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Trinidad and Tobago



Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

CAPITAL: Port-of-Spain

FLAG: On a red field, a black diagonal stripe with a narrow white border on either side extends from top left to bottom right.

ANTHEM: Begins, "Forged from the love of liberty, in the fires of hope and prayer."

MONETARY UNIT: The Trinidad and Tobago dollar (tt$) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 dollars. tt$1 = us$0.15949 (us$1 = tt$6.27) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is official, but some imperial weights and measures are still used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Carnival, 1415 February; Emancipation Day, 1st Monday in August; Independence Day, 31 August; Republic Day, 24 September; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays include Carnival, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitmonday, Corpus Christi, 'Id al-Fitr, and Dewali.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


Situated off the northeast coast of South America at the extreme southern end of the Lesser Antilles, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago cover an area of 5,128 sq km (1,981 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Trinidad and Tobago is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware. Trinidad, the main island, rectangular in shape, has an area of 4,828 sq km (1,863 sq mi), extending 143 km (89 mi) ns and 61 km (38 mi) ew. Cigar-shaped Tobago, 31 km (19 mi) northeast of Trinidad, has an area of 300 sq km (116 sq mi), a length of 42 km (26 mi) nesw, and an average width of 12 km (7.5 mi) nwse. Sixteen small islands are found off the coasts. The Atlantic Ocean is to the e and the Caribbean Sea to the w. Venezuela lies only 11 km (7 mi) sw across the shallow Gulf of Paria.

Trinidad and Tobago have a coastline length of 362 km (225 mi). The capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, Port-of-Spain, is located on Trinidad's Gulf of Paria coast.


Trinidad is geologically part of South America and its topography is similar to that of the adjoining Orinoco section of Venezuela. Three hill ranges, trending eastwest, cross the island roughly through the northern, central, and southern parts, respectively. The Northern Range, a continuation of the mountains of the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela, is the most extensive and rugged of the three and has peaks rising above 900 m (3,000 ft). The highest peaks on Trinidad are El Cerro del Aripo (940 m/3,084 ft) and El Tucuche (936 m/3,071 ft). Hills in the Central Range rise just over 300 m (1,000 ft). Those in the Southern Range are somewhat lower. In between these hill ranges is level or gently rolling flatland, dissected by small streams flowing from the hills. Extensive swamp areas, some of them mangrove, are found along the east, south, and west coasts. Trinidad has the world's largest natural asphalt bog, the 46-hectare (114-acre) Pitch Lake, on the southwestern coast.

Tobago is geologically part of the Lesser Antilles, and its topography, generally more irregular and rugged than Trinidad's, resembles that of Grenada, St. Vincent, and other volcanic islands to the north. A central volcanic hill core rising to over 550 m (1,800 ft) fills most of the island and reaches the sea in many places. Patches of a narrow coastal plain are scattered here and there; much of the island's limited level land is concentrated in its southwestern tip.


There is little variation in temperature conditions through the year. The mean annual temperature for the entire nation is 21°c (70°f). In Port-of-Spain the annual average is 25°c (77°f), with an average minimum of 20°c (68°f) and an average maximum of 30°c (86°f) in January; the July range is 2331°c (7388°f). Increasing elevation in Trinidad's Northern Range causes a corresponding decrease in temperature. Nights are generally cool.

In the northern and central hill areas and on Tobago, annual rainfall exceeds 250 cm (98.4 in) and probably exceeds 380 cm (150 in) in specific areas. Most hilly sections receive 200 cm (80 in) or more, while in the lowlands the average drops below 165 cm (65 in) and in certain sections below 125 cm (50 in). There is a relatively dry season from about January to May and a wet season from June to December. The dry period is not, however, a season of drought, for rain still falls every few days in most areas.


The plant and animal life of Trinidad, like the geology of the island, resembles that of neighboring Venezuela. Tobago, by contrast, shows in its flora and fauna its connection with the volcanic Lesser Antillean arc. There are distinct altitudinal variations in indigenous plant life on both islands. The natural vegetation includes wild flowers, many flowering shrubs and trees, palms, giant aroids, and large broad-leaved varieties. Natural animal life includes a few species of mammals, monkeys among them, and many reptiles and birds. As of 2002, there were at least 100 species of mammals, 131 species of birds, and over 2,250 species of plants throughout the country.


Among environmental problems, pollution from oil spills is the most serious. Water pollution is also caused by mining by-products, pesticides, fertilizers, sewage, and saltwater. Soil erosion has occurred, in part, because of the clearing of land for farming. Environmental responsibility is vested in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. In 1989, the Ministry of the Environment and National Service was formed to regulate the nation's treatment of its natural environment.

On the west coast of Trinidad is the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, famed for its marshland and mangroves, where flocks of scarlet ibis roost. Little Tobago is reputed to be the only place aside from New Guinea where the bird of paradise lives in the wild. The nation has three Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammal, 2 species of birds, 5 types of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians, 15 species of fish, and 1 species of plant. Endangered species on Trinidad include the Trinidad piping guan, tundra peregrine falcon, loggerhead turtle, and red siskin.


The population of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 1,305,000, which placed it at number 148 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 21% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.7%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,343,000. The overall population density was 254 per sq km (659 per sq mi), but the majority of the population resides on the island of Trinidad.

An almost continuous urban area extends from Port-of-Spain eastward to Tunapuna, westward, and northward into the Northern Range. About one-third of the population lives in Port-of-Spain or its suburbs or within 16 km (10 mi) of them. The UN estimated that 74% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.77%. The capital city, Port-of-Spain, had a population of 55,000 in that year. The second most important town is San Fernando, with a population of 55,419. The remainder of Trinidad and virtually all of Tobago are sparsely settled. Scarborough, the main town of Tobago, has a population of approximately 4,500.


Lack of opportunity has encouraged the migration of numbers of people to the United Kingdom, the United States, and occasionally to other places abroad. In 1990 there were 119,000 people in the United States who had been born in Trinidad and Tobago, up from 66,000 in 1980. This movement, however, has been counter-balanced by immigration from other islands in the Lesser Antilles, mainly from Grenada and St. Vincent, where lack of opportunity is far more critical. Some of this immigration has been legal, some not. Migration from Tobago to Trinidad is common. The number of migrants in 2000 was 41,000. Worker remittances in 2001 were $40.9 million.

As of 2004 Trinidad and Tobago did not host any refugees or asylum seekers. However, the lack of a national refugee law is a cause for concern as Trinidad and Tobago are likely to experience increased numbers of asylum seekers due to increased extra-regional migration and migrant trafficking through the Caribbean. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -10.87 migrants per 1,000 population.


The population is mainly comprised of Afro Trinidadians (the descendants of former black slaves), Indo Trinidadians (East Indians originally brought to the island as contract laborers from northern India), whites, and Chinese, many of whom are racially and culturally intermixed. The total population according to the 2000 census is about 40% Indo Trinidadian, 37.5% Afro Trinidadian, 20.5% mixed, 1.2% other, and about 0.8% unspecified.

While African and East Indians on Trinidad are economically interdependent, each community retains its cultural individuality: this is a life that has been called coexistence without assimilation. Intermarriage is rare, and facial and other bodily characteristics still separate the two groups, as do occupation, diet, religion, residence, agricultural landscape, sometimes dress, and often politics. Africans are dominant in the urban areas, in the oil fields, in the poorer agricultural areas of the north, east, and southeast, and on Tobago. East Indians are dominant in the best agricultural regions. Although outnumbered in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, urban East Indians are apt to be economically better off than the urban Africans and tend to be highly involved in commerce, industry, and the professions.


English is the official language; an English patois, characterized by numerous foreign words and the special pronunciations of the islands, is understood everywhere. Here and there, a French patois and Spanish are used. In rural village areas, notably in the southern part of Trinidad, East Indians, especially of the older generation, use Hindi and, less frequently, Urdu, Tamil, and Telegu.


Christian churches are found on both islands; Hindu temples and Muslim mosques in the recognizable architectural styles of southern Asia are found on Trinidad. According to official statistics last taken in 2000, the population was roughly 26% Roman Catholic, 24.6% Protestant, 22.5% Hindu, and 5.8% Muslim. Primary Protestant denominations include Anglican, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist. Other Christian groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, are also represented. A small number of people are believed to practice traditional Caribbean religions in conjunction with other faiths, including the Shouter Baptists and the Orisha. About 1.9% of the population were atheists. There are small groups who practice other faiths, including Baha'is, Rastafarians, Buddhists, and Jews.

Complete freedom and equality are enjoyed by all religious groups. Certain Christian, Hindu, and Muslim holidays are celebrated as national holidays. The Inter-Religious Organization is a nongovernmental group that promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding and sponsors activities of public outreach. The government maintains a good relationship with this organization and supports many of its activities.


In 2002, there were 8,320 km (5,170 mi) of roads, of which 4,252 km (2,642 mi) were paved. The more densely settled sections of both islands are served by reasonably adequate roads, but large sections of Tobago either have no motorable roads or are connected by narrow, tortuous, and poorly surfaced ones. In 2003, registered motor vehicles included 297,020 passenger cars and 38,275 commercial vehicles. The Public Service Transport Corp. is responsible for road transport. Trinidad's lone remaining railway, from Port-of-Spain to San Juan, was closed down in 1968.

The largest port installation for passengers and cargo is at Port-of-Spain. Brighton is an important port for oil and asphalt loading, and there are also oil terminals at Chaguaramas, Pointe-à-Pierre, and Point Fortin. A deep-water port at Point Lisas accommodates energy-based industries at the Point Lisas industrial estate. Numerous steamship lines regularly schedule freight and passenger services from Europe and the Americas. Regularly scheduled coastal vessels connect Port-of-Spain with Scarborough. The main shipping line is the West Indies Shipping Service. In 2005, Trinidad and Tobago had six merchant ships of 1,000 GRT or more, with a total of 7,178 GRT.

Air facilities are concentrated at Piarco International Airport, about 26 km (16 mi) southeast of Port-of-Spain. There is a secondary main airport at Crown Point, on the western tip of Tobago. In 2004, there were six airports and airfields, three of which had paved runways as of 2005. Trinidad and Tobago Airwaysowned by the government and formed by the merger of British West Indian Airways (BWIA) International and Trinidad and Tobago Air Services in 1980operates domestic, regional, and international services. In 2003, about 1.084 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Arawak Indians inhabited what they knew as the "Land of the Hummingbird" before the arrival on 31 July 1498 of Christopher Columbus, who called the island La Trinidad, or "The Trinity." The Spanish took little interest in the island and did not appoint a governor until 1532. Thereafter, Spanish colonists gradually came, but skirmishes with local Amerindians and raids by other Europeans, including Sir Walter Raleigh, made it difficult for the Spanish to obtain a foothold there. During the early European period, the island acted as a supply and transshipment center for Spanish traders and fortune seekers in South America. In time, colonists established plantations and imported slave labor from West Africa.

In 1797, a British expedition from Martinique captured Trinidad, which Spain ceded formally to Great Britain in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens, and Trinidad became a crown colony. During the late Spanish period and through most of the 19th century, sugar dominated as the island's main agricultural product. The emancipation of slaves in 1834 brought severe labor shortages, and between 1845 and 1917, the colonial government brought in more than 150,000 contract workers, mostly Hindus and some Muslims from India, to replace the slaves. With added labor supplies and new techniques, the cocoa industry thrived, and by the late 19th century cocoa had joined sugar as a major export crop. The discovery of petroleum in south Trinidad in 1910 led to its addition as an important export, and since then it has assumed central economic importance, complemented beginning in the late 1990s by increasing natural gas exports.

Columbus also discovered Tobago in 1498 and it too received little attention from Europeans for many years. British from Barbados first colonized the island in 1616, but the local Carib Indians soon drove this group out. Other colonists followed shortly, however, and during the next 200 years the island changed hands many times among the Dutch, French, and British. Finally, in 1814, the British crown gained possession, which it maintained for a century and a half. The British first ruled Tobago as a separate colony, but during much of the 19th century administered the island from the Windward Islands government. It became a crown colony in 1877 and in 1888 was amalgamated with Trinidad under the name of Trinidad and Tobago.

In 1958, Jamaica, Barbados, and the British Windward and Leeward Islands formed the Federation of the West Indies. Arguments over distributive issues soon undermined the federal idea: Jamaica withdrew in 1961, followed closely by Trinidad and Tobago. On 31 August 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became independent but retained membership in the (British) Commonwealth. Eric Williams, the founder of the People's National Movement (PNM), became prime minister in 1961 and was regularly reelected until his death in 1981. Williams survived an attempted coup by "Black Power" elements as well as army supporters in 1970. In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago declared itself a republic, and a president replaced the British monarch as chief of state. In 1980, Tobago attained a degree of self-government when it was granted its own House of Assembly.

Trinidad and Tobago's politics has been marked by intense competition between the main ethnic groupsAfrican and East Indian. Each group represents about 40% of the population (persons of mixed, European, Chinese, and Syrian-Lebanese origin comprise the other 20 percent). The PNM held on to power after the death of Eric Williams, but was ousted in 1986 by an alliance of African, Indian, and mixed groups melded into the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). A.N.R. Robinson, leader of the NAR, became prime minister. However, the alliance soon fell apart, and the Indian faction went on to form the United National Congress (UNC). As the economy entered into a difficult period of structural adjustment, dissatisfaction with the government grew. In July 1990, a black Muslim group, the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, laid siege to the parliament in a failed coup that killed 25 and destroyed a large swath of the capital Port-of-Spain. In 1991, a reconstructed PNM returned to power under younger leadership. In 1995 Prime Minister Patrick Manning called early elections, hoping to increase his parliamentary majority. Instead, the PNM was replaced by the country's first Indian government led by Basdeo Panday. In turn, this government's tenure was plagued by rising corruption and crime. Although the UNC was reelected in 2000, intraparty divisions reduced its parliamentary majority and led to the calling of fresh elections in 2001. That election resulted in a stalemate. The president then selected the PNM's Manning as prime minister. Elections held in 2002 confirmed the PNM's majority.

Economically, the country emerged from structural adjustment in the 1990s and both the UNC and PNM governments moved firmly ahead in courting foreign investment, dismantling trade barriers, and privatizing the economy. Highly industrialized Trinidad ranks in the top 50 countries in terms of oil reserves and the top third in terms of proven natural gas reserves. The country's external linkages are broad, but focused particularly on the United States and the regional Caribbean Community, as well as deepening linkages with Latin America.


Historically, active participation in government by the nonwhite (black and East Indian) population began in 1925, when for the first time elected representatives were included in the otherwise appointed Legislative Council that ruled the colony. Over the years the proportion of elected members increased and a fully electoral self-government came in December 1961. In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago amended its 1961 constitution. The 1976 draft preserved the bicameral legislature but replaced the crown-appointed governor-general with a ceremonial president chosen by parliament. In 1976 as well, suffrage was lowered to the age of 18.

The House of Representatives is the more important of the two houses. Its 36 members are elected for five-year terms, but new elections can be called by the prime minister or by the House itself in a vote of "no confidence" in the cabinet. The party with a majority of seats in the House forms the government. The Senate consists of 31 members, all appointed by the president, 16 on the advice of the prime minister, 6 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 9 discretionary, based on consultation with various religious, economic, and social groups.

The head of the government is the prime minister, who is leader of the majority party. Cabinet ministers are appointed primarily from the House of Representatives by the president, acting on the prime minister's recommendations. George Maxwell Richards was elected president in 2003 with 43% of the votes and Patrick Manning was appointed prime minister in 2001. The next presidential elections were to be held in 2008.

Calls for constitutional reform have intensified over the years. One of the issues that calls out for attention was the authoritarian control exercised by prime ministers under the current system, which is based on Britain's Westminster model. Moreover, the winner-take-all system does not allow for representation of groups that may be large in number but concentrated geographically. Finally, with a few exceptions, minor parties have been unable to play an effective role.


The People's National Movement (PNM), formed in 1956 by Eric Williams, brought order to an individual-based political system that had hitherto operated in Trinidad and Tobago. Given the party's strong support among the black masses, the opposition coalesced around an Indian-based party, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). However, the DLP had no success in elections. In fact, as a result of a split in both the ruling and opposition parties and the ensuing boycott by the opposition of the elections, the PNM won all 36 seats in the House of Representatives in an election in 1970. Two members of the PNM who defected in 1972 eventually formed a token opposition.

In the 1976 elections, the PNM won with 24 seats. However, the DLP's successor, the United Labour Front (ULF), a trade union-based party with an East Indian base in the sugar belt, won 10 seats, enough to become an effective opposition. The Democratic Action Congress (DAC), formed by the Tobago-based breakaway PNM faction, won the remaining two seats representing Tobago.

In the election of 1981, despite the loss of its leader, the PNM continued its dominance with 26 seats. The opposition ULF, the DAC, and the small Tapia House Movement formed a coalition party, the Trinidad and Tobago National Alliance (TTNA), and won 10 seats. A separate party, the Organization for National Reconstruction (ONR), founded in 1980, drew enough support from the business elite and Creole groups to win 22.3% of the vote but no seats. This election was also contested, albeit unsuccessfully, by the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), a Black Power group entering conventional politics for the first time.

In 1986, the opposition ONR-TTNA unified to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). The NAR swept to power with 33 seats to the PNM's three. Two years later, factionalization and racial antagonisms led to the dismissal of the leader of the ULF and two of his supporters. These went on to form the United National Congress (UNC). In 1991, the PNM returned to office, winning 21 of 36 seats. The NAR received 2 (Tobago) seats, and the UNC 13. In 1995, the UNC and PNM won 17 seats each, allowing the UNC to come to power in a coalition with the NAR which had again won its 2 Tobago seats. A new era in the country's electoral politics had clearly arrived, with no ethnic group expected to gain strong majorities. Basdeo Panday then appointed former prime minister and NAR leader A.N.R. Robinson to the presidency. During this time, the UNC also benefited from the defection of two PNM members. The party went on to win 19 seats in 2000 (and the PNM 16, NAR 1), but not long after, tensions increased between the prime minister and his formerly close ally the attorney general. The latter and two UNC members left the government, forcing fresh elections in 2001. As many had predicted, a stalemate resulted when the UNC and PNM each won 18 seats. In this case, however, in a controversial move, the president selected the PNM's Manning as prime minister. A year later, in 2002, the PNM consolidated its power by winning 20 seats to the UNC's 16 seats. The next legislative elections were to be held October 2007.

A large number of small parties have been established over the years, but none has been successful in gaining power. The NAR began life as a broader unit but became a small party that held no seats in parliament as of 2005. The Tobago-based DAC whose support was crucial for the NAR, left its partner in 2004. The DAC continued to have a fairly strong support base in Tobago. Overall the fate of third parties is linked to the outcome of the debate on constitutional reform that was ongoing as of 2006.


Elections are held every four years (usually about two years after a general election) for representatives to nine regional corporations, two city corporations (the main cities of Port-of-Spain and San Fernando), and three boroughs. The city and boroughs elect a mayor and city council. In addition, elections are held every four years for the House of Assembly in Tobago, which was established in 1980. Contention has historically existed between Tobago and Trinidad on issues such as the division of financial responsibilities, taxes and spending. The unpopularity of the central government's policies were reflected in the strong showing of the Tobago-based DAC party in elections to the House of Assembly between 1980 and 2004. The DAC and its successor the NAR went from controlling 8 out of 12 seats in the Assembly in 1980 to winning 11 in every other until 1996. (The PNM won the remaining seat(s) but an independent also won a seat in 1996.) It was only in 2004, with the PNM solidly back in control in Trinidad and a popular Tobagonian leading the party's efforts in the Assembly election, that the PNM won 8 seats to the NAR's 4. The new PNM hold was consolidated in 2005 when it gained 11 out of the 12 seats, with the re-formed DAC confined to only one. Governmental relations between the two islands have improved.


The judicial system follows common law and is modeled after the United Kingdom, with some local variations. The Supreme Court of Judicature consists of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal. The former includes a chief justice and 10 puisne judges. Its jurisdiction and its practices and procedures follow closely those of the High Court of Justice in England. Civil actions and proceedings are usually heard by only one High Court judge but may be tried by a jury of nine members. A High Court judge with a jury of 912 members tries criminal offences. The Court of Appeal consists of the chief justice and three other justices. Minor offenses are handled by district courts, including traffic courts. The judicial system also includes the Industrial Court and Tax Appeal Board, and a system of magistrate courts. All criminal cases are first sent to a magistrate's court. Appeals may be made to the Court of Appeal and until recently, up to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Since 1970, however, the Caribbean countries had been considering the establishment of a regional court that would replace the Privy Council. In 2003, this Court of Justice (CCJ) was officially ratified, and in April 2005, the court was finally launched in Trinidad and Tobago where it is headquartered. Trinidad and Tobago was still completing arrangements to allow recourse to the court. The court will have both appeal jurisdiction and original jurisdiction (in which it will apply international law).

The judiciary is independent of the other branches and free from outside interference. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent and are afforded the right to representation by counsel. In practice, the civil and criminal dockets are badly backlogged due to inadequate resources and inefficiency.

In an ongoing dispute about using the death penalty, the government of Trinidad and Tobago withdrew as a party to the American Convention on Human Rights but remained obligated until May 1999 to the Organization of American States to afford all of the rights set out within the American Declaration. In June 1999 the government carried out nine executions, the first to take place in the country in five years. Trinidad and Tobago also withdrew from the UN Optional Protocol of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, tried to rejoin with an appropriate reservation in place concerning the death penalty, but was forced after widespread criticism to withdraw again in 2000.


The Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force numbered an estimated 2,700 in 2005. The Army, which numbered 2,000 members, consisted of two infantry battalions, one special forces unit and one support battalion. The coast guard of 700 operated 12 patrol and coastal combatants, and had an air wing of 50 personnel. Under lend-lease agreements with the United Kingdom signed early in 1941, the United States acquired several Caribbean bases, including one on Trinidad, on a 99-year lease. After local agitation over a number of years, Trinidad reclaimed the last remaining foreign base in June 1967. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $32 million.


Trinidad and Tobago became a member of the United Nations on 18 September 1962; it belongs to ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, the World Bank, ILO, and the WHO. The country is also a member of the ACP Group, the Commonwealth of Nations, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-24, G-77, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the WTO, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the OAS. Trinidad and Tobago is part of the Nonaligned Movement and serves as part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).

In the area of environmental protection and cooperation, Trinidad and Tobago is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island state with an economy oriented toward trade and tourism. The larger island, Trinidad, is more heavily industrialized and is dominated by the oil and gas sector, although agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and construction also make significant contributions. Tobago is dominated by tourism and agriculture. The country cannot feed itself and must look abroad not only for its food staples, but also for the bulk of the manufactured goods. Import payments are met by the export of petroleum and products, invisible exports, tourism, and the transshipment trade. Specialized tropical crops are produced for export, but exploitation of petroleum reserves and refining of local and imported oils and their subsequent export are the dominant factors of the country's economy.

Although by far the most prosperous of Caribbean nations, the country's high degree of dependence on oil revenues has made it exceedingly vulnerable to falling oil prices. Over the past three decades, its economic fortunes have followed the world price of oil closely. Oil revenue windfall after 1973 brought unprecedented prosperity. However, this prosperity was not sustained when oil prices began to fall in 1982. Only after a further steep decline in the price of oil in 1986 did the government face the challenge of a fundamental adjustment in economic policy and initiate a program supported by the World Bank and the IMF. The country began the difficult transition from an oil dependent, public sector dominated economy, to a more diversified, market-oriented, private sector-led one.

