Thank you, Brian Wynter; welcome, Governor Byles

Thank you, Brian Wynter; welcome, Governor Byles

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Last week, when the Government announced the selection of Mr Richard Byles as the next governor of the Bank of Jamaica, it was noticeably silent on the role played by the incumbent Mr Brian Wynter in the economic improvements the country is seeing today.

When then Finance Minister Audley Shaw brought Mr Wynter home to assume the reins of the central bank, Jamaica received a highly skilled professional with direct experience in the local private financial sector, the Bank of Jamaica and the Financial Services Commission. He also brought strong credibility with the international financial agencies — a factor that would be invaluable to Jamaica in the rough days that ensued.

As a member of the team that guided Jamaica out of the depths of its self-imposed debt trap, Mr Wynter's performance as the monetary counterpoint to the extraordinary fiscal effort by the Ministry of Finance was stellar. His steady hand and clear vision were central to the unprecedented economic situation we have created.

This is the first time we have been able to stop draining our reserves and pushing up interest rates to defend the J$. Today, reserves are at their highest; interest rates and inflation are at new lows; Jamaica has never before had an internationally acknowledged, real, flexible exchange rate; employment has never been so high; and the green shoots of growth are evident.

However, Mr Wynter, we know, has his detractors. Some remain disappointed by slow advances in turning the low interest rates paid by the Bank of Jamaica into low interest rates for consumers and investors. There are also voices of dismay from some business interests about the time it takes to obtain clearances. Many are also calling for less volatility in the exchange rate.

Nevertheless, when the history of the incredible changes achieved by Jamaica since 2010 is written, Mr Brian Wynter will no doubt be recognised as a vital architect and a major contributor to our success.

We must, though, remember that our journey to stability and prosperity is not finished. There are still major battles to be fought to keep bringing debt down to the final target.

Mr Wynter, we hold, is a unique and valuable asset that Jamaica cannot afford to waste. While the new governor brings his own skill set and wealth of experience, we urge him to put in place a transition mechanism that ensures the transfer of Mr Wynter's know-how that is actively sought after by the managers of many emerging economies.

Mr Byles clearly enjoys the confidence of Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, who last week described the former Sagicor Life president and CEO as “an eminently qualified, experienced and credible leader”.

The announcement of his central bank appointment has received tremendous support from the financial community. We wish him well, acknowledging, like Minister Clarke, that he will “bring to the job of governor the focused, principled and disciplined leadership that has characterised his career”.

At the same time, we thank Mr Wynter for his service.

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