Mr. Winston Jordan
Minister of Finance
There is no doubt that there are rough times, but we have been through tough times before. If we keep fighting for what we want, then success will eventually be ours. Mr. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance
Before his appointment as Minister of Finance under the APNU/AFC regime, you may have never heard about Winston Jordan.
However, there is much to the new minister. With over 30 years of working experience in a number of areas, including macroeconomic management, economic policy reform, and programming and governance as well as numerous honours and fellowships to his name, Minister Jordan is a force with which to be reckoned. However, he is more than the sum of his accomplishments, and in a recent interview in his office at the Ministry of Finance, Minister Jordan told the story of his humble beginnings.
Before “minister” was added to his name, Jordan came from a simple background. He was the third of seven children in a strong-rooted Guyanese family, the son of a joiner and a housewife. While he has lived in several parts of Georgetown, including Lodge, Kitty, and West Ruimveldt Park, Jordan is a country boy at heart, having been born in the village of Good Intent, West Bank of Demerara. He shared that his large extended family, including his siblings, his parents, and aunts and uncles, lived simply in a one-bedroom apartment.
He was exposed to school late due to a number of challenges, including race riots in the 1960s. He managed to attend a private school, Britton’s Private, in Lamaha Street but after that, there was a holdup in his education: when it was time for primary school, there were no schools available since all were packed to capacity. He shared that, in many cases, children were being taught on the schools’ steps. Nonetheless, he persevered and, after the riots ended in 1964, his parents heard about Campbellville Government School. He was placed there to write Common Entrance and copped a place at the Indian Educational Trust College, which is now Richard Ishmael Secondary School.
Jordan worked as a Class II Clerk at the Public Service Commission. Not to be limited to one place, Jordan pushed for further professional and personal development “While employed at Customs, I was an evening student at the Government Technical Institute, where I pursued Commerce and then later on did Accounting before making my way at the University of Guyana,” Minister Jordan shared.
In fact, upon his return from the United Kingdom in 1984 from his Commonwealth Scholarship programme, he immediately began teaching and researching part-time at the University of Guyana. He was engaged as a Senior Research Associate in the Institute of Development Studies, teaching development planning until 1989. He had subsequent engagements with the university through the years, teaching public finance and public administration. For him, it was both frustrating and rewarding.
“It was frustrating in the sense that the university had lost a significant number of skills while being unable to find suitable replacements. It was also severely handicapped in terms of financing, and faced a real danger of closure,” he said.
He recalled that many of his fondest moments revolved around teaching and mentoring students, especially those who were in difficult circumstances. He also enjoyed providing an innovative learning environment. “It was a pleasure to give back to the University and having students benefit from my experience I had while pursuing my studies at the University of Warwick,” he said proudly.
He advised current UG students to make their time count, be true to themselves, always strive for excellence, and to be each other’s keeper.
“Now that you are paying for tertiary education, make your four years count; stay focused, know what you want, dislike the easy way out, and take the hard way because the hard way will benefit and give you knowledge while at university and in your after university life.” He further said that communication is key and continued, “Progress doesn’t come so easily and quickly; sometimes, it doesn’t come at all and there were times when I thought about giving up and moving on. But what kept me going day in day out was that changes are inevitable. As Guyanese, we aren’t looking for handouts, but we do expect our hard work to pay off and our responsibility to be rewarded.”
“So stay in school; don’t give up. There is no doubt that there are rough times, but we have been through tough times before. If we keep fighting for what we want, then success will eventually be ours.”
He also encouraged those taking loans to pay them back. “Remember: there is somebody who may be as poor as you or even poorer who would want the opportunity you have or had.”
When asked what prompted his decision to run for political office, Winston Jordan shared that he was a very good friend to the former Leader of the Opposition and now President of Guyana, His Excellency, David Granger. The minister revealed that he had never contemplated going into politics, though he did participate in activities of the youth arm of the People’s National Congress (PNC) in his younger days.
It was not until January 2015 that he was approached by President Granger to join the emerging multi-party coalition. “Even then I was a bit reticent about becoming a full blown politician, and had asked the president to be considered for a technocratic position in the cabinet,” Minister Jordan said. This request made sense; after all, he had extensive knowledge due to various positions held in his life, including as a Budget/Economic Adviser, Budget Specialist, Adviser in Budgeting, Budgeting and Public Investment Special, and Director of Budget. He also served as the Country Analyst in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) from 2009 to 2015 and as the Technical Coordinator in the Public Management Modernization Programme (IDB) from 2006 to 2008.
“So here I am today, the reluctant politician who has become the Minister of Finance of Guyana,” he added.
Since then, the “reluctant politician” has been making a name for himself. No stranger to Guyana’s social and political activism, he brought leadership of the coalition government with his technical experience and unwavering commitment to the building of Guyana. However, despite his futuristic way of thinking, his probing mind, and true commitment to democracy at all levels, Winston said that Guyana’s economy remained largely unchanged. “It is heavily dependent on a few primary commodities such as rice, sugar, bauxite and, more recently, gold for growth, income, and employment while at the same time has high import content. So I see my main task as building a vibrant, resilient economy capable of withstanding both external factors – such as low prices for exports and high prices for imports – and domestic climate change factors, such as El Nino and La Nino weather Phenomena. The achievement of this goal will entail diversifying and modernising the economy away from its current dependence to one that adds more value and services,” he said.
He further highlighted that a social cohesion framework is needed to unite the people of Guyana, who have been racked by years of divisive politics.
Minister Jordan is married to Charmaine Atkinson-Jordan and has three children: Jo-Anne Milner, Darren Jordan, and Yonnick Jordan.
- The University of Guyana