After a decade of almost uninterrupted economic decline, growth returned in 1995, when real GDP increased 2.4%. Growth accelerated from 35% in the middle of the decade to an average of 5.17% by 1998 to 2000. Trinidad and Tobago continues to experience real GDP growth as a result of economic reforms, tight monetary policy, fiscal responsibility, and high oil prices. In 2003 the country experienced a real GDP growth rate of 13.2%, followed by 6.2% growth in 2004. The economy's performance is attributable to energy-related investments, growth in the nonenergy sector (manufactured exports, domestic construction, offshore financial services) and sound macroeconomic policies. The government's stabilization policies yielded results with a fall in the annual inflation rate from double digits13.3% in 1993to a range of between 3.5% and 5.6% by 1996 to 2002. A surge in imports related to a boom in the hydrocarbons sector helped raise the current account deficit to an average of 10.25% of GDP in 1997 and 1998, but by 2000, this had been transformed into a current account surplus equal to almost 5% of GDP.

The global slowdown in 2001 and the world-wide declines in tourism and foreign investment after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States did not seriously impact economic growth in Trinidad and Tobago, as it did in the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean nations.

Long-term growth looks promising as Trinidad and Tobago further develops its oil and gas resources and the industries dependent on natural gas, including petrochemicals, fertilizers, iron/steel, and aluminum. Additional growth potential also exists in financial services, telecommunications, and transport. Strong growth in Trinidad and Tobago over the past few years has led to trade surpluses, even with high import levels due to industrial expansion and increased consumer demand. Unemployment, which was 12.1% in 2001, had fallen to 8.4% by 2004. Inflation, however, has begun to worsen with prices rising at an annualized rate of 7.34% in March 2005, as opposed to 5.6% in December 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Trinidad and Tobago's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $13.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $12,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 6.8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 0.7% of GDP, industry 57%, and services 42.3%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $79 million or about $60 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.8% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to -$2 million or about -$2 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Trinidad and Tobago totaled $6.49 billion or about $4,945 per capita based on a GDP of $10.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.9%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 20% of household consumption was spent on food, 23% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 13% on education. It was estimated that in 1992 about 21% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, Trinidad and Tobago's workforce was estimated at 620,00 persons. As of 2002 (the latest year for which data was available), agriculture accounted for 6.9% of the nation's labor force, with 64.4% engaged in services, 28.4% in industry, and 0.2% in undefined occupations. Unemployment in 2005 was estimated at 8%.

The principal national labor federation is the Trinidad and Tobago Labor Congress. Of nonaffiliated unions, the largest is the National Union of Government and Federated Workers. As of 2002, an estimated 2530% of the workforce was organized into 19 labor unions. The right to strike is provided by law with the exception of those employed in essential services. There is little protective labor legislation; work rules are subject to labor-management negotiation.

A minimum wage of us$1.10 per hour was established in 1998, but it is considered insufficient to support a family. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 may work in family businesses. The normal workday is eight to nine hours, five days a week. Vacation periods vary from two to five weeks a year, depending on length of service. There is no organized exploitation of children, but they do occasionally serve in the informal economy such as working as street vendors.


About 24% of the total land area was arable in 2003, most of it on Trinidad. There are two distinct types of agricultural operationsthe large estate or plantation that is managed by a specialist and employs large numbers of laborers, and the small farm cultivated by the owner (or tenant) and family. The small farms grow mainly for the home market. Crops include corn, rice, peas, beans, potatoes, other vegetables, and a wide variety of fruits. Lowland rice is grown almost entirely by Indian farmers. The large estates are interested mainly in commercial export crops, although the small farmers also grow some export crops. Agriculture accounted for only 1% of GDP in 2003. During the 1970s and early 1980s, agriculture's traditional labor force was lured away by the booming energy sector, with foreign exchange plentiful enough to import food. By the late 1980s, however, this trend was being reversed.

The value of crops grown for the domestic market is believed to be considerably greater than that of the export crops. Sugar, the main commercial crop, is grown on a few large company-owned estates and by thousands of small farmers; modern methods allow the estates to produce about two-thirds of the sugar crop. Normally, 80% or more of the islands' production is exported. In 2004, sugarcane production was 680,000 tons. The second major export crop, cocoa, is cultivated in the hill sections of both Trinidad and Tobago. Estates produce considerably more cocoa than smallholdings, owing to better agricultural practices and to the fact that small farmers intercrop bananas, coffee, and other crops with cocoa. Cocoa production has been in decline since 1970; the output in 2004 was 1,300 tons. Coffee is grown in much the same hill areas as cocoa, and there is about the same proportion of estate-grown to small-farmer-grown coffee. Both cocoa and coffee have been described as sick industries because of inefficiency, crop disease, and uncertain world market conditions. In 2004, coffee production was 540 tons, down from 2,361 tons in 1985.

Some 90 acres (36 hectares) of ornamental flowers are also cultivated for export. Rice, citrus, corn, cassava, peanuts, and pigeon peas are now being grown to diversify agricultural output.


Livestock plays only an incidental role in the agricultural pattern. The water buffalo, adept at turning heavy, water-laden soils, has been brought from India by Indian farmers and is the major draft animal in rice cultivation and probably the most productive animal in the country. Cattle are kept by some small farmers, but the best stock is that on estates and government farms or in large dairies. Poor animals and poor breeding and feeding methods keep meat and milk quantity and quality low and prices high. Trinidad and Tobago relies heavily on dairy imports from Europe to satisfy domestic demand.

In 2005, the livestock population included an estimated 28,200,000 poultry, 29,000 head of cattle, 59,300 goats, 43,000 hogs, 3,400 sheep, and 5,700 water buffalo. Animals slaughtered at abattoirs run by the government and by municipalities yielded an estimated 57,600 tons of poultry meat, and 2,900 tons of pork in 2005.


The fishing industry has great potential, but current production does not begin to meet local demands, and large quantities of fish must be imported. Shrimp and mackerel make up one-third of the total annual catch, with shrimp the leading fisheries export. In 2003, Trinidad and Tobago exported $10 million in fish and fish products, up from $2.4 million in 1990. In 1986, the Archipelagic Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone Act defined the sovereign fishing jurisdiction around the nation, which has created new opportunities for marine fishing off the east coast of Trinidad. The harvest in 2003 was about 9,747 tons, up from 3,730 tons in 1986.


Approximately 50.5%, or 259,000 hectares (640,000 acres), of the land was forested in 2000. Roughly four-fifths of the forestland is government owned or administered; however, much of the state forestland is in hill areas, inaccessible for exploitation. Several dozen small sawmills are in operation. Roundwood production in 2004 was about 94,800 cu m (3.3 million cu ft), 36% used for fuel.


Trinidad and Tobago had the largest supply of natural asphalt, and became the second-largest exporter of ammonia, behind Russia. The island's famous Pitch Lake, a 46-hectare deposit of oozing black asphalt, has been mined commercially since the 19th century. The annual yield has declined, from an average of 200,000 metric tons in the 1960s, to 18,100 metric tons in 1996 and 9,900 metric tons in 2000. Since 2001, natural asphalt output has hovered around 16,200 metric tons. In 2003, natural asphalt output was estimated at 16,200 metric tons. In 2003, the country produced 3.529 million metric tons of anhydrous ammonia, up from 3,258,619 metric tons in 2002. Iron ore deposits of commercial value were reported to have been discovered in Trinidad's Northern Range. Quarrying operations on the islands in 2003 produced 850,000 tons of limestone, down from 851,000 tons in 2002, and 765,000 metric tons of hydraulic cement, up from 743,700 metric tons in 2002.


Trinidad and Tobago is among only three countries in the Caribbean region (Cuba and the Barbados are the others) to have significant oil and natural gas reserves, with Trinidad and Tobago accounting for the bulk.

According to the Oil and Gas Journal, these three countries had combined proven crude oil reserves of 1.74 billion barrels and 28.4 trillion cu ft of natural gas in 2005. Of the three, Trinidad and Tobago had proven crude oil and natural gas reserves of 990 million barrels and 25,887 million cu ft, respectively. Total oil production in 2004 for Trinidad and Tobago averaged 165,000 barrels per day, of which 131,000 barrels per day consisted of crude oil. In 2002, total oil product output averaged 137,480 barrels per day, with demand averaging 28,320 barrels per day. Although output exceeded demand, Trinidad and Tobago averaged imports of 95,180 barrels per day, with crude oil imports accounting for an average of 91,280 barrels per day. Much of these imports that year were re-exported. Exports in that year averaged 204,410 barrels per day. Refined oil output in 2002 averaged 147,540 barrels per day.

In 2003, Trinidad and Tobago produced an estimated 25 billion cu m of natural gas. Domestic demand that year came to an estimated 13.76 billion cu m, with exports totaling an estimated 11.79 billion cu m. All the natural gas produced is used domestically. Trinidad and Tobago is the largest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the United States, and one of the world's largest exporters of LNG in the world.

Electric power generating capacity in 2002 for Trinidad and Tobago totaled 1.417 million kW, all of it dedicated to conventional thermal fuels. In that same year, electric power output totaled 5.747 billion kWh, with 99.5% generated by fossil fuel burning plants. The remainder comes from other alternative sources. A submarine cable provides Tobago with electricity from Trinidad.


The industrial sector of the economy is dominated by the capital-intensive petroleum industry. Industry accounted for approximately 57% of the GDP, agriculture 0.7%, and services for 42.3% in 2004. Trinidad and Tobago had essentially an agricultural economy up to the beginning of the twentieth century when sugar production played a dominant role and the cultivation of cocoa, coconuts, and coffee played lesser parts. The socioeconomic characteristics of Caribbean agriculture are well defined and include an aging farming population, excessive dependence on export markets, absence of marketing and processing capability, and both tariff and nontariff barriers. These influence the incomes generated by agriculture and hence the investment in agricultural development. Long-established industries are those processing raw materials of the farm, forest and sea; foremost are sugar, molasses, and rum, followed by fish, lumber, fats and oils, and stock feed. Manufacturing products include matches, angostura bitters, soap, confectionery, and clay products. Newer industries include petroleum refining, petrochemicals, concrete products, canned citrus, bottled drinks, glass, drugs, chemicals, clothing, building materials, and metal goods.

The most important industrial center is found at the port at Point Lisas. Many new industrial plants have been established under the benefits of the country's New Companies Act (1997). The manufacturing sector has contributed a substantial share of the GDP since the 1970s. After the establishment of the free zone program in 1993, manufacturing investment soared. Caroni Inc., the government-owned sugar company and the largest employer on Trinidad, undertook a major revitalization project in 1998.

The petroleum sector, which more than doubled its growth rate to 1.8% in 1996, fell to 1.1% in 1997 due to a continuation of declining oil production. Rising prices in the early 2000s caused the petroleum sector to remain stable, however. Diversification of the petrochemicals industry and investments in other heavy industry and manufacturing may broaden the export base; but hydrocarbons will continue to provide at least 25% of foreign exchange earnings. Trinidad and Tobago's sole oil refinery had a production capacity of 160,000 barrels per day in 2002. As of 2002, the natural gas sector was expanding, with huge discoveries adding to the country's 80 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) gas base. The Atlantic LNG plant was due to expand over a four-year period, creating the largest single and sustained increment in growth in the country. The LNG plant began operations in the 1990s as the government attempted to increase oil exploration and production by giving contracts to US companies. It was one of the most ambitious projects, with British Gas (26% ownership) and Spain's Repsol (10%) joining two US companiesAmoco, with the largest stake (34%) and Cabot (10%).

Trinidad and Tobago has made a transition from an oil-based economy to one based on natural gas. In 2004, natural gas production averaged 2.9 trillion cubic feet per day (tcf/d), an increase of 12.9% from 2003. The petrochemical sector, including plants producing methanol, ammonia, urea, and natural gas liquids, has continued to grow in line with natural gas production, which continues to expand and should meet the needs of new industrial plants coming on line in the next few years.

The nonenergy sector grew at a slower pace in 2004. Output in this sector increased by a modest 3.8% in 2003 and 2.9% in 2004 with the impetus coming from the manufacturing and services sectors. The rate of growth in the manufacturing sector was 6.6% in 2004, thanks to the food, beverages and tobacco, and assembly-type industries. The service sector grew by 2.9%, led by construction. The construction sector growth was due mainly to government investment in housing and infrastructure, and ongoing projects in the energy sector. Performance in the agriculture sector has been weak and declined by 20.2% in 2004. The decline in output resulted largely from the shrinking and restructuring of the sugar industry.


Among the research centers and learned societies of Trinidad and Tobago are the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, the Tobago District Agricultural Society, the Pharmaceutical Society of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Sugar Manufacture Association of Trinidad and Tobago. The University of the West Indies has a campus in St. Augustine (founded in 1948) with faculties of agriculture, engineering, medical sciences, and natural sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 58% of college and university enrollments. Research and development (R&D) expenditures in 2001 totaled $11.806 million, or 0.10% of GDP. In 1997 (the latest year for which the following data was available), government sources accounted for the largest portion of R&D spending at 48.2%, followed by business at 34.5%, and higher education at 17.3%. In that year total R&D spending came to $12.549 million, or 0.14% of GDP. In 2001, there were 393 researchers engaged in research and development per million people. High technology exports in 2002 were valued at $75 million, or 3% of the country's manufactured exports.


Trinidad and Tobago's wholesale trade is highly organized and highly competitive; much of it is controlled by a few managing agencies located in Port-of-Spain. These agencies are direct importers in bulk and have exclusive wholesale rights for sales in the islands, and often in other Caribbean nations and territories. Imports are of extreme importance, for example, the food service companies in Trinidad and Tobago buy 80% of their food and beverage products from local importers and only 15% from local manufacturers; they import the remaining 5% directly from US suppliers.

In small communities, rural areas, on Tobago, and in less developed parts of Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, a general retail store carries a wide variety of commodities. Many of these stores are family enterprises and most are small. Local and foreign franchises are fairly common, particularly in the fast-food industry. Price controls have been placed on sugar, schoolbooks, and pharmaceuticals. A value-added tax of 15% applies to most goods and services.


Trinidad and Tobago is highly import-dependent, with the United States supplying about 50% of total imports since 1997. The foreign trade of Trinidad and Tobago is very large for a country of its size, a fact attributable mainly to its petroleum processing industry. The economy's prosperity is thus tied closely to trade, which,

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 3,853.3 3,661.0 192.3
United States 1,941.9 1,242.6 699.3
Jamaica 292.6 17.4 275.2
Barbados 178.6 30.6 148.0
France-Monaco 175.9 38.1 137.8
Spain 92.1 21.5 70.6
Canada 91.9 103.6 -11.7
Guyana 82.5 15.7 66.8
Dominican Republic 78.4 78.4
Netherlands 58.5 45.2 13.3
United Kingdom 56.7 45.2 11.5
() data not available or not significant.

in turn, is closely linked to the price and demand structure of the world petroleum market.

Trinidad and Tobago is the fifth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world. Trinidad and Tobago's main sources of commodity export income are refined petroleum products (39%), crude petroleum (27%), and natural and manufactured gas (26%). Other exports include ammonia (8.4%) and iron and steel (5.7%).

Up to 1992, the government prohibited the importation of some manufactured products without a license. The government replaced this list with supplemental tariffs, which coupled with the CARICOM Common External Tariff (CET), reached nearly 100%. These supplemental tariffs were reduced to CET levels by 1995, alleviating high prices on foreign goods. By 1996, quantitative restrictions were eliminated, as were surcharges and stamp duties on nonagricultural goods. As the most industrialized and second-largest country in the English-speaking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has taken a leading role in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), and strongly supports CARICOM economic integration efforts. CARICOM members are working to establish a Single Market and Economy (CSME). Trinidad and Tobago and two other CARICOM members have made strides with the scheduled launching of the first phases of CSME by 2006.

The Free Zones Act of 1988 (last amended in 1997) established the Trinidad & Tobago Free Zones Company to promote export development and foreign investment projects in a bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free environment. One multiple user and ten single user zones are currently in operation. Free Zone enterprises may be established in any part of the country. Free Zone activities that qualify for approval include manufacturing for export, international trading in products, services for export and development, and management of free zones.


The debt service ratio, 15.4% in 1997, fell to as low as 3.7% in 2001 and was a moderate 4.7% in 2004. Between 1974 and 1981, largely because of the huge increase in the value of petroleum exports, Trinidad and Tobago's payments balance was favorable. With the weakening of the market for the country's petroleum and oil refinery products in 1982, however, a deficit was recorded for the first time since the early 1970s. Foreign exchange reserves, which had reached $3.3 billion in 1981, were depleted rapidly through the 1980s, as expenditures reduced revenues (caused by lower oil prices). By 1988, foreign exchange reserves had plummeted to - $5.7 million, forcing the government to reschedule its commercial and official debt. During the 1990s, Trinidad ran a balance of payments surplus from 1992 until 1997 due to a rise in foreign direct investment, but ran a deficit after 1997 because of low oil prices, and high industrial imports. The country's balance of payments subsequently improved, in part spurred by increases in world oil prices. Trinidad's balance of payments surplus stood at $441 million in 2000.

In the second quarter of 1998, Trinidad and Tobago completed repayment of a us$335 million International Monetary Fund loan and enjoys excellent relations with the international financial institutions. Its major lender is the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Since 1997, Trinidad's external debt has declined each year as has its debt service ratio. There has, however, been

Current Account 76.4
   Balance on goods 237.7
     Imports -3,682.3
     Exports 3,920.0
   Balance on services 264.0
   Balance on income -479.8
   Current transfers 54.5
Capital Account
Financial Account 397.3
   Direct investment abroad 106.4
   Direct investment in Trinidad and Tobago 790.7
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities -70.1
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 275.2
   Other investment liabilities -492.1
Net Errors and Omissions -358.0
Reserves and Related Items -115.7
() data not available or not signifi cant.

a slight increase in domestic debt as the government has increasingly looked internally for financing. Public sector debt declined by about 4%, to 56% of GDP as of the end of 2003; and the public sector external debt declined by 3%, to about 15% of GDP at the end of 2003; most of the external debt was long-term and from commercial creditors. The lower total debt burden has allowed the government more flexibility in lowering import duties and trade barriers, benefiting especially US exports.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Trinidad and Tobago's exports was $4.1 billion, while imports totaled $3.5 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $600 million. In 2004, World Bank data showed a positive balance of payments of approximately $1 billion.


The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (established 1964) is the central regulatory institution and the sole bank of issue. The commercial banking business is well established and is operated chiefly by Canadian, British, and American interests. Monetary and fiscal developments have been closely linked with the fortunes of the oil industry.

There are six commercial banks operating in Trinidad and Tobago, with assets of over $25 billion. In 1997, bank CEOs formed a Banking Association. The largest is Republic Bank, formerly Barclays. Other commercial banks include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Citibank, First Citizens Bank, Intercommercial Bank, and Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. The Bank of Baroda, India's second-largest bank, and the Bank of India, the third-largest, have both expressed interest in entering the Trinidadian market. Offshore banking services were begun in the late 1990s by Republic Bank.

Workers and farmers make use of the Government Savings Bank offices. There are numerous agricultural credit societies, most of which are financed by the government's Agricultural Credit Bank. Credit unions are also common. The Trinidad and Tobago Development Finance Co., jointly owned by the government and the private sector, offers medium- and long-term financing to industry. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.1 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $4.0 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 13%.

Since about 1948, limited liability companies with publicly issued share capital have become increasingly important. The West Indies Stock Exchange (succeeded by West Indies Stock Brokers, Ltd.) opened a branch in Port-of-Spain in 1964. The brokerage organization became a member of the Jamaica Stock Exchange in December 1970. The Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange began operating in 1981. In 2001, it listed 31 companies, had a trading value of $174 million, and a total market capitalization of $5 billion. As of 2004, a total of 37 companies were listed on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $17.051 billion. In that same year, the TTSE Index rose 54.8% from the previous year to 1,074.6.


Insurance firms include branches of UK and US companies and a few local companies. Their operations are highly competitive. A government-owned reinsurance company has been in operation since 1979. The Colonial Life Insurance Co. is the largest life insurance company in Trinidad, with gross written life insurance premiums of $469.9 million in 2003. In that same year, CHIC was the largest nonlife insurer, with gross written nonlife premiums of $42 million. The value of all direct insurance premiums written in 2003 totaled $510 million, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $548 million. The National Insurance Board of Trinidad, which operates like Social Security, was established in 1972 by the government.


The budget deficit were first registered in the early 1980, and continued until 1990. In 1988, the government began an adjustment program, which included currency devaluation, debt reschedulings, and the adoption of an austere budget that included public service wage reductions and decreased transfers to state enterprises. These reforms resulted in an improved budget by 1994 which lasted until 1998, when expanded infrastructure and industrial projects drained revenues.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Trinidad and Tobago's central government took in revenues of approximately $4.5 billion and had expenditures of $4 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $440 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 41.4% of GDP. Total external debt was $2.986 billion.


Important sources of taxation are income taxes, a motor vehicle tax (2530%), license duties, property and building taxes, customs and excise duties (including purchase taxes), and petroleum royalties and concessions.

The individual income tax is calculated on net chargeable income, from 28% up to $50,000; and 35% thereafter. A value-added tax (VAT), with a standard rate of 15% in 2005, is levied on most goods and services. Services performed outside Trinidad and Tobago are zero-rated, and medicines are exempted for VAT.

The basic corporate tax rate is 30%. This rate is increased to 35% for petroleum companies, with a supplemental petroleum tax. Capital gains derived from assets held for more than 12 months are generally not taxed. However, gains derived from the sale of assets held less than 12 months are subject to the corporate tax rate. Dividends paid to nonresident companies and individuals are subject to a 15% withholding tax. However, a lower 10% rate is applied if the distributing company is 50% or more held by a resident corporation. Dividends paid by a resident company to another resident company are exempt from the tax. Interest and royalty payments are each subject to a 20% withholding tax.


Customs and duties are a significant source of government revenue. Most imported articles are subject to import duties, as well as a stamp tax, an import surcharge, a 15% VAT, and excise taxes on petroleum products, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages that are sold locally. Trinidad and Tobago applies the CARICOM common external tariff to most goods. The rates are 020%. Banned items include animals that have died in transit, used or second-hand animal blankets, saddle cloths, felting or pads, firearms, explosives, and seditious publications.

Free trade zones (FTZs) were authorized by law in 1988; the first FTZ was established in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. Trinidad and Tobago is a member of CARICOM, a signatory to the Lomè Convention, and has special trade agreements with Venezuela, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and the United States. The country benefits from the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which allows duty-free entry of many products into the United States.


The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) actively encourages foreign direct investment in almost all sectors. In 2004, the US-based Heritage Foundation's economic freedom index rated Trinidad and Tobago fifth in Latin America and the Caribbean and 36th out of 155 countries. Foreign investment in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly from British, Canadian, US, and Dutch sources, has played a major role in the development of all major manufacturing and processing industries, as well as most large agricultural enterprises. Several private banking institutions have provided development loans through the Industrial Development Corporation, established by the government in 1959 to act as a liaison between investors and various government departments.

