Nethersole, Noel Newton
Nethersole, Noel Newton
November 2, 1903
March 17, 1959
A financial expert and political economist, Noel Newton Nethersole was minister of finance and the first full pre-independence minister of Jamaica from 1955 until his death. However, this role, while arguably his most important in Jamaica's history, occurred fairly late in his life. Prior to holding this ministerial position, Nethersole had been a Rhodes scholar (1922) and a lawyer. He was admitted as a solicitor for Jamaica's Supreme Court in 1931. Nethersole excelled at cricket and was captain of the Jamaica cricket team between 1932 and 1939. He also served on the Jamaica Cricket Board for twenty years and was a member of the West Indian Cricket board for sixteen years. In addition, Nethersole served as chairman of the Finance Committee of the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation. He also served as a foundation member and first vice-president of the People's National Party (PNP), one of Jamaica's two major political parties.
As minister of finance, Nethersole has been credited with modernizing the ministry and its subsidiaries. In 1957 Nethersole created the Investment Division of the ministry, which managed the movement of capital in and out of the country. Nethersole also made history by leading Jamaica in the arduous task of raising a loan of 12.5 million U.S. dollars on the New York money market. Jamaica became the first colonial country to place such a loan in the international money market. The loan resulted in more capital being made available for public services in Jamaica, and in the country becoming less dependent on Britain. It also set the stage for the meaningful economic independence of the country. As impressive as this feat was, Nethersole's major goal was to create a central bank of Jamaica, an ambition that came to fruition shortly after his death. The street on which the Bank of Jamaica is located was officially named Nethersole Place in 1975 in honor of its founding father. Nethersole also worked on the financial aspects of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies.
Aside from his ministerial responsibilities, Nethersole, along with Ken Hill, headed the National Reform Association beginning in 1937. This organization paved the way for the PNP. In addition, Nethersole served as president of the Trade Union Council and headed the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) when its leader, Alexander Bustamante, was detained for seventeen months during World War II. Bustamante was placed in detention in 1940 for inciting three major strikes in less than one year, which was an alleged violation of the Defense of the Realm Act. Nethersole was also chosen as the first president of the National Workers Union, and he became a member of parliament after the 1949 general election, paving the way for his revolutionary accomplishments in the finance ministry.
Despite his achievements, Nethersole was often criticized in the media for handling the country's overseas economic negotiations in secret. He was also chairman of the investigating committee within the PNP that was responsible for ejecting Ken Hill, Frank Hill, Arthur Henry, and Richard Hart from the party because of their "leftist" views. However, Nethersole's popularity in the cricket arena and as a financial genius far outweighed what were perceived as his shortcomings. His insight, foresight, and hard work not only set the stage for the development of the Bank of Jamaica but were instrumental in carving a path toward the country's economic independence.
Carnegie, James. Some Aspects of Jamaica's Politics, 1918–1938. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica, 1973.
Carnegie, James. Noel Newton Nethersole: A Short Study. Kingston: Bank of Jamaica, 1975.
dalea m. bean (2005)