“It is a rather exciting opportunity to help shape the future socio-economic landscape of OECS member states with hopefully real benefits to be had by people and countries”.
Those were the words uttered by Grenadian economist Dr. Brian Francis who on Monday took up his new job as Director of Economic Affairs and Regional Integration with the OECS Secretariat in Castries, St. Lucia.
Francis who was serving as Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados got the nod for the post, which has been vacant for the past two years.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance in Grenada was asked about the task he sees ahead in his new posting
“The job so far is a combination of meetings on several broad technical issues as well as dealing with administrative and technical matters pertaining to the various departments I oversee (trade policy and negotiations, Geneva Mission, Competitive Business Unit based in Dominica, Macro-economic Policy Unit, Research, Statistics, and Regional Integration – The OECS Economic Union”, he said.
According to Dr. Francis he has come to the realisation rather quickly that he has “to change the culture vis-a-vis the way these departments are structured as well as in terms of how things are done at the Commission”.
“The overall goal is to ensure that the OECS Commission is able to justify its existence in the eyes of the public and in relation to the benefits to all of the Member States”, he remarked.
“To achieve that broad goal, I will be working very closely with all of the countries, the Commissioners (this is key), opposition parties, civil society, other institutions like the ECCB, CDB, CARICOM, ACP, UWI…to build consensus on critical developmental challenges facing the OECS and to come up with practical solutions to burning problems such as lack of sustained economic growth and development, poverty, unemployment, the Economic Union (free movement of people, capital, goods, services, etc.), among other things”, he said.
Dr. Francis also sees as an important issue to be addressed the need to increase the level of trade among the OECS member states.
“As it now stands, intra-regional trade in goods is only 2%, while that in services is 7%. Those numbers are way too low and must increase quickly”, he said.
Dr. Francis obtained his doctorate in Economics from the University of Florida with specialization in International Trade and Economic Development, an MSC in Development Finance from the University of London and a BSC in Economics (with first class honours) from the UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
He is a former Permanent Secretary/Director-General in the Ministry of Finance in Grenada, where he provided technical leadership in government’s budget and fiscal policies, debt management, economic growth and development, economic planning and trade policy.
Dr. Francis also worked in the Ministry of Tourism, Barbados; the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and has done consultancies for a number of Regional and International Organisations as well as governments
As an academic, Dr. Francis has published extensively in various regional and global scholarly journals in fields such as international business, competitiveness, finance, trade, and economic growth and development.
Dr. Francis will be taking up his new appointment on secondment for two years from UWI.