Professor Michael Howard Gets A Failing Grade

Professor Michael HowardBU readers know that we have been fascinated at the intervention by Professor Howard, in the ongoing debate regarding the emerging government policy being quietly propagated by the government of Barbados about their immigration and population growth policy. The Professor’s perspective like Mascoll’s, although absent of any scientific analysis, is a perspective which never the less is shared by many Barbadians. BU has invited Professor Howard to interact with our online community but he obviously prefers to operate in the tried and trodden sphere of the traditional media. Perhaps, this is the dichotomy which we face as a Nation that a Professor at our highest institution of learning, whose sole objective should be to educate the people is unwilling to use all means available to do so. Our view was reinforced when we read the recent letter submitted to the newspaper by Professor Howard which ended with this paragraph:-

Let me restate my argument for the last time. The bad effects of population growth in small island ecosystems far outweigh any perceived benefits. The “population time bomb” results in overcrowding, congestion, pollution of all types, degradation of the environment, nutritional deficiencies, and the overuse of public services.

I rest my case.



Our focus on the narrow position taken by Professor Howard in his last submission to the media in no way diminishes BU’s previously stated position. We agree with the Professors’s line of reason which shores-up our faith in the economics discipline which has sadly struggled to integrate the social needs of countries with its multiplicity of scientific theories. We are optimistic that we have misinterpreted Howard’s reluctance to engage the public on this matter any further. BU suggest to Howard that he has only just scratched the surface on a matter which deserves more debate in our country. The debate is very relevant as our regional governments rush to implement CSME initiatives. Maybe more relevant is the fact that as a nation which is proud of its educational standard, the policies which Barbados implement will no doubt be adopted by others. We hope that Professor Michael Howard can share any scholastic work done on the subject at hand, penned by himself or others. The country deserves a more robust debate on this issue and should not have to witness these arrogant displays from our academics. How do these people sleep at night knowing that they are shortchanging the public by withholding their knowledge? The reluctance by most of our academics to inject ideas and hypotheses which have been tested in the public forum can be compared to doctors violating their Hypocratic Oath. We suggest that many of our economists should be required to read philosophy as a prerequisite to become accredited.

We have criticized Professor Howard, but at the same time we acknowledge his mild interventions into the public domain; others should do the same.





Previous BU Story

Now It Is The Turn For Professor Michael Howard To Lecture Minister Of State Clyde Mascoll in Economics 101~All Barbadians Need To Understand The Downside Of The Current Economic Policies

Professor Michael Howard Lectures Prime Minister in Economics 101~All Barbadians Need To Understand The Downside Of The Current Economic Policies

15 thoughts on “Professor Michael Howard Gets A Failing Grade

  1. David,
    What you expect from Cave Hill?

    You did not get my drift about the weakness of that expensive institution? The place is flawed. Their graduates are NOT in any position to make any serious contribution to society because their ‘expertise’ is largely from reading a few books or surfing the internet and regurgitating the basic concepts gleaned.
    Original thought?!!
    Creative thinking?!
    Intelligent and free ranging discussions?!
    HA!! forget that.
    Cave Hill is designed to produce ‘eye servants’ who DO what they are told and avoid critical thought at all cost… ie to produce Bajans.
    I like (and know) Prof Howard personally, and even agree with him in this case, but like most of us, he is a victim of Cave Hill.

  2. BU, on what are you grading Prof. Howard? If it is on not responding to your invitation to contribute to your blog, then a fairer grade would be “incomplete”.

  3. He is getting a failing grade on his reluctance to debate the issue in public any further. An issue like this the Professor should not mind if he has to be repetitive. He should remember his audience.

  4. “lookka look”

    Thanks to Sir Grantley et al “girlie ‘an de mens” are living longer, but they will eventually die (unfortunately). If the stock isn’t replaced thru domestic birth rates, who exactly is going to make the beds, drive the taxis, balance the books, or invest girlie’s pension? Bim is a service economy; we don’t make widgets. In addition to a declining population, degreed professionals are going to and fro looking for greener pastures. Is technology going to replace your lawyer or your contractor? Whenever people start talking bout “freedom of choice, self-worth, environmental quality, preservation of our culture”, or god help us “Selfish material aggrandizement” (aggranny what?), hold on to your valise girlie!

