An interview with the new Central Bank Governor of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Jwala Rambarran – “Moving from Fatima Boy, to the man at the helm of the Central Bank”

On Friday 13th July 2012 Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced Economist Jwala Rambarran as the new Central Bank Governor. Mr. Rambarran had worked at the Central Bank for 14 years, and during his tenure, he represented T&T as technical assistant in the office of the executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from April 2001 to March 2003. He left Central Bank in March 2004 to assume the position of chief economist at Caribbean Money Market Brokers (CMMB) before he embarked on his own business, Cap-M Research. 

Mr. Rambarran left Fatima College (where he was known as Anston) in 1986 (Form 6) and attended the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine campus. He holds a Bachelor of Science (upper second class honours) degree in economics and mathematics from UWI and a Masters of Science (honours) degree in financial economics from the University of London. Most recently, Mr. Rambarran was recognised by UWI, St. Augustine campus, as one of the 50 distinguished alumnus as part of the campus’ 50th anniversary celebrations.

Governor Rambarran, please accept our thanks in advance for taking the time from your busy schedule to meet with us.

Q: What are your best and worst memories of Fatima?

A: (A long, contemplative pause…)


It’s hard to choose really. I remember Keith Scotland doing an open-book presentation for Science Class, spending over 15 minutes discussing the topic and then fielding answers. Afterwards, I asked him what he had written in his note book he keep referring to – it had nothing! He was actually ad-libbing the whole thing as he did not do his homework. Hence his current success as a lawyer I guess! (laughing) I learnt from that experience that when you’re in the spotlight, you’d better be ready to dance.

WORST (An even longer, more contemplative pause…)

None of significance really. I suppose being asked to stop attending RI (Religious Instructions) Class in Form 3 because I was a Hindu, after topping the class in Forms 1 and 2.

Q: Were school days (at Fatima) really the proverbial ‘best days’?

A : “I would say my best experiences were at UWI, but my Fatima experience though was what really prepared me for adult life in Trinidad. The diversity and mix of social and ethnic groups I experienced at the College laid the foundation for me to be able to manage diversity in life and the workplace. From my primary school I was the only person who chose to come to Fatima as their first choice (versus Presentation College); this decision I believe gave me an advantage through this lesson in diversity that I would not likely have had to learn as strongly in Presentation College.”

Q: How instrumental do you think Fatima was in creating the person you have become?

A: “As noted in the previous answer, Fatima really created my foundation for dealing with diversity in life. Two other ‘mantra’s that Fatima engrained in me are our motto, “Nitendo Vinces – By Striving we Shall Conquer”, and “Aim High”, from our first Principal Mr. Pantin. These, along with the quote, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, made popular by the Spiderman character, helped mould me into the man I am.”

Q: Have you maintained your friendships from school?

A: I have maintained many friendships, but honestly not many close friends. The distance from POS mainly contributed to this, as it made it hard to ‘lime’ with my peers from school during weekends etc..

Q: How far was Fatima from home and what was the commute like in those days?

A: I grew up in Lange Park, Chaguanas. Commuting to school was “an adventure,” as in those days they were now turning the Princes Margaret Highway (now the Uriah Butler Highway) into a dual lane. As such, you had to be there by 5 AM to handle the hour plus into POS. After school, I used to walk with some of the other boys to Independence Square to travel home.

Q: Did you take part in any extracurricular activities?

A: No, because of the travelling issues. Any rain or delays in leaving for home meant reaching home after 7 PM.

Q: Did any teachers impact you in particular?

A: Mr. Gonsalves, the one that taught Mathematics for a short period, really made me understand that subject; this formed the base of me moving on to me degree in Economics/ Mathematics.  He was a Fatima Boy who taught for a year before furthering his studies I believe. Other teachers that really stood out were Ms. Hubbard, Mr. Sunderji, Ms. Wills, Mr. Charles and Ms. O’Brien.

Q: Did you get a scholarship when you graduated from Fatima?

A: No, I got one after completing first year of UWI.

Q: Did anything you experience in Fatima influence your eventual path?

A: My plan was originally to go into medicine. Because I strangely didn’t get an ‘A’ in Chemistry in my O’ Levels (even though I used to top the class), I could not get into the A’ Levels stream I wanted. As such, I switched path into the Business Stream – an act of fate maybe?  I went from planning to look after people, to looking after a country as a whole (laughing).

Q: Make-up of family i.e. wife, kids etc.?

A: I have a wife, a 14 year old daughter and an 8 year old son. We are a very close-knit family. We are the four Musketeers.

Q: Favorite way to spend spare time (assuming that you have spare time)?

A: My spare time has always been for family. Watching movies with my daughter, playing board games or bike riding with my son.

Q: Has your new job started to affect your family life?

A: Surprisingly it has not negatively affected it, but has actually helped me add some structure, as it is my first “8-4” type job for quite a while (not that I actually work 8-4).

Q: What time do you get to the office, and what time do you leave?

A: I normally arrive around 8.30 AM and leave about 6 PM.

Q: What’s a typical day like?

A: A mix of meetings with staff, both structured and ad-hoc, decision making, reading and planning, strategy formation and looking at external issues.

Q: What is your greatest hope and greatest fear?

A: Hmmm. Greatest hope – to leave a positive legacy as a Central Bank Governor and to move the bank to being closer to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Greatest fear – One of my kids dying.

Q: Do you have any items yet unfulfilled on your ‘bucket list’ (that you are willing to share)?

A: Surprisingly no. This post is where my sights were set. It is what I aspired to. I haven’t begun to think past the next 5 years (i.e. my term in office) as yet.

Q: Has it been hard adjusting to your new role?

A: No, I hit the ground running.

Q: How has your response been in your new office?

A: I have been a bit surprised by the negative public attention. In my office itself, the reception has been very warm; I have a lot of support and a team of professional and committed staff. We share similar objectives.

Q: There has been some controversy about your appointment –is Fatima motto an inspiration?

A: I have not paid attention to the negative noises – I am focused at the job at hand.

Q: Would you like to share your thoughts/ feelings on the controversy?

A: No, I will leave that for my memoirs! (laughing)

Q: What’s your vision for how you can make positive change in our beloved country?

A: My vision is:

  • The Central Bank providing the economic stability needed.
  • Demystifying the workings of the Bank – helping people understand how it operates and why.
  • Moving the Bank away from being seen as an Ivory Tower – moving it closer to the people.

Q: What is your take on the state of the economy currently?

A: I think it is ‘turning the corner’ as they say. It has proven to be resilient against external influences. The Central Bank now has to provide the confidence to support the turnaround.

I don’t subscribe to ‘recession thinking’. The economy may be a bit fragile, but it’s definitely not on the ground.

Q: Any closing comments?

A: Fatima is the only local College to have produced two Central Bank Governors; this is something to be proud of.

In fact, there are many Old Boys’ at high levels in the financial sector. I remember going to an IMF World Bank meeting where every person seated around the table turned out to be an ex Fatima student from differing generations; every one. We had never met each other before.

Fatima has a lot to be proud of. I hope it continues molding young men into loyal, patriotic citizens. I hope it continues to ‘Aim High”!

Governor, thank you for your hospitality and for the opportunity to have met with you. Good luck in your new position from FOBA and I am sure from all Fatima Boys’.