Starting in 1970, the government required foreign investment in Trinidad and Tobago to be conducted in a joint venture basis, with majority domestic participation most often in a 60:40 ratio. In the 1980s the economy became mired in stagflation. The government launched a campaign of reforms emphasizing fiscal and monetary discipline, export-led growth, and encouragement of private sector and foreign investment. Under the current investment regime there are for the most part no restrictions or disincentives to investment. The Free Zones (FTZs) Act of 1988, as amended in 1997, established the framework of duty-free, tax-free, and bureaucracy-free investment environments. In 2002, there were three multiple-user and eleven single-user FTZs in operation or under construction. In May 2001, the government passed new telecommunications legislation establishing a new telecommunications authority, opening the way for liberalization of the sector. As of 2003, however, the telecommunications sector remained the only one closed to new foreign investment in key areas.

Oil and gas exploration continues to attract inflows of foreign capital, boosting economic growth and strengthening public finances. The United States is the major investor, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, and Norway. Inflows of almost $4 billion in foreign investment between 1997 and 2000 strengthened the balance of payments and permitted the relaxation of policies. US investments have been mainly in hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, while Canada has investments in ammonia/urea, Germany in methanol and iron, India in iron and steel, and Norway in ammonia. A boom in natural gas investment, including pipelines for the delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG), was under way in 2002 and 2003.

The investment climate is good. Since 1992, almost all investment barriers have been eliminated. Investment is screened only for eligibility for government incentives and assessment of its environmental impact. Both tax and nontax incentives may be negotiated. The government has a double taxation agreement, a bilateral investment treaty, and an intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. (The bilateral investment treaty granted national treatment and other benefits to US investors; it came into force on 26 December 1996.) US investment in Trinidad and Tobago exceeds $1 billion. Total foreign direct investment has averaged $700 million annually over the last decade. Among recent and ongoing investment projects are several involving US firms, like ISG and ALCOA, and resorts built by Marriott and Hyatt.


To diversify the economy and raise the national standard of living, foreign capital and technical assistance are actively solicited. Major incentives are duty-free imports of equipment and raw materials, income tax holidays, accelerated depreciation allowances, unlimited carryover of losses, and repatriation of capital and profits. To encourage diversification toward non-oil/gas sectors, the government has undertaken comprehensive reforms in the trade and exchange rate regimes, and the investment environment. A major downsizing and refocusing of the public sector with an extensive program of divestment and reduction of public employment has occurred.

Nonetheless, the country remains largely an oil economy even though oil reserves are being depleted. While the natural gas sector will benefit the economy in the future, it will not solve the country's most crucial economic problems. Only by diversifying into more labor intensive export industries and services will Trinidad and Tobago generate employment and growth and minimize its external vulnerability. The key ingredients for development are a buildup of reserves consistent with the maintenance of a competitive exchange rate; the use of monetary policy to contain inflation and sterilize reserve accumulation; and the strengthening of fiscal balances to reduce government debt and lower interest rates.

Trinidad and Tobago experienced strong growth in the early 2000s, after eight years of economic decline in the 1990s. The debt service ratio fell, as did unemployment. The government invested heavily in public sector physical and educational infrastructure projects in the early 2000s. Improvements in water and electricity supply were being undertaken.

Recognizing the role that energy plays in the economic life of Trinidad and Tobago, where it was the source of 37% of governmental revenues in 2004, the government is seeking to diversify the economy to reduce dependence on the energy sector and to achieve self-sustaining growth. The diversification strategy focuses on six main sectors: traditional manufacturing; new technology-based industrial sector; tourism; financial services; agriculture; and small business. Corruption has traditionally appeared to be moderate, and has not seriously undermined government or business operations.


All employees aged 16 through 64 are required to become members of the National Insurance System. Employers contribute 5.6% of payroll, according to 12 wage classes, and employees normally contribute 2.8% of earnings. The program covers employed persons, including agricultural and domestic workers. In addition, a social insurance scheme is funded by the government and extends benefits to those with limited means. The system provides old age, retirement, and disability pensions; maternity, sickness, and survivors' benefits; and funeral grants. Retirement is between the ages of 60 and 65. Maternity benefits are at 60% of average earnings for a maximum of 13 weeks, and there is also a maternity grant. A compulsory system of workers' compensation for injury is also in place.

The constitution mandates human rights and freedoms to all citizens regardless of sex. Women are active in the labor force, but few rise to senior management positions. There is no law that mandates equal pay for equal work. The law does not address sexual harassment and it remains a problem. Violence against women and domestic abuse continue to be major issues for women although the government and media are addressing the problem. The law has been strengthened to protect women and assist victims of abuse.

Human rights organizations operate freely. Poor prison conditions and lengthy pretrial detention remain a problem.


Government health facilities include general hospitals in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, small district hospitals, several major health centers, dental service centers, a mental hospital, and a nurses' training school. As of 2004, there were an estimated 79 physicians, 287 nurses, and 8 dentists per 100,000 people.

The general health of the population has been improving; substantial decreases have been recorded in the death rates for malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, and syphilis. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 90%; polio, 81%; and measles, 88%. Improvements in sanitation have reaped impressive health benefits. Approximately 86% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 88% had adequate sanitation. As a result, reported cases of dysentery and hookworm have declined dramatically.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 13.7 and 8.8 per 1,000 people. Average life expectancy was 66.73 years in 2005 and infant mortality was 25.81 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality was 75 per 1,000 live births.

As of 2004, there were approximately 29,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 19,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.20 per 100 adults in 2003.


A typical rural home for a large family consists of one to three rooms plus an outside kitchen. Slums and tenements are typical of urban life since there is an acute shortage of adequate housing. At the 2000 census, the housing stock was counted at 300,844. About 77.5% of all dwellings were single-family detached homes, 13% were flats or apartments, and 3% were two-family detached homes. About 76% of all housing was owner occupied. At least 18,200 dwellings were listed as squatter homes. A little over 60% of all households had access to indoor piped water; another 8.8% had access to piped water within a yard.

The Ministry of Housing and Settlements has developed a five-year plan for 200106 to promote housing construction, land development, and the upgrade of squatter sites. One goal of the plan is to build 30,000 new housing units within the five years. The Ministry also hopes to upgrade 2,000 squatter dwellings per year.


Many schools are run jointly by the state and religious bodies. Education is free at primary and secondary levels and compulsory for six years. Elementary education lasts for seven years, followed by five years of secondary education. There are two types of secondary school systems. The traditional system offers a general five-year secondary program followed by two years of preparatory studies (sixth form). The new system offers a program that consists of three years of junior high, two years of senior high, and two years of sixth form, with more diverse course options available to students. Technical and vocational programs are also available at the secondary level. The academic year runs from August to May.

In 2001, about 63% of children between the ages of three and four were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 72% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 91% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 19:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was also about 19:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 28.5% of primary school enrollment and 28% of secondary enrollment.

At the postsecondary level, government technical vocational schools and teachers colleges are free for qualified students. There are four small, government-run technical colleges, five teachers colleges, and two polytechnic institutes. The University of the West Indies has a faculty of engineering, arts, and agriculture at its Trinidad campus. John F. Kennedy College, a liberal arts school outside Port-of-Spain built with a us$30-million grant from the Agency for International Development (AID), has teaching facilities for about 600 students. The Trinidad and Tobago Hotel School offers courses for the hotel, catering, and travel industries. The Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry is located in St. Augustine. In 2003, it was estimated that about 9% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98.5%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.3% of GDP, or 13.4% of total government expenditures.


The National Library, opened in 2003 in Port-of-Spain, houses 442,000 volumes, with special sections for young adults and children. The National Library and Information System Authority is also responsible for the management of the nation's public libraries, with 21 locations on Trinidad and 3 locations on Tobago. There are mobile services on each island. The Port-of-Spain Public Library has 70,000 volumes. In San Fernando, the Carnegie Free Library functions as regional headquarters for rural library services to the south. The University of the West Indies main library in St. Augustine has more than 395,000 volumes. There are over 600 school libraries that are supported by the national system.

The National Museum and Art Gallery is located in Port-of-Spain, as is the Royal Victoria Institute Museum (1892), a general museum featuring local flora and fauna, crafts of the indigenous people, and a sampling of moon dust. The Trinidad childhood home of Nobel-winning author V.S. Naipaul was scheduled to become a museum.


Postal and internal telegraph services throughout the islands are operated by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 250 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 278 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. Commercial cable communication and radiotelephone services are maintained between Trinidad and all major countries of the world.

There were 4 AM and 18 FM radio stations, and 4 television stations in 2004. The public National Broadcasting Service closed in 2005, ending service of two television stations and four radio stations. There were, however, plans to launch a new public broadcaster in the form of the state-owned Caribbean News Media Network. In 2003, there were an estimated 534 radios and 345 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 79.5 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 106 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 15 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

There were four daily newspapers in 2002. The Trinidad Guardian, a morning and Sunday paper, had an average daily circulation of 46,760. The Trinidad Express, published daily and Sunday, had a daily circulation of 51,000. Newsday, also published daily and Sunday, had a daily circulation of 25,000. Trinidad Evening News, published daily, had a circulation of 33,770.

Freedom of the press is both constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice.


Producers of agricultural crops for export are organized into associations for solving common problems, as well as for social purposes. Among these are the Cocoa Planters Association, Cooperative Citrus Growers Association, and Sugar Manufacturers Association. Professional and trade associations are many and varied and include the Law Society, Medical Board, Petroleum Association, Shipping Association, and Trinidad Chamber of Commerce. The multinational Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce and the Caribbean Employers Confederation are located in Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean office of the International Labour Organization is located in Port-of-Spain, as is the base office of the Association of Caribbean States.

Cultural and educational organizations include the Festival Center for the Creative Arts and the Caribbean Academy of Sciences. Scouting and YMCA/YWCA programs are available for youth. Sports associations are popular for amateur athletes of all ages; several sports clubs are associated with the national Olympic Committee.

Social action groups include the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women and the Caribbean Women's Association. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


Outstanding tourist attractions include the mountainous areas, beaches, and reefs on both islands. Entertainment includes calypso and steel band music, both of which originated in Trinidad. Festive events include Carnival, held annually on the two days before Ash Wednesday; the Muslim festival of Hosay, which begins 10 days after the new moon in the month of Muharram; and the Hindu festival of lights, Divali, which occurs in October or November. Cricket and football (soccer) are the most popular sports.

The government offers fiscal and other incentives for the development of hotels and other tourist facilities. In 2003, there were 409,069 visitors who arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, of whom 80% came from the Americas. Hotel rooms numbered 5,378, and tourism expenditure receipts totaled $402 million in 2002. Passports are required, and must be valid for at least six months after leaving Trinidad and Tobago. All nationals must have an entry visa except those of the Commonwealth Countries, the European Economic Community countries (EEC), the United States, Finland, Iceland, Venezuela, Norway, Sweden, and holders of Organization of American States (OAS) passports.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Port-of-Spain at us$215; in Tobago daily costs were seasonal and averaged between us$440 from April through December to us$215 the rest of the year.


Eric Eustace Williams (191181), the main political figure of his time and the leader of Trinidad and Tobago's major political party, was instrumental in his country's achievement of independence in 1962; he was prime minister from 1961 until his death. His successor was George Michael Chambers (19281997). A.N.R. Robinson (b.1926) served as prime minister from 19861991, and as president from 19972003. Patrick Manning (b.1946) served as prime minister between 1991 and 1995 and since 2001. George Maxwell Richards (b.1931) became president in 2003. Notable writers include Samuel Selvon (19231994) and V.S. (Vidiadhar Surajprasad) Naipaul (b.1932).


Trinidad and Tobago has no territories or colonies.


Buckman, Robert T. Latin America, 2005. 39th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post, 2005.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Foster, Dean Allen. Global Etiquette Guide to Mexico and Latin America. New York: J. Wiley, 2002.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Stuempfle, Stephen. The Steelband Movement: The Forging of a National Art in Trinidad and Tobago. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

Winer, Lise. Trinidad and Tobago. Philadelphia, Pa.: J. Benjamins, 1993.

Yelvington, Kevin A. (ed.). Trinidad Ethnicity. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

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Trinidad and Tobago


Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Major City:

Other Cities:
Arima, Chaguanas, La Brea, Lopinot, Saint Joseph, San Fernando, Sangre Grande, Scarborough, Tunapuna


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Trinidad & Tobago. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Trinidad does not conform to the stereotypes of a Caribbean resort island. In fact, while it is blessed with great natural beauty and some good beaches, it is not a premier tourist destination. Tourism is growing rapidly on the sister island of Tobago, which is only a 20-minute flight away. What Trinidad lacks in tourist infrastructure, however, it more than makes up for in its unique ethnic and cultural flavor. Its abundant natural resources (oil and gas) have provided it the means to chart its own course, politically and economically, and make it a leader in the region. First-time visitors are often surprised at the level of industrialization in the country. It is a relatively prosperous nation as measured by per capita GDP. Its population and landmass are larger than all of the Windward Islands combined. Even its geologic origins set it apart; it was originally a part of the South American mainland before it broke off thousands of years ago. This means that its flora and fauna are as varied as those of South America, but concentrated in a much smaller area. It is one of the world's premier destinations for bird watchers, boasting several hundred species, especially hummingbirds. Trinidad includes mountain ranges with peaks as high as 3,000 ft, as well as flat lands used for agriculture, and wetlands.

The Venezuelan coastline, less than 10 miles away, is visible from Port of Spain, yet cultural and language differences mean there is relatively little contact with Venezuela. Trinidadian society is a vibrant and unique mixture of races and national origins, with the two largest groups being of African and of Indian descent. In addition, there are smaller, but significant numbers of people of Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French origin.

Life for the community is good in Port of Spain, particularly for families and those who like outdoor activities. Port of Spain is as safe as many large U.S. cities, the weather is good, and medical care and other facilities are adequate. The people are open and friendly toward Americans, the business infrastructure is reasonably modern and efficient, and housing and schools are good. While some of the conveniences Americans take for granted are not always available, one can dial direct to family in the U.S., easily access the internet and watch many state-side channels on cable TV, or find the latest video releases as well as decent bagels. At the same time, opportunities abound to be enriched by an interesting and unique culture.



Port-of-Spain is located between the sheltered Gulf of Paria and the mountains of the Northern Range that rise sharply from the sea to an altitude of 3,000 feet. With a metropolitan population of over 200,000 this bustling port city is on many important air and sea routes of the eastern Caribbean.

The city itself is situated on flat land, with hills rising on three sides and the sea on the fourth. Downtown streets are narrow and congested. The downtown businesses are immediately inland from the dock and waterfront. On nearby Woodford Square stands the Red House, which is the center of government and houses parliamentary offices as well as the House of Representatives, and the Senate. Many political and social functions take place at Woodford Square or on the recently refurbished Brian Lara Promenade.

Further inland is the Savannah, cultural and recreational hub of the city, with its surrounding road often called the "world's largest roundabout." This huge, grassy, oval park is the site of numerous cricket and soccer games, food vendors, and spectators on park benches. A 2-1/2 mile long paved walk around the Savannah is used by roller skaters, joggers, baby strollers, and pedestrians. Many Carnival activities take place on the Savannah.

Many of Port of Spain's cultural attractions are located around the Savannah, including Queen's Hall (used for concerts and other performances), the Botanical Gardens, a zoo, the Hilton Hotel, and historical houses, many in Victorian style architecture.

With U.S.-style shopping malls and supermarkets in many locations, Port of Spain is a growing city with many of the conveniences of the United States.


Since electric current is the same as in the U.S. (I 10v, 60-cycle AC), transformers are unnecessary. Plugs and outlets are American or a locally available three-prong type.

The electrical system experiences occasional surges and outages. Line conditioners are recommended for sensitive electronic items such as computers.

During the dry season (January-June) water supplies are low, and restrictions may be placed on watering lawns and washing cars. Water pressure and supply problems can be a serious problem in hilly suburbs.


Supermarkets similar to those in the U.S. are located conveniently throughout the city. Smaller family-run groceries, vegetable-fruit stores (called greengrocers here), and roadside stands sell vegetables, fruits and fish. Well-stocked store shelves hold many familiar brands.

Food prices, except for government controlled items, are comparable or higher than in the U.S., since prices for imported food reflect freight costs and some import duties. Products come from the U.S., Canada, UK, Venezuela, Jamaica, and elsewhere. Government-controlled items are sold at below market prices and are supported by government subsidies. These include rice, sugar, flour, and some imported foods such as butter and cheese.

Some items, which are solely imports, include baby food, cake mixes, pickles, olives, and canned and dehydrated soups. Locally produced coffee is available, but stronger than U.S. coffee. American ground coffee is available. Good quality juices produced locally can be had both sweetened and unsweetened. Both local and imported candy and snacks are widely available at reasonable prices. Local and imported nuts (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and almonds) are available, but expensive.

Staples such as eggs, bread, butter, yogurt, cream and milk (fresh, UHT and powdered) of good quality are widely available at reasonable prices. U.S.-style breakfast cereals, both local and imported, as well as rice and pasta products are also widely available.

A wide variety of fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are found in local supermarkets, neighborhood shops and roadside stands. While there are many fruits and vegetables not commonly found in the U.S., the availability of fresh herbs and the variety of vegetables overall is less than that found in Washington, D.C. area supermarkets.

Fresh fish and shrimp can be purchased at the downtown central market, roadside stands, or from fishermen returning with their catch. Frozen fish is available at supermarkets. Local pork is good, as are New Zealand mutton and lamb. Beef cuts differ from those in the U.S. both in texture and taste and are often tougher and drier. Sausages, ham and luncheon meats are available.

Miller and Miller Genuine Draft are the only U.S. beers available locally.

Trinidadian cuisine reflects the nation's cultural diversity. "Creole" cooking includes dishes based on rice mixed with chicken, pork and various local vegetables. On their way to work, many Trinidadians enjoy a quick breakfast of fresh coconut water and jelly sold by vendors along the Savannah and Independence Square. Callaloo, a popular soup, is made from taro leaves, okra, pumpkin, coconut, and crabs. Other favorites are cow heel soup, crab backs, souse (pickled pig's feet), and pastels (ground beef wrapped in crepe-like pancakes and banana leaves). East Indian dishes include roti (usually beef, chicken, or pork with potatoes and curry spices wrapped in a large, thin bread), spicy hot curries, and chutney. Most Chinese food is Cantonese, but is prepared to suit Trinidadian taste and is somewhat different from what one finds in U.S. Chinese restaurants. Wild meats, such as manicou (possum), armadillo, iguana, deer, and wild boar are delicacies here. Trinidadians especially enjoy fish including shark, king fish, red snapper, Spanish mackerel, flying fish, shrimp, carite, and cascadura (a fresh water fish).


Lightweight summer clothing is worn year round by both men and women in Port of Spain. Due to Trinidad and Tobago's tropical climate, clothing made from natural fibers (cotton, linen, etc.) or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers is more comfortable than all synthetic materials. Clothing wears out quickly under the frequent laundering made essential by the high heat and humidity.

Men: Dress is casual and informal, although evening functions often require "lounge suits," the local term for dark business suits. At more casual functions, sport shirts and slacks are commonly worn, as are "shirt jacks," which are similar to the Latin American guayabera or African safari suit and are very popular among Trinidadian men. During the rainy season, showers can be expected nearly every day. Umbrellas are therefore essential. Raincoats and galoshes are not worn here due to the hot climate. Loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers is the most comfortable.

Women: Women wear dresses, suits, or skirts to the office. Stockings are rarely worn due to the high humidity. Plan to bring a good supply of dresses for social occasions, as parties and other social events are numerous throughout the year. Trinidadian women are generally smartly dressed no matter what dress is specified by the invitation. Casual and dressy short dresses or skirts are favored at most social functions.

More formal evening functions require long dresses or fancy short dresses.

Informal social functions require only skirts and blouses/tops.

Local boutiques sell the latest fashions, including interesting local designs, at relatively high prices. Fabric shops offer a wide variety of materials at reasonable prices. Seamstresses are numerous and many can sew without patterns; their prices vary.

Children: Clothing worn during summer in the U.S. is suitable here. Washable, lightweight materials with natural fibers are best. One sweater or feather-light jacket should be all the outer wear needed. Most children wear sandals or comfortable canvas shoes. They are available here at reasonable prices. Most schools require school uniforms, which can be purchased locally. The International School requires black or white shoes or sneakers, of which more styles are available in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Locally made laundry soaps and cleansers are available at reasonable prices. Imported soaps, cleaners, disinfectants, fabric softeners, grease cutters, and waxes are more expensive.

Numerous name brand cosmetics and personal hygiene items are sold locally, including hair care products, lotions, nail polish, deodorants, foot powders, and shampoos. Except for a few locally made products, they are more expensive than in the U.S. Several brands of locally made diapers are sold at reasonable prices.

Photographic equipment is expensive and limited in variety. Film and black-and white and color processing services are available at higher than U.S. cost.

Attractive shops sell most of the kitchen items found in the U.S., but at higher prices.

There are several reasonably-priced but unreliable dry cleaners. Beauty and barber shops resemble those in the U.S.

Domestic Help

Domestic help can be found and hired at rates considerably below those in the United States. Few families hire more than a full-time maid and part-time gardener. Live-in maids are hard to find, because most employees prefer day work. Some families employ maids and waiters for representational functions, at hourly or evening wages. Baby-sitters are inexpensive but sometimes hard to find. In addition to wages, employers should provide meals or cash equivalent, uniforms, and a contribution to the compulsory National Insurance plan. If the employer requires the employee to have a pre-employment medical check-up, this should be done at the employer's expense.

Religious Activities

Freedom of worship exists in Trinidad and Tobago. Most religions have places of worship. The Roman Catholic, Anglican (Episcopalian), Presbyterian, Methodist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths predominate. There are no synagogues, but a small Jewish community (mainly foreign residents) organizes activities and observances.


The school year begins in early September and ends in mid-July, with Christmas and Easter vacations dividing it into three terms. The school week is Monday-Friday except for holidays. All Trinidadian schools above nursery level require uniforms that are inexpensive and well suited for the tropics.

Good preschools for 2-5-year-olds are available and are held in the teacher's home. Teacher-pupil ratio, physical setup of the classroom, and the teacher's training and method vary widely. Drilling on numbers and alphabet is a primary activity, and children have less freedom of movement than in U.S. nursery schools. However, some Montessori-type schools exist, and other schools have teachers who include some Montessori methods in games and activities.

Primary schooling (PreK through 12) is available at The International School of Port of Spain (ISPS). In April 1999, ISPS moved into a US$4.5 million dollar, purpose-built educational facility on the banks of the Diego Martin River. ISPS is growing rapidly and is modeled on the American educational system and reflects a college preparatory curriculum. As an accredited, private independent school, it continues to expand course offerings and extra-curricular activities.

Special Educational Opportunities

The Venezuelan Embassy and the National Institute for Higher Education (Research Science and Technology) (NIHERST) in Port of Spain conduct free courses in Spanish conversation for adults. A similar service is provided in French by the Alliance Francaise for a nominal fee. Private teachers offer special courses in crafts, music, modern dance, and arts.

