Revered Economist Dr. Clive Thomas – Using economics to transform economies, while fighting corruption

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Most economists today hold considerable political power and influence because of the profundity of their work. But the influence of Dr. Clive Youlande Thomas goes beyond his prolific writings.
Since his introduction to the field of economics, Dr. Thomas has been committed to using his work to transform economies locally and regionally, while having it serve as a formidable weapon in the fight against corruption.
Born on February 6, 1938, this avid reader is the first of seven children for his parents, Clementine Semple and Basil Thomas. He said that his mother was a single parent.
He grew up in Charlestown before moving to Hill Street, Albouystown, then to Leopold Street, before departing to further his studies in England. His academic achievements at Queen’s College got him the opportunity to study at the University of Guyana through a scholarship.
“My mom and dad are dead. My mother was a single parent and she had seven of us. I was the eldest, so you can image what a struggle it was in those days. But I intended to leave Guyana and work in another country,” Dr. Thomas said.
The professor related that he never sought to be an economist or to pursue studies in that field. In fact, he wanted to study politics. But after advice from his supervisor at the University of Guyana, he was told that he was sufficiently proficient in politics, and that he would be exceptional as an economist. He obtained his doctorate in 1964 at the University of London.
“My thesis was on Guyana’s finances: Money in the independent economy. Up to that time, it was a subject many people hadn’t thought was an important subject. When I got my doctorate, it was at a very young age. I only took three years to do it. I didn’t do a Master’s degree. I didn’t have to, because my supervisor at the University of Guyana thought I was good enough to go beyond that,” he recounted.
Thomas said that in the 1960’s he was living in Jamaica and working as a University Lecturer, but was banned from the island.
“I was living in Jamaica when the late L.F.S Burnham took office. But I was banned in 1969, along with a number of Jamaicans, because they considered us to be too radical. We protested against the denial of the late Walter Rodney having a job there. After that I came back to Guyana and I just decided to stay on,” he explained.
Given his invaluable contributions to shaping economies regionally and locally, Professor Thomas could arguably be considered one of the most prolific Caribbean economists of his generation. His scholarship spans all aspects of economics, including theoretical, empirical, mathematical, sociological and political.
To date, he has authored and co-authored 30 books, as well as numerous research monographs/papers. These include, “Guyana: Countering the Risks of Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Arms Proliferation (With Addendum)”; “Eight Essays on the Amaila Falls Hydro Project”; “Thirty Years After the Third World Debt Crisis: Sovereign Debt Stress in CARICOM (With Specific Reference to Guyana)”, and a study prepared for the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, March 2011, co-authored with Dr. Thomas Singh.
He has also published over 154 academic articles and contributions to books/research monographs and presented invited papers to a similar number of academic conferences, symposia and seminars.
His major fields of research interests and publications include macro-economics and finance, as well as small and micro-economies; development economics with special emphasis on growth, trade, finance, agriculture (sugar), environment and natural resources; and social sector economics with special emphasis on poverty analysis and eradication measures.
Dr. Thomas said that he has always aspired to do great things for his country. It was simply the way he was brought up.
“In the days of Burnham, people were dreamers. They were inspired to do great things for their country. I was motivated by him and I was encouraged by my peers to pursue my dreams of making a difference in my country,” Dr. Thomas posited.
“I must reiterate though, I am most passionate about justice and fair play. The inequities people have had to suffer really bother me, and are sometimes, I feel, not ordained by God or by nature, [such as] poverty. I am concerned about the eradication of corruption, because it eats away at our society,” he stated.
“People don’t realize how this affects the society, how it hurts the nation, our future. I feel, too, given my background that I have always felt that justice and fair play should be at the center of our society. Democracy and rights of people are things I support at heart. I will fight for it with my last breath,” Dr. Thomas vowed.
For fun, he says that he enjoys reading, given his insatiable appetite for learning new things. In his spare time, which is very rare, he enjoys watching documentaries and sports, especially cricket. And though you might not have guessed it, he has a secret love for partying and thrilling fêtes.
“I remember my days in Jamaica. They had outstanding parties and fêtes. I have a special love for Jamaica. I miss that in Jamaica. I used to party every weekend, if not every night, as a young University Lecturer. I would go and have a nice drink and dance with the women, who are beautiful too, just like Guyanese women. So it was a grand time for me,” he reminisced with a chuckle.
Thomas says that his latest project, the State Assets Recovery Program, is what he is most enthusiastic about. In this regard, he has already reached out to the international community and is making headway in garnering their support.
“What I am hoping to do is put asset recovery in the broad framework in the fight against corruption in Guyana, by looking at policies and programs at one end of the spectrum, and then, at the other end, look at improving the justice system, so that we root it out forever. I am not only concerned about finding assets and getting the wrongdoers prosecuted, but setting up a program to prevent the rate at which the public assets were stolen from happening again,” he opined.
Dr. Thomas, who was married three times, noted that his most prized accomplishments are his three wonderful children: Raoul, Sharon and Dawn.
Apart from the cherished ones in his life, he was the recipient of the Cacique Crown of Honor for Contributions to Education; Government of Guyana National Awards Scheme in 1994 and the George Beckford Award for Contributions to Caribbean Economy, Association of Caribbean Economists, in 2001.

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