Trini-born Carroll tackles unemployment
By Andre Bagoo Thursday, August 16 2012
LAST WEEK, Florida’s Trinidad-born Republican Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, 52, on a trade tour in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) , boasted that Florida has reduced unemployment levels under her tenure and that of current Republican Governor Rick Scott. Her comments came around the same time there was active debate in TT over whether the country’s unemployment rate was really 4.9 percent and whether sustainable jobs were being created.
While Carroll did not enter that debate, she did offer some suggestions for business ventures which could create employment in TT. She said that after she took office 19 months ago, unemployment dropped from 12 per-cent to eight percent and suggested the federal government take a page out of Florida’s book. At a media briefing event last Friday hosted by the US Embassy at Sweet Briar Place, St. Clair, Carroll also said part of the reason for the success in combating unemployment was the approach taken by her and the Governor.
“We looked at the overall picture,” she said. “What businesses were providing jobs. In what areas were difficult regulations precluding growth. We repealed what was hindering this.”
Yet, Carroll’s stance on unemployment in Florida is in sharp contrast to the position taken up by Republican presumed presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Romney last Saturday unveiled his vice-president running mate as Paul Ryan, architect of a controversial party budget plan. The move, for many, signaled Romney’s desire to attack incumbent Democratic President Barrack Obama on his record of handling the economy as the 2012 US Presidential elections draw closer.
In a new television ad which aired this week in the US, the Romney campaign plays melancholy music as it describes “Obama’s Florida” as a state with “8.6 percent unemployment, record foreclosures, and 600,000 more Floridians in poverty.”
Romney’s team appears to be building a narrative to remind voters the US economy remains in the doldrums under Obama.
A Romney campaign brochure, for example, lists the statistics that make up “Obama’s Florida Record.” The record includes: “795,432 Unemployed Floridians Seeking Work; 676,535 Floridians Who Have Fallen Into Poverty; 105,000 Florida Jobs Lost; $3,369 Decline In Florida’s Median Income; and 45 Percent of All Mortgaged Florida Homes Underwater.”
With 29 electoral votes, Florida is considered a must-win state for Romney.
The real state of the Florida economy is, thus, becoming a divisive issue among Republicans. The real figures, point to a stable outlook that is apparently being spun by both factions to paint contrasting impressions.
When Obama took office in January 2009, Florida’s unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent, almost what it is today. In between, the rate rose to 11.4 percent in January 2010 then dropped to 10.9 percent by the time Rick Scott took office in January 2011. It has been dropping steadily since. Last week, Carroll encouraged this country to stimulate its economy by focusing on new possible manufacturing sectors for export and suggested the exploration of the establishment of a fertiliser manufacturing sector. She said cargo containers are leaving this country empty and this is a wasted opportunity.
“A lot of the containers are going out empty,” she said. “That is a wasted opportunity for businesses here.”
She continued, “There is a shortage of fertiliser from Russia. I think this may be a good opportunity for Trinidad. Maybe a manufacturing sector for fertiliser can be established here and exported around the world.”
A contingent of business officials accompanied Trinidad-born Carroll on her trip last week which was facilitated by a Florida chamber of commerce and was also part of the US Embassy’s Election Speaker Programme. She said several companies were in talks as a result of the trip, including firms from the solar panel manufacturing sector, financial services sector and the medical supply sector.
Carroll noted that 40,000 Trinbagonians reside in Florida with an estimated 70,000 in visitors from this country to that state annually. She said TT was a “tactical fit” for doing business with Florida companies. She said the country as having “an intellectual capacity that is the envy of many.”
Carroll was born in Port-of-Spain, TT, on August 27, 1959. She has a military background and enlisted in the US Navy in 1979. She retired from the Navy in 1999 as a Lieutenant Commander. Carroll is a member of the Clay County Republican Executive Committee. In 2000, she was appointed as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs by Republican Governor Jeb Bush and served in that post until July 2002.
Republican President George W Bush appointed Carroll to the Commission on Presidential Scholars from 2001 to 2004, and then a seat on the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission from 2004 to 2007.