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“Review of Narsey book by Dr.Gounder” (FT ??)


Book Review (of The Challenges of Growing the Fiji Economy) by Dr Neelesh Gounder

Professor Wadan Narsey’s latest book, The Challenges of Growing the Fiji Economy: Volume 1, collects opinion pieces by him originally published in The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Daily Post, Island Business and Pacific Scoop between 1987 and 2018, some pieces not proviously published and various submissions made to different governments over the years. This period strongly marks Professor Narsey’s illustrious career as an academic at the University of the South Pacific. During this period Professor Narsey was also a previous USP Director of Planning and Development (1994-1996) and a member of the Fiji parliament for the National Federation Party (1996 to 1999).

Professor Narsey is well known in Fiji. Anybody who has studied or worked with him or read his work knows him as the most accomplished and creative economist of his generation our country has produced.

Although he seems to be in retirement these days, he remains as the most prolific commentator on public policy in Fiji today and has been a role model for many academics engaging in public policy interaction.

The book contains an enormous amount of material which would be highly useful for civil servants, those working in institutions such as Reserve Bank of Fiji, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industries, and public enterprises. It would also be useful for economics teachers, university and high school students looking for cross disciplinary analysis of major economic and political economy issues of the past 31 years.

Professor Narsey’s belief that economists’ best advance the public good when they act as watchdog on society and community educator, even if they are inevitably regarded as “public nuisance” or a “thorn in the side” by virtually all governments while giving credit where credit is due) is reflected in this collection of articles and his other writings.

As Professor Narsey points out in the preface, this is a not a textbook but an applied economics type of content useful for experts as well as the general public. In addition to being highly readable with persuasive analysis, this book provides an insightful history of the Fijian economy and politics and the most current issues and debates. There are 146 opinion pieces prefaced with a glossary of key terms making it easy for non-economics readers to flip back and check out the meaning of technical terms or phrases.   There is also a comprehensive index linking to key words at the top of each reading.

In his teaching, Professor Narsey has always challenged students to write articles clearly setting out opposing views- good students and teachers have to be “devils’ advocates”. This book has enough material and student:teacher questions to enable good students to do precisely that.

A critical reader will find out that there are typos here and there (including one on the cover spine itself). This is to be expected given that this book has been a solo  effort to provide a collection of opinion pieces between 1986 and 2017 during the author’s retirement and the book has been produced by himself personally, without any institutional backing.

The book can be found at USP bookshop and Hot Bread Kitchen stores selling for a low introductory price of $40. This would be a great buy for parents for their children currently in high school and universities or for friends this Christmas. This is also a must buy for all high school libraries in Fiji.

Among Professor Narsey’s previous books include British Imperialism and the Making of Colonial Currency Systems published by Palgrave Macmillan (London) in 2016, a book of genuine interest to academics, unfortunately not available in Fiji.

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