William Gilbert Demas, OCC, TC, CCH, CH, LLD (UWI), LLD (Warwick), LLD (Andrews)
Former Secretary General of CARICOM
William G. Demas was a distinguished Trinidadian economic scholar and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)'s first secretary-general, who helped lay the groundwork for stable economies after centuries of British rule.
Early life and education
William Gilbert Demas was born 14 November 1929 in Trinidad and Tobago. He attended Tranquillity Boy’s Intermediate School and Queen’s Royal College. In 1947 he won an Island Scholarship to Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, England, where he studied Economics and obtained the degrees of BA, MA, and MLitt.
Demas’ distinguished career commenced in 1955. During 1955 to 1957, he was Research Fellow in Economics at Queen’s House Oxford. He was Adviser to the West Indies Trade Commissioner in London on Trade Policy from 1957 to 1958. From January 1959 to January 1970 he worked as an Economist in the Civil Service of Trinidad and Tobago, attaining the posts of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Development and subsequently, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister. In the first half of 1964, he was Research Fellow at the Centre for Developing Area Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. From 1966-67, he became Visiting Associate Professor of Economics at the same university.
From January 1970 to August 1974 he was Secretary-General of the CARIFTA Secretariat which was transformed in 1973 into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
On 1 September 1974, William G. Demas was elected to the presidency of the Caribbean Development Bank. He served for three terms until 1988, reinforcing the sense of stability which is integral to the institution. During his tenure, the foundations laid by his predecessor were consolidated, as the Bank assumed a leading role in promoting the development of its Borrowing Member Countries, through providing finance and sound technical policy advice. When Demas left the presidency of CDB in 1988, it was to return to the public service of Trinidad and Tobago as Governor of the Central Bank.
Honours and awards
In recognition of his distinguished service to the Region, William G. Demas received a number of honours, including the Hummingbird Gold Medal from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinity Cross, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest national award, the Cacique Crown of Honour from the Government of Guyana, the Companion of Honour from the Government of Barbados, the Order of San Carlos from the Government of Colombia, and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of the West Indies and by the University of Warwick, England.
In 1958, Demas married Norma Taylor and the union produced one daughter, Allison.
Death and legacy
William Demas died on 28 November 1998 of renal failure at St. Clair Medical Center in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where he was being treated for diabetes. He was 69.
William G. Demas Memorial Lecture Series
The William G. Demas Memorial Lecture Series is in honour of the Late Honourable William Gilbert Demas, outstanding economic scholar and public servant to the Caribbean. The lecture showcases the best intellectual discourse available regionally and internationally. Over the years, the spirit of William Demas’ scholarship has been upheld by distinguished lecturers who have all been committed to economic development through their respective fields of endeavour.
View Lecture Series Addresses (from Caribbean Development Bank)