  5. David, the exchange between Prof. Howard and Minister Mascoll has been carried in the Nation Newspaper. Does that not meet the definition of “in public”? You seem to be asking Prof. Howard to provide a further elaboration of the economic analysis that he has offered, to date, in order, in your words to “integrate the social needs of countries with its multiplicity of scientific theories.”? Perhaps Prof. Howard is trying to understand what you mean. If he chooses to respond, does it have to be on your blog?

  6. Linchh~If you read our previous articles on Professor Howard’s intervention in this matter, we have supported him 100% and encourage more inform discussion on this and the myriad of other issues political or social. What we have disputed with the Professor on this occasion is the meaning which we have gotten from the last paragraph of his last letter which we have highlighted in the article. We come away with the feeling that he has made his point and that is it. We think this action will only fuel the existing perception that the people on the Hill will intervene but in a “controlled” way. We don’t feel the energy which should charge the public place when intellectuals collide.

  7. LINCHH,
    How about the Prof just sharing his analytical knowledge and experience to help the PUBLIC to understand some of the complex issues that we face -WITHOUT THE BIAS OF A POLITICAL AGENDA?
    How about helping john public to understand some of the complexities of modern life in ways that are understandable and non partisan?
    Want an example?
    Hillary Beckles -BEFORE he defected- brought new perspectives to local history. He certainly impacted my personal self-esteem and that of many others that I know.

    What is CAVE HILL’s assessment of the Barbados approach to CSME? Was it a smart move to change ALL of our laws to ensure that Bajans are no longer special in Barbados?
    Is the policy of selling off national assets including land a sustainable policy?
    What are the national implications of our top organisations falling under foreign control?

    The same way that a Trinidadian ‘big company’ can buy BS&T, what is to stop a Chinese or Indian behemoth from buying up the resulting ‘partnership’?

    And I don’t mean for him to come and give some meaningless intellectual lecture and run off to their ‘research’ or whatever else they do – I am talking about a two way dialogue with intelligent (and not necessarily so) Bajans. BU and BFP offers such a forum – but don’t come with any ‘alias’ – we need the input of learned academics.
    But I refer not just to Prof Howard, I mean all the rest of them up on that expensive hill.

  8. David and BT, I do not disagree with the suggestion that the public could benefit from hearing the opinions of persons who teach and conduct research at the UWI on current problems confronting the Barbados economy. However, I do not believe that it is realistic to expect that there can be a common view expressed by the academicians at Cave Hill which is devoid of political biases. It is likely that every “intellectual” who expresses an opinion on a matter that is the public domain will bring his/her political orientation to that matter, and the most for which the ordinary citizen can hope is to distill some kind of understanding from the babble.

    In the extant case, Prof. Howard pointed to the undesirable consequences of unplanned and unmanaged population growth in a very small ecosystem. However, from his statement the professor’s biases and preferences are clear.

    It is unfortunate that the debate on current issues of the day is so polarised that it is impossible to express an opinion without being seen as supporting one side or another. I do not find it surprising, therefore, that in this situation some persons would prefer to be silent. Maybe they WILL sleep easier for that.

  9. Linchh~Political biases are a reality of life but is that the point? Professional pride should not take precedent as some point? Opinions from academics will have to be placed in the open and subject to discussion internal and external of Barbados. At some point the professional integrity of the academic will come in to question. We suspect some will want to walk the high road. There is also the paradox which becomes apparent that we have academics who are willing to compromise their years of training because of their political affiliation?

    Seems stupid somehow.

  10. David, I am beginning to wonder why I joined this debate since I do not feel that Prof. Howard needs me to mount any defence on his behalf. However, I regarded his comment on Clyde Mascoll’s thesis about the desirable size of the population of Barbados as simply a reminder that they are no absolute truths in the social sciences. I think that in the university setting the conditional nature of most hypotheses is well understood. The problem is that the world of academia differs from the world of the policy maker, since the latter seldom is prepared to inform the public that what is advocated is not something that can be proven as absolute fact. In short, whether the policy-maker cares to be candid or not, his prescriptions are invariably experimental.

    The person who claims to be an academic is faced with this problem when he/she ventures into the world of policy-making, and any claims to knowledge will provide no comfort to a public which which is unable to understand that sad truth.

