Renowned Caribbean economist. He was born in Guyana in 1933. Today he is a professor of economics and director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Guyana.

Clive Yolande (C.Y.) Thomas was born in Georgetown, Guyana. His academic work was framed by the tradition of economic policy, interested not just in answering questions about the production of wealth, but also about how to eliminate poverty. In fact, his best known work, from 1987, titled The Poor and the Powerless: Economic Policy and Change in the Caribbean, shows his interest in the poor and the needy. In that work, Thomas documented the economic development of five English-speaking countries in the post-colonial period, comparing the various socialist or conservative economic policy trends that characterized each of the five cases: Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Based on those five cases, Thomas argued that the problems of poverty and underdevelopment in Caribbean countries could not be resolved simply through economic changes at an institutional level. Similar to the plantation economy theorists, Thomas argued that the “means of production” of the plantation economy and slavery did not disappear with the emancipation of the slaves and that the basic structures were still present in those countries.

His influence as an economist was particularly felt in the banking and monetary policies adopted by the emerging independent nations of the English-speaking Caribbean during the 1960s. This influence is seen in several of his publications from the era, such as: The Balance of Payment in a Colonial Economy in 1963; Monetary and Financial Arrangements in a Dependent Monetary Economy in 1965; and The Structure, Performance and Prospects of Central Banking in the Caribbean in 1973. In the latter work, Thomas documented and evaluated the experiences of the early years of three Caribbean central banks from 1962-1973: the Central Bank of Jamaica, created in 1962; the Central Bank of Guyana, created in 1966; and the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, created in 1966. In this work, Thomas criticized the approach of modeling these three central banks after the Bank of England, which meant they were designed for well established financial markets but were inadequate, Thomas said, for the underdeveloped economies of these Caribbean countries. Thomas, in turn, argued for nationalized banking and, as Courtney N. Blackman pointed out, “the central banks that Thomas envisioned more resembled the Gosbank of the former Soviet Union than the Bank of England.”

His socialist ideology led him to confront, in the latter stages of his academic life, the prevalence of totalitarian states in socialist economies and in 1984 he published a book about totalitarianism titled The Rise of the Authoritarian State in Peripheral Societies.

Author: Luis Galanes
Published: May 07, 2012.

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