The fervour of anti-colonialism and nationalism of the immediate post-Independence Commonwealth Caribbean included focus on how these societies were organised, who benefited from favoured economic policies of an earlier era, the critical role newly minted central banks should play and the obvious non-developmental role - for the local economy and majority population - foreign-owned commercial branch banking networks played up to that moment in the history of these societies.
This focus was never merely agitation in a population informed by a rising group of professionals and the middle class.
Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow in Barbados, Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan in Guyana, Norman Manley in Jamaica, and Eric Williams in Trinidad and Tobago: this group of professionals - mainly lawyers - and a student of West Indian history turned bureaucrat and researcher for the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission all had their sights set on one goal: self-governance.
They wanted independence for the West Indian colonies as a route to managing their own destiny. They had grown tired seeing colonial officials, often of lesser capacity than themselves, muddle through, implementing policies never meant to advance the welfare of the colonies, all the while enjoying the choicest fruits of the society's bounty.
In that same historical moment, the University College of the West Indies was set about creating a Faculty of Social Sciences, including a Department of Economics that would augment the existing Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), which was already creating significant knowledge of economic and social conditions in the region.
These developments would soon see recruitment of qualified Caribbean nationals eager to pursue academic careers generally unavailable to them at universities in the United States and United Kingdom where they achieved advanced degrees.
An important area of economic organisation benefiting from focus on problems the newly independent ex-colonies faced was that of the link between financial intermedia-tion and economic development.
In the economics discipline, there were hard questions being asked in this fledgling field of study. What, for instance, was the link between advances in financial intermedia-tion and economic growth and development? Was it that an underdeveloped country should seek first to develop its financial structure in the hope that economic development would follow? What was the role of institutions that were not banks - those that didn't actually create money?
The Caribbean had historically developed a range of non-bank financial intermediaries. They took the form of mutual societies like the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society, the Barbados Mutual, building societies like Victoria Mutual and Jamaica National, credit unions and the institution known as 'Partner' in Jamaica - with different names throughout the region for the same activity - among others.
These economies generated savings. Proportional to GDP, however, they were small, indeed. And extant commercial banks focused primarily on foreign trade and activities of the plantations.
Staying true to the rules of commercial banking, they accommodated, for the most part, clients who already owned wealth and suitable collateral. Excess or 'spare' investible savings found their way into sterling holdings. The foreign branch banking system networks optimised shareholder profits globally.
Existing commercial banks were essentially closed to new ideas a fledgling entrepreneurial class might have had. In any case, the class could make the cut neither socially nor financially. As a result, a popular notion developed that home-grown commercial banks would solve a host of problems.
The erroneous idea that indigenous commercial banks and other financial intermediaries could play by a new and different set of rules took hold. It was never a blueprint as in a White Paper followed by Act of Parliament, but Jamaican political economy provided extremely fertile ground for propagation of a large and vibrant indigenous financial services sector.
It was this set of institutions, this part of the sector that suffered meltdown in mid-1996.
There appears to be a developing view that the lessons of that meltdown have been learned too well, so much so that commercial banks have now become too cautious. Thus, innovative potential entrepreneurs, certainly small and medium-size businesses, the group responsible for the bulk of employment generation, are left entirely out of the loop.
This perception is wrong. The true lessons of the mid-1996 meltdown, erroneously referred to by some as the FINSAC debacle, have never been learnt. Why? Because we've never created the syllabus. It has never been taught!
The so-called FINSAC enquiry floats perhaps in the smoke of Riverton City. Never meant to unearth truth, it was a political device that wasted taxpayer funds to no discernible useful end.
Truth is, failed loans that led to the meltdown were preponderantly for ill-advised, improperly risk-assessed real estate development and/or related activities.
Further burdening these institutions was the fact that loans were advanced to connected parties and managed by professionals incompletely or improperly qualified for the tasks they were meant to do. Indigenous commercial banks didn't miraculously develop a newfound love for innovative Jamaican small businesses whose failure caused their collapse.
Significant soured innovations of our indigenous financial services sector saw commercial banks getting into the business of farming, hotel ownership and other real sector activities well beyond their competence that should never have been allowed within their purview.
We don't need to re-litigate these issues and certainly don't need to treat the FINSAC experience like firefighters who once called, put out the fire only to be accused of ruining the carpets with high-pressure water!
To be sure, we need to finance innovative small and medium-size enterprises. We also need to assist in moving viable informal sector activities into the formal sector. It is not, however, commercial banks whose skill set and business model - fractional reserve banking - that equip them for these tasks.
Thinking of this kind shall surely lead to certain disaster of the kind we can ill afford.
Wilberne Persaud, an economist, currently works on impacts of technology change on business and society, including capital solutions for innovative Caribbean SMEs.