SVG loses the architect of its economic development
St Vincent and the Grenadines is mourning the loss of a man who has been described as the architect of this country’s economic development.
Christian Ivor ‘Cims’ Martin, formerly of Biabou and Villa died at the age of 77 on Wednesday, August 15 in the United Kingdom.
Cims was born on August 19, 1940 to Almena and Bovell Martin, who migrated to Trinidad when he was very young. His father, a policeman and road overseer, later died aged 32.
Cims and his sister Claudette went to live with his grandmother, Dorcas Martin, in Biabou, where cousins Rosaval and Joy already lived. He enjoyed revisiting his childhood home and recalled how he would have to walk many miles every day, up steep hillsides to carry lunch for people. The house, about 100 yards from where the library is now, belonged to his grandfather Samuel Martin, a headmaster. His wife Dorcas, Cims’ grandmother, lived there and Samuel lived in a small house on the other end of the several acre plot.
Dorcas, spotting her grandson’s ability under the tutelage of village headmaster ‘Teacher’ Ballah at the Biabou Methodist School, sent him to sit the common entrance exam. Her faith was such that despite her lack of means she knew God would provide. Cims passed with flying colours and gained entry to the St Vincent Grammar School. There, he worked his way rapidly through the forms by getting up very early to study. During this time he was mentored by Mr. A. C. Cyrus and the group of distinguished men who met at the Cyrus Emporium on Grenville Street in Kingstown.
According to lawyer Theodore Browne, Cims was once adjudged the best essayist in the world when he won a global essay competition on the life of Abraham Lincoln sponsored by the United States government.
The Scholar, Economist and Public Servant
As a young man, Cims won scholarships to Carleton University in Canada and to the University of the West Indies (UWI). He chose to attend the UWI where he read for a BSc degree in Economics at Mona. A master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the UWI St Augustine followed. His thesis entitled ‘The Role of Government in the Agricultural Development of St Vincent’ has been used as a reference by students and researchers as much of the source material is no longer available.
Cims also trained in accountancy, becoming a certified, chartered accountant.
During his young adulthood, Cims taught at the St Vincent Grammar School then moved into the civil service where, during the St Vincent Labour Party administration of Milton Cato, he served as the Financial Secretary and was the Chairman of the St Vincent Marketing Board and the National Commercial Bank among other State entities. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Development Corporation and became its first Manager.
After the collapse of the West Indian Federation in the 1960s, he worked tirelessly with senior civil servants from the other small islands to bind them together and form CARICOM. Within this grouping he was a major force in establishing the marketing protocol by which our farmers were ensured markets for their produce regionally and particularly in Trinidad and Barbados.
In the late 1970s, Cims left St Vincent to work with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and was based in Austria. He also worked in the Project Planning Centre for Developing Countries at Bradford University in England.
He co-authored the “Rise and Fall of the Black Caribs” with Dr I. A. Earle Kirby, which gives details of the Carib wars and highlights the role of first national hero Joseph Chatoyer.
Ever the patriot, Cims returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines after retiring from the United Nations, and continued where he left off. In the Queen’s New Years Honours List of 2002, Cims was awarded the Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, (CMG) for his services to the Financial Sector. During a contribution to Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves described Cims as “the architect of the economic development programme under the late great Right Honourable Milton Cato.”
Cims became Fiscal Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in 2005. He played an important role in Airport Development and was one of the first Board members of the International Airport Development Company where he used his skills in negotiating and the purchase of properties and relocating 135 home owners. He was also one of the founding members of National Properties Limited and the PetroCaribe Board and was still an advisor to PetroCaribe at the time of his death. He served as well as Chairman of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority and the Financial Services Authority. He also represented SVG on the board of the Mustique Company Limited.
During this period, Cims also sat as a member of the board of directors of Interactive Media Limited, publishers of SEARCHLIGHT. From then, up to the time of his death, Cims authored occasional essays on a wide range of topics which were published in SEARCHLIGHT.
He “retired” again in 2011 to the United Kingdom, where he continued lifelong passions for backyard farming, following cricket and reading. In fact, this voracious reading and his journey from humble beginnings, informed a natural ability to quickly assimilate what someone was saying and regale them with a relevant anecdote. He was a joy with whom to have a conversation.
The Family Man
In 1968, Cims married a young British VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) teacher, Kathleen, who was then teaching at the Girls’ High School. Theirs was a marriage that would stand the test of time.
Brushing aside prejudices of the era, the marriage provided a portable bedrock for Kathy and Cims to build international careers and produce two children: Alistaire and Jerome.