Claims USP was pressured to remove academic | Pacific Beat

Claims USP was pressured to remove academic

Claims USP was pressured to remove academic

Updated 15 February 2012, 12:15 AEDT

Former University of the South Pacific economist Professor Wadan Narsey says he left his post because of pressure from the Fiji interim government on the university administration.

He says he left the USP by mutual agreement, because the interim government was threatening to withhold funds from the university because they were unhappy about him.

The outspoken academic has commented widely about the state of Fiji's economy, and problems with the country's superannuation find.

Professor Narsey, who's currently on sabbatical in Japan, says the USP was being put in a difficult position, and his decision to step down was made in the best interests of the university.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Wadan Narsey; former USP Economics Professor

NARSEY: The problem really was that the university told me, the management told me that they were financially jeopardised because the Fiji government's contribution were being withheld by the military regime, and also on the back restructuring of government scholarships to USP and the other two national universities. So there was very clearly great risk in terms of damage to the university's financial future because the military regime was extremely unhappy with me. I mean I would have thought it very, very unfair of the regime to think that, but it has been doing these kind of things. So the university management was really in a very, very hard place, between a rock and a hard place, they suggested to me it was in the wider interest of the university that I leave. And so I really had no option but to say ok, I will agree to leave and they will abide by their contractual obligations to me. So to be honest it was a tough judgement call on their part and they have to look after the interests of the university, whereas I as an academic just have my own academic objectives, which is far narrower than that of the responsibilities of university management.

HILL: Why was the Fiji interim government so upset with you?

NARSEY: Well I suspect that was has happened is that while my commentary has been on a whole range of issues on budgets, on commerce commission, on what's been going on in the pension fund, it is the last one which I think really bothered them, because what has happened is that they seem to be wanting to go ahead with the plans to reduce the pensions of existing pensioners, a large group of them, more than a thousand people, and these pensioners have taken them to court and are fighting them in court, and they're coming out clearly with statements which are challenging the whole legality of this regime as well. So all of a sudden what might have been a doddering old academic blathering away on the blogs and all that, suddenly it's been translated into some very real action on the ground by all these pensioners, many of whom are former corporate types and very responsible people who are quite angry that this military regime would want to break contracts already signed and sealed. So I think the reality is that these academic writings and people can rubbish them and say oh let him write what he wants on the blogs, who cares? In the end they do begin to have some impact, and I think that's probably what brought about the change in the regime's attitude towards me.

HILL: Well now that you've stepped down from the USP are you going to be lost to Fiji, are you going to go overseas?

NARSEY: No, no, no, I mean Fiji's my home, I was born there, I've lived there all my life, worked there all my life, and I've still got a few more years of work left. There's a lot of interesting work to do. But of course there are all kinds of other issues which keep coming up on which a good socially responsible economist can do a lot to enlighten our people and make them more aware of what's facing them. I mean the most recent thing that I'm having to look at now just for a little quick piece is the proposed mining venture in Namosi. I mean making our people aware of what can happen and so on is very important, I mean you have to empower people with knowledge, and I think I'll continue that kind of work. Plus do the other sort of work that I'm interested in in the region.

HILL: But after what's happened are you going to be a bit more careful about what you say in public from now on?

NARSEY: No I don't think I'd change anything that I've written. Whatever I've written has always been very considered and based on facts and statistics and all that. Of course the odd opinion sort of creep in and you cannot avoid that. But a totally objective paper would also be a very, very inhuman kind of an output and economists are like any other social scientist also do feel passionately about certain issues, which inevitably bring emotions in them, I must say.

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