Central bank governor dies

Bank of Guyana (BoG) Governor Lawrence Williams died early yesterday morning.

Williams, 60, had been battling cancer for some time.

He died at Dr Balwant Singh’s Hospital, where he was recently admitted. He leaves to mourn his wife Valerie and children, Rhonda, Lauren and Gavin.

As news of his death spread, praise for his abilities and his work was offered by both staff at the bank, who donned black ribbons to mourn his passing, as well as from the wider society.

BoG Deputy Governor Gobind Ganga said that Williams’ qualities contributed to the discipline and progress at the bank over the years. Williams had served in various capacities at the bank over the last three decades.

Ganga, who worked with Williams for around 20 years, said Williams was a friend to many in the bank and was, as a result, well loved. One security guard was heard saying that though he has not worked at the bank for an extensive period, he had observed the Governor, and had come to respect him.

Many of Williams’ counterparts across the region, Ganga added, had been calling yesterday to offer their condolences. “The bank will greatly miss him,” the Deputy Governor said sadly.

Lawrence Williams
Lawrence Williams

Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo said Williams had a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of Guyana’s financial sector and that he was quite patient in explaining matters of importance to members of the private sector.

In the general scheme of things, Dookhoo said, Williams was able to effectively analyse the financial circumstances of the economy, and then took the actions necessary to maintain the economy’s stability. Specifically, Dookhoo credited Williams with maintaining the flow and stability of the US Dollar in Guyana’s economy. This, he said, is monumentally important as companies in Guyana depend on the use of the US currency to transact businesses with their partners overseas.

“We have suffered another sad loss,” Dookhoo lamented, making reference to the recent passing of PSC stalwart Ron Webster. Christopher Ram, a chartered accountant and financial analyst, described Williams as “the consummate central banker.” Ram said that Williams was “cautious and conservative” and that he “executed his duties with competence and rare modesty.”

“Over the years and on numerous occasions, I had the privilege of working across the table from him and was struck by his willingness to listen and to consider the opinions of his team and the other side… [He] leaves a void that will be hard to fill. Fortunately, he built a strong and capable team that will prove his wonderful legacy,” he added.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh also offered his condolences to Williams’ friends and family. “It is with great sadness that I have come to learn of the passing of my dear friend and colleague of many years,” the minister said in a statement. “Lawrence was a man defined by his quiet competence, his attention to detail, his thoroughness, his ability to remain calm under pressure, his quiet wit, his sharp intelligence, and his impeccable demeanour. He was a gentleman and an astute professional. Over the years we developed a strong personal friendship and I came to value his wise counsel and ‎level headed advice,” Singh continued.

The minister said that he visited Williams in the hospital on Tuesday evening and was touched by the courage he displayed even as he continued his fight with cancer. “I told him our country needed him to continue the excellent work he was doing and that we could not afford to lose him. Little did I know at that time that it would be the last time I would see him alive.”

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) also released a statement in which it lamented Williams’ passing. “It is with sadness that the Leader, Brigadier (Rtd) David Granger, MP, and the members of the Central Executive of the [PNCR], learned today of the death of the Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Mr. Lawrence Williams… the nation has been robbed of the extensive knowledge and expertise which was embodied in the presence of Mr. Lawrence Williams,” the party’s statement read.

Williams started his tenure at the bank as an Assistant Principal in the Exchange Control Department in 1979 after completing the Bachelors of Social Sciences Degree in Management.

By 1982, he was appointed as a Principal, where he was tasked with the accounting and investment function of the bank’s Export Development Fund. Two years later, he was made Supervisor of the fund, and in 1991, he was promoted to Senior Supervisor of the Exchange Control Department.

Williams continued to rise through the ranks, and a year later he was named Assistant Head of the bank’s Debt Management and Exchange Control Department. Yet again, in January of 1991, he was made Director of the bank’s Operations Department, and five month later he was promoted by Guyana’s then Finance Minister to the post of Banking Manager.

Throughout these years Williams collected intimate knowledge and experience of the bank’s operations, and thereby became proficient as he executed the responsibilities he was tasked with. His arsenal of knowledge and talents led to his substantive appointment in 2005 as Governor and he had since been responsible for the overall management of the Bank.

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