The First Female President in Trinidad and Tobago

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SEATTLE, Washington — Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island that gained its independence from Britain in 1962. This has left only a few decades for the country to develop and find ways of improving on its own. It is resource-wealthy in terms of oil and gas reserves, which has both helped and hurt its development. The fall in crude oil prices spanning from the 1980s to 1990s took a toll on the nation’s economy, which has proven somewhat difficult to recover from. However, the first female president in Trinidad and Tobago is working to improve the country’s profile.

The President of Trinidad and Tobago

President Paula Mae-Weekes is the first female president of Trinidad and Tobago. She was sworn in as of March 2018, following the five-year term of President Carmona. Before becoming president she was a judge for the Court of Appeals in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Upon becoming president, she challenged the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to join her quelling the country’s crime rates and moving the nation forward.

Under the previous president, the nation attained quite a high murder rate. Nearly 400 people were killed in 2017. Not only was the crime rate high but the unemployment rate had also risen to 5.3 percent by mid-2017. Paula Mae-Weekes took office at a trying time in the nation and has made it her mission to incite real change within the government as the nation’s first female president in Trinidad and Tobago.

There is limited data available concerning crime statistics for Trinidad and Tobago, but it appears that the numbers have already dropped slightly from 66 to 54 between 2018 and 2019. The president of Trinidad and Tobago has faced several obstacles in taking on the challenge of decreasing the crime rate. This is partially due to gangs, drug forces and resistance from bureaucracies within the nation. However, this number is still a decrease from 2014 and 2015 when President Carmona was still in office.

The Extraction of Crude Oil and Gas

The validation process for the nation to become an EITI Candidate country began in September of 2018, shortly after Mae-Weekes became president of Trinidad and Tobago. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) holds the nations to particular standards in promoting “the open and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources.” Under the presidency of Mae-Weekes, the country ranked well in progress levels in each category.

The first female president of Trinidad and Tobago has seemed to make leaps and bounds in terms of progress, particularly in this vitally important field. The resource economy relies heavily upon the stability of extraction. It seems that the country is continuing on its way to progress. It is already setting itself up for success for the second validation date.

The Economy

Although the nation is one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, the president of Trinidad and Tobago is still working toward improving and diversifying the nation’s economy. Labor freedom and fiscal health have both increased in recent years. Progress will hopefully continue on this same trend for other categories as well. As recently as 2019, the government drafted a new budget for Trinidad and Tobago that contained some hopeful statistics alluding toward growth in different sectors.

Under President Mae-Weekes, the government has also taken into account the oncoming struggles it will face as global growth intensifies. It seems that as a whole, the government has a plan of action to tackle these issues in the foreseeable future. The budget finances that were once in crisis under President Carmona have been improving under President Mae-Weekes. She seems to remain hopeful in the resilience of Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens as well as their willingness to continue working toward various improvements.

Women’s Rights

Above all, President Mae-Weekes is attempting to champion women’s rights and empowerment in the country. Early into her presidency, Mae-Weekes stated in an interview with Oxford Business Group that “…women must now take the opportunity to achieve gender balance in all aspects of life… Women will be taking their rightful places in organisations – and it will no longer be a surprise to persons in positions of power – which will help in moulding our societies.” 

The international community should keep an eye on the nation and take into account the successes of the first female president of Trinidad and Tobago. Through her encouragement and insight, it seems that the country will remain steadfast on its path to progress and growth.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

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