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Date: 2020-12-04 Page is: DBtxt001.php L0700-TPB-About-Background-International

International Experience
Assignments in more than 50 countries over a period of more than 30 years

While I got a very good education, and learned quite a lot in an academic setting, I have been able to complement this with a massive amount of experiental learning associated with international work in more than 50 countries over a period of more than 30 years. More than anything else I have learned to appreciate the value of 'difference', something which seems to be missing in a lot of leadership in important places. To be clear, this predates the rise of President Trump to political leadership, and it might be concluded that this goes back at least half a century.


After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1991, the UN mounted a post-war assessment and planning mission to assist the Afghan authorities in their critical recovery from years of Soviet occupation and violence. The US and others provided substantial assistance for many years to assist in pressuring the Soviets to withdraw. The UN mission was headed by Winston Prattley, a highly respected veteran of the United Nations system with vast experience on handling difficult situations. My role on the team was to help identify and analyze the available data about the state of the country, its needs and potential. For security reasons the project team was based in Islamabad, Pakistan and did field work into Afghanistan from there in cooperation with a UNDP cross-border development initiative based in Peshawar. The team completed a preliminary planning missions and reported back to the UN headquarters, and to the leading international actors who had been engaged with Afghanistan for many years. For reasons that were incomprehensible from the perspective of our field analysis, the potential supporters of a comprehensive post-war rebuilding initiative for Afghanistan decided to withdraw completely from the region, effective instantly. This was the response in Washington, in London, in Paris and in Brussels to my knowledge.
Our team already knew that there were important tensions in the area, as there have been for hundreds of years, and there were growing fund flows into Afghanistan from various regional countrieslike Iran and Saudi Arabia in support of a variety of ethnic, religious and polical agendas. These were the early signs of what eventually became the rule of the Taliban in the political sphere and the expansion of drug production in the economic sphere ... results that were quite predictable when the broader international community decided to withdraw totally.

I learned something about the characteristics of Bahrain in the 1970s in connection with my work as CFO of Continental Seafoods (CSF). Bruce Sidwell, the then President of CSF had been the CEP of the Bahrain Shrimp Company and knew a lot about shrimp resource in the Persian Gulf / Arabian Gulf and the evolution of politics in the region. I used this knowledge better to understand the implications of work I did in Kuwait several years later. It also was an important introduction to Phil Appleyeard who had become the head of the FAO Division if Industrial Fisheries, and then to Dr. John Gulland, Head of the Fisheries Resource Analysis Group. Bangladesh

My first working contact with Bangladesh goes back to the late 1970s when we tried to arrange a joint venture shrimp fishing venture in Bangladesh. Our company was already a major purchaser of shrimp in India for sale in the United States, and we were looking at opportunities to produce a higher value product to international standards in the region. As it turned out a competitor convinced the local authorities that they should monopolise the Bangladesh shrimp fishery rather than our company. They won in large part because they had a fleet of shrimp trawlers rapidly available while we would have taken almost two years to build and deploy new trawlers. Our competitors trawlers were available because of a failed venture in South East Asia ... but that was not common knowledge in Bangladesh!

I have been a follower of the Grameen Bank and BRAC stories since the early 1980s. These two organizations founded in Bangladesh are arguably among the world's best development organizations. Both Muhammad Yunus and Sir Fasel Abed, the founders of these organizations, have been recognized internationally for their initiatives. There are many important lessons that I have learned from their work which have been incorporated in my work for a very long time.