The University of the West Indies is located at St. Augustine, about 12 miles east of Port of Spain. Degree courses are offered by the faculties of agriculture, engineering, social sciences, the natural sciences, and the arts. The University also offers some non-degree courses in Port of Spain and at St. Augustine. The cost for non-degree study at UWI is high, but many of the more popular departments (engineering, sciences, and premedical) are difficult to enroll in due to enrollment limits.


Trinidad and Tobago's primary national sports are cricket and soccer. Swimming, tennis, golf, boating, and fishing are also popular and are available in and around Port of Spain. Port of Spain has several parks, including a botanical garden and a small zoo.

Beaches in Trinidad are not resorts, but they are convenient to Port of Spain and are well used all year. The most popular beach is located at Maracas Bay on the north coast, about 35 minutes from Port of Spain. The smaller, less crowded, Las Cuevas Beach is 5 miles farther. There are beach houses for rent on the East Coast (about two hours' drive from Port of Spain) and on the small islands off the northwest coast (reachable through a short water taxi ride) which are popular weekend getaway spot. Swimming can be dangerous at any beach in Trinidad because of frequent heavy surf, rip-tides, and undertows. However, Maracas and several of the other more popular beaches have lifeguards. Several sports facilities provide swimming pools in Port of Spain at lower rates than the U.S. Tobago offers resort-type facilities, including hotels on or near the beach and a golf course. Many people find weekends on "Robinson Crusoe's Island" a welcome change from Port of Spain's routine. Tennis facilities in the city are frequently crowded, but adequate; equipment and clothing are expensive. The Tranquillity Square Lawn Tennis Club has five clay courts and one all-weather court. This private club accepts member referral and tennis is quite competitive. The Trinidad Hilton has two all-weather courts, but expect a short wait for half-hour of playing time. The Trinidad Country Club in Port of Spain has a large swimming pool (and a children's pool), six tennis courts, playground (swings, slide), bar, and eating facilities. As of June 1997, the cost was approximately US$110 initiation fee per adult and US$150 annual fees for families. Although these three private clubs are the most popular, smaller clubs exist. It is also possible to reserve an hour's play at a good all-weather public court.

Opportunities for scuba diving and spearfishing are fair in Trinidad and excellent in Tobago. The waters around Trinidad are generally murky and devoid of coral reefs, with dangerous currents. These conditions coupled with the lack of diving instruction and rental equipment, means divers should be experienced and outfitted before attempting dives in Trinidad. By contrast, Tobago diving is well organized with equipment and instruction available; the reefs, clear water, and tropical fish provide for excellent diving opportunities. Deep sea fishing is quite good, and there are some charter boats available.

Port of Spain has several boating clubs and marinas: the Trinidad and Tobago Yacht Club, Trinidad and Tobago Yachting Association, Island Properties, Power Boats, Crews Inn and Peake's, among others. The Yacht Club has boating facilities for members and guests. Power Boats and Island Properties, as well as Peake's, have haul-out and full service facilities for boats. The recently established Crews Inn is a world class marina for power and sail boats and includes a supermarket, hotel, bank, bookstore, and other features such as boat slips with full electrical, cable TV and telephone hookups. The Trinidad and Tobago Yachting Association, which is only for sailboats and dinghies, offers competitive sailing in a number of large and small boat categories. It also sponsors children's boating classes. Sailboats and powerboats can be purchased locally, but prices are high and selection limited.

St. Andrews Golf Club, situated in a valley 5 miles north of Port of Spain, offers an 18-hole golf course, restaurant, swimming pool, driving range, and putting green. Similar facilities and less expensive 18-hole course are located at Point-a-Pierre, 45 minutes south. A nine-hole public golf course, in an attractive valley northwest of town, is also available.

Small game hunting in the forests and duck hunting in the swamps is possible, but only with shotguns. Rifles are not legal hunting weapons here. Game is scarce and all but the most dedicated hunters find that the results are not worth the effort. The Trinidad Rifle Association and Trap and Skeet Association offer firing range facilities for shooting pistols, as well as skeet, small bore, and high-power rifles.

Good hiking opportunities are enhanced by an active Field Naturalists Club, which sponsors monthly hikes to out-of-the-way spots. Informal group hiking is a common event. Opportunities are outstanding for bird watchers and butterfly collectors. The internationally known Asa Wright Nature Center near Arima provides overnight facilities for amateur and professional naturalists.

Other recreational opportunities include several karate schools, dancing schools, fitness centers, amateur theater, model building club, stamp club and various women's clubs.

Sports equipment and attire compare to those used in the U.S. and can be purchased locally, but prices are higher.

Port of Spain has an active Hash House Harriers Club that organizes trail runs every other week in different parts of the country. Unlike Hash groups in many other countries, the group is not dominated by ex-pats. There is a good mix of locals and foreigners. The hash is a good way for newcomers to meet people and see the country.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Many staff members enjoy visits to nearby islands and to the Venezuelan mainland. Visitors traveling by British West Indian Airways (BWIA) to Trinidad should include Tobago on their ticket, at no extra charge and get a free trip to Tobago within a year. A quiet, peaceful island, Tobago boasts lagoons, beaches, and undersea coral gardens with tropical fish, and an 18-hole golf course.

Barbados, 200 miles away, offers more tourist infrastructure than Tobago, excellent beaches and a wide selection of good restaurants and hotels. Moderate excursion rates are available during the off season. Caracas, Venezuela is another popular destination for long weekends, offering restaurants and shopping as well as a change from the typical Caribbean atmosphere. Georgetown, Guyana is an exotic break for the adventurous, where Amerindian villages and huge rivers and waterfalls can be visited. Grenada, 90 miles north of Trinidad, is known as the "Isle of Spice". The most southerly of the Wind-ward Islands, it offers beautiful beaches and several good hotels. St. George's, the capital city, has excellent yacht facilities. Moderate excursion rates are available during the off-season. Grenada is the southern gateway to the Grenadines, an increasingly popular cruising and sailing ground.


Port of Spain has a number of reasonably priced restaurants featuring continental, Indian, Italian, Thai, American, Chinese, and local Creole cuisine.

Several hotels and three or four nightclubs offer entertainment featuring steel bands, calypso, and other local music and dance bands. For the younger crowd, several discotheques play current U.S. disco and pop music favorites, local and Jamaican dance music.

Three large-screen movie theaters and a drive-in present mostly U.S. films. Other venues sometimes offer cultural events, plays or shows. An active semi-professional theater workshop group welcomes foreigners. In addition, interested visitors might participate in other smaller theater and dance groups. Video rental stores are used by many Americans.

The entertainment highlight is the annual Carnival. Many feel that Trinidad's pre-Lenten Carnival is second only to Rio's in grandeur and twice as enjoyable, since it is safer and more informal. Many Americans each year join one of the colorful "Mas" bands (masquerade groups). There are also numerous other special cultural events, festivals and competitions. The period between Christmas and Carnival is filled with "fetes" (parties) and is characterized by local calypso and steelband competitions leading to the national finals which take place the weekend preceding Carnival. During this time, one can visit numerous local "pan yards" in the evenings to hear the world's premier steelband rehearsing intricate arrangements of specially commissioned competition tunes.

On a year-round basis, however, entertainment possibilities are less varied in Port of Spain than in a comparable U.S. city. Bring books, records, games, and hobby materials.

Trinidad is a destination which most young families find enjoyable because of the outdoor living, the friendliness and hospitality of the Trinidadians, and the relative safety and lack of serious health and political hazards.

Social Activities

Port of Spain has many opportunities for social activity. Trinidadians are friendly and very hospitable. Americans are welcomed at the many fetes that occur throughout the year. During the Christmas and Carnival season nonstop fetes are held. Most parties are informal. Other types of home entertainment include cocktail parties, dinners, bridge parties, and buffet suppers. Club activities include films, barbecues, and dances for members.

Some other clubs include the Horticultural Society, Trinidad and Tobago German Club, the Orchid Society, the Field Naturalists Society, Living Waters Christian Community, an informal Jewish community, and other groups.

Families with small children find opportunities for social contact in such groups as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Girl Guides, and Brownies. Older children and teenagers find few organized groups to join. Most American service clubs such as Rotary International and Lions, have branches in Trinidad and Tobago.


ARIMA , the nation's other population center is on Trinidad. It is about 15 miles east of Port-of-Spain, and many of its residents work in the capital. The population of Arima is about 24,600.

CHAGUANAS is a market center in western Trinidad, 12 miles southeast of Port-of-Spain. This town of roughly 6,100 residents is noted for its busy Saturday open-air market. Everything from produce to glass-ware and gadgets is offered for sale, spread out on blankets and displayed in small wooden stands.

LA BREA lies on the Gulf of Paria in the southwest, in one of Trinidad's most unusual regions. The adjoining Pitch Lake has become a major tourist attraction and the city itself has benefitted. The area is covered with pitch, so houses and buildings in La Brea tilt in all directions. Roads are full of potholes, and huge cracks. The pitch erupts and subsides quickly, even in the heart of town. Pitch Lake, referred to as "magnified elephant skin," is actually a massive field of resin, almost 300 feet deep. The lake supplies tons of asphalt from its more than 100 acres. La Brea's population is an estimated 1,500.

LOPINOT is a picturesque village tucked into a valley in north-central Trinidad, about 12 miles east of Port-of-Spain. The village dates to the 1800s, when it was founded by the Count de Lopinot. The Frenchman and his settlers were awarded the region by the British, and proceeded to carve out a thriving plantation from the dense forest. The count's estate is now a principal tourist spot, the house a museum with memorabilia and photos. The gardens are meticulously tended and are highly popular for picnickers. Residents of Lopinot are a mixture of French, Spanish, Amerindian, and African, and are known for their distinctive songs and instrumentation. Other features here include a church that was moved from a nearby town, linked caves with curious stalactites, and a dubiously interesting colony of white cockroachesthe only such species in the worldfound in the caves.

SAINT JOSEPH is the former capital of Trinidad, situated seven miles east of Port-of-Spain on the main highway. Its population is approximately 4,100.

SAN FERNANDO , on the island of Trinidad, was founded in 1786. With a population of approximately 33,600 (1995 est.), it is a business and industrial center of growing importance. It is a seaport city, and several industrial plants have made their headquarters here.

One of Trinidad's most important market centers is SANGRE GRANDE , 25 miles southeast of Port-of-Spain. It has a population of about 9,000, and is the hub of St. Andrew County.

SCARBOROUGH is the chief town of Tobago, although it has only about 6,000 residents. It is situated near the island's Rockley Bay. Because Scarborough is in a resort area, it has hotels, several banks, and a car rental agency.

TUNAPUNA , 10 miles east of Port-of-Spain on Trinidad's main highway, is near the home of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies. The city's population is an estimated 10,000.



Christopher Columbus discovered, named and claimed Trinidad for Spain in 1498. Sir Walter Raleigh made brief bids for possession of the island in 1595. The indigenous inhabitants of the islands-the warlike Caribs, who flourished in Tobago, and the more peaceful Arawaks, who outnumbered the Caribs in Trinidad-were ultimately subdued and enslaved by the Spanish. By the end of the 18th century, they were almost extinct.

Africans were brought to Trinidad as slaves in 1702 to boost cacao production. When the Spanish crown opened the island to immigration in the last quarter of the century, French planters and their slaves came by the thousands from other Caribbean islands and France, bringing their knowledge of sugarcane cultivation.

The Spanish ceded Trinidad to the English in 1797. Tobago, after changing hands among the Dutch, French, and British several times during the 16th and 17th centuries, was finally captured by the British in 1793.

When slavery was abolished throughout the British West Indies in 1834, plantation owners turned to indentured laborers from India, and some 150,000 arrived in Trinidad between 1854 and 1917. By 1921 East Indians accounted for almost one-third of Trinidad's population; today they comprise a slim plurality.

Trinidad was the site of a large U.S. military presence during World War II, serving as a huge naval base and training site for many of the troops headed for North Africa. It also protected supply routes for oil for the allied forces. German U-boats stalked allied supply and troop ships headed for the war in Europe, sinking many in the waters surrounding Trinidad and Tobago. A small, privately run military history museum outside of Port of Spain details this and other fascinating military chapters in the history of the islands. U.S. military bases and other facilities on the island were returned by the U.S. to Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s.

A plurality of the population is Christian (Roman Catholic 30%, Anglican 11%, also Presbyterian, Baptist and other faiths). 24% are Hindu and 6% Muslim. There are also smaller groups following African derived religions.

Trinidad and Tobago's population is just under 1.3 million, of which over 50,000 live in Tobago. Greater Port of Spain, with about 200,000 inhabitants, is by far the largest city, followed by San Fernando, Arima and Chaguanas. The largest town in Tobago is Scarborough. Over 2,000 Americans live in Trinidad and Tobago, many of local origin. Family and cultural ties with North America are strong, with sizable Trinidadian communities resident in New York, Florida and Toronto, Canada.

Most of the rural population in Trinidad lives in small roadside agricultural villages. The larger villages usually contain a church or temple, a police station, a primary school, recreational club/bar and small grocery stores.

The two major folk traditions are Creole and East Indian. Creole is a mixture of African elements as influenced by Spanish, French, and English colonial culture. Many East Indians have retained their own way of life and Hindu traditions and religious rites such as cremation and Divali (Festival of Lights). A smaller proportion of the East Indian population is Muslim. The entire population speaks English, often flavored with expressions derived from Trinidad's cultural heritage.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago enjoy social events called 'fetes' all year. One of the world's biggest fetes-Carnival-takes place each year on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent. This festival features parades with huge groups of masqueraders dancing in spectacular costumes through the streets of Port of Spain, accompanied by large sound trucks or steel bands, and calypso singers accompanied by brass bands performing at calypso "tents." The French introduced Carnival as an urban festival and it was celebrated initially among the upper class Creoles. In time it also became a means for the Afro-Trinidadian masses to break out of their normal routine, sometimes to express ridicule or to indirectly attack their social superiors and the government. It has now become a truly national event, with most segments of the population actively participating.

Public Institutions

Trinidad and Tobago is a democratic country with a parliamentary form of government. On August 31, 1962, the United Kingdom granted independence to Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the British Commonwealth with a Governor General as the Queen's personal representative. On September 24, 1976, Trinidad and Tobago adopted a new constitution, which established the country as a republic within the British Commonwealth. The Queen was replaced as head of state by a President elected by Parliament, and the position of Governor General was abolished.

The major governmental institutions, based on the British model, remained the same as those established by the 1962 constitution. They are: A Cabinet (currently 17 Ministers appointed and led by a Prime Minister).

A bicameral Parliament consisting of a 36-member House of Representatives and a 31-member Senate. Members of the House of Representatives are elected in parliamentary elections held at least every five years. Members of the Senate are appointed by the President: 16 on the advice of the governing party, six on the advice of the opposition party, and nine at the President's discretion.

A judicial system which has a Court of Appeals as its highest level in the country. Final appeals may be taken to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

In November 1995, the United National Congress (UNC), in coalition with the small National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) party, formed a government, with Basdeo Panday of the UNC as Prime Minister. The coalition took over from the People's National Movement (PNM) Government headed by Patrick Manning. The PNM was founded in 1958 under the leadership of Dr. Eric Williams. Dr. Williams in 1962 became the first Prime Minister of the newly independent country, continuing in office until his death in 1981. In 1986 the PNM was swept out of office by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), led by A.N.R. Robinson. In 1991, the PNM returned to power only to be defeated in 1995 by the UNC/NAR coalition.

Trinidad and Tobago belongs to a number of international organizations through which it exerts some influence on world affairs. On gaining independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago joined the United Nations and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1967, it was the first Commonwealth Caribbean country to seek membership in the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Trinidad and Tobago was a founding member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), and its successor organization, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and identifies with developing countries on many North-South economic issues.

Familiar organizations, such as the Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, PTA, Jaycees, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, American Legion, etc., play significant roles in the community and welcome participation by foreign residents.

Arts, Science, and Education

The educational program inherited from the colonial administration was patterned on the British model, with structure and content resembling those of other Commonwealth Caribbean members. Students completing secondary school now take the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations instead of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams prepared and graded in the U.K.

While Trinidad has one of the hemisphere's highest literacy rates and has produced scholars of international renown, some educational problems persist. School facilities tend to be outdated, in poor condition and overcrowded. Teacher salaries and training are also well below the private sector. Not all teachers have university degrees; some have received pedagogical training, others have specialist diplomas, and some have general secondary education. Higher education is available in Trinidad and Tobago at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, located on the outskirts of Port of Spain.

In the literary field notable writers include Alfred Mendes, C.L.R. James, Samuel Selvon, Earl Lovelace and Sir Vidiandhar Surajprasad Naipaul. Selvon's work most often deals with the poor people of Trinidad at home and abroad, and his style is both humorous and sympathetic. Naipaul's novels show a deep sensitivity toward the racial and cultural complexity of Trinidadian society and an understanding of its tensions and prejudices. Trinidad's leading poet and playwright is Pulitzer Prize-winner Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian by birth, who is now teaching in the United States.

The music and dance of Trinidad and Tobago and the festivals that inspire and preserve them reflect the country's kaleidoscopic colonial heritage and its multicultural population. Each element of the social mosaic-the Spanish and English colonizers, the French immigrants, the African slaves, and the East Indian indentured laborers, as well as smaller communities of Chinese, Syrians and Lebanese-has contributed to a national folkloric tradition which is among the world's richest.

The calypso, the musical genre that has drawn international attention to Trinidad, evolved from folk culture but is considered a popular political music form. Today's calypso has been described as "witty, smutty, topical, and full of double entendre." Stimulated by the commercialization of the music and the hotly contested annual competition for Carnival calypso monarch, composers turn out some 40 or 50 "hit" songs each year. Soca, a high energy dance music, Indo-Trinidadian "chutney" music, Indian style "tassa" drum bands, and the limbo dance are also all of Trinidadian origin.

Trinidad's most notable contribution to world culture, however, may be the steel drum ("pan"). Several decades ago urban Afro-Trinidadians found that empty steel drums and similar objects were ideal for music making. The thousands of 55 gallon oil drums, discarded by the U.S. Naval Base at Chaguaramas during World War II, furnished an ample supply. From primitive beginnings they were slowly developed to be able to reproduce the entire chromatic scale. The bands, which can number over 100 musicians, typically have bass, guitar, and cello pans in the rhythm section, while tenor and "double second" pans play the melody. Pan music has become very refined and, aside from calypso tunes, now includes popular, jazz and classical pieces.

In the field of the visual arts, Boscoe Holder, who excels in figurative paintings, Noel Vaucrosson, a watercolorist, and Pat Chu Foon, a painter and sculptor, are well known. Peter Minshall, who designed the opening ceremonies at both the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games, has become one of the stand-outs among the many talented " mas " (Carnival band) producers.

Clothing designers, producing a typical Caribbean style, have also come into their own in recent years.

Port of Spain has several small theaters and two larger auditoriums, which feature original and foreign plays and musical performances. While Trinidad and Tobago's cultural "market" is not large enough to draw many foreign acts (aside from Caribbean music shows), occasionally visits by lesser known foreign musical and dance groups liven up the local cultural scene.

Commerce and Industry

Endowed like neighboring Venezuela with rich deposits of oil and natural gas, Trinidad and Tobago became one of the most prosperous countries in the Western Hemisphere during the oil boom of the 1970s, ranking third in per-capita income behind the United States and Canada by 1981. Oil revenues enabled the nation to embark on a rapid industrial and infrastructural development program, within the framework of a "mixed economy," in which government investment in state corporations played a major role. Oil wealth also fueled a dramatic increase in domestic consumption.

With the collapse of oil prices in the early 1980s, Trinidad and Tobago entered into a difficult period of economic recession. In mid-1988, worsening economic conditions forced the government to begin a stringent adjustment program guided by the International Monetary Fund. This included devaluing the currency, adopting strict austerity budgets, rescheduling foreign debt, and in 1990 imposing a 15% value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services.

By 1997, the country successfully recovered from its decade of economic decline, posting three straight years of real GDP growth (3.5% in 1994,23% in 1995 and 3.1% in 1996). Trinidad and Tobago's international debt rating and per capita income are now among the highest in the hemisphere, and the country is viewed as an economic and political leader in the Caribbean. New U.S. business investment has been running at about US$1 billion a year since 1995.

As part of its economic restructuring, the government adopted a more welcoming attitude toward foreign investment. Since 1992 almost all investment barriers have been eliminated, and the government has aggressively and successfully courted foreign investors. U.S. firms, mostly in the hydrocarbon sector and related downstream petrochemical industries, invested over US$2.5 billion from 1996-1998, placing Trinidad second only to Canada in the hemisphere in per capita U.S. direct foreign investment. There are no currency or capital controls, and the TT dollar has been in a lightly-managed, stable float since early 1993. The government has concluded a Bilateral Investment Treaty and an Intellectual Property Rights agreement with the United States.

In moving toward a more liberalized economy based on open competition, the government has privatized many state-owned industries and reduced subsidies to those that remain in the public portfolio. Companies all or partially divested since 1994 include the National Fisheries Company, British West Indian Airways (BWIA), National Flour Mills (NFM), the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

Inflation averaged over 12% annually during the economic downturn of the early 1980s, and over 8% a year during the restructuring period in the first half of the 1990s. Through a combination of prudent monetary policies and fiscal restraint in public-sector budgets, the government has been successful in bringing inflation under control. Consumer prices rose 5.3% in 1995, and just 3.6% in 1996.

Despite serious efforts to diversify its economy, Trinidad and Tobago remains heavily dependent on the energy sector, which accounts for one-fourth of total GDP and 20% of government revenue and a maj or share of foreign exchange earnings. Production of crude oil has been steadily declining over the past decade, but the discovery of large reserves of natural gas, primarily in off shore fields, has fueled the development of petrochemical and metals industries. There are now over 20 large industrial plants in Trinidad, with most dependent on natural gas as a feedstock or running on inexpensive natural gas-generated electricity. At current trends Trinidad and Tobago will become the world's largest exporter of ammonia and methanol by the year 2000.

Since 1989, Trinidad and Tobago, in partnership with many major international oil companies, has pursued an aggressive oil and gas exploration campaign. BP Amoco, the biggest player in Trinidad's energy sector, produces half of the country's crude oil and the largest share of natural gas. BP Amoco, in partnership with Cabot (Boston), Repsol (Spain), British Gas and the National Gas Company (TT) has constructed a US$1 billion liquefied natural gas plant in southern Trinidad, the largest industrial project in the Caribbean, which began operating in early 1999.

Trinidad and Tobago is highly trade dependent, using the foreign exchange earned by its commodity and energy exports to buy consumer goods. The U.S. is by far Trinidad's most important trading partner, supplying about half of all imports and buying half of all exports.

Trinidad's exports are concentrated in a few sectors: oil, gas and downstream petrochemical products (chiefly fertilizers), and iron and steel. Thanks to its energy and commodity exports Trinidad has run a trade surplus in all but two of the last 20 years. Since the floating of the TT dollar in 1993, exports of manufactured products such as diapers, beer, soft drinks, processed foods, air conditioning equipment and plastic products have increased significantly, particularly to the country's CARICOM neighbors with whom T&T runs a ten to one trade surplus.

