In the admittedly tough urban community of Woodford Park, Allman Town, the forecast for the future is often grim, especially for young boys, and even more so for those without a father. Alex Lawson did, however, have one thing in his favour: a loving but firm grandmother.
"I lost my father when I was just six years old, and at that time, my grandmother stepped in to be my father," he recalls. Even though Grandma would herself depart this life six years later, by then, a reasonably solid foundation had been set, one that would be tested by hard times in secondary school, being raised by his mother.
"Being a single-parent household was extremely difficult as sometimes, when we needed textbooks for school, Mommy didn't have the funds, so I had to get creative. That creativity included borrowing a friend's book and writing out the content."
Never had to go without food
Thankfully, though, one staple that Alex and his younger brother never had to go without was food. "My mother ensured that my younger brother and myself were never hungry. Mom also did her best to support and encourage her charges towards greater achievement."
With that base, his high-school days at the venerable Wolmer's Trust High For Boys were unforgettable, albeit marked by struggle. "I miss high school. It was one of the most dynamic periods of my life, and it helped to shape me to be the person I am today. It was rough and tiring. However, the results were worth it."
Those results were arduously gained through the trying of his faith. He recalls the pivotal time of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and the clear lack of funds to pay for those exam subjects and putting his best foot forward. "It was then my faith was put to the test, and I said that the Lord didn't carry me this far to leave me, and I left it to the Lord, and He provided."
He recalls that Carlette Faloon helped him "in every single way possible" in the last three years of high school. Again, with support, Alex displayed his potential.
"I did exceptionally well, maintaining an average of a minimum of 80 per cent throughout my entire high-school life. I was consistently in the top three per cent of my year group; this resulted in me being placed fifth internally for my CSEC examinations."
CB Group/UWI scholarship recipient
The star performances followed him to the next level with six grade twos and two grade threes in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations, all done while another passion was drawing him. "I did all that while being involved in music education, starting the Wolmer's Boys Chamber Orchestra and being integral in the choir."
And that wasn't all. Alex also threw himself into extra-curricular activities, logging time with the Students' Council, Octagon Club, Culinary Club, the Key Club and being a prefect.
Despite his obvious multiple talents, becoming a physio-therapist is very near and dear to his heart. The reason for that takes us back in time to his last days with Grandma. "Before she died, she broke her leg and had to undergo physical therapy to rehabilitate her to be at optimum functionality. She also suffered from a mild stroke, which left her left arm immobile. However, with the intense physio sessions, she was able to be functional again."
And the stroke would not settle for just one member of the family as his mother also suffered, leaving her hands inoperable for a brief period. Seeing what physiotherapists were able to do with both women in improving the quality of their lives made him realise that this profession was his chosen path.
But the path to continuing his tertiary studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) was fraught with trials, and Alex was soon faced with a potentially life-changing and painful choice. "I was in class, and I just sat on the ground and cried after I got the phone call. I would have had to voluntarily leave the institution or apply for a deferral and go work and try to get the funds in place then start at a later date."
However, through Faloon and the good work of the CB Group UWI Scholarship Fund placed in the name of Wolmer's alumnus Douglas Orane, the day was once again saved for him. He is among 27 scholarship recipients benefiting from the proceeds of the CB Group UWI 5K Run, which this year will see its seventh edition tomorrow.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke announced today that Calvin McDonald joins the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service as Chief Fiscal Advisor to the minister.
McDonald, a Jamaican, is on leave from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will be primarily responsible for advising on improving the ministry’s macro-fiscal capacity especially in light of Jamaica’s expected graduation from a programme relationship with the IMF.
“Jamaica has benefited from, and continues to benefit from the Fund’s technical and analytical capacity in the context of a borrowing, program relationship. When we eventually graduate to a non-borrowing relationship with the IMF we will still have access to technical assistance as needed. It is crucial that we strengthen our indigenous macro-fiscal capacity and technical expertise and there is no better person to help us in this regard than Calvin McDonald,” said Clarke.
In 2012, McDonald was appointed Deputy Secretary of the IMF where he helps to shape the work program of the institution and supports the Managing Director and her deputies in chairing IMF Executive Board meetings.
McDonald is an experienced economist with a strong background in academia, economic analysis, and macroeconomic policy advice. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of the West Indies (UWI), and did doctoral studies at New York University. He lectured in economics at UWI; State University of New York, and Iona College.
He became the first Jamaican, and remains the only Jamaican, to have joined the IMF through its prestigious Economist Program for economists under the age of 32. Over his 26 year career as a staff economist at the IMF, he has distinguished himself through his accomplishments, and held several senior positions. In 1997, he was the desk economist for Uganda when that country became the first to receive multilateral debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative. In the late 1990s, he served as fiscal economist on the Russia team during the currency crisis and unilateral debt default, and helped design the IMF’s last financial support program for that country.
He was Deputy Mission Chief for Nigeria, and part of a team that drew up the economic programme in 2005 that supported that country’s receipt of the second largest ever (after Iraq) Paris Club debt write-off (US$18 billion debt reduction on US$30 billion debt). He served as: Deputy Division Chief in the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF, where he led technical assistance missions on public expenditure policy and pension reforms; Mission Chief for South Africa and Division Chief in the African Department, and Assistant Director to two Deputy Managing Directors in the Office of the Managing Director of the IMF.
McDonald has done much to enhance the reputation of Jamaicans at the IMF. He, along with only two other Jamaicans, has attained the highest levels of seniority ever accomplished by Jamaicans at the IMF.
Calvin is an old boy. Class of 1975.