One University of the West Indies (UWI) economist is calling for more local and regional research to help inform economic and finance policies in the Caribbean.
In addition, Professor Justin Robinson, Interim Director of the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business and Management Inc., said he was concerned about the low number of black people and women owning or leading corporations in the region, despite them being the majority among the population.
Robinson was delivering the Professorial Lecture on Wednesday night, titled Corporate Finance, Capital Markets and Investments in Small Island Developing States.
Speaking about one of his more popular research papers which looked primarily at behavioural and experimental economics, Robinson said he believed the time had come for the Caribbean to “break free from the shackles” of the more advanced countries and do more regional research to help policymakers design economic policies suited for the region’s unique realities.
“There is no reason for us to be teaching everyone finance from standard text books based on theories of diffuse corporate ownership, high agency cost, when that is not our reality, and not only that it is not our reality, it is not the reality for over 90 per cent of the world. So I think we can stake our claim in knowledge creation,” he said.
“There is no reason why world leading research, world leading journals, should not come out of other parts of the world. I think the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us that the places that we always look to for best practice and research are not always the best practice, and that we can be the best practice,” he added.
Adding that the region traditionally look to the US and the UK for models in some areas, Robinson said there was a growing list of “sophisticated” countries, including some considered developing, that could also provide some insight for policies.
“No one is coming to save you. We must have the capacity to research and formulate responses to our unique circumstances, and I think the UWI stands there,” he said.
He said coming out of his research, another area of concern for him was the concentrated corporate ownership and management “that has a major race and gender dimension”.
“In 90 per cent or more black countries, blacks only made up 43 per cent of the board although they are the CEOs. So black membership and board chairmanship are still dominated by minority in the small island developing states,” Robinson said.
“If we take the gender dimension, while females make up half of all of these populations . . . only 20 per cent of board members are females, less than 10 per cent (5.6 per cent) are board chair and about 14.3 per cent are CEOs. So the inclusiveness of our corporate is a major issue we need to confront.”
In relation to share ownership and taxes, Robinson questioned why residents in the Caribbean did not do more trading in stocks, and why regional governments have shied way from implementing capital gains tax.
“I am always intrigued that Caribbean countries have gone through many IMF programmes and many types of taxes, and we have kind of run out of taxes to put on people, but nobody has gone for a capital gains tax,” he said. [email protected]