Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Basic Information

Full Name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Area: 5,128 sq. km; 1,980 sq. miles.
Population: 1.3 million (2003)
Capital City: Port of Spain (population 300,000).
People: Trinidad and Tobago's people are mainly of African or East Indian descent. Virtually all speak English. Small percentages also speak Hindi, French patois, and several other dialects. Trinidad has two major cultural traditions: Creole and East Indian. Creole is a mixture of African elements with Spanish, French, and English colonial culture. Trinidad's East Indian culture came to the island with indentured servants brought to fill a labour shortage created by the emancipation of the African slaves in 1833. Most remained on the land, and they still dominate the agricultural sector, but many have become prominent in business and the professions. East Indians retain many traditions, including the celebration of Hindu and Muslim religious festivals.
Languages: English (official), Spanish
Religion(s): (approximately) Roman Catholic 30%, Hindu 24%, Anglican 11%, Muslim 6%, Presbyterian 4%, other 25%
Currency: Trinidad and Tobago Dollar (TTD): approximately 11 TTD to one UK pound (June 2005).
Major political parties: United National Congress (UNC); People's National Movement (PNM); National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR).
Government: Trinidad and Tobago is a unitary state, with a parliamentary democracy modelled after that of the UK.
Head of State: Professor George Maxwell RICHARDS
Prime Minister/Premier: Patrick MANNING
Foreign Minister: Knowlson GIFT

Politics

Trinidad and Tobago maintains close relations with its Caribbean neighbours and major North American and European trading partners. As the most industrialised and second-largest country in the English-speaking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago takes a leading role in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), and supports CARICOM economic integration efforts. It is also active in the Summit of the Americas process and supports the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

After independence in 1962, Trinidad joined the UN and the Commonwealth. In 1967, it became the first Commonwealth country to join the Organisation of American States (OAS). In 1995, Trinidad played host to the inaugural meeting of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and has become the seat of this 35-member grouping, which seeks to further economic progress and integration among its states.

Elections were called on 7 October 2002. The PNM won by 20-16 over the UNC. The voter tun-out was 70% - the highest percentage since eve-of-independence elections in 1961. The elections also had the highest number of votes ever cast. It was the fourth election in seven years and the third in two years. It concluded a ten-month period in which there had been political deadlock due to the tied elections of December 2001. The PNM gained 50.7% of the vote - the largest number ever cast for a victorious party. PM Manning was returned to office with a mandate and sworn in on 9 October 2002.

Government

From 1962 until 1976, Trinidad and Tobago, although completely independent, acknowledged the British monarch as their head of state. In 1976, the country adopted a republican constitution, replacing Queen Elizabeth with a president elected by parliament. The general direction and control of the government rests with the cabinet, led by a Prime Minister and answerable to the bicameral parliament. The 36 members of the House of Representatives are elected to terms of at least 5 years. Elections may be called earlier by the president at the request of the Prime Minister or after a vote of no confidence in the House of representatives. The President from among outstanding members of the community appoints the Senate's 31 members. Elected councils administer Trinidad's seven counties and four largest cities.

The country's highest court is the Court of Appeal, whose Chief Justice is appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister. Final appeal on some matters is decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

Tobago was given a measure of self-government in 1980 and is administered by the Tobago House of Assembly. In 1996, Trinidad and Tobago's Parliament passed further legislation giving Tobago a greater degree of autonomy.

Economy

Economically, Trinidad and Tobago is different from other Caribbean countries because of its significant oil and gas reserves. It is currently the fifth largest exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG) in the world and the largest exporter of both ammonia and methanol. It is an important market for BP and BG, who have both made substantial investments in the country. During a visit by Lord Browne in May 2004, BP announced it would invest a further $2.5 billion over the next three years.

The economy grew by an estimated 5.7% in 2004, the eleventh consecutive year of growth. The energy sector continues to expand with growth in production, exports and exploration, and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the expansion of the Atlantic LNG facility. With new operational facilities shoring up export capacity, and new investment supporting construction activity, real GDP growth is expected to continue.

Whilst oil and gas keep the economy strong, the government is aware of its high dependence on earnings from the energy sector and is encouraging diversification into the non-energy sector.

Relations with the UK

Bilateral relations are in excellent shape, consolidated by a steady stream of high-level visits.

From the UK

  • HRH Prince of Wales made an extremely successful visit to Trinidad and Tobago in February 2000, including visits to local NGOs at work with the disadvantaged young.
  • Then DTI Minister for Trade, Brian Wilson, paid a commercially focussed visit in October 2001, with a particular emphasis on oil and gas.
  • In April 2002, the Lord Mayor of London visited Trinidad as part of a four-island programme promoting the financial services sector.
  • In April 2002, Baroness Amos and Baroness Scotland visited Trinidad and Tobago for discussions focusing on bilateral and legal issues.
  • Baroness Amos visited again in November 2002 and met Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the Ministers for Legal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Public Administration and Information. Discussions covered a range of bilateral and regional issues.
  • HRH The Duke of York visited Trinidad and Tobago 26 – 27 February 2004 as part of a wider visit to the Caribbean.
  • On 5 March 2004 FCO Minister Bill Rammell visited Trinidad as part of a regional security visit to the Caribbean. He met Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift, and Minister of National Security Martin Joseph.
  • Baroness Scotland, Home Office Minister visited Trinidad and Tobago 19-22 May 2004 to participate in the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police Conference and held bilateral talks focussing on legal issues.

To the UK

  • The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Attorney General and Ministers of Energy, Education and Finance have visited Britain in the last two years.
  • Senator Dr Lenny Saith, Minister of Public Administration and Information paid an official visit to the UK, 9-17 May 2003.
  • Senator Howard Chin Lee, the former Minister of National Security paid an official visit to the UK, 4-11 September 2003.
  • Dr Keith Rowley, Housing Minister, paid an official visit to the UK in June 2005 and met his opposite number, Baroness Andrews OBE.
  • The Hon Martin Joseph, Minister of National Security, paid an official visit to the UK in September 2005 to attend the Defence Systems and Equipment Exhibition and to discuss bilateral security issues.

Other participation

Trinidad and Tobago participated in the UK/Caribbean Forums that took place in May 2000 and 2004 in London and April 2002 in Georgetown, Guyana.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Trade 2002-04 (UKTI figures):

  • Exports from the UK amounted to 81.38 million in 2002, 104.06 million in 2003 and 96.75 million in 2004.
  • Imports to the UK amounted to 56.96 million in 2002, 75.05 million in 2003 and 71.62 million in 2004.

Crime

Transhipment of illegal drugs, money-laundering and associated violent crime are all features of Trinidad and Tobago. It also has a high level of domestic violence. The prison population is high. The death penalty remains on the statute books but the law now allows for different categories of murder, removing the automatic death sentence for murder. The last executions were held in 1999 but a number of prisoners remain on death row.

Did You Know...?

  • Pitch Lake, in southwest Trinidad, is the worlds largest natural reservoir of asphalt. The lake has occasionally yielded fossils of prehistoric animals.
  • The highest point in Trinidad and Tobago is 'El Cerro del Aripo'. At about 940 metres it is located in Trinidad.
  • The islands are home to more than 400 species of birds, 600 species of butterflies, 50 kinds of reptiles and 100 types of mammals, including red howler monkeys, anteaters, agouti and armadillos.

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