Trinidad and Tobago's agricultural sector is still dominated by sugar, which was introduced in colonial times. But despite preferential market access arrangements with the U.S. and the European Union, sugar production has generally been unprofitable, due to high costs and low volume. The state owned sugar company Caroni (1975) Ltd. has made attempts to diversify into areas such as citrus production, livestock and aquaculture with limited success. Other export crops include cocoa, coffee and cut flowers, but none is currently a significant foreign exchange earner. Agriculture still only accounts for about 2% of GDP The fishing sector is receiving increased attention both for the local market and for exports, but over fishing by commercial shrimp trawlers and coastal pollution are threatening once abundant fishing grounds.

In the oil-boom years, neither the government nor the people showed much interest in tourism. After the economic decline of the 1980s, however, Trinidad and Tobago has witnessed a positive change in attitudes toward tourism, and government has targeted the tourism industry for greater development. Currently largely confined to Tobago, tourism in Trinidad and Tobago is low-key and only accounts for 1% of GDP Fewer than 200,000 tourists visit the islands each year, many of these during Carnival. Lack of sufficient hotel rooms and limited air transportation links are challenges in marketing T&T as a tourist destination. The marine pleasure yacht subsector has been a bright spot in the country's tourism picture in recent years. Since 1990 annual sailing yacht arrivals have increased from several hundred to well over 3,000. The government is focusing efforts on the development of ecotourism destinations, taking advantage of acclaimed diving sites off the coast of Tobago and the impressive biological diversity of both islands.

The country's labor force numbers around 521,000, according to the latest figures. In 1998, official unemployment reached its lowest level in a decade at 14%, falling from 21.1% in 1993. The largest employment sector is services, accounting for 30% of total employment. Other significant sectors are trade, restaurant and hotels (18%), construction (13.6%), and manufacturing (10.3%). The vital, but capital intensive, hydrocarbon sectors employ only a small percentage of the labor force.

Trinidad and Tobago has an active labor movement. Although only about a quarter of the national labor force is unionized, the unions enjoy a relatively high public profile. Unionization in the industrial and public sectors is higher than in most other sectors. The Labor Ministry serves as conciliator in labor disputes, and the Industrial Court, to which disputes are referred when collective bargaining fails, has a record of fair, but slow, adjudication.



Poor public transportation makes a personal car necessary in Port of Spain. Traffic moves on the left, so right-hand-drive vehicles predominate. Only right-hand-drive (RHD) cars are sold locally. There are dealers for nearly all Japanese and Korean brands and an increasing number of European models. U.S.-made right-hand drive Fords and Jeeps recently entered the market. Shipping a car to Trinidad, preferably of a make that is sold locally, is less expensive than purchasing one on the island.

A local driver's license (good for three years) is required and a valid U.S. license will facilitate its issuance.

Third-party liability insurance, required by law, is available locally at reasonable rates. A five-year claim-free statement from a previous insurer entitles you to a discount. Local auto insurance rates other than third party liability are high and vary according to the driver's age and safety record. Collision and comprehensive insurance is also available locally, but the rates are higher than U.S. firms.

Although some improvements are under way, many roads and streets (with the exception of a few major highways) are narrow, full of potholes, and poorly maintained. Wear and tear on cars is rapid and narrow roads are often congested; small cars are recommended. Four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles are also very popular, especially for those who enjoy exploring the dirt roads and secluded beaches of the island.

The typical Trinidadian driving style may surprise newcomers. Some drivers are aggressive and have little reluctance about straddling the center of the road. Driving with high beams on at night is fairly common. Taxis stop suddenly to pick up or discharge passengers. Newcomers quickly learn to drive defensively at all times but find that driving on the left is not as hard as it appears.


Private cars and taxis are the primary means of local transport, but buses cover limited routes which concentrate on connecting Port-of-Spain with nearby towns and villages. The country no longer has a railway system.

Taxi stands are located in several areas of Port-of-Spain, including hotels and the airport. Taxis can also be summoned by telephone or hailed on the street. Travel by taxi on a daily basis is expensive; ask the fare beforehand, as taxis are not metered. Taxis are not identified by signs, or by uniform painting, but by the first letter "H" on the license plate. Route taxis or maxi-taxis (minibuses) are restricted to special routes. They display a sign in the windshield, but the color coding designates their area. Passengers are picked up and let off along the route. Fares are reasonable and many local residents rely on maxi-taxis for transportation.

Car rentals are higher than in the U.S. and usually require a large cash deposit or credit card. A typical compact car averages US$45 a day when available, but long term rates are lower.

Trinidad has no school bus system. The lack of organized school transportation further congests the morning rush hour.


Popular regional destinations include Caracas, San Juan, Miami, Barbados, Grenada, and other islands. Air connections are reasonably good to all of these places. Regional airlines, British West Indian Airways (BWIA), Liat and American Airlines offer regular service from Port of Spain.

There are hourly 20-minute flights daily between Trinidad (Piarco Airport) and Tobago (Crown Point Airport). The fare is currently US$48 round trip. Airport taxi fares on both islands are standard and are displayed at each terminal. Establish the fare before hiring a taxi.

A ferry also operates between Trinidad and Tobago. The round trip fare is US$8 and US$10 for economy and tourist class tickets and US$20 for an average sized car (cost is based on car's weight). A cabin costs an additional US$26 and must be booked early. The trip takes 5 1/2 hours from Port of Spain to Tobago, but only 5 hours return because of the favorable current. Car rentals in Tobago cost about US$45 a day; reserve in advance in Port of Spain.


Telephone and Telegraph

A modern telephone system has been installed throughout the island. Trinidad and Tobago follows the North American Dialing Plan and uses the international area code 1-868.

You can dial international calls to the United States direct from home or office by simply dialing 1, the area code, and number. Worldwide connections are good, but costs are well above U.S. discount rates. Credit card billing to the U.S. saves money on longer calls, but costs more for short calls due to operator assistance. As of June 1997, calls to Washington, D.C., is approximately US$1.00 per minute, if charged to a TT number.

TSTT International Cable Service offers worldwide telegram delivery, but incoming service has not always been reliable.

Internet services are available in Trinidad through private vendors or TSTT.


International airmail from the U.S. is received about five times a week and takes from 3 to 10 days, depending on the point of origin. Airmail from Trinidad to the U.S. costs approximately US400 for a standard letter. There are reports, however, of lost or stolen mail, especially items such as magazines, catalogs and packages.

Radio and TV

Trinidad has fourteen local radio stations, three on AM and the balance FM, which offer almost exclusively international pop and local music. There is almost no classical, jazz, rock or world music programming. World news is broadcast regularly, but U.S. news coverage is limited.

Cable TV service is available through several companies providing about 40 or more channels, mostly from the U.S., including some network stations. The one government-owned TV station operates separate programs on two channels. Both transmit in color. Programs are mainly imported series, most of them from the U.S. Some locally produced shows as well as news programs are shown. A video cassette recorder (VCR) is useful for additional entertainment, with video stores located throughout Trinidad. Tapes, often of only fair quality, rent for approximately US $2 each per week.

Trinidad and Tobago is on the U.S. scanning and frequency system, so TV sets manufactured for use in the U.S. will work in Trinidad without adaptation. Ship TVs, stereos, VCRs, radios, etc., from the U.S. as they are more expensive in Trinidad. Service and parts for the better known models can be obtained locally and repair work is relatively inexpensive.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Three morning newspapers and several weeklies are published locally. The papers subscribe to the Caribbean News Agency (CANA), AP, etc. All give coverage to overseas news highlights, but in-depth international reporting is inadequate. The quality of the journalism varies widely.

U.S. daily newspapers are not currently available in Trinidad, except on the Internet on a limited and delayed basis at some hotels. The current Latin American editions of Time and Newsweek are available, at close to U.S. prices, at newsstands and bookstores. Popular American magazines, such as Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Glamour and House Beautiful are also available, but are often at least a month old and more expensive. Subscribe to magazines in the U.S. and have them mailed via pouch.

Port of Spain has various bookstores, stocked with books and paperbacks published locally, and in the U.K. and the U.S. However, they are not comparable in selection to U.S. bookstores and prices are considerable higher. The Port of Spain City Library has a large selection of British and American classics and popular novels.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Trinidad and Tobago has a relatively large number of competent general practitioners and specialists who have trained in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. Some doctors practice in private clinics, but most maintain private offices located throughout the country.

Government-operated clinics are open to those who cannot afford private care. The Mount Hope Medical Sciences Complex is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment but, like other government hospitals which have well-trained staff, conditions often do not meet U.S. standards. Private clinics also offer good-quality care; such as the St. Clair Medical Centre.

In a major medical emergency, when medical evacuation is not feasible, the St. Clair Medical Clinic has been designated the facility for use. Doctors are in attendance around the clock, and life-support equipment is available. Medical care in Trinidad and Tobago is adequate for routine procedures, but the U.S. is generally preferable for specialized treatment.

Most Americans and other foreigners use local dentists trained in the U.K., U.S. or Canada. Orthodontic care is available, as are eye specialists. Eyeglass frames are imported and expensive, but locally ground lenses are relatively cheaper. Overall, the cost of medical, hospital, and dental care is much lower than in the U.S.

Prescription drugs, medicines and remedies available locally are mostly British and U.S. products. A full range of items is available from well-stocked pharmacies, but some brands may be unfamiliar. Prices are also generally higher than in the U.S. Bring a supply of any medical items you use regularly, including contact lens supplies, prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, first aid supplies, and cosmetics. Many items can be ordered later by pouch.

Community Health

Community sanitation in residential areas is good. Garbage is collected three times a week in most neighborhoods and garden clippings are collected weekly. Port of Spain and its suburbs are connected to a central sewage disposal system; outlying areas rely on septic tanks.

Water, for the most part, is potable. Certain residential areas (particularly elevated ones) are subjected to water shortages, however, most of these residences have water storage tanks.

Food purchased from street vendors and small restaurants can be of mixed quality. Qualified food handlers display a "food handler's badge." Fruits and vegetables are generally safe after being washed.

Preventive Measures

Epidemics are rare in Trinidad and Tobago. However, gastroenteritis in children continues to be a problem, particularly in the rural areas. South American cholera generally does not reach Trinidad and Tobago, but precautions such as vigilant hand-washing and avoidance of food and drink from street vendors are advisable. Mosquito-borne dengue fever has increased in frequency in recent years. Yellow fever outbreaks occur roughly every ten years.

Newcomers may suffer from heat rash due to the high temperature and humidity. The weather may also affect those who suffer from hay fever, bronchial asthma, and fungal infections, and prolong other infections. Mosquitoes, sand flies and chiggers can cause discomfort outdoors.

Typhoid, gamma globulin, and yellow fever inoculations are not required for travelers coming from the U.S. to enter Trinidad and Tobago, but they are recommended for those who plan to travel to South America. Immunization can be obtained locally.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Two daily flights from Miami to Port of Spain are available on American Airlines. In addition, non-American carriers provide regular service to Port of Spain from the U.S., Canada, Venezuela, and the U.K. as well as interisland service. Reservations may be difficult to obtain during certain seasons, especially Christmas and Carnival.

A passport is required of U.S. citizens for entry to Trinidad and Tobago. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less. Work permits are required for certain types of compensated and non-compensated employment, including missionary work. For further information concerning entry, employment and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, 1708 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 467-6490 or the consulates of Trinidad and Tobago in Miami at (305) 374-2199 or New York City at (212) 682-7272, or by email at[email protected]

Americans living in or visiting Trinidad and Tobago are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and obtain updated information on travel and security. The U.S. Embassy is located at 15 Queen's Park West in Port-of-Spain, telephone 1-868-622-6371, Consular Section fax 1-868-628-5462. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m.-12:00 noon, Monday-Friday, except U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago holidays.


All pets imported into Trinidad and Tobago except birds, are subject without exception to a six-month quarantine.

The animal must have a health certificate from a U.S. Government veterinarian, stating vaccinations received, disease history, etc. The animal must be confined in an escape-proof cage. (Dogs must have a collar and leash).

The owner must also provide all the food, two feeding bowls and a padlock with two keys for the bin in which the food will be kept and locked-the owner keeps one key.

Birds are not quarantined, but must have a similar permit and Health Certificate, along with a Species Certificate showing that the species may be imported.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The local currency is referred to as the Trinidad and Tobago dollar, TT dollar or just "TT". Effective April 13, 1993, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago announced the floating of the TT dollar. As of September 1999, the exchange rate was approximately TT$6.30 to US$1. Coins and bills have the same denomination as U.S. money, but the bills are issued in different colors.

All weights and measures were converted to the metric system in early 1982. However, you will find that both systems are used.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar. 30Spiritual Baptist Liberation Shouter Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 30Indian Arrival Day

May/JuneCorpus Christi*

June 19 Labor Day

Aug. 1Emancipation Day

Aug. 31Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

History and General

Ahye, Molly. Golden Heritage: The Dance in Trinidad and Tobago. Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: Moonan Printers Ltd.

Anthony, Michael. The Making of Port of Spain. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Key Caribbean Pub., 1978.

Black, Jan K. and others. The Area Handbook for Trinidad and Tobago. American University Press: Washington, DC, 1976.

Brathwaite, Lloyd. Social Stratification in Trinidad: A Preliminary Analysis. Mona, Kingston: USER, U.W L., 1975. Carmichael, Gertrude. History of the West Indian Islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Fernhill: New York, 1961.

Christopher, C.A. Nationhood 18: A Progress Review of Trinidad and Tobago in 18 years of Nationhood. Trinidad and Tobago: Enform Publications, 1980.

De Verteuil, Fr. Anthony. The Years Before. Trinidad: Inprint Caribbean Ltd., 1975.

Deosaran, Ramesh. Eric Williams, the Man, His Ideas, and His Politics (A Study of Political Power). Signum Publishing Co. Ltd., 1981.

Edwards, S. Hylton. Lengthening Shadows: Birth and Revolt of the Trinidad Army. Trinidad and Tobago: Inprint Caribbean Ltd., 1975.

Fraser, Lionel Mordaunt. History of Trinidad. London: Cass 1971.

Naipaul, V. S. Loss of El Dorado. Knopf. 1970.

Naipaul, V.S. The Middle Passage. Penguin Books, Ltd.: 1962.

O'Connor, P.E.T. Some Trinidad Yesterdays. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Inprint Caribbean Ltd., 1975.

Ryan, Selwyn D. Race and Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago. University of Toronto: 1972.

Sudama, Trevor. Of Society and Politics. Miscellaneous Commentaries on Trinidad and Tobago. Siparia, Trinidad: Sookhai's Printery, 1979.

Williams, Eric. From Columbus to Castor. Deutsch: London, 1970.

Williams, Eric. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. Transatlantic: New York, 1970.

Geography and Description First Geography of Trinidad and Tobago. Cambridge University Press: 1968.

The Caribbean Handbook 1984-1985. Edited by Clayton Goodwin. St. John's, Antigua, W l.: Ft. International, Head Office: P.O. Box 1032.

Herklots, G.A/C. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. William Collins and sons, Ltd.: London, 1965.

Zubert, Christian. Trinidad and Tobago. Editions Delroisse: Boulogne, France.


Lovelace, Earl. The Dragon Can't Dance. Logman Group Ltd.: 1979.

Lovelace, Earl. Salt.

Michener, James. The Caribbean.

Naipaul, V. S. A House for Mr. Biswas. McGraw-Hill: 1962.

Naipaul, V. S. Miguel Street. Vanguard: 1980.

Stewart, John. Last Schooldays. Deutsch: London 1971.

Walcott, Derek. Fortunate Traveller. Farrar, Straus, Giroux Inc.: 1982.

Walcott, Derek. Another Life. Cape: London, 1972

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Trinidad and Tobago


Republic of Trinidad and Tobago



The 2 islands of Trinidad and Tobago are between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, northeast of Venezuela. The southern tip of Trinidad lies only 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the Venezuelan mainland, while Tobago lies approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of Trinidad. The total area of the 2-island state is 5,128 square kilometers (1,980 square miles), of which Trinidad accounts for 4,828 square kilometers (1,864 square miles) and Tobago 300 square kilometers (116 square miles). Slightly smaller than Delaware, Trinidad and Tobago has 362 kilometers (225 miles) of coastline. Its capital and main urban center, Port of Spain, is on the northwest coast of Trinidad, while Tobago's capital, Scarborough, lies on the island's southwest coast.


Trinidad and Tobago's population was estimated at 1,175,523 in July 2000, declining 0.49 percent from the previous year and below the mid-1996 estimate of 1,263,600. The decline can mostly be explained by a relatively high level of emigration , estimated at 9.92 persons per 1,000 population in 2000. Most Trinidadians emigrate to the United States or Canada in search of better work opportunities and higher wage levels than those available at home. Because of emigration and government-sponsored birth control programs, the population is expected to decline to about 1.11 million by 2010.

Trinidad and Tobago has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the Caribbean. According to the 1990 government census (the most recent available), 40.3 percent of the people are of "East Indian" descent. The "East Indians" are descended from indentured laborers brought to Trinidad in the second half of the 19th century to work on sugar plantations. Some 39.5 percent define themselves as of African descent, while 18.4 percent are classified as "mixed." There are significant communities of Chinese, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and people of other European descent. The East Indian population tends to be more evenly distributed throughout rural areas, while the African-descended population is more urban in character. About one-half of the population lives in an urbanized east-west corridor stretching from Diego Martin in the west to Arima in the east.


In regional terms, Trinidad and Tobago is an economic powerhouse, endowed with extensive reserves of oil and natural gas and possessing a diversified range of manufacturing industries. Unlike other Caribbean nations, its dependence on tourism and agriculture is very limited, and tourism in Trinidad is not yet fully developed. Tobago, with much less heavy industry, is a much smaller, quieter island where tourism is an important source of employment and foreign exchange.

Trinidad's economic fortunes changed dramatically at the beginning of the 20th century when commercial petroleum extraction began. Previously, the island had been mainly a sugar producer, with large plantations established on the fertile central plains. Oil rapidly replaced agriculture and by the 1950s represented almost 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Since then, Trinidad and Tobago's economy has reflected the ups and downs of the world oil industry. During the 1970s, the country experienced a spectacular boom as international oil prices soared. During that time, the government was able to invest some of this income in infrastructure and state-controlled industries, especially gas production. From 1982 on, however, oil prices fell and Trinidad and Tobago underwent a long and painful recession , with the economy shrinking at an average annual rate of 6 percent between 1982 and 1987. Unemployment, poverty, and emigration all increased.

Since the early 1990s, the economy has recovered to a large extent, and oil and gas production income has generated steady growth, averaging 4 percent annually between 1994 and 1999. The economy grew strongly in 1999, by 6.9 percent, because of an oil price increase. Thanks to the oil boom of the 1970s, Trinidad is also a major exporter of petroleum byproducts such as methanol and ammonia. There is also a significant steel industry, powered by cheap natural gas, as well as a manufacturing sector that produces food, beverages, and cement for local and regional markets.

Agriculture has been neglected since the 1970s, and the main crop remains sugar, most of which is exported to the European Union (EU). Other crops are cocoa and citrus, but these are not grown on a large scale. Tourism is also less important in Trinidad than in most other Caribbean islands, although in the 1990s the government made efforts to attract a larger number of visitors. Tobago is the main tourist destination, with more than half of the country's hotel rooms.

Although Trinidad and Tobago remains vulnerable to fluctuations in world oil prices, it has developed other areas of its economy to balance its economic risks. It has also attracted a cross-section of foreign companies, principally involved in oil and gas production, while retaining a strong element of state control. Poverty remains a serious problem despite oil-related income. The World Bank estimated in 2001 that 21 percent of the population lives in poverty and 17 percent are unemployed.


Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy, with a president elected for a 5-year term by members of Parliament. A prime minister, usually the leader of the majority party, is appointed from among the members of Parliament after elections, which happen every 5 years. The bicameral (2-house) Parliament consists of a 31-seat Senate appointed by the president and a 36-seat House of Representatives elected by popular vote. The Supreme Court consists of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeals, to which judges are appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister.

Politics in Trinidad and Tobago has tended to be organized along ethnic lines since self-government began in the 1950s. After independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, the dominant political party was the People's National Movement (PNM), led by the influential Dr. Eric Williams, until his death in 1981. The PNM remained in power throughout the following period until 1986, when an opposition alliance won elections. Although not explicitly racialist in outlook, the PNM attracted African-descended supporters and concentrated on the urban electorate with promises of jobs and welfare programs. The PNM returned to power in 1992, but in 1995, a party dominated by East Indians, the United National Congress (UNC), led by Basdeo Panday, took power with a prime minister descended from that ethnic group for the first time. The UNC won elections again in December 2000 but amidst considerable controversy over alleged irregularities.

Despite marked differences in ethnic composition and allegations of racial bias, the 2 main parties are not radically different in terms of ideas and policies. The PNM was initially in favor of strong state intervention and ownership during the 1960s and 1970s, but the recession of the 1980s forced the government to accept advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This advice included reducing import tariffs , abolishing foreign-exchange controls and generally opening up the economy to foreign investors. The UNC government has maintained these policies, encouraging foreign investment in key areas of oil and gas extraction.

Governments in Trinidad and Tobago have a strong impact on economic development, largely because the state retains a controlling interest in the management of the country's natural resources. There are state-owned corporations in oil, gas, steel, and telecommunications. The government also influences the economy to a great extent by its relationship with foreign companies, from which it derives significant income in the form of taxation and royalties on oil and gas exports. Organizations such as the World Bank are critical of Trinidad and Tobago's large state sector, claiming that it is over-staffed, bureaucratic, and obstructive to real competition in the energy industries.

Tax revenues in Trinidad and Tobago come from a variety of sources. The oil industry accounted for about 20 percent of tax revenues in 1998, while income tax provided 30 percent, and sales and service taxes about 20 percent. A value-added tax (VAT) was introduced in 1990 at the suggestion of the IMF when oil revenues had fallen significantly.


Although a small country, Trinidad and Tobago has a developed infrastructure, revolving around its oil and gas industries and other manufacturing. There are 8,320 kilometers (5,158 miles) of roads, half of them paved, with main routes covered by 4-lane highways. Even so, traffic congestion has been a problem since the boom period of the 1970s, especially since petroleum is extremely cheap. There are extensive port facilities at the country's 6 major ports, specializing in container, cargo, and cruise shipping, with special infrastructure for oil, gas, cement, and bauxite. Tobago has a general port with cruise-ship facilities. The international airport near Port of Spain has regular connections to Europe and North and South America. The national airline, British West Indian Airways (BWIA), was privatized in 1996, with the government retaining a 33.5 percent share.

Trinidad and Tobago is self-sufficient in energy and a major exporter of fuels. In 1998, the country produced 4.763 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and consumed 4.43 billion kWh. The availability of low-cost fuels has been instrumental in building up the country's industrial infrastructure. In terms of tourism, the infrastructure is less developed than elsewhere in the region. Telecommunications are still dominated by the government-owned Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), and competition is restricted. Independent Internet providers are obliged to use TSTT lines, and cellular phones are also monopolized by the state sector. Radio and television ownership is widespread, and there were 4 national TV stations in 1997, with satellite service widely available.


