New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
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Swinburn Lestrade & The Stabilisation Programme
The man credited with masterminding Dominica's controversial stabilisation programme, Swinburn Lestrade is no stranger to challenges.
The Roseau-born financial and monetary expert has spent virtually his entire working life taking on major tasks both regionally and extra-regionally, that have impacted on Dominica and the rest of the Caribbean.
He worked on finance and monetary issues at the Caricom secretariat; was an integral part of developments at the Commonwealth secretariat; helped reenergize the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) secretariat; participated in Trinidad's restructuring programme while deputy chief of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and was involved in several capacities in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including being the first director of the Economic Affairs Unit in Antigua and the most recent Director General.
"I have never shirked a challenge," Lestrade told the Sun in an interview.
Lestrade is a son of the capital, having been born on King George V Street in Roseau. He attended the St. Mary's Academy (SMA) on a scholarship and was the island scholar in 1966.
After a brief stint as a teacher at the SMA, Lestrade left for the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona to study for a BSc in economics in 1970 and MSc in 1972 before moving on the United Kingdom to pursue an MA in development economics.
It was at UWI that Lestrade's philosophies and thinking began to take shape. And it was there that he began to establish a network that would become very useful in the future.
Among his circle of friends were Dwight Venner, now Sir Dwight, who would become governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB); Ralph Gonsalves, now Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and Vaughn Lewis, who preceded him as director general of the OECS and would later become Prime Minister of St. Lucia.
"I have always been a regionalist from my days at Mona," stated Lestrade, who, along with Gonsalves, Lewis and Venner, organised a Windward Islands expo at the university in 1971. "I still believe that our future is as a grouping of countries. I believe in economic union, including sharing costs of administration and services."
With the assistance of UWI, the group also undertook a "gruelling" tour of the sub-region to promote integration.
"A significant part of our lives which is deeply reflected up to today, was that in 1971 we were sponsored by UWI to talk on OECS integration," said Sir Dwight. "That was a defining time for us."
While a common thread among the group of friends was their strong belief in integration, with the exception of Lewis, they also had one thing in common. Gonsalves was seen as a communist and Venner and Lestrade, leftist.
"We were all part of the black power movement of the 60s. In those days socialism was not a bad word," explained Lestrade, who was one of the founders of the Movement for a New Dominica (MND) with the likes of Arthie Martin and Gordon Moreau.
"We all mature with age and beside, times have changed. I do not believe that in Dominica at present, there is room for an ideological divide," he added. "There is a move to the centre. What we do in Dominica today is not ideological. I don't think the ideology thing is essential anymore."
The 1960s were "interesting" times in the Caribbean. The bigger countries gained their political independence and the people in the region were trying to get establish an identity. It was also a time when ideology was important and some of the university lecturers were truly Caribbean in orientation.
"From that time we became very strong regionalists. We were very much into the identity of our race. Integration, black awareness was what drove us," Sir Dwight told the Sun. Lestrade left Dominica for the Caricom secretariat in 1973.
"I was so rude to write my supervisor at the time, Mr. Chrispin Sorhaindo a hand written note saying it was a two year appointment and I would be back (at the end of the contract)," Lestrade recalled, adding that Sorhaindo reminded him years later and gave him the note. He would return almost 20 years later to be Dominica's ambassador to Washington and Permanent Representative at the Organization of American States (OAS).
In the interim, the Dominican monetary expert took on several challenges across the region before becoming director general of the OECS in 1996.
"These were challenges times," said Lestrade, who was asked to run an organisation that had limited and dwindling financial resources.
It was clear from the beginning, Lestrade said, that an effort had to be made to make the secretariat more cost effective since member governments were not in a position to make more money available or to pay their contributions on time.
He undertook to restructure the organisation and reconfigure the core of the staff. This would include closing the economic affairs office in Antigua and transferring the functions to the St. Lucia-based secretariat and the merging of several units and offices to make them more efficient while realising savings.
The Secretariat now consists of four main Divisions responsible for: External Relations, Functional Cooperation, Corporate Services and Economic Affairs. These four Divisions oversee the work of a number of specialised institutions, work units or projects located in six countries - Antigua/Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, Belgium, Canada, and the United States of America.
Lestrade also oversaw the formation of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), which began the process of liberalizing the telecommunications sector in the sub-region.
"We sought to define more clearly in the minds of governments the role of the secretariat," he told the Sun.
One of the benefits of the restructuring was that the donor community began to show confidence in the secretariat.
"The donor community began to see the secretariat, not just as a development partner, but as a channel through which assistance could be made available to the various countries," the former director general said.
His stint as director general of the OECS also provided Lestrade with an opportunity to revisit the issue if integration and he grabbed it with open arms. And, with his longtime friend, Gonsalves as Prime Minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, the idea of an economic union gained fresh impetus.
"We took a more realistic, more practical approach to economic union, to explain to people why it was necessary," stated Lestrade.
With the integration process still evolving, Lestrade left the secretariat in 2001 and was appointed Dominica's ambassador to the US and the OAS at the time Dominica's turn came to chair the hemispheric body. His colleagues said he served with distinction.
Not long after, he was called home to help rescue the collapsing economy.
He has called on his friends and they have come forward. Sir Dwight has responded and "has been supporting in various ways." Gonsalves was the first Caribbean leader to make a tangible contribution.
"Being there for him even now, goes back to 1971 and our belief that each OECS territory depends on the other," said Sir Dwight, who continues to push for members of the OECS currency union to assist Dominica.
And while he insisted that the currency union would do all that was necessary to help Dominica get out of the "difficult situation" no matter which government was running the country and who was in charge of the process, Sir Dwight also admitted that personalities can help the process.
"He (Lestrade) is a very engaging personality, a very good friend. When the chips are down, you can depend on Swinburn," said Sir Dwight.