There was a time when BMA was consulting with a shipyard, St. Augustine Shipbuilding in Florida (SAS). SAS had built several shrimp trawlers for our international clients, and I joined a joint marketing effort of the shipyard to sell high speed US built patrol boats to the Navy of the Bahamas. It proved to be an interesting experience since we were competing against a British shipyard that had the support of the UK government. Our vessels had far superior performance and a lower price. Compared to the UK government involvement, the US government was MIA. We lost the contract. The Bahamas got a 'solid' British product, but in addition the Bahamas got all sorts of bilateral aid that had been essentially conditional on giving the contract to the British shipbuilder in the UK.
It would have made sense for the US to have supported this project since the main duty of these patrol vessels would have been the interdiction of high speed vessels carrying drugs into the United States.
During our SAS marketing trip to the Bahamas we were given a tour of the Naval facilities in the country. In one basin, there were several dozen luxury yachts that had been confiscated by the Bahamian authorities. They were available for purchase, but a colleague, wiser than me, pointed out that once these vessels were on the high seas again, they would likely be repossessed by the previous owners without much regrad to our safety!


Government Financial Management Reform Project
This was a project funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB) and implemented by the Barents Group of KPMG. I was recruited by KPMG and initially assigned to some work in the former Soviet Union. I was relocated to Barbados to define the requirements of the Barbados Government Treasury as the government upgraded its existing legacy mainframe computer systems to a comprehensive distributed client server architecture.


I was associated with Benin (then Dahomey) in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods had a small operation based there. We closed this operation and merged it into our operations in the Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.

Years later I returned to Cotonou to do an evaluation mission for one of the UN agencies. The project had to do with training, and encouraging transparency, but it was structured in a way that made it almost impossible to be successful. This related to the nature of the state at that time ... it was controlled by a communist government, and the project was under the oversight of the Ministry of Justice. While the individuals employed by the project did their best, the basic structure of the project ensured a poor outcome. A serious weakness of the UN system is that design problems with projects are very difficult ... essentially impossible ... to fix until it is far too late.


My interaction with Brazil goes back to my time with Continental Seafoods (CSF). The first was in connection with the construction of trawlers for our company. We had planned to build several trawlers, but it became clear that the cost overruns were going to be excessive, so we renegotiated and eventually only completed one trawler. A second was in connection with a joint venture between CSF and an Brazilian industrialist who thought he saw a wealth creating opportunity. What was supposed to be a 50-50 joint venture turned out to be all the costs (including ccapital costs for construction of the trawlers) for ourselves and all the revenues diverted to our joint venture partner. Before I became CFO, this unsatisfactory affair was being litigated in Brazil with massive legal costs and no progress. We approached to situation in a very different way, and initially did everything we possibly could to make the venture reasonably efficient and profitable, and when that did not work we determined to physically close the operations. This involved sureptitious relocation of the trawlers from Brazil to a location outside Brazil. As soon as the loss of the trawlers was recognised, our US company was immediately threateend with legal action. I have memorises of the meeting at our head-office in New Jersey as a very powerful person in Brazil realized that what had transpired in Brazil would likely get him jailed either in the USA or Brazil or both and that quickly ended a saga that had been ongoing for several years.


See Myanmar


I did work in Burundi just before the Rwanda genocide, and the regional turmoil that ensued. I was working for a World Bank project that was reorganizing the coffee industry in the country in order to introduce a coffee auction system for coffee exports and otherwise modernise the industry. My work was to do the analysis required to show that the project was being successful, and demonstrate that the coffee auction should be adopted by the government as the primary method for determining prices. I was able to demonstrate that the prices being obtained by a government controlled export company were considerably lower than would have been obtained by an auction system, and projected a substantial improvement as a result of the auction process. In the actions that subsequently were started, the actual prices achieved were way in excess of what I had predicted. This would have been incredibly important for Burundi, but this major improvement in their economic situation was not to be realized because of the Rwanda crisis and the spillover into Burundi.


My first contact with Cameroon was in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods has a small operation based there. We closed the operation and merged it into our operations in the Cote d'Ivoire and LIberia. Subsequently I returned to the Cameroons in order to assess the potential of establishing a larger fleet operation there.