Once the mainstay of Trinidad's colonial economy, agriculture accounted for only 2 percent of GDP in 1998, as opposed to 6.9 percent in 1972. The sector is still an important source of employment, however, employing 8.1 percent of the workforce, or 40,000 people, in 1999. Sugar is the main commercial crop, with most production geared towards the guaranteed European Union market.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Trinidad & Tobago 123 534 334 N/A 20 3.9 46.8 28.20 30
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Venezuela 206 468 185 25.8 87 3.0 43.0 3.98 525
Uruguay 293 607 241 N/A 60 N/A 91.2 38.34 300
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Industry is the dominant sector within Trinidad and Tobago's economy. The oil and gas industries are the most important, contributing 25 percent of GDP in 1999 and accounting for 73.1 percent of total exports. The petroleum sector is not, however, a major employer, providing jobs for only 3.2 percent of the workforce, or 14,000 people. Other manufacturing employs many more workers (11 percent of the workforce or 60,000 people) and contributed 8.1 percent of GDP in 1999. In 1998, industry's overall share of GDP stood at 44 percent.

Services accounted for 54 percent of GDP in 1998, encompassing transport, retail , government services, and tourism. Of these, personal services and retail were the most significant employers, providing jobs for 28 percent and 16 percent of the workforce, respectively. Tourism is a minor source of revenue and employment in Trinidad, with Tobago earning more in this sector.


Agriculture experienced a sharp decline during the oil-boom decade of the 1970s, when food imports increased and wage levels in agricultural jobs were low in comparison to other sectors. Sugar remains the main export crop and the main employer, especially during the cane-cutting season. Sugar production reached 227,400 tons in 1965 but fell dramatically to 48,300 tons by 1982. In 1999, 112,100 tons were produced, falling short of the government's target of 130,000. Most production is carried out by the state-owned Caroni Ltd., which has 2 sugar factories, but smaller, independent farmers were responsible for growing 56 percent of cane in 1999. Most sugar exports go to Europe at preferential and guaranteed prices negotiated with the European Union, for which Trinidad and Tobago exports an annual quota of 43,751 tons. In 1998, sugar earned an estimated US$32 million. Despite this guaranteed market access, the sugar industry is highly unprofitable, with the government obliged to subsidize Caroni by $25 million in 1998. There have been repeated calls for the government to sell its sugar operations or to gradually abandon the industry altogether, but this would cause widespread unemployment. Cocoa and coffee have also declined in importance, with only 1,160 tons of cocoa and 343 tons of coffee produced in 1999. Some exotic flowers are exported to the United States, and a wide range of fruits and vegetables are grown for local consumption.



Petroleum has dominated the economy since the 1950s, when offshore production began. In 1999, there were 18 international companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production, while the state-owned Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin) was involved in extraction and refining at its refinery at Pointe-á-Pierre. The oil and gas sectors are divided between foreign and national companies, the former paying the government a royalty on all oil and gas produced. In the 1990s, production of refined petroleum averaged 125,000 barrels per day. This increased in 1999-2000 when world crude oil prices rose from US$11.64 per barrel in early 1999 to US$17.37 6 months later. In 1998, total oil-related exports, including crude oil, refined petrol, and gas, earned just over $1 billion, but this was expected to rise from 1999 onwards.

Trinidad and Tobago's oil and gas industry appears to have many years ahead of it, with proven reserves of oil standing at 605 million barrels in 1999 (with possible reserves estimated at 2.6 billion barrels) and gas reserves standing at 22.9 billion cubic feet, enough to last 51 years at current rates of extraction. Recent findings have suggested that there may be even greater reserves of gas and oil off the shores of Trinidad. A relatively small amount of Trinidad's gas is exported, and most is used in other sectors of industry.


Trinidad and Tobago's manufacturing sector is very different from that of other Caribbean countries in that it does not depend on cheap labor or the export of garments and electronics into the United States. Instead, the emphasis is on heavy industry and petro-chemicals, all related to bountiful natural resources. Unlike other smaller Caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobago is home to several large local companies, producing a wide range of consumer goods for national and regional markets. Manufacturing depends to a large degree on the availability of cheap fuel. In 1999, about 65 percent of the gas produced by the National Gas Company went towards producing ammonia and methanol, which in 1998 earned US$248 million and US$148 million, respectively. In 2000, Trinidad and Tobago became the world's largest exporter of methanol, a liquid used as a solvent or fuel, while it was also the world's leading exporter of ammonia, a gas used in industry. Locally produced gas also fuels the steel and cement industries; in 1998, Trinidad and Tobago earned US$206 million from steel exports. Cement, glass, and food and drink processing also benefit from cheap energy supplies.



Tobago has a significant tourism industry, with more than half of the country's 4,200 hotel rooms situated on the smaller island. But in energy-rich Trinidad, tourism has not been considered a priority, and most visitors come as business travelers or to visit relatives. The exception is the annual Carnival in February, when many thousands of tourists arrive to witness the famous calypso and steel band music and the colorful marches. In 1998, receipts from tourism amounted to US$201 million, with an estimated one-third of tourists arriving from the United States. Since the 1990s, the government has shown greater interest in tourism's potential and has invested in a cruise-ship terminal at Port of Spain and more international marketing. In 1999, cruise-ship arrivals rose significantly, reaching over 65,000.


Retail is well developed in Trinidad and Tobago, with several large distributors, wholesalers, and supermarket chains. There are also many small local stores, especially in the countryside.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Trinidad & Tobago
Exports Imports
1975 1.757 1.471
1980 3.955 3.161
1985 2.196 1.586
1990 1.718 1.121
1995 2.455 1.714
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


Unlike most other Caribbean nations, Trinidad and Tobago does not suffer from a permanent trade deficit and frequently exports more than it imports. The main exports are oil and petroleum products. The deficit of US$600 million in 1998 was largely due to unusually high imports of machinery and other expensive goods for investment in heavy manufacturing. In 1999, the trade balance showed a surplus of US$63.6 million. In 1998, the United States was the main trading partner, accounting for 36.9 percent of exports. Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries took 29.4 percent of exports, mostly petroleum, while the European Union took 6.3 percent.

In terms of imports, the United States was again the major partner, supplying Trinidad and Tobago with 44.7 percent of its imports, including machinery, vehicles, and manufactured goods. Latin America was a major supplier of foods (18.9 percent of imports), and the European Union accounted for 13.7 percent.

Although the United Kingdom was its most important trading partner until the 1960s, Trinidad and Tobago is now increasingly diversified in its access to North and South American markets as well as being a major supplier of fuel and chemicals throughout the Caribbean.


After the boom years of the 1970s, the recession of the 1980s came as a rude awakening. The government was forced to adopt a more cautious attitude towards spending and taxation. After enjoying an average annual GDP growth of 5.5 percent between 1974 and 1981, Trinidad and Tobago saw its GDP shrink by an average of 6.1 percent between 1982 and 1987, forcing the government to cut its spending, slash public-sector workers' salaries, and restrict imports with high taxes. Following the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government raised taxes through the introduction of a value-added tax (VAT) and devalued the currency. Since the mid-1990s, the economic situation has been much

Exchange rates: Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TT$) per US$1
Jan 2001 6.2688
2000 6.2998
1999 6.2989
1998 6.2983
1997 6.2517
1996 6.0051
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

more stable. There has been steady growth and relatively low levels of inflation , averaging 4 percent annually. The TT dollar stood at 6.26 to the U.S. dollar in 2001, representing a fall in value from 4.25 in 1993, when it was allowed to float freely against the U.S. dollar.

Trinidad and Tobago has a strong domestic banking sector, with 2 of the 5 principal banks under local, private-sector control. The country is also a regional center for financial services, with Trinidadian banks holding interests in subsidiaries elsewhere in the Caribbean. The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago acts as the country's central bank, controlling the flow of currency and setting interest rates. The Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange, which opened in October of 1981, listed 23 local companies and 4 companies from Barbados and Jamaica in 1999.


Distribution of wealth has always been uneven in Trinidad and Tobago. Although there is a large middle class, there are also extremes of wealth and poverty. The wealthy minority is made up of those with interests in private-sector manufacturing and, it is widely rumored, with good contacts in politics and the state corporations. There is a small elite descended from the traditional plantation owners, often light-skinned and educated abroad, but there is also a larger group of entrepreneurs, many of whom owe their fortunes to the boom years of the 1970s when land prices rocketed and money flowed freely. Another wealthy group is comprised of business people of

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Trinidad & Tobago 3,302 4,615 4,731 4,095 4,618
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Venezuela 4,195 3,995 3,357 3,353 3,499
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Trinidad and Tobago
Lowest 10% 2.1
Lowest 20% 5.5
Second 20% 10.3
Third 20% 15.5
Fourth 20% 22.7
Highest 20% 45.9
Highest 10% 29.9
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

East Indian origin who have set up lucrative operations in the retail and import-export sectors. The richest citizens of Trinidad are to be seen in the hillside suburbs of Port of Spain, where large villas boast satellite dishes and swimming pools. Trinidad and Tobago's rich tend to live a transnational lifestyle, with assets and interests in the United States. Shopping trips to Miami or Caracas are commonplace, and some upper-class families prefer to send their children abroad for education rather than to the local University of the West Indies.

The other extreme is to be found in deprived inner-city ghettos such as Laventille, where the poorest members of society live. It is here, in areas of ramshackle shacks and self-built cinder-block houses, that the worst problems of poverty, unemployment, and crime grow unabated. Unemployment is worst among the 15-19 age group, of whom an estimated 43 percent are out of work. This has contributed to an alarming rise in violent crime, much of it connected with drugs and gang warfare. The other areas of greatest deprivation are small villages, often inhabited by agricultural laborers of Indian descent, around the central sugar belt.

Trinidadian society is not hugely stratified on color lines, although there is often considerable tension between the African-and Indian-descended sectors of the community. Social mobility is possible, but there is often little opportunity for poor families to improve their economic outlook other than through migration.

Despite areas of poverty, health care and education are generally of a high standard in Trinidad and Tobago, especially in the urban areas. Primary education is free and compulsory, and there is a high level of literacy, estimated by the Pan-American Health Organization at 95 percent. Secondary school enrollment, beginning at 12, is also free, but only 69 percent of eligible children were enrolled in 1999. Social security is extremely basic, and much of the care of the old and sick is entrusted to family networks or charitable agencies.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Trinidad & Tobagao 20 10 23 5 13 7 22
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Venezuela 30 6 17 16 13 7 12
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


Trinidad and Tobago has an established tradition of strong trade unions, especially in the key oil sector. The Oilfield Workers' Trade Union is part of the National Trade Union Centre, an umbrella grouping of unions that protects its members' interests as regards pay and working conditions. Labor legislation, as a result, is generally observed in Trinidad and Tobago, and working conditions are often good. Although workers receive on average only a third of what similar workers in the United States would earn, they are better paid than in many other low-wage economies. Statutory sick pay and other benefits are widespread, while job security, particularly in the heavy industries, is good.

There is little child labor, and women are well represented in most areas of work, except heavy industry and sugar production. Agriculture tends to offer the worst in terms of pay and conditions, and for this reason few younger Trinidadians are attracted to such work.


1498. Trinidad sighted and named by Christopher Columbus.

1592. Large-scale Spanish settlement begins in Trinidad.

1797. Trinidad becomes British colony.

1814. British take control of Tobago from French.

1838. End of slavery creates labor shortages on plantations.

1845. First arrival of indentured Indian laborers.

1857. First oil well drilled.

1888. Trinidad and Tobago are formally combined as political entity.

1917. End of indentureship system.

1956. Self-government begins.

1962. Independence from Great Britain, but the country remains a member of the British Commonwealth. Eric Williams of the People's National Movement (PNM) becomes first prime minister, a position he holds until his death in 1981.

1976. Trinidad and Tobago declare independence as a republic, creating the office of president to take the place of the British monarch as chief of state.

1970S. Economic boom as world oil prices rise sharply.

1982. Collapse of oil prices leads to a 10-year recession.

1995. Indian-dominated United National Congress (UNC) wins elections.

2000. UNC wins second term in office amidst contested elections.


Trinidad and Tobago's future, like its past, is inextricably linked to the international oil market and the price of petroleum. When world oil prices are high, the country prospers; when they fall, it suffers. Although not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Trinidad and Tobago's economic well-being is largely decided by OPEC's manipulation of international oil prices. The advent of gas production and the policy of developing other industries has reduced Trinidad and Tobago's long-term dependence on oil, a direction that will be followed by the government in the future. At the heart of this industrial diversification will be the expansion of heavy industries and a growing capacity for manufactured exports.

Tourism will also be encouraged as the government contemplates the possibility of falling oil prices and even the eventual exhaustion of oil reserves. This sector has barely been explored and has enormous potential, especially with the country's proximity to South America. At the same time, the government will seek to rid itself of the loss-making and old-fashioned sugar industry. It remains to be seen whether it also seeks to reduce the role of the state in the strategic oil and gas industries as well as telecommunications.


Trinidad and Tobago has no territories or colonies.


Caribbean Development Bank. Annual Report 1999. Barbados, 2000.

Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. <>. Accessed July 2001.

Government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. <>. Accessed July 2001.

"Trinidad and Tobago and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed May 2001.

The Trinidad & Tobago Stock Exchange Limited. <>. Accessed July 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Trinidad & Tobago. <>. Accessed May 2001.

James Ferguson


Port of Spain.


The Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TT$). One TT dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 dollars.


Petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, steel products, fertilizer, sugar, cocoa, coffee, citrus, and flowers.


Machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals.


US$9.41 billion (1999).


Exports: US$2.4 billion (1998 est.). Imports: US$3 billion (1998 est.).

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Trinidadians and Tobagonians

Trinidadians and Tobagonians

ETHNONYM: Trinidadians


Identification. The name "Trinidad and Tobago" is a conjunction of the names of the two islands that comprise this independent state. "Trinidad" is often used alone to refer to the two islands as a political unit. Columbus, on his third voyage, in 1498, sighted three points of an island; in appropriating it for Spain, he called it "Trinidad," in honor of the Holy Trinity. This etymological history has subsequently been commemorated by various Christian authorities, including John Paul II during a 1986 papal visit. The name "Tobago" apparently derives from the Carib word for a smoking receptacle for tobacco, the plant that was reportedly the first item from Tobago to be exported to Europe.

Location. The island of Trinidad is located in the Caribbean Sea at 10°30 N and 6°30 W, and 11 kilometers (at the nearest point) from the Venezualan coast. It has an area of 4,950 square kilometers. The island of Tobago lies 32 kilometers northeast of Trinidad and has an area of 290 square kilometers.

Demography. The population of the two islands was 1,299,301 in 1992, with an average of 214 people per square kilometer. Life expectancy at birth is 70 years. The average annual growth rate from 1965 to 1980 was 1.3 percent, although the rate fluctuated with net annual migration, which reached a high of 17,370 in 1970 and a low of 2,200 in 1976. Brooklyn, London, and Toronto are the most common destinations for Trinidadians. Because many return after many years, and many move back and forth a number of times in a lifetime, the process is better described as one of transmigration rather than emigration.

Linguistic Affiliation. Although Trinidad and Tobago is an English-speaking country, its speech forms are diverse. They vary with class and social context, from a local "dialect" that is substantially opaque to foreign English speakers to a Global Hegemonic English (G.H.E.) articulated by television newscasters and prescribed in schoolrooms. Moreover, almost all Trinidadians hear a substantial portion of the range of English used on U.S. television programs and in contemporary popular music by U.S. artists. In general, writing is in G.H.E., and there have been few efforts to establish a written form of the local dialect.

History and Cultural Relations

The pre-Columbian population of Trinidad has been estimated at nearly 30,000 to 40,000. Almost a century passed after Columbus's landing on Trinidad before the Castilian Crown attempted, in 1592, to establish a permanent European settlement. By then, intermittent contact had probably reduced the indigenous population by one-half. For the next two centuries, the island remained an insignificant and sparsely colonized outpost of Castile's empire in the Americas. In 1725 Trinidad's settler population included only 162 adult males. In the last three decades of the eighteenth century, during a period of alliance between Paris and Madrid, the Castilian government sought to fortify and increase profits from its colonies. Catholic planters from elsewhere in the Caribbeanlargely from French colonies rocked by the Haitian Revolution, other slave uprisings, and the French Revolutionwere encouraged to settle with their slaves in Trinidad. By 1797, the population of the island had reached nearly 18,000 persons, of whom 10,000 were slaves and just over 1,000 were Amerindians. It was during this period of French settlement, specifically in 1787, that the first sugar mill was built on Trinidad. Ten years later, however, approximately 130 mills were in operation. British forces took control of the island in 1797, and Trinidad, along with nearby Tobago, was formally ceded to Britain in 1802. Tobago had been largely ignored by Europeans until the early seventeenth century; thereafter, it was regarded as a strategic military site and shifted hands some twenty-two times between 1626 and 1802.

The British slave trade was abolished in 1807, and Emancipation was initiated in 1834, with a planned six-year period of "apprenticeship." At the time of Emancipation, the colonial state recorded a population of some 20,000 slaves; 3,200 Whites; 16,300 Coloreds; and only 750 Amerindians. Apprenticeship ended in 1836, some two years before the date scheduled by the British state, owing to resistance by the enslaved population. During the 1840s, the colonial state acted both to anglicize Trinidad (establishing the Church of England, for instance) and to ensure a continued supply of abundant, exploitable labor for plantation agriculture. Beginning in 1845, indentured laborers were brought to Trinidad from India, and, when such immigration ended in 1917, just under 144,000 indentured laborers had entered the colony. Beginning in 1868, these primarily Hindu and Islamic settlerstogether termed East Indianswere missionized by Canadian Presbyterians.

In 1889 Tobago and Trinidad were for the first time joined as a unit of colonial administration. Commercial production of oil began in Trinidad in 1902, and by 1911 Trinidad's first refinery was in operation. Following labor protests in 1925, Trinidad's Legislative Council was reformed to include a small number of elected members, although suffrage was limited to approximately 6 percent of the population. Beginning in 1935, laborers struck the sugar plantations, and in 1937, the oil fields. The primary leaders of this working-class uprising were Adrien Rienzi and Tubal Uriah Butler. By the time of these strikes, petroleum had become the colony's most valuable export: in 1932 oil accounted for 50 percent of Trinidad's export earnings, and by 1943, 80 percent. Trinidad's petroleum was, moreover, a significant fraction of the British Empire's total production as Britain fought World War II: 44 percent in 1938, rising to 65 percent by 1946. The petroleum industry was not, however, significant in terms of direct employmentonly 8,000 persons were so engaged in 1939, whereas some 40,000 were involved in farming and refining sugarcane in 1930, even though Trinidad's sugar industry was increasingly unprofitable. In 1941 Britain ceded land for two military bases to the United States. Over the next four years, Trinidad's economy was driven by the construction of the U.S. bases. Following a wartime ban on Carnival, victory in Europe was celebrated in Port-of-Spain by a V-E Carnival, at which bands of tuned petroleum drumssteelbandswere first seen in public performance.

In 1946 universal adult suffrage was introduced, and in 1956 the People's National Movement (PNM) led by Eric Williams, formed Trinidad's first home-rule government. In 1957, in the midst of negotiations to establish the Federation of the West Indies, Williams and Norman Manley of Jamaica each announced that they would not stand for election to the federal parliament, thereby foreshadowing their states' withdrawals from the federation. A year later, a structurally weak federation was established, comprised of all the British West Indian colonies except Guyana and Belize. In 1960, after leading nationalist demonstrations against the U.S. military bases, Williams negotiated leases for the bases. Within a decade, however, the United States concluded that the bases were of little importance and returned them to Trinidad. Following Jamaica's withdrawal from the federation at the end of 1961, Williams and the British made plans for Trinidad and Tobago to be established as an independent state. In January 1962 the British Parliament passed the acts granting independence to both Jamaica and Trinidad, and, in the same month, it passed the new Commonwealth Immigration Bill, which restricted entry from independent former colonies. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on 31 August 1962. In 1970, following a period of rising unemployment, Black Power demonstrators focused attention on continued racial discrimination in employment and on Trinidad's economic dependence. As a result of price increases instituted by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), state revenues increased by 1,100 percent between 1973 and 1978. In the 1980s, however, the decline in the world oil price produced a severe recession. There has yet to be a sustained economic recovery, primarily because the Trinidadian economy remains largely tied to world petroleum prices. After thirty years of continuous rule by the PNM (1956-1986), Trinidad has had two changes of government during this recession: the 1986 elections were won by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR); in 1992, the electorate returned the PNM to power.

Counting persons by "ethnic origin," the 1990 census reported that 43 percent of the population was African, 40 percent East Indian, 14 percent mixed, 1 percent White, 1 percent Chinese, and 1 percent other. In Trinidad, however, race and color identities are, to a great extent, shifters, which vary with observer and context. Thus, counts of ethnic groups give them a false concreteness: distinctions between "mixed" persons and others are particularly ambiguous and contested. Historically, African, East Indian, and European cultures interacted and were re-shaped in colonial society. Today these labels of ethnic origin are used for lifeways, worldviews, and values that are decidedly West Indian. Trinidadian culture has also been shaped by the society's historic porosity vis-à-vis the North Atlantic metropolises.


Approximately 50 percent of the population lives in the east-west corridor that includes both Port-of-Spain and Arima. As much as 20 percent of the population lives in a second densely populated area around San Fernando, in the southeast. Oil refineries are located in the south of the island, oil rigs off the southern coast. Sugar fields are concentrated in low-lying areas on the western coast.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Since independence, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has fluctuated with international oil prices. In 1973 per capita GDP was estimated at U.S.$1,180; the figure peaked in 1982 at $6,800 (using official exchange rates) but has declined since then, reportedly to $4,210 in 1987. Trinidad has a large middle class, but there are also extremes of wealth: the wealthiest quintile of the population has 50 percent of GDP, and the poorest, 4 percent. During the oil-boom years, the government sought to end the economy's dependence on the world oil market by establishing state-owned energy-based industries, including a steel mill and a fertilizer plant. The economy's performance in the 1980s indicates, however, that this diversification did not meet its goal. The costly steel mill is now owned and operated by Nucor, a U.S. company. Since the end of World War II, both commercial and subsistence agriculture have declined steadily, although there is evidence of increased food production during the continuing recession; most food, however, continues to be imported.

Industrial Arts. In 1980 Trinidad had a reported literacy rate of 96 percent, and three-quarters of the secondary-school-age population were enrolled in schools in 1986. As a consequence of state educational policies and employment in the petroleum industry, Trinidadians have become a highly skilled industrial labor force. Transemigration has, however, removed a disproportionate number of skilled laborers and professionals. Trinidadians have also developed important organizational, manufacturing, and design skills through the production of the annual Carnival.

Trade. Two local conglomerates import most consumer and commercial goods. Trinidad has some half-dozen large shopping malls, each with its own supermarket. Until the recession of the mid-1980s, the government restricted the importation of many items and levied large tariffs on others, for the purpose of promoting local production. Only in a very few cases did these policies lead to the development of alternatives to foreign imports. Moreover, large import companies were often able to obtain exemptions from trade restrictions. A "suitcase trade" in light goodsnotably clothingthrived, although such trade was largely outside the official economy. After the elections of 1986, the NAR government adopted a policy of increased trade liberalization, which has largely been continued under the PNM government since 1992. Throughout the postindependence era, the United States has been Trinidad's main trading partner.

Division of Labor. In 1982 some 21 percent of the population was employed in services (including public administration), 19 percent in commerce, 19 percent in construction, 16 percent in mining and manufacturing, and 8 percent in agriculture. Women constituted 33 percent of the labor force in 1982.


