Trinidadian Mr Gerard Johnson highly qualified for IDB presidency
The Inter-American Development Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, United States.

Since its creation in 1959, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has had five presidents, four from Latin America and recently the United States.

The vision of its founding fathers was for a bank to help all of the Americas, including small nations.

The big countries of Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have just put forward their own strong candidates for the important job of IDB president. Of note to us is the fact that Trinidad and Tobago has nominated Trinidadian Mr Gerard Johnson for the position.

Mr Johnson offers not merely long-awaited diversity as a man of the Caribbean, but much more importantly an enormous breadth of knowledge and understanding of the IDB and its missions, where he worked for decades. In addition, his obvious passion for its success makes him exceptionally well qualified to heal the institution after its recent governance issues.

Fluent in the language of economics, he is nevertheless familiar with the demands and differing objectives of the IDB's huge number of multilateral stakeholders, unlike the typical CEO fresh from the private sector. He also has hard-earned real lending experience gained in the field, rather than the ivory towers of central banks and elite educational institutions.

Mr Johnson's decades of experience in managing both people and projects, of which the IDB has thousands, is a huge asset that, should he be appointed president, will allow the bank to move quickly to tackle the many difficult problems it faces.

We recall that the first eight years of his career at the IDB were spent on Uruguay and Brazil, the latter on the Rio Branco – Porto Velho project, which combined the competing interests of the environment, indigenous groups, politicians, NGOs, rubber tappers, private investors, and the military. That project benefited from his excellent negotiating skills, which were also required when he worked on peace and security issues in post-conflict Central America many times and the economic reform of the early 1990s in Jamaica all while reviving post-economic collapse in Peru.

Those efforts were, however, preludes to country assignments in Haiti, followed by cleaning-up corruption in Guatemala.

His greatest success as an IDB country head, however, was in Jamaica, where he has been based since 2006, first as country representative and then as the first general manager of the Caribbean country department.

Over his decade of service here, Jamaica went from debt pariah to poster child of the International Monetary Fund, with the full story of the IDB's role in this transformation still untold.

Although Mr Johnson has added private equity and investment promotion to his private sector skill sets, he has remained active in his true love — public policy, advising the minister of finance here on public private partnerships and financial access, to name only a few areas.

It is, however, his deep experience of having lived in or worked on some of the most difficult countries and problems in the region — the exact same countries that will be on the immediate in-tray of the next IDB president — as well as his understanding of the head office in Washington, DC, that we believe, make him a shoo-in for the post.

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