Guyana should honour Bishnodat Persaud as Barbados has done

Dear Editor,

I write to salute and applaud the Barbados government for the rare honor granted to Prof Bishnodat Persaud (SN, Dec 2). I do not know Dr Persaud well personally, but I have read his works and about him and his wife Dr Lakshmee Persaud.  Also, we met a few times in New York and London exchanging views as I often do with outstanding scholars and leading captains of industries for my writing.  He is a member of the Royal Automobile Club (London) where I lunched with him twice. He authored or co-authored several books and published several papers and wrote several reports on development for various international institutions. He served on many regional and Commonwealth commissions of enquiry, including the well-known  international commission on Anguilla, led by the late Sir Hugh Wooding. He served as technical adviser to Sir Shridath Ramphal on many of his international commissions. He is truly deserving of the Bajan honour and I am disappointed that our own government has not seen it fit to grant similar recognition to this outstanding son of the soil.

In browsing through the Bajan press release, it is noted that Prof Persaud received his university education in the UK at Queens University, Belfast where he obtained his first degree (1960). He came to Barbados in 1964 and served as a research fellow at the then newly established Institute of Social and Economic Research of the University of the West Indies (ISER Eastern Caribbean), which was set up by the university to serve Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean islands.

He returned to England to pursue a post-graduate Diploma in Agricultural Economics and later a PhD in Agricultural Economics (1973) at Reading University. His PhD thesis was on the Barbados sugar industry.

On leaving ISER, he went on to international work at the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1974 to 1992. He became Director and Head of the Economic Affairs Division in 1982, the largest technical division of the Secretariat. He was a member of the UN Committee on Development Policy (CDP) holding senior international positions.  He was also Professor of Sustainable Development at UWI. In addition he held senior appointments in Guyana and served at Iwokrama (as a Commonwealth Secretariat appointee). He was in charge of getting the project off the ground and became a Commonwealth Secretariat member of the first and second Board of Trustees. He was involved as coordinator of the Commonwealth team which prepared an Economic Recovery Programme during the Hoyte administation that supported economic liberalisation. He also served as co-leader of an IDB team to Guyana in 1994 that prepared a major socio-economic report on Guyana. He served on two commissions of inquiry on UG. He met Dr Jagan a few times offering advice on development. I recall Ambassador Rudy Insanally making a public statement of pride when Prof Persaud was given an appointment on the high-level UN Committee on Development Policy, a committee also responsible for recommending countries for Least developed Country (LDC) status. Then Foreign Minister Clement Rohee also saluted the appointment and met with Dr Persaud about Guyana’s economic status in the international economic system. Upon retiring from the Commonwealth Secretariat, Bishnodat returned to UWI as Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of its Centre for Environment and Development (1992-1996). On leaving the university, he was awarded an honorary professorship in recognition of his work on sustainable development. A major lasting contribution of the centre was securing in 1996, with strong support from the Barbados government, a multi-million dollar grant from the Global Environmental Facility to initiate work in the Caribbean on climate change. That project, based in Barbados, led eventually to more permanent regional institutional arrangements, now located in Belize. Beyond his research duties, he sat for a period on the Boards of the Barbados Central Bank and the Barbados Marketing Corporation and on the committee which recommended a severance pay scheme for Barbados.

In my readings of qualifications and achievements of Caribbean economic scholars, most of those who were honoured or who obtained senior directorships at international institutions or at NGOs, did not have the stature and seniority of Dr Persaud.  He seems to me most senior in the international system of nearly all the Guyana economists but he has not been honoured or recognized by our government. The Barbadian honour to Dr Persaud is for “outstanding contribution to public service regionally and internationally” and it is well deserved.  Guyana should consider doing the same.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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