Cote d'Ivoire

My first contact with the Cote d'Ivoire was in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods (CSF) was reorganizing the operation there to make it profitable. Part of the strategy was to operate a larger fleet with better support facilities. In this reorganization the operations in the Cote d'Ivoire were expanded and made a good contribution to CSF for a number of years. One aspect of the subisidary in the Cote d'Ivoire was that the subsidiary was legally operating in bankrupcy which reduced taxes significantly. It was a little unusual, but worked well for a number of years before the company was dissolved.

During the 1980s and 90s I worked on several UN assignments in the Cote d'Ivoire doing project evaluation missions. This included a sensitive mission to assess the management capacity of several ministries in the government.

Some of my other work in the Cote d'Ivoire involved the African Development Bank that was based in Abidjan. One of these assignments was involved with the management training being conducted in the bank, and how well it satisfied the needs.


IGAD ... the Inter Governmental Agency for Development ... has been based in Djibouti since it was founded (under a slightly different name) in the late 1970s. IGAD has been a partner agency in several UN assignments I have worked on in the Horn of Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. Because of this some of the workshops and meetings have been held at the IGAD offices in Djibouti.

In more recent years Djibouti has become the base for US forces in the area (this area includes both the Arab penninsular, the Horn of Africa and to some extent North Africa). I am not convinced that leaders in the most powerful countries appreciate the negative impact of military bases in small and essentially very weak countries ... and are doing enough to offset this.

The meetings I have had in Djibouti in the 1980s and 1990s suggest to me that everything is a lot more complex than most people will ever comprehend ... and the misinformation that floods into the news cycle is a tremendous problem for effective decision making.


My first visits to Ghana were in the 1970s. My company, Continental Seafoods, was always on the lookout for joint venture shrimp fishing opportunities in West Africa, and some of our management staff had moved on to work for bigger tuna fishing companies based in Tema. As it turned out we were never able to arrange to operate in Ghana while I was employed by the company. This was to some extent because the people involved ... the reason is redacted!

In the 1980s I did a major evaluation of a large World Bank agricultural project based in Kumasi. In connection with this work I had the opportunity to visit project components in the very North of the country as well as in Accra where the Ministry was located. This work helped me better to understand the issue that single sector projects like this one get constained not by issues that the project was addressing, but the ongoing dysfunction in the economic system that the project was not empowered to address.

Later, I came back to Ghana in connection with work I was doing to understand the role precious minerals were playing in economic development. Gold has been an important product for Ghana for centuries, and the industry is important to the performance of the country. It is also fairly apparent that the value of the gold does not translate very well into prosperity for the country. At one level, international companies are structured to export the wealth, and at another level relatively few local partners are organized to make substantial profit for themselves, while doing rather little for the country in general.

This is not what the propaganda says, but it seems to be what the money flows show. On one of my visits to Ghana in 2000, I was arrested ... it appears my inquiries were bothering some of the more powerful people in the country ... and while it is true that my inquiry was leading me to the conclusion that all was not well in the Ghana gold business, I was a little surprised that there was this level of concern over the knowledge that I might be acquiring. What was somewhat ironic, I met in jail some others who were involved in different aspects of the gold business who were also in jail for their roles outside the visibly (controlled) gold sector of the economy. Gold is shiny on top ... but underneath, the reality is somewhat different.


Egypt is a historically important country with many complexities. I have visited Egypt a number of times because of its coordinating role in some of the World Bank and UN projects in the MENA region.

El Salvador

I worked in El Salvador with Continential Seafoods (CSF) in the 1970s. This was mainly before the various movements for change had become powerful and disruptive. I was actually present at on h=of the first rallies organized by FAPU and got a rude awakening when I saw the way in which the military mobilized to put down any distrurbances that emerged. On that occasion nothing happened. but later there was lot of viloence with injsuries and death.

