William Gilbert Demas

William Gilbert Demas

A Caribbean economist who specialized in development issues.

William Gilbert Demas was born in Trinidad and Tobagoin 1929. In 1948, he won a scholarship to study at Emmanuel College in Cambridge, England where he earned a masters degree in arts and letters. From 1955 to 1957, he was a researcher on economic issues at Queen’s House, Oxford. He held various jobs in England and the Caribbean. He served as advisor to the Trinidad and Tobago finance minister in 1959 and 1960 and he was director of the Economic Planning Division of the Prime Minister’s Office from 1960 to 1967. During that time he also worked as a faculty researcher for the Centre for Development Area Studies of McGill University in Canada (during 1964) and as a visiting professor in economic development at the same college during 1966 and 1967. In 1966, he published his best known work, The Economics of Development in Small Countries with Special Reference to the Caribbean. In that text, Demas argued that the concepts of development, underdevelopment and self-sustaining growth were not very useful and made little sense when considered apart from the size of the nations to which they were applied.

In his work, Demas showed a concern about the adverse effects of global competition on small, underdeveloped and vulnerable economies, thus joining a group of Caribbean economists –among them Havelock R. Brewester and Anthony Hughes– who shared a similar concern about small and vulnerable economies joining globalized markets.

Beyond his academic activity, Demas also held various high-ranking public positions, both at the national and regional levels. From 1974 to 1988 he presided over the Caribbean Development Bank. He was also secretary general of CARICOM, was a governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and was rector at the University of Guyana. Demas died in 1998.

Author: Luis Galanes
Published: June 09, 2012.

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