Although Trinidadians follow the Euro-American pattern of reckoning genealogical relatedness, such relatedness is not, in social practice, a distinct principle of association or group formation: kinship and friendship merge in daily life. Descent is bilateral. Trinidadians use basically the same kin terms as the English and Americans.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Euro-American ideals of religiously sanctioned weddings and monogamy were avowed by colonial elites as signs of "respectability." For some, these ideals remain guides for conduct; for others, they are the basis for stigmatizing and stereotyping certain segments of society; and for still others, they are foreign values, largely irrelevant to local circumstances. In contrast to their espoused ideals, colonial elites practiced a system of dual marriages or sexual unions. Upper-class males characteristically married a status equal but had extralegal unionssome of long duration, some acts of rapewith women of lower status. The cultural distinction between "inside" and "outside" partners remains important.

Domestic Unit. There is great variation in the composition of Trinidadian households. Households of monogamous couples and their children are not culturally aberrant, but neither is one comprised of a middle-aged woman, her (transmigrant) son's former girlfriend, and the latter's child by a subsequent boyfriend. Such an example illustrates the open rather than distinctive character of "kinship." Attributional aspects of sexual difference are culturally emphasized: men and women are deemed fundamentally different. Concomitantly, husbands and wives generally have separate household roles and responsibilities.

Inheritance. Property generally passes from parents to children. Historically, the distinction between "inside" and "outside" children has been manifest in patterns of inheritance.

Socialization. Women are regarded as more suited to the care of young children, although both men and women display great affection for children. It is not unusual for grandmothers and aunts, as well as mothers, to raise children. Formal education in schools, generally beginning by age 5, is highly valued.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Colonial society was organized hierarchically by the valorization of things European. The hierarchy of race and color was not, however, scalar: it did not rank all non-Europeans on a single social ladder. Rather, the discourse of race inscribed two very different principles of subordination to Europeans. Africans, deemed lacking an ancestral civilization, could, through both education and sexual "mixing" with Whites, become at least partially Europeanized; paradoxically, they could also be seen as becoming "West Indian" or "Creole" through this mixing. By contrast, East Indians were considered saturated with an (inferior) ancestral civilization of their own and therefore not amenable to "mixing," "Europeanizing," or becoming "West Indian"even when they adopted and developed lifeways that reflected their presence in Trinidad. This ideological image prevailed, notwithstanding substantial social and sexual "mixing" of Indians with both Whites and Afro-Trinidadians. Historically, this complex system of racial distinctions and identities has shaped class relations. This system of racial typifications has served to naturalize the value placed on being "White" or "European," to divide subordinated classes by masking the social entanglements of East Indians in the West Indies, and to define Trinidad as a "mixed" and/or "plural" society, in contrast to the imagined purity and homogeneity of European nation-states. These racial typifications and their consequences have been contested throughout Trinidadian history, and, since independence, racial stratification has been substantially attenuated.

Political Organization. Trinidad is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament comprised of an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. Peaceful elections have taken place regularly since independence. The head of government is the prime minister; the presidency is a largely ceremonial position. For the first thirty years after independence, Trinidad had a single stable political party, the People's National Movement, and a frequently reorganized and renamed opposition alliance. During this time, political support broke roughly along racial lines, between Afro-Trinidians (in support of the PNM) and East Indian Trinidadians (in support of the opposition). Until his death in 1981, Eric Williams, an Oxford-trained historian, led the PNM. In 1986 opposition groups formed the National Alliance for Reconstruction. Under the leadership of A. N. R. Robinson, the NAR that year drew electoral support from nearly all classes and ethnicities. Once in power, however, the alliance and its wide support quickly eroded. In 1992 the PNN returned to power, with Patrick Manning serving as the new prime minister.

Social Control and Conflict. In 1965 new legislation limited the right to strike, and since then the government has intervened, with substantial success, to impose labor stability. High unemployment in the late 1960s led to widespread unrest by the urban proletariat and lumpenproletariat in 1970. The resulting demonstrations, supported by a segment of the small military force, posed a serious threat to the government and were dispersed by police and military intervention. The unrelated rise in oil revenues that began in 1972 led to a decrease in unemployment, a dramatic increase in government patronage for the urban underclasses, and, consequently, a substantial increase in mass support for the state. This patronage, however, declined dramatically during the recession of the 1980s. In July 1990 an attempted coup by about a hundred members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, a relatively small group of Afro-Trinidadian Muslims, led to four days of unrest and considerable loss of state control. Although the coup had little mass support, it was symptomatic of widespread disaffection from the state among workers and the urban unemployed.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The 1980 census counted Catholics (32 percent), Hindus (25 percent), Anglicans (15 percent), Muslims (6 percent), Presbyterians (4 percent), Pentacostals (3 percent), as well as other religious groups. What these figures fail to reveal, however, is the prevalent belief that these (and other) religions all worship the same God in largely valid ways. Most Trinidadians have attended, and to a greater or lesser extent participated in, services outside their own religion. For many in Trinidad, religious differences are understood as stylistically different routes to a shared divinity rather than as incompatible systems of values.

Ceremonies. The world religious traditions present in Trinidad conduct their characteristic ceremonies in globally recognizable ways. With some exceptions, however, there is a modulation of religious piety. For example, although the pre-Lenten Carnival is intensely celebrated, Lent is not a time of dramatic self-denial, and neither is Ramadan.

Arts. The most popularly practiced arts are associated with the annual Carnival. For each Carnival, topical calypsos are composed and performed, and costumes for new masquerade bandssome with as many as 2,500 personsare designed and crafted. Steelbands, or pan, require meticulous tuning and rehearsal, activities which are aesthetically and socially complex. A number of other important musical forms and traditionsnotably tassa drummingare associated specifically with Indo-Trinidadians, although this ethnic identification is oversimplistic. Peter Minshall, who has designed masquerade bands and worked in other performance genres, has achieved wide renown within Trinidad, as well as among avant-garde elements of the international art world. Novelist and essayist V. S. Naipaul and political theorist C. L. R. James are internationally acclaimed writers. Saint Lucia-born Nobel laureate Derek Walcott has worked in Trinidad for much of his adult life, while maintaining an academic appointment in the United States.

Medicine. Medical care is provided primarily by physicians, dentists, and registered nurses. There is a mixed system of private and public financing of health care.

Death and Afterlife. Christians and Muslims are generally interred in cemeteries, as are some Hindus, although cremation is more common for Hindus. Ideas about the afterlife are highly diverse.

See also East Indians in Trinidad


Brereton, Bridget (1981). A History of Modern Trinidad. London: Heinemann.

James, C. L. R. ([1963] 1983). Beyond a Boundary. New York: Pantheon.

Naipaul, V. S. (1962). The Middle Passage. New York: Vintage.

Segal, Daniel (1989). "Nationalism in a Colonial State." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago.

Singh, Kelvin (1994). Race and Class Struggles in a Colonial State: Trinidad, 1917-1945. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

Yelvington, Kevin, ed. (1992). Trinidad Ethnicity. London: Macmillan.


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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Region: Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 1,175,523
Language(s): English, Hindi, French, Spanish, Chinese
Literacy Rate: 97.9%
Number of Primary Schools: 476
Compulsory Schooling: 7 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.6%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 142
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 181,030
  Secondary: 104,349
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 99%
  Secondary: 74%
  Higher: 8%
Teachers: Primary: 7,311
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 25:1
  Secondary: 21:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 98%
  Secondary: 75%
  Higher: 7%

History & Background

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island, parliamentary democracy located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela. Colonized by the British in the nineteenth century, Trinidad and Tobago became independent of Britain on 31 August 1962. The country measures 5,128 square kilometers, its terrain primarily plains with some hills and low mountains. The climate of the islands is tropical, with a rainy season lasting from June to December.

Trinidad and Tobago's population was estimated to be about 1.3 million in 1999, with a high population density: 252 people per square kilometer. About two-fifths of the population is of African ancestry, another twofifths is identified locally as "East Indian" (although they are immigrants mainly from northern India), nearly one-fifth is considered "mixed," less than 1 percent is white, and about 1 percent is Chinese or other. Regarding religious affiliation, the population is about 29 percent Christian, 24 percent Hindu, 11 percent Anglican, 6 percent is Muslim, 3 percent Presbyterian, and 27 percent other. While English is the nation's official language, several other languages are spoken on Trinidad and Tobago, among them Hindi, French, Spanish, and Chinese.

Nearly three-quarters (73.6 percent) of Trinidad and Tobago's population lived in urban areas in 1999, with many Trinidadians and Tobagonians living in and around Port-of-Spain, the national capital. That year, the total fertility rate was estimated to be 1.8 (i.e., a woman bearing children throughout her childbearing years at current fertility rates would have about 2 children). The infant mortality rate in Trinidad and Tobago was 15.7 per 1,000 lives births in 1999, with the under 5 years child-mortality rate 20 per 1,000. One-quarter of Trinidad and Tobago's population was 14 years old or younger in the year 2000, while 68 percent was 15 to 64 years of age, and 7 percent of the population was 65 or older. That year, the life expectancy at birth in Trinidad and Tobago was 68.0 years65.5 years for men and 70.6 years for women.

Trinidad and Tobago's gross domestic product in 1999 was US$6.9 billion, with much of the islands' economy tied to oil and natural gas. The unemployment rate was estimated to be about 14 percent in the year 2000, as the economy gradually recovered from a sharp decline experienced between 1983 and 1993 caused by falling oil prices. Unemployment among youth was significantly higher, reaching 30 percent for the 15- to 19-year-old age cohort. An economic reform package implemented in 1995 had successfully turned the economy around, and international investments in Trinidad and Tobago have increased substantially since then. In 1997 an estimated 9.5 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture; 12.4 percent in construction and utilities; 14 percent in manufacturing, mining, and quarrying; and 64.1 percent in services. The contribution to the national economy in terms of percentage of GDP by sector was estimated as 1.9 percent from agriculture, 39.7 percent from industry, and 58.3 percent from services in 1999. Gross national product per capita (measured by the Atlas method) was US$4,750 in 1999. Nonetheless, an estimated 20 percent of the population was living in poverty at the start of the new millennium.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy whose constitution dates from 1 August 1976. The country's legal system is based on English common law. All Trinidadians and Tobagonians, women and men alike, are eligible to vote at age 18; men are considered fit for military service from age 15 through age 49. The country's chief of state is a president, elected to a five year term of office by an electoral college composed of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The head of government is a prime minister, usually the majority party leader in the House after elections are held, who is appointed from among the members of parliament. The executive branch at the national level also includes a cabinet of ministers, also chosen by their fellow members of Parliament.

Trinidad and Tobago's legislative branch at the national level of government consists of a bicameral parliament composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House has 36 members elected to 5-year terms by popular vote; the Senate has 31 members appointed by the president to serve a term of up to 5 years. The third branch of the national government, the judicial system, consists of a Supreme Court composed of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeals. Judges are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the president. The islands are administered at the local level through a system of eight counties, three municipalities, and one ward (Tobago).

Despite problems with the economy in the 1980s and early 1990s, Trinidad and Tobago in 2001 was a relatively stable democracy. The country has received significant overseas development assistance from international agencies and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to develop its infrastructure, support its growing oil-based economy, and develop its human resources. In the year 2000 Trinidad and Tobago had three ongoing World Bank projects, including one in basic education that was initiated in 1995 and designed to strengthen all aspects of the islands' educational system. In addition, a bank-funded Youth and Social Development project was begun in the 2000-2001 school year to create and improve programs for impoverished youth and to devise and support better strategies and programs to enroll and keep students in school. Approximately 30 percent of secondary age students have not been attending school, primarily due to economic constraints and space limitations. The Bank project was aimed at encouraging more youth to participate in better quality educational programs designed to meet their academic needs and to provide them with work-related training for employment.

Education SystemOverview

In 1999 the adult literacy rate for Trinidad and Tobago was about 94 percent95.4 percent for men 15 years of age or older and 91.7 percent for adult women. The Ministry of Educationcomprised of an elaborate system of divisions, commissions, offices, centers, and unitsis the principal government organ charged with overseeing the planning and implementation of education policies and practices in Trinidad and Tobago. The Ministry of Planning and Development and the Ministry of Finance have been charged since 1991 with administering university level education in the country and provisioning the National Institute for Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology. Other government ministries, such as the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Community Development, play their part as well in certain education and training initiatives related to children and youth.

English is the official language of instruction in Trinidad and Tobago's public schools to facilitate communication across the country's several language groups. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Primary schooling, where children 5 to 11 years old are enrolled, includes 2 preparatory ("infant") grades and 5 "standard" grades, with children starting at age 4 or 5 and some 4 year olds entering directly into the first grade. Although the government covers most of the tuition costs of primary education, many primary students have problems attending due to their parents' inability to pay the costs of transportation, lunches, uniforms, textbooks, and school supplies. The structure of the secondary school system was under revision at the start of the new millennium, but traditionally secondary schooling has been divided into 2 cycles: a first cycle lasting 5 years for children and youth 11 to 16 years of age, for which graduates receive the Caribbean Examinations Council Secondary Education Certificate, and a second cycle lasting 2 years, whose graduates receive the General Certificate of Education Advanced "A" Level or the new Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination, which is replacing the GCE "A" levels.

Secondary education can be provided either as traditional academic instruction or as a more diversified curriculum including technical and vocational studies. Efforts to reform the secondary education system to make schooling more enticing, palatable, and useful to students, especially those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, have been directed toward adding more experientially based courses and classes. Training students in technical and vocational skills is also seen as a way of helping students realize the practical value of education and of making learning a more positive experience with greater payoffs in the end.

Higher education is provided through a variety of institutions, including the University of the West Indies (UWI), the St. Augustine campus, the National Institute for Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology (NIHERST), technical colleges, teachers' colleges, and a range of private, tertiary institutions. The academic year lasts from September to July, and the entire month of August is a time of vacation.

Good potential exists for developing educational programs to be made available as distance learning through the mass media in Trinidad and Tobago, which had an estimated 425,000 televisions (on average, 1 for every 3 inhabitants) and 680,000 radios (nearly 1 for every 2 inhabitants) in 1997. The country had 2 AM radio stations and 10 FM stations in 1998 and 4 television-broadcast stations operating in the country in 1997. Educational technology is also improving and can become even more important as the nation develops its service sector and creates new employment opportunities for those in the high technology field. In 1999 there were 5 Internet service providers (ISPs) in Trinidad and Tobago, 28.2 Internet hosts for every 10,000 people, and 54.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Gross enrollment ratios at the primary level of education were estimated to be 99 percent overall, 99 percent for boys, and 98 percent for girls in 1999. Nearly all schools at the primary level are publicly funded or subsidized. In 1992 the country had about 476 public schools and 54 private schools at the primary level. About 97 percent of the primary students enrolled in schooling in the country were taught in tuition-free, government-financed schools in the early 1990s. From 1991 through 1995 about 55-60 percent of the annual public budget for education was allocated to primary education. Thirty percent of primary students during this time period went to government-operated schools while another 67 percent were taught in schools with government subvention and run by denominational boards. Only 3 percent of primary students in the early 1990sthe children of the wealthywere enrolled in private schools. In terms of numbers, 177,651 students (including 4 year olds) were enrolled in public primary schools in the 1994-1995 school year while 7,000 students were enrolled in private schools at the primary level.

Secondary Education

At the secondary education level, gross enrollment ratios at the end of the 1990s were 88 percent for both male and female students and net enrollment ratios were 72 percent for males and 75 percent for females. However, gender equity did not fully exist at the secondary level. A shortage of seats in secondary schools meant admission was dependent on the scores students earned from the primary examinations known as the CEE. Although more girls than boys scored highly on this exam, girls and boys were admitted to secondary schools in the late 1990s in equal numbers. As the authors of a June 2000 World Bank report noted, "Despite their higher registration and scoring on the CEE, females were placed in secondary school spots about 4 percent less frequently than males during the 1990-1996 period." The problem of lack of space in schools at the secondary level is a serious one. In 1996, of 29,773 students who were examined with the CEE, 22,468 passed but only 18,201 were placed in secondary schools. According to the World Bank authors, post primary centers and youth camps enrolled 1,378 students who did not enter regular secondary programs, 2,695 students repeated Standard 5 (i.e., the fifth and final standard grade of primary school), and 6,805 remained educationally unaccounted for, apparently having dropped out of the system without going on (at least not immediately) to secondary instruction.

Higher Education

The tertiary enrollment rate in Trinidad and Tobago is relatively low, despite the wide variety of programming that exists to serve the needs of students beyond the secondary level. In 1996 the gross enrollment ratio for higher education was only 8 percent (8 percent for males and 7 percent for females)about 5,000 students in all. In 1995 only 4 percent of the country's population over age 25 had completed tertiary studies. About 13.3 percent of all public spending on education went to the tertiary level that year.

At the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, Bachelor's degree programs generally require three years of study, except in medicine, which takes six years, and law, where only the first year of instruction is available at the university. Master's degree programs are also available and typically require two years of study (three years for medicine) beyond the Bachelor's degree. Doctoral programs generally require an additional two years of study beyond the Master's. Besides the programs offered at the university, a large number of nonuniversity educational institutions, both public and private, offer courses leading to the National Technician Certificate. Higher education offered through NIHERST is provided in four main teaching divisions and leads to the Associate's degree, a Diploma, or a Certificate. Nonuniversity tertiary studies include colleges and institutions providing instruction in teacher education, agriculture, forestry and fishery, technical and information technology, management and banking, languages, nursing and healthcare, and theological education.


Around the year 2000, secondary schooling and the needs and problems of youth in Trinidad and Tobago were drawing special attention from government officials and international development specialists. A Youth and Social Development project developed by the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Education is designed to address the very serious problem of insufficient space at the secondary level and the lack of relevance of much of the academic programming to students' real world needs. Summarizing a comprehensive World Bank report detailing the challenges and prospects of reforming secondary education, World Bank authors highlight their findings that "poverty, reduced family care, and exposure to youth protective services and the judicial system pose developmental risks that may contribute to negative outcomes such as youth involvement in crime and drug culture, early sexual activity and pregnancy" (World Development Sources). According to the authors' abstract, the Bank report illustrates "that investments in youth services will help reduce these existing barriers and bring substantial economic and social returns for the individual and for society." The report considers one of the weightiest problems facing educators in Trinidad and Tobago in the first years of the new millennium to be how to mesh the vibrancy and enthusiasm of youth on the verge of adulthood with appropriate guidance and instruction to ensure that those students who face sometimes overwhelming odds against successful entry into adulthood will be able to negotiate a course of study and experience that leads to a future where prospects for success and prosperity are enhanced and not diminished. This is the challenge faced by virtually all societies as the transformation of the global economy propels even small island nations collectively forward towards increasingly complex and intermingled opportunities for social advancement if the attendant risks and demands on their human resources are handled wisely and well.


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. Trinidad and Tobago at a Glance. Available from

. Trinidad and Tobago Data Profile. World De velopment Indicators database. Available from

World Bank, Human Development Network. Education Sector Strategy. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 1999.

World Development Sources, The World Bank Group. Trinidad and TobagoYouth and Social Development: An Integrated Approach for Social Inclusion. Vol. 1. Available from

Barbara Lakeberg Dridi

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

B asic D ata
Official Country Name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Region (Map name): Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 1,169,682
Language(s): English (official),Hindi,French,Spanish,Chinese
Literacy rate: 97.9%
Area: 5,128 sq km
GDP: 7,312 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 4
Number of Television Sets: 425,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 363.3
Number of Radio Stations: 14
Number of Radio Receivers: 680,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 581.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 80,000
Computers per 1,000: 68.4
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 100,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 85.5

Background & General Characteristics

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago lies in the Caribbean between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The two islands came under British rule in the nineteenth century, but gained their independence in 1962. Due to the production and processing of the island's vast amount of petroleum and natural gas, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is considered to be one of the most prosperous island groups in all of the Caribbean.

The population, as of July 2001, was recorded at nearly 1.2 million, with 69 percent of its residents falling between the ages of 15 and 64. The islands maintain a 97.9 percent literacy rate, with men achieving only a slightly higher rate of literacy than women at 98.8 and 97 percent, respectively. The ethnic makeup of the islands is divided almost evenly between blacks and East Indians (primarily immigrants from northern India) at approximately 40 percent each. The remainder is comprised of mixed (18.4 percent), white (0.6 percent), and Chinese and other (1.2 percent). Trinidad and Tobago maintains a parliamentary democracy with the capital city Port of Spain.

The country's mass media includes one television station with five channels, two major radio stations operating four channels, and several daily and weekly newspapers. The Trinidad Express and The Trinidad Guardian are both updated daily, each with a special Sunday edition and a Web site. The high level of literacy on the islands has fostered the creation of several media outlets across the region. It has also allowed print media to hold an important role in the distribution of information. Trinidad and Tobago has the highest per capita consumption of newsprint in the Caribbean. Additionally, the country's four major newspapers enjoy a daily circulation of 240,000; the most popular newspapers, The Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express are responsible for 160,000.

Making its first print run on June 6, 1967, the Trinidad Express, was formed by a group of Trinidadian journals to compete with the Daily Mirror and The Guardian, both British-owned publications. Relying on the financial support of several of the country's most influential citizens for start-up expenses, the Express overcame its uphill battle to carve out a niche in the print market and to become one of the islands' leading publications. The paper eventually came under the ownership of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), which also owns the islands' top television station, TV-6. The Express attempts to provide balanced format spread among coverage of news, investigative reporting, and social events, as well as in-depth reports on historical facets of the islands' rich cultural heritage.

The Express, which includes the Daily Express and the Sunday Express, reached a circulation of 80,000 during the 1990s, before leveling off to an average daily print run of 75,000 in 2002. Garnering approximately 40 percent of the reading public, the Sunday Express is the region's leading weekend publication, selling an average of 8,000 more papers weekly than its nearest competitor. The Express targets both the islands' community as well as the outlying Caribbean region. In an effort to broaden its reach, the paper launched a Web site in 1997. Offering up-to-date regionally information and news, the Web site averages 10,000 hits every day.

Established in 1917, the Trinidad Guardian is the oldest newspaper on the two islands and has played a highly influential role throughout the twentieth century. Although it is officially independent, the newspaper has often been branded as procolonial "white," and then "status quo" during the independence movement. The Guardian, the only broadsheet newspaper on the local market, continues to enjoy widespread appeal among the people of Trinidad and Tobago, now maintaining readers from every major category of socioeconomic status, location, ethnicity, age, and gender. The Trinidad Guardian continues to hold the status as the most credible newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. The main focus of the Guardian is to maintain high quality and exclusivity in its editions. The Guardian is preferred by the middle-to high-income group. The Guardian gathers an average daily circulation of 40,000 and a Sunday circulation of 41,000. It reaches a number of niche markets with its special publications and sections, including "Mid Week Sports" (Wednesday), "Business Guardian" (Thursday), "RiseYoung Adult Weekly" (Friday), "TV Week" (Saturday), and "Sunday Business Guardian" (Sunday). Additionally, specialty magazines are published monthly, covering topics such as health, real estate, bridal, education, construction and various other topics. Quarterly cookbook series are also published.

