Deep Thoughts by Ewart Williams

Ashby Monk

Asian Investor has published an interview with Ewart Williams, a Member of the Board of Governors for Trinidad and Tobago’s Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (H&SF). In case you aren’t familiar with Mr Williams, he’s a rather interesting guy. He spent 30 years working for the IMF before being appointed T&T’s Central Bank Governor in 2002 and then again in 2007. Today he works for the $4 billion H&SF and, in addition, has played a role within the International Forum of SWFs and helped to develop the Santiago principles. In short, he has useful insights on running a SWF and on the international initiatives currently underway on SWF governance. So, without further ado, here are some deep thoughts by Ewart Williams:

On the motivation for setting up the H&SF: “We had frittered away resources after the first two oil booms. When oil prices fell the economy went into a serious recession. When oil prices started to recover again, the government was committed to putting away resources. We started with an interim revenue stabilisation fund and then the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund was formally put into law in 2007…My career with the IMF made me painfully aware that, particularly with oil and gas as a wasting asset, it was important to put funds aside for future generations and make sure they are invested wisely.”

On the impact of the IWG and International Forum: “There is more information available now than there was before the body was set up. The rules of the game are much clearer than they were before…Now the next step is to formalise the group with a secretariat. That is something that will be considered. As of now the IMF acts as a sort of secretariat. The next step is also in ensuring compliance with the Santiago Principles.”

On Santiago Principles Compliance: “Most want to adhere. But the fact is that you are dealing with different political systems where governance means different things. Governance in Trinidad and Tobago or in some European countries such as Norway is different from what it is in many of the Middle Eastern countries. Therefore one has to find common ground between different political systems and that’s not easy. And what the Santiago Principles have done is to find that minimum common ground. The challenge is getting compliance to those principles.”

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This website is a project of Professor Gordon L. Clark and Dr. Ashby Monk of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Their research on sovereign wealth funds is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and The Rotman International Centre for Pension Management.

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