by Marius St. Rose

Dominica was a rich source of available competent professionals during the Caribbean Development Bank’s first decade of its existence. In fact, in the early days of the Bank, Dominicans constituted the highest per capita share of its OECS professionals.

On November 3, 1975 Wendell joined his national compatriots: Crispin Sorhaindo  (Management & Administration), Dr Bernard Yankey (Agricultural Economics), Dr John Elwin (Agronomy), and was closely (and briefly) followed by Arthur Watty (Finance and Administration) .Wendell left his native Dominica to join CDB at the age of forty after having peaked his national career as Chief Engineer in Dominica for which he was awarded the Order of the Officer of the British Empire (OBE) at an early age for his outstanding national accomplishments and achievements.

Professor Arthur Lewis, internationally renowned Caribbean economist, who pioneered Development Economics presided over CDB’s birth and early infancy. His works and economic advice always postulated economic growth as continuous and evolving and dependent on the balanced, simultaneous, and equal pursuit of the tripod of: Human Resource Development, embodying Knowledge, Technology and Innovation; the adequacy of cost-effective Physical Economic and Social infrastructure; and the Establishment of Institutions, together with the adoption of appropriate policies to create an enabling environment to optimally induce economic activity. The pursuit of these objectives required a coordinated approach amongst the social partners of national governments, friendly donors, international financial institutions and other relevant international partners and sectoral specialists.

During the Bank’s first two decades, when it concentrated its attention and resources on the so-called LDCs and in particular the OECS members, Wendell as Project Officer II, would have been at the centre of providing team leadership and engineering solutions and inputs to its project initiatives in such areas as Agricultural Feeder Roads, Water Supply, Port Development, Air Transportation, Disaster Rehabilitation, Electricity and Power Supply, Industrial Estates and Factory Shell Construction. This list would also have included Lines of Credit for small-scale business financing through the local development banks, for the financial and technical support of small business enterprises in agro-processing, small scale agriculture, small hotel development, and student loans. He was the Bank’s point person on LIAT which, for a long time, was the Bank’s single largest project financing exposure.  

He was well known in all the islands where his expertise was frequently sought, especially because of his empathy for the countries’ needs and situations, and also because of his continual attempts to simplify lending conditionalities and communicate, explain and justify their critical importance to the development process. 

One of his colleagues recounts a memorable experience they had on a project mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands to appraise a fledgling, nascent airline project. The first novelty for them was to be flown between Bridgetown and Grand Turk, with a stopover on a US military base in San Juan, on an old Second World War US military DC 6 aircraft, (which travel required special insurance and permissions and possibly even more spare parts and frequent servicing). After a ‘forever’ and spartan flight, they landed in rust-covered Grand Turk, the sleepy island capital city with a population of under 400, with designated (no choice) accommodation, in an appropriately named Salt Raker Inn! 

Coming from the mountainous Windward Islands, even with some exposure to Barbados, one can imagine the team’s surprise when that island’s highest point was less than 100 feet above sea level; yet, just literally next door, on its very pristine yellow sandy beaches, was the second deepest body of water on earth!

The team spent about three days with the authorities and the potential borrower, an ex-banker turned aviator, to prepare and appraise the project. During the course of their discussions/deliberations he invited them into his single engine aircraft to demonstrate his skills and to show us some of the islands of the Turks and Caicos archipelago. Whilst we clung on for dear life the intrepid aviator suddenly saw a bank of cumulus grey clouds overhead and decided to go into it so that he could get his aircraft cleaned with some rain from the afternoon clouds!

We survived to prepare a loan proposal which eventually was not taken up by the banker, but he certainly took the team’s ideas and suggestions. However, their mission was not in vain as that airline, Air Tac, has morphed into Inter-Caribbean airlines, with a fleet now of over seventeen aircraft serving the Western Caribbean. With LIAT’s recent troubles, Inter-Caribbean offered, and continues to offer, its services to the Eastern Caribbean islands. In addition, the team enjoyed some of the best and tastiest lobster tails, conch chowder and fritters that ever crossed man’s palates, whilst quite aware that the delicacies were natural, organic, and fresh!

In the eighties after the Bank’s organisational restructuring, Wendell graduated from being mainly engaged in field work, leading ad hoc teams in project preparation, appraisal, and supervision, to functions of portfolio and departmental management. He became an Assistant Director in the Infrastructure Division of the Projects Department and was later promoted to the Deputy Director position, with responsibility for the initiation, identification, preparation, appraisal and supervision, of all infrastructure projects in the transportation, power, housing, and other construction sectors, across the breadth of the Bank’s seventeen borrowing member countries.

Despite that formidable portfolio, which was the largest area of Bank financing, Wendell found time to do field work, largely to mentor the younger staff, resolve intractable high-level policy problems in his portfolio, and continue to get a direct feel for the on-the-ground situation in the borrowing member countries. One of his many non-routine assignments was being part of a three-man middle-management Bank team that visited Anguilla after that colony’s secession from the three-island federation of St Kitts Nevis and Anguilla. The purpose of the mission was to assess the country’s economic, fiscal and social situations; identify an initial pipeline of projects for possible CDB financing; acquaint the country with relevant CDB policies and procedures; and make recommendations for that country’s formal admission into CDB membership.

Wendell was one of CDB’s most balanced and exemplary employees. His attributes could be described as greater than positive, bordering on superlative, but his humility, introversion and modesty kept his light hidden under a bushel. He was a consummate professional, always seeking perfection, but realistic enough to recognise that one must “never let the best be the enemy of the good”. Despite the wealth of his knowledge and considerable technical expertise he was one who believed in the importance of effective communication through simplicity. He was one of few words which when expressed, were powerful, clear and convincing. He had excellent interpersonal skills, something that was quite rare yet so essential, among his professional compatriots, particularly in service-oriented economies.

He encouraged through his smile and gentle demeanour, but with a steely determination. He hardly offended anybody but was still able to get the work done through his colleagues and teams. A devout Roman Catholic, he found time to practice his faith both at home and in the field. He lived a humble and modest life, almost like a Franciscan. While his peers sought accommodation in the most desirable and affluent areas in Barbados, he chose a modest neighbourhood to bring up his family. And when he returned to Dominica in retirement, he went back to the home that he had built in his younger days. Not that he was miserly as he was very generous to deserving charities and humanitarian causes. He believed that God’s resources should not be wasted and should be used to benefit all of mankind, particularly those most in need. He was a devoted family man, a caring father to his two sons, a loyal friend, a private person yet an attentive listener and source of wise advice.

Wendell lived a full and wholesome life with his four seasons spanning more than the biblical three score and ten. All the seasons were well utilized: Spring in physical and mental growth; Summer in serving his country professionally; Autumn in providing mature professional service to the Region; and his Winter back home, voluntarily giving his last to his people, community, and beloved country.

He worked with CDB for twenty-five years and his departure, when it came, was quite a loss to CDB and the Region that it serves. Now, he has left this earth for good, but to enjoy the rich rewards that he earned from his earthly works. We extend heartfelt condolences to his dear wife, Irma, his two sons and to his extended family. We, the CDB family, wish him peace and the well-deserved eternal rest, with the family being assured that He was a Good and Faithful Servant.  

About the author:

St, Lucian Marius St Rose is a former Vice-President of the Caribbean Development Bank, and former Managing Director of the Bank of St Lucia.

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