    Prof. Howard expressed an alternative view to that stated by Mascoll, but as you yourself implied, there is much more that could be said on this matter. However, even then, it would not be the last word.

    I do not disagree with the proposition that it would be stupid for anyone who claims to be an academic to compromise his/her professional integrity by toeing the party line. But would it be unreasonable not to expect such a person not to have his/her private political preferences. Perhaps academic reticence results when the individual recognises this dilemma.

  11. Linchh we think that it would be a sad day when academic reticence would stand in the path of learning and teaching colliding with THE PEOPLE . It is the responsibility of the academics to share their views and let the policy makers do the same-trust society to manage the tension which will result.

  12. David, I should have said, simply that when teaching economics as an academic subject one takes for granted that there is a general understanding among the students regarding the assumptions that lie behind the various hypotheses on which analysis is based. Hence academicians tend to speak in conjectural terms. Unfortunately, the politician, on the other hand, would like the public to believe that a policy proposal is certain and absolutely right. In short, the academic and the politician live in two different worlds.

    I believe that confusion arises when the language of the politician fails to make this distinction clear. A good example of this potential for confusion can be found in the “Open letter to Professor Michael Howard” by Clyde Mascoll carried on page 8A of today’s Sunday Sun (2007-09-16), in which he makes it clear that his views about population dynamics in Barbados “are located in economic-demographic models that seek to explore the relationships between economic growth and the level of economic development”. Mascoll goes on to admit that his view is located “within the walls of an intellectual construct”. This further underscores my suspicion that his approach to policy-making is experimental rather than experiential.

  13. A classic example of what we have been saying, that is our open door immigration policy. Can you imagine some Ghananians are stranded in Barbados for two weeks and can now be found on a construction site working in Barbados?

    Read about it in the nation.


    Published on: 2/24/08.


    A GROUP OF GHANAIANS, who arrived in Barbados two-and-a-half-weeks ago on an inaugural flight from Ghana and have been left stranded, are now working on a construction site.

    The SUNDAY SUN last week tracked down and found about ten of the visitors, working on a site on the outskirts of town.

    They were among 149 passengers from Accra, Ghana, and Lagos, Nigeria, who arrived in Barbados on February 1, on a direct flight.

    It is understood that some of the passengers went on to St Lucia and Trinidad, while an undisclosed number remained here.

    The flight was due to return to pick them up on February 15, but never did.

    The men told the SUNDAY SUN they had run out of cash to pay for their accommodation and food bills and that was why they were working.

    In fact, they are so impressed with the island that they want to spread the word so other Ghanaians can also come and find work.

    “In our country we have to work. We cannot be idle and we have to go back and tell our people about our experience here so that they can come and find work too,” said one of the men.

    When contacted about the matter on Thursday, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said Government was making efforts to get the flight to return to pick up the stranded Africans.

    “I understand that there have been some challenges. It is being worked on by the relevant authorities. We hope to have a speedy resolution to this event,” he said.

    However, when informed that about ten men were working, Sealy said: “I don’t know about that. It is news to me.”

    The men, who speak English and are in their late 20s and early 30s, said they went to the Immigration Department after discovering that the flight did not return to ask for an extension to their stay and work permits, but were turned down.

    The SUNDAY SUN was unable to reach anyone at the department who could confirm the men’s claims.

    Messages were left for Acting Chief Immigration Officer Marva Farmer last week, but up to Press time there was no return call.

    When questioned about the men’s immigration claims, Sealy said that would have to be addressed by the Prime Minister who was responsible for immigration. We were unable to reach the Prime Minister.

    Chief Technical Officer at the Ministry of International Transport, Valerie Browne, confirmed that her ministry was aware of the stranded passengers.

    “The ministry is in touch with the airline which organised the original flight and we understand that all efforts are being made to expedite a return flight,” she said.

    The SUNDAY SUN also spoke to marketing and sales director of Remac Tours, George Knight, the local agents involved in organising the flight.

    He, too, said he was aware of the situation, but assured that Government was actively working on it.

    That flight landed at Grantley Adams International Airport around 4:20 a.m. on February 1, and at that time, officials indicated that since everything had not been finalised, there were no further flights being planned until later in the year.

    The Ghanaian side of the tour was handled by Seasons Travel Tours, while Dr Ntui Okey, of the Trans-African Centre for Trade was responsible for bringing Remac and Seasons together.

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