Union Development and Trade Union Education in the British Caribbean; Trade Unions and Politics in the British Caribbean; and Universities and the Education of Working People. Several of his articles had direct relevance to Guyana. These include The Rise of a Peasantry in British Guiana; The Unification of British Guiana;   Kaldor’s Budget in Retrospect: Reason and Unreason in a Developing Area: Some Reflections on the British Guiana budget 1962 and reviews of Forbes Burnham’s Destiny to Mould and Wilfred David’s The Economic Development of Guyana, 1953-1964.

Farley’s work as a development economist – substantial by any standard – might have been overshadowed by the brilliance of the Caribbean’s greatest economist and Nobel laureate, the St Lucian Sir Arthur Lewis. Seven years Farley’s senior, Lewis had secured his doctorate in economics and was appointed principal of UCWI in 1958 and UWI’s first Vice-Chancellor in 1962, the same time that Farley’s career was rising. When Guyana gained its independence in 1966, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham turned to Lewis to draft the country’s first development plan. Lewis was also appointed Chancellor of the University of Guyana. The rise of a new breed of left-wing West Indian economists who rode the tide of the regional integration movement – among them Clive Thomas – associated with the New World Group also diminished interest in Farley’s ideas.

Farley’s service was appreciated, nevertheless. When the University of the West Indies celebrated its 50th anniversary, he was invited to the commemorative ceremonies at the Mona Campus, Jamaica, where he was honoured for his contribution to the institution. He had served UCWI as Director of Extra Mural Services and helped to establish the campus in British Honduras. He was commended as “one of the early Caribbean men who blazed the trail for the UWI through his wide and varied contributions to its outreach activities.”

Rawle Egbert Griffith Farley was born in Courtland Village, about 11 miles from New Amsterdam in what is now the East Berbice-Corentyne region. He was the eldest son of Egbert Joseph Farley, a headmaster, and his wife Nora Jane, née Griffith. The older Farley had been educated at the Rawle Teachers’ Training Institute in Barbados. It was young Rawle Egbert Griffith’s unique fate to bear full burden of primogeniture with the title of the institute, his father’s Christian name and his mother’s maiden name.

Farley père was an Anglican, a member of the Diocesan Education Advisory Committee and the Diocesan Synod and President of the Essequibo District Teachers’ Association. These paternal influences help to explain the son’s adhesion to Anglicanism and the teaching profession.

Rawle Farley, after primary school, attended Queen’s College in Georgetown from 1933 to 1941. He was a member of Raleigh House and became a prefect in 1939 and Secretary of the Literary and Debating Society in 1940. He won the College’s Lower Certificate Prize in 1935 and was awarded the Percival Exhibition and the Government Junior Scholarship in 1936, the same year in which he wrote the Oxford and Cambridge School Certificate Examination. He wrote the London University Higher Certificate in 1939. He had a bright career in his studies and sport and was listed as a ‘notable departure’ when he left.

Farley taught at primary school and held posts with the
government before travelling to the UK to pursue his education.  He earned the BA degree in 1945; a Post-Graduate Teacher’s Diploma in 1949; the BSc (economics) in 1950 and a PhD in 1956. His doctoral dissertation was entitled Aspects of the Economic History of British Guiana, 1781-1852: A study of Economic and Social Change on the Southern Caribbean Frontier.

Farley was able pursue graduate and post-graduate studies through successive British Council Fellowships in 1948-50 and the Geddes Grant Research Fellowship. Among his many grants and prizes, he was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant and an International Labour Organisation Fellowship to enable him to pursue studies in Industrial Relations with the Ministry of Labour in the UK and at the Universities of Leeds, Glasgow and Oxford.

Rawle Farley married Ena, a Jamaican, who was also an academic. They had four sons who survive him. A son by an earlier marriage predeceased him.

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