CSF has a very successful joint venture operation in El Salvador, with trawler operations and shore facilities located at Puerto del Triunfo



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Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau is Portuguese speaking with continuing quite strong links to Portugal. It has also embraced communism and was supported in its struggle for independence by the Soviet Union. At some point in the 1980s, the Kuwait Fund financed a study of the fisheries sector in Guinea Bissua that was carried out by the Virkir Consultancy from Iceland. After a draft of their report was released, the Government of Giunea Bissau requested that the UN review this report and make recommendations. My firm did this work for the UN.

Guyanne Francaise

This assignment was in connection with the possible development of a deep shrimp fishing operation in Guyanne Francaise starting off with the acquisition of a local company. The potential of the fishery would have supported a medium sized fleet, except for the problem of employment regulation and taxation which was following French practice in Europe. With this constraint the financial analysis showed that the acquisition and subsequent investment would not be viable.


India ... Multi-State Cashew Development Project
July 1978 – December 1978
My first consultancy assignment for the World Bank was to do financial analysis on an appraisal mission of a Multi-State Cashew Development Project in India. I already knew something about India as a supplier of shrimp for my previous company Continental Seafoods. I was impressed by the competence of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) who coordinated our work, and the potential of the work of the World Bank to make a significant difference in development progress. I also learned that rational analysis can also be trumped by local behavior that I do not understand. The project was subsequently implemented successfully. less


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Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR)
1983 – 1986
I participated in a team of the Mariculture and Fisheries Department of the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research undertaking a multi-year study of the Economic Effects of Effort Limitation in Kuwait's Fisheries. My corporate fisheries experience was used to clarify the impact of investment on the fishery, and to demonstrate that in the fisheries sector, more is not always better.


I did some assignments in Laos for the World Bank in connection with their program of privatization. My task had a focus on the financial valuation of parastatal units owned by the government that were to be sold. One of the lessons learned was the dangerous disconnect between policy and reality. The policy was that government owned units should be privatized because the conventional wisdom was that the private sector could operate business entities more profitably than government. This may be true, but in the process private business owners in their effort to maximize profit are often willing to damage the environment in dangerous ways.
Chinese and other foreign businessmen were will to pay high prices relative to the financial balance sheet for sawmills being sold by the government under the privatization program. The key asset was not the physical plant, but the access to Lau forests for the lumber, something that was difficult to value, but huge. Lower level government officials did not understand this issue, and nor did the junior level World Bank project staff. I argued that no sale of these sawmills should go forward until there was a clear policy in place for the management and preservation of the Lau forests.


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I have done a number of assignments in Liberia. My work in Liberia started with my work with Continental Seafoods which had a fleet of around 20 trawlers based in Monrovia. This operation was closed down just before the coup by Sargent Doe which killed President Tolbert.


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Integrated planning for refugee affected areas in Malawi
1987 – 1988
I was team leader for UNDP in this multi-agency planning exercise for the refugee affected areas of Malawi. During the 1980s a long lasting civil war in Mozambique resulted in several million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mozambique and large scale refugee flows into Malawi and Zambia. When the work was launched there were about 300,000 Mozambican refugees already in Malawi, and six months later the total had increased to around 1.1 million.

This required substantial mobilization of resources for Malawi and for the UN system, especially UNHCR. The planning work our team did was the basis for fund raising and effective use of funds.

I was fortunate to be working with a very competent group of experts from different agencies, and also local counterparts who kept senior level government officials appraised of the work so that government's formal approval of the work was given within hours of the work being 'finalized'. This proved problematic, because the UN system could not do the same from its side!

About a year later the World Bank became concerned that the resources being deployed in refugee affected areas of Malawi would have macro-economic side effects that would be damaging to the national economy. I participated in this World Bank analysis, and learned from this something of the massive disconnect between monetary analysis and the economics of real people, and how this was contributing to policy dysfunction and failed development.less


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Myanmar (Burma) Fisheries Sector Development Planning
June 1981 – December 1981

I got to learn a lot about Burma (now Myanmar) in 1981. I was part of a World Bank project appraisal team reviewing a proposed Fisheries Sector Development Project for the Irrawaddy Delta. A big part of my work involved an analysis of PPFC, (the People's Pearl and Fisheries Corporation), a parastatal enterprise responsible for government operations in the fishing sector. PPFC had attracted a huge amount of international investment that had enabled them to expand their fleet of fishing vessels way beyond what was prudent. I concluded that there had been massive over-investment in the fisheries sector and that PPFC was not only over-extented, but on the verge of bankruptcy (except that it was a government entity!). It had been funded irresponsibly by many international donors, most of whom did not understand the risks and rewards associated with fisheries. My recommendation to our World Bank team was that the World Bank should not not proceed with its planned project ... mitigating to some modest amount the problems being faced by the sector.


Development Planning for Namibia
March, April, May 1990

Namibia gained its independence on March 20, 1990. The next day I started work on the first development plan for the newly independent nation working for UNDP and the National Planning Commission. I was part of a three person team comprising, Pekka Korpinen, Amadou Sarr and myself. We assisted in the development of a plan to support a request to the international community for development assistance. Based on the work we had done, the UN organized a pledging conference in New York in May 1990 and obtained pledges from many different countries amounting to a total of more than $700 million ... exceeding all expectations.

Acting Aid Coordinator, Namibia
September 1990 to March 1991

After a few months, none of the pledges made that the Pledging Conference had been converted into money. I was called in by the National Planning Commission (NPC)and UNDP to work as the government's aid coordinator to assist with the mobilization of the pledges. It proved quite a challenge to align the priority needs of Namibia with the wants of the various donors ... but considerable progress was made ... and lessons learned, by me if not the donors!

The first challenge was that every single donor had its own procedure for approving and disbusing development assistance funds. With more than 50 donors who had pledged substantial money, this meant I had to familiarize myself with 50 different application processes. One common feature seemed to be that nothing could happen unless the beneficiary country formally requested the assistance. I arrive in Windhoek on Monday. During Thursday and Friday we prepared more than fifty letters requesting development assistance rom each of the countries concerned. The Government Planning Commissioner signed all these letters and they were hand delivered by messenger to the respective Embassies next day. Prior to signing the letters, the Commissioner was concerned about the potential negative fall-out if this was the wrong thing to do ... a very legitimate concern. I tried to argue that doing nothing was absolutely wrong, and what we were planning to do, was far better than doing nothing. I offered to resign, it it proved to be a wrong move ... and the letters got signed.

Over the next 40 hours ... Saturday afternoon, Sunday and then Monday morning ... all the Embassies we had contacted got in touch with us and the process of mobilizing aid resources started in earnest.


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Nigeria ... Nigerian National Shrimp Company
1974 – 1979
Continental Seafoods Inc (CSF) entered into an agreement with the Federal Military Government (FMG) of Nigeria to build and operate a shrimp processing plant, fish port, and fleet of vessels in Mid West State, Nigeria. Soon after I became CFO of CSF, it became clear that this project was not progressing well, and I had to take on the role of acting project manager pending recruitment of a new project manager. There were hundreds of 'lessons learned' and the project was completed successfully, though there was the Gowan coup in 1975 and subsequently the assassination of Murtala Muhammed and massive changes in the economy of Nigeria from the conceptualization of the project to its operational launch. Sometime after I left the company, the NNSC was effectively nationalized by the government. I had fortunately arranged for OPIC insurance against political risk!less


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Saudi Arabia

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South Africa

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South Sudan

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Planning for relief and development in refugee affected areas ... UNDP and UNHCR
1982 – 1983
Based in Juba, my work for UNDP was to assess needs for relief and development assistance associated with Ugandan refugees in the Equatorial Region of South Sudan. The problems were compounded by the closing of the borders and no practical land routes in or out of the area. My experience with UNHCR was very positive, and I consider them to be one of the best of the UN specialized agencies.


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Yemen ... Yemen Arab Republic (YAR)

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Yemen ... People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY)

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