James G. Wallar, Nathan Associates Inc.’s senior vice president for international development, is retiring after seven years with the firm and a career in public service spanning more than three decades.
“It’s always sad to leave good colleagues and good work,” he said. “I just decided there should be something next in my life.”
The impact of Jim’s labors extends well beyond Nathan—where he strengthened the organization, inspired colleagues, and helped expand the firm’s presence in Southeast Asia—and his career at the U.S. Treasury Department. Over the years, he contributed to projects that raised standards of living for millions, and he helped lead efforts to repair economies and institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq, interrupting his work at Nathan to go to Iraq.
“We will miss Jim and wish him well,” said Lakhbir Singh, the firm’s CEO and president. “Nathan has benefited greatly from his leadership, positive attitude, and determination.”
Jim’s organizational skills at Nathan have left in place a vital international development division led by Paul W. Moore, vice president for operations and planning, and Lisa Yarmoshuk, vice president for strategy and business development. The division manages projects that broaden trade capacity, create value chains, facilitate business, liberalize trade and investment, open regional corridors, and promote economic and technical cooperation.
“Jim embodies the Nathan passion for technical work and high quality service in an evolving industry,” Yarmoshuk said. “Because of his efforts and those of the colleagues he inspired, Nathan is constantly expanding the kind of work we do and the clients we serve as a premier development consulting firm.”
Jim’s “intellectual capacity, his management style, and his ability to effectively communicate with stakeholders and clients” helped establish the firm’s dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, Moore said. As a senior vice president, his “optimistic, bubbly personality” and can-do attitude were contagious. He was a mentor at all levels and brought to all asks “a very detailed understanding and knowledge of economic policy.”
And Wallar is convinced that Nathan, with complementary capacities in three permanent offices worldwide, is poised to serve new clients well in a changing global economy.
“So many countries now are emerging from low, stagnant economic growth to more robust, sustainable, consistent growth,” he said. Major retailers and makers of consumer products, for example, are investing in places once considered dead-end markets—and countries and firms need economic advice as they enter this phase of growth.
“Nathan—sticking to its expertise of economic consulting, doing survey work, and analysis—is in a good position to take advantage of this kind of new development,” Wallar said. Add to that the increasing importance of trade and trade facilitation, areas in which the firm is also recognized worldwide. “Those spaces where there’s a combination of economic policy and corporate interest, where they intersect, is where Nathan is well positioned.”
Even though he retires July 1, Jim will continue to handle short-term assignments for Nathan—when he isn’t trekking on the Appalachian Trail, skiing, touring vineyards, and helping manage business affairs for his wife, Gale, a professional artist. Jim’s to-do list also includes creative writing and genealogy research.
He will also maintain his passion for economic policy and development, which originally drew him to Nathan Associates. Always intellectually engaged in world affairs, Jim regularly shared his insights on the firm’s internal blog and wrote commentary for the Center for Strategic & International Studies and others, participating in discussion panels on development issues, including human rights, for the East-West Center. Jim recently joined policy professionals and former IMF and World Bank officials in urging Congress to provide additional resources to the IMF. In short, Jim embodies the values articulated by company founder Robert Nathan, values that, in Jim’s words, keep the firm “involved in policy debates … including on foreign assistance.”
Jim began his career at Treasury in 1972 as an economist with the Office of Tariff and Trade Affairs. He was a negotiator in Geneva during the Tokyo Round, served as Deputy Director of the Development Policy Office, was Treasury Attaché to Switzerland and Germany, then returned to the U.S. to direct the Office of Trade Policy during the Uruguay Round and NAFTA negotiations. Subsequently he was posted to the U.S. mission to the OECD, Russia, and Germany to cover the European Central Bank and the European Union, and served in Afghanistan as the senior economic adviser to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group.
Jim’s first assignment for Nathan was as chief of party and resident trade specialist with the ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility in Jakarta, from 2006 to 2007. He then left the firm for a year to become the Treasury Department’s attaché in Baghdad, where he led 20 civilian and military experts assisting the Central Bank and national and provisional governments in financial management.
Returning to Nathan Associates in January 2010 as a senior vice president, Jim revitalized administrative operations, did short-term technical assignments, and helped expand the firm’s portfolio in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar. His work with the firm enabled Jim to fulfil his earliest ambitions, which began with the study of development economics in college.
“To me it’s a circle, a voyage, starting with my interest in development and then ending in development, but one step away from the policy work that I’d been engaged in for over 30 years.” Executing projects for USAID and other clients means you “put your money where your mouth is.”
“It’s one thing to write a nice communiqué,” he said. “You struggle over it. You battle over those words. But those words are in the end just a communiqué. The ministers leave, and the deputy ministers leave, and the bureaucrats leave. But it’s up to the host government and technical advisers to implement those good words, and that’s what Nathan does.”