The country's two afternoon newspapers are the Evening News and the Sun, each with a circulation of 40,000; they are owned by the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express, respectively. Several political weekly newspapers, which tend to be more critical of the government, such as The Bomb and The Punch circulate as well.

Catholic News, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, was founded in 1892. Newsday of Daily News Limited is an English newspaper produced in the capital Port of Spain. Tobago News, produced in Scarborough, has recently joined with the Express and is updated every Friday. Trinidad and Tobago News Network is an Internet publication, which is updated fairly irregularly, about every two weeks.

The product of a bruising battle with the government over freedom of the press, the Independent was formed in November 1996. Senior staff members of the Guardian walked off their jobs after a row with Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and pulled their resources together to launch the weekly newspaper. The journalists were determined to maintain a free press; however, five years after it was founded, the weekly Independent folded due to lack of advertising returns.

Economic Framework

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is home to one of the most diversified and successful economies in the English-speaking Caribbean. In addition to large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, the islands have successfully developed industry in iron and steel, methanol and nitrogenous fertilizers, and petroleum products. Transportation links such as air, sea, and land are in excellent condition, and the islands also maintain a strong telecommunications link with the Americas and Europe with completely modern capabilities. These factors have lent to the islands' reputation as an excellent development site for international business. Due to the economic reforms implemented in 1995, foreign investment and trade flourish. The main sectors of development include petrochemical, tourism, food processing, cement, beverage, and cotton textiles. The currency of the island is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar. This climate of a prosperous economy that Trinidad and Tobago enjoys lends to higher levels of education and literacy rates, which in turn boosts sales of the country's newspapers.

Press Laws

An evaluation system designed by Freedom House, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization, is used throughout the world to determine the level of independence a country's press enjoys. On a scale from 0 to 100, a lower score signifies a freer press system. A score between 31 and 60 indicates a press that is partly free. Trinidad and Tobago has been awarded a rating of 28, indicating that they fall on the freer end of the spectrum. Despite the fact that Trinidad and Tobago enjoys a fairly free press, 10 deaths, 10 kidnappings or disappearances, and 8 arrests of members of the media were reported in 2000.

The Trinidad and Tobago constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press. However, after the 1995 election of the current administration, the freedom of Trinidad and Tobago's press came under peril. In April 1996, Guardian journalists enlisted the help of UNESCO to organize a public forum on the role of the media in a democratic society. Journalists stressed the need to safeguard editorial independence, and demanded that the outdated libel laws be repealed. They claimed these laws are used as a backhand method of gagging the media. They also emphasized the need for a Freedom of Information Act to ensure the public's access to information.

A media code of ethics was proposed in 1997 by the Trinidad and Tobago government. It was housed in a government document entitled, "Toward a Free and Responsible Media." This code required journalists and newspapers to "endeavor to highlight and promote activities of the state and the public, which aim at national unity and solidarity, integrity of Trinidad and Tobago, and economic and social progress." However, this code came under much scrutiny by the Trinidad and Tobago press and was eventually shelved. Many journalists felt that the ultimate goal of the government's new code was not to improve the freedom of the press, but rather to place journalists and newspapers under stricter scrutiny of the government.

Also in 1997, Prime Minister Panday, who believed the media regularly published lies, rumors, and half-truths, refused to sign the Inter-American Press Association's Declaration of Chapultepec until it addressed issues concerning the lack of integrity in reporting. In 1999, Panday sent a letter to the President of the Inter-American Press Association stating that the Declaration of Chapultepec was not in accord with the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. Panday claimed that it placed journalists above the law of the land. "The freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, including freedom of the press are all qualified by the caveat except through due process. This would apply for example, to a journalist cited for contempt of court for violating a court order. The Declaration of Chapultepec was also silent on the Constitutional right to privacy."

However, Panday was mistaken because the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago applies the caveat only to the first right and freedom listed in the constitution, "the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person, and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law." No other right or freedom in the constitution contains that phrase. Additionally, the media is not obligated by the constitution to obey a court order. It is, however, part of the common law that is practiced in Commonwealth countries, which includes Trinidad and Tobago.

Panday proposed a rival declaration in his letter, which he entitled the Declaration of Port of Spain. This declaration embodied a Code of Practice and Code of Ethics for media practitioners. However, it was in direct opposition of Chapultepec and not well received by the media. The Trinidad Express responded,

"While the solidarity among regional organizations has helped to beat back various challenges to press freedom in the Caribbean, it is becoming clear that governments across the region are also banding together in the attempt to bring the media to heel. In this general liberalizing climate, there seems to be a clear intention by Caricom [Caribbean Community] governments to restrict the limits of what is possible for the news media to cover. But a free, responsible press is infinitely more desirable than having a government decide the boundaries of freedom of information."


In 1996, a local editor spent five days in prison and a reporter was fined after the court had ruled that they had published too much information about an ongoing murder trial in the islands. The two reporters appealed their conviction and sentence on the claim that there was a denial of justice and a breach of their right to freedom of thought and expression. Their employer, the Indepen dent, also filed a motion arguing that, "the judge's decision to prohibit reports on the contempt proceedings was a denial of the right to freedom of thought and expression." In 2002, this case was repealed based on the finding that the High Court judge was in error when he found the journalists guilty of contempt of court because insufficient evidence existed to support the charges. According to several practitioners, the finding was a significant victory for freedom, something the press has struggled to maintain through the last decade in Trinidad and Tobago.

State-Press Relations

State-press relations became more conflicted when Panday, Trinidad and Tobago's first prime minister of Indian descent, was elected in 1995. Panday continually feuded with the largely black-owned media, expressing his dislike for journalists and calling on his party supporters to boycott the Trinidad Express, which he claimed was vindictive toward his administration. Although the Express and the Guardian openly criticize the government, the weekly tabloids tend to criticize to a greater extent. It is commonly believed that Panday's disdain for the media cost his administration a great deal of popularity. However, with the 2000 election, Panday curbed his contempt for the media in order to secure enough votes for re-election.

Broadcast Media

The government-run Trinidad and Tobago Television Company offers over 70 hours of weekly viewing, including many locally produced programs. Television is popular, and television sets are common. The government's National Broadcasting Service was the most important station, operating on both 610 AM and 100 FM and reaching an estimated 650,000 listeners. Other major stations include Radio Trinidad, operated by a subsidiary of the British firm Rediffusion, and Radio 95 FM, both of which are broadcast over parts of the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands.

Electronic News Media

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has 17 Internet service providers and approximately 30,000 Internet users (according to the CIA Factbook). Several publications, including the islands' leading newspapers, are available online.


The thorn in Trinidad and Tobago's side lies in the battle between the government and the media over the fundamental freedom of the press. Journalists and other members of the press alike have fought an ongoing uphill battle to maintain the freedom that they are legally granted by the country's constitution. It will remain to be seen what measures the current and subsequent governments take to curb these freedoms. However, the ruling party faces a very determined group of professionals. The country's high level of literacy and the popularity of the nation's newspapers will significantly aid the press' fight to maintain its freedom.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Trinidad and Tobago, 2001." The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Office of Public Affairs, 2001. Available from http://

Farrell, Sheahan. "Trinidad and Tobago." The Trinidad Guardian. Available from

"News Sources from Trinidad and Tobago." Kidon Media-Link, 2002. Available from http://www.kidon. com/media-link.

Richards, Peter. "Regional Media Complain of Censorship." InterPress Service, 30 December 1999. Accession no. 85774. Available from

Solomon, Denis. "Move to Silence Catholic Church." Index on Censorship, 25 June 1999. Available from http:/ /

. "Panday Shows His Hand." Index on Censorship, 4 June 1999. Available from http://

. "'Sinister Auguries' for Free Speech." Index on Censorship, 15 May 1999. Available from http://

"Trinidad and Tobago: Port of Spain 2002." CCN Group, 2002. Available from

"Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago." Tourism and Industrial Development Company (Trinidad and Tobago) Limited, 2002. Available from

Williams, Sue. "Not Negotiable." UNESCO Sources, December 1996. Accession no. 9702230012. Available from MasterFILE Premier.

World Press Freedom Review. Vienna, Austria: International Press Institute, 2002. Available from http://

Mara Iutcovich

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Trinidadians and Tobagonians

Trinidadians and Tobagonians

PRONUNCIATION: tri-nih-DAD-ee-uhns (and) tah-bay-GO-nee-uhns

LOCATION: Trinidad and Tobago (TRI-nih-dad and tah-BAY-go)

POPULATION: 1.3 million

LANGUAGE: English; English-derived Creole with African and other elements; Hindi; Urdu; Spanish

RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; Church of England and Church of Scotland; Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Baptist, and other Protestant churches; Hinduism; Islam; Christian-African sects


The nation of Trinidad and Tobago consists of two Caribbean islands that have been united politically since 1962. (The people of both islands are generally referred to today as "Trinidadians.") The islands were originally inhabited by the Arawaks, Caribs, and other Amerindians. In 1498 they were claimed by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish, but Trinidad was ceded to the British by 1802. By 1814, Tobago, which had changed hands several times, was also a British possession. In 1888 Tobago was joined with Trinidad as a colonial territory under the name Trinidad and Tobago.

In the twentieth century, Trinidad's nationalistic hopes were symbolized by one revered leader, Eric Williams. In 1955, Williams founded the People's National Movement (PNM). Trinidad and Tobago became an independent member of the British Commonwealth in 1962 and a republic in 1976. Williams remained the head of the government until his death in 1981.

During the worldwide oil crisis of the 1970s, Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed a period of great prosperity and development thanks to offshore oil reserves. However, at the end of the decade, world oil prices declined, and the nation suffered an economic recession. Trinidad and Tobago still faces the challenge of stabilizing its economy and reducing its dependence on world oil prices.


Trinidad and Tobago are the southernmost islands of the West Indies. With an area of 1,864 square miles (4,828 square kilometers), Trinidad is the largest island of the Lesser Antilles. Three mountain ranges stretch across the country from east to west. Tiny Tobago is only about 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 7 miles (11 kilometers) wide. It consists of lowlands dominated by a chain of volcanic hills that runs the length of the island.

A little over 40 percent of Trinidad and Tobago's 1.3 million people are black, another 40 percent are of Asian Indian descent, about 15 percent are of mixed descent, and smaller numbers are Chinese or European.


English is the nation's official language. However, the common language of the great majority of residents is an English-derived Creole dialect that contains elements of African and other languages. Hindi and Urdu are spoken by segments of the Indian population. Spanish is spoken in some areas as well.

In Trinidadian Creole, the plural form of "you" is allyu, and the French-English ah wee means "ours." French expressions such as il fait chaud (literally, "it makes hot") and il y a (literally, "it there has") are mirrored in the Trinidadian "it making hot" and "it have," which is used for "there is."

Amerindian-derived words include the names of foodscassava, balata, and roocooas well as place names, including Guayaguayare and Carapichaima.


Trinidadian folklore includes devils in disguise, a wolfman named Lagahoo, and a variety of other figures. Folktales are told about Papa Bois, the ruler of the forest, and his son, Callaloo. Other folklore figures include Diablesse, a character comparable to Circe in Greek mythology. She attracts men and then turns them into hogs, after which they fall down a cliff.


About one-third of Trinidad and Tobago's population are Roman Catholic. Trinidadians of African descent also belong to the Church of England and a variety of other churches. The Baptist religion is especially popular on Tobago. Trinidad's Asian Indian community embraces the Hindu and Muslim religions.

There are also religious sects that combine Christianity with African religious beliefs and practices. The best known of these is Shango. It honors both Shango, the god of thunder and lightning, and Christian saints. Through dance and drumming, its priests, called mogbas, summon spirits known as orishas.


Due to the nation's religious diversity, Trinidad and Tobago has many public holidays. The major Christian holy days are observed. The Hindu holidays of Divali (pronounced "Duwali") and Ramleema are also recognized. The Muslim festival of Hosay has grown into a four-day festival that includes Trinidadian cultural features such as tassa drumming. Emancipation Day (August 1) and Independence Day (August 31) are secular holidays marking important dates in the nation's history.

Trinidad and Tobago's most important festival is its Carnival. This celebration is recognized as one of the world's most extravagant and colorful pre-Lenten celebrations. The entire nation participates in this 200-year-old tradition, which is held in the final two days preceding Lent (in February). The main activities take place in Port of Spain. Preparations begin months in advance. The participating groups, called "bands," plan their "mas" (short for "masquerade") costumes. Each band chooses a historical, cultural, fantastic, or folkloric theme. Hundreds of coordinated costumes are painstakingly debated, designed, and assembled.

Musical competitions between rival calypso and steel drum groups are held in the period leading up to Carnival. On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the King and Queen of Carnival are chosen based on their costumes. The Carnival festivities officially begin at dawn on Monday morning, called Jour Ouvert, or Joovay. They include massive parades by the organized "bands"each ranging from 500 to over 2,000 members. The climax of the celebration is the judging of the best costumed band.


Major life transitions, such as birth, marriage, and death, are marked by religious ceremonies appropriate to each Trinidadian's faith community.


Trinidadians are known for enjoying life, even in the face of hardship. When curfews were imposed in 1970, they held "Curfew fêtes (festivals)." When the country's economy suffered from falling oil prices in the 1980s, people threw "Recession fêtes."

Another aspect of this casual attitude can be seen in the practice called liming. (This is the counterpart of "hanging out" in the United States.) Trinidadian men have a long tradition of congregating at street corners, on front stoops, or near movie houses. They chat and pass the time as they take in the passing scene.

Long before it was heard in the United States, the phrase "Yo! Wha' appenin" was a common working-class greeting in Port of Spain, the capital city.


The traditional Trinidadian house, called an ajoupa, was built of thatch and mud. Today, most Trinidadians live in wooden houses with roofs of galvanized metal. The houses generally have three or four rooms. Almost all houses have indoor plumbing, and most have electricity. Several houses often share one yard.

There is a serious housing shortage in Trinidad and Tobago. Many city dwellers live in slums and tenement buildings


Women wield considerable authority within African families in Trinidad and Tobago. Many are heads of households. Common-law marriages are widespread within the African community.

Among the Indian population, large extended-family households are common. Even members of smaller households have a strong sense of obligation toward their relatives outside the nuclear family. Arranged marriages are common, and the man is always considered the head of the household. Divorce and remarriage for widows are discouraged.


Most Trinidadians wear modern Western-style clothing. The Caribbean "shirt jac," a belted jacket worn with a scarf and no shirt, is popular among men in Port of Spain. Traditional clothingincluding men's turbans and women's sarisis worn by some members of the country's Asian Indian population.

Every year special clubs spend months preparing extravagant costumes for Trinidad and Tobago's famous Carnival celebration. The brightly colored outfits may be made of either cotton or such dressy fabrics as velvet, satin, and lamé. They are often decorated with beads, feathers, sequins, shells, leaves, and straw.


The rich and varied cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago combines African, Asian Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and European influences.

One of the country's most popular foods is roti. (A recipe for the bread follows.) Roti is a flat bread, similar to the Indian naan, that is filled with curried beef, chicken, lamb, and beef, and cooked vegetables. Curried potatoes and chickpeas are added as well. Another favorite dish is sans coche, a pork stew served with dumplings. Callaloo is a mixture of okra and puréed dasheen leaves (also called callaloo greens), with either crab or salted pork added for flavor. Coocoo, a cake similar to cornbread, is made from corn flour and okra. The national beverage of Trinidad and Tobago is rum.


Formal educationwhich begins at age fiveis highly valued in Trinidad and Tobago. The country has a literacy rate of about 96 percent. About 75 percent of high-school-age students are enrolled in school. The University of the West Indies has a campus on Trinidad.


Two forms of native Trinidadian musiccalypso and steel drum musichave become famous throughout the world. Steel drum music originated when members of traditional African percussion bands began using discarded oil drums. The bottoms are cut off and the tops hammered into a convex shape marked by a pattern of dents that produce different pitches.

Probably the best-known Trinidad-born writer is V. S. Naipaul, author of such books as Miguel Street and A House for Mr. Biswas. Other well-known writers include Michael Anthony and Samuel Selvon. Derek Walcott, the 1992 Nobel laureate in literature, was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia but has spent much of his time in Trinidad.

Peter Minshall, a celebrated designer for Carnival masquerade bands, has also become well-known and well-respected in the international art world.


About 34 percent of the labor force in Trinidad and Tobago are employed in service-related jobs; 17 percent in trade; 15 percent in mining and manufacturing; 10 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; and the remainder in other occupations. Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago is carried out both on large mechanized farms and on small tracts of land worked by peasant farmers without modern farm machinery.




  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups water
  • Nonstick cooking spray


  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add water gradually until a dough is formed.
  2. Prepare a clean work surface (cutting board or counter top) by dusting it with flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on the floured surface.
  3. Wet a clean dish towel and wring it out well. Cover the ball of dough with the damp towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Shape the dough into 4 equal-sized balls. Working on the floured surface, form the roti by rolling each ball of dough into a circle about ½ inch thick.
  5. Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet over medium heat.
  6. Cook the roti, one at a time, until brown and puffy. Turn to brown other side.

Serve by wrapping the bread around a filling. Suggestions for fillings include curried chicken salad, or any other sandwich filling or vegetable combination.


Sports in Trinidad and Tobago reflect the historical influence of the British. Cricket is extremely popular, as is soccer (called "football"). Horse racing is very popular as well.


Music plays an important role in everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago. The latest calypso songs can be heard on radios and sound systems throughout the country. SoCacombining soul ("So-") and calypso ("-Ca")has been highly popular since the 1980s. Trinidadians also enjoy watching movies and television. American soap operas are especially popular.


The nation's artisans produce handbeaten copper jewelry, woven straw goods, pottery, woodcarvings, boldly printed fabrics, and other handmade goods.


There is a shortage of housing in the cities, which have difficulties in providing essential public services. High unemployment has led to social unrest, particularly among the country's youth. There has also been an increase in serious crime. Much of it is drug-and gang-related.


Bereton, Bridget. A History of Modern Trinidad. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books, 1982.

Meditz, Sandra W., and Dennis M. Hanratty. Islands of the Caribbean Commonwealth: A Regional Study. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.

Williams, A. R. "Trinidad and Tobago." National Geographic (March 1994), p. 6689.

Yelvington, Kevin, ed. Trinidad Ethnicity. London: MacMillan, 1992.


Interserv. Discover Trinidad and Tobago. [Online] Available, 1997.

World Travel Guide. Trinidad and Tobago. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Official name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Area: 5,128 square kilometers (1,980 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Aripo (Cerro del Aripo) (940 meters/3,085 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Trinidad: 143 kilometers (89 miles) from north to south; 61 kilometers (38 miles) from east to west. Tobago: 42 kilometers (26 miles) from northeast to southwest; 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from northwest to southeast

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 362 kilometers (225 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are located off the northeast coast of the South American continent, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and northeast of Venezuela. With an area of about 5,128 square kilometers (1,980 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware. Trinidad and Tobago is divided into eight counties, three municipalities, and one ward.


Trinidad and Tobago has no outside territories or dependencies.


The temperature varies minimally throughout the year. For the entire nation, the annual average temperature is 21°C (70°F). In Port-of-Spain, the capital, the minimum average temperature in January is 20°C (68°F) and the maximum is 30°C (86°F). In July, the temperature ranges from 23 to 31°C (73 to 88°F). In Trinidad's Northern Range, an increase in elevation causes a corresponding decrease in temperature. Nighttime temperatures are usually cool. For the most part, Tobago is cooler than Trinidad, owing to the more constant northeast trade winds.

Annual rainfall exceeds 250 centimeters (100 inches) in Trinidad's northern and central hill areas and throughout Tobago. In certain areas, the rainfall exceeds 380 centimeters (150 inches). Most hills receive 200 centimeters (80 inches) or more of rain, while in the lowlands the average is below 165 centimeters (65 inches). The wet season occurs between June and December, followed by a relatively dry season from January to May. The dry season is not a season of drought, however, since rain still falls every few days in most areas.


Trinidad and Tobago are situated on the continental shelf of South America and are geographically, but not geologically, part of the West Indies. Trinidad, the larger of the two, is within sight of the Venezuelan coast and was once a part of the mainland. Tobago, a few miles northeast of Trinidad, is part of a sunken mountain chain related to the continent. Trinidad, second-largest of the Commonwealth Caribbean islands, is roughly rectangular in shape with peninsular extensions at the northeast, northwest, and southwest corners. Tobago lies to the northeast of Trinidad and is separated from its sister island by a channel about 32 kilometers (20 miles) in width. Both islands sit on the South American Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Trinidad and Tobago islands are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea to the north and west and by the Atlantic Ocean to the east. In the Caribbean, southwest of Tobago, the Buccoo Reef houses coral gardens.

Sea Inlets and Straits

An oval-shaped body of water, the Gulf of Paria, separates Trinidad from Venezuela. The Gulf of Paria can be entered from the north by Dragon's Mouth Strait (Boca del Dragon) or from the south through Serpent's Mouth Strait (Boca de la Sierpe), both of which were named by Christopher Columbus.

Islands and Archipelagos

The Chacachacare and Monos Islands, as well as most of the numerous small islands close to the Trinidad shoreline, are located in or near the Dragon's Mouth Strait. Tobago has several small satellite islands. The largest are Little Tobago Island and St. Giles Island (Melville).

Coastal Features

On the north coast of Trinidad, the shoreline is heavily indented and the bays are rockbound. There is no coastal plain between the tidewater and the steep mountain cliffs. On the south, the water is shallow and the bays are narrow. The eastern coast is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and features several beaches. On the west, the land slopes gently from the Gulf of Paria to an interior of fertile hills and plains.

Although the town of Scarborough on Tobago is the only important port, there are several small harbors and the coastline is indented by numerous inlets and sheltered beaches.


There are no significant natural lakes, but extensive swamps occur along the eastern, southern, and western coasts on Trinidad. Some are mangrove swamps, separated from the sea by wide sandbars. The most extensive of the swamplands are the Caroni Swamp and the Oropuche Lagoon on the Gulf of Paria, and the Nariva Swamp on the Atlantic coast to the east. The waters of most rivers and streams ultimately drain through these swamplands.


Rivers and streams on Trinidad and Tobago are numerous but short. The longest rivers are located on Trinidad. The Ortoire is the nation's longest river, extending 50 kilometers (31 miles) eastward to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. The second-longest river, the Caroni at 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, runs westward to the Gulf of Paria in the north. The Navet River begins in the dead center of the island and flows east to the ocean. Flowing to the southern coast is the Inniss.

The only notable river on Tobago is the Courland River, which runs westward into the Caribbean Sea between the coral platform and the Main Ridge (a series of mountains near the northeastern coast).

There are several beautiful waterfalls in Trinidad and Tobago. The Blue Basin Falls and pool is located near Port-of-Spain, in the Diego Martin River. The Paria Waterfall is located on the Paria River.


There are no desert regions in Trinidad and Tobago.


The Caroni Plain, between the Northern and Central Ranges, is the country's most extensive lowland. South of the Central Range the land is undulating, with the Nariva Plain to the southeast and the Naparima Plain to the southwest. Each of the plains has a large swampy area: the Caroni Swamp, the Nariva Swamp, and the Oropouche Lagoon. Throughout the lowlands, the terrain ranges from flat to gently undulating. Narrow patches of coastal plain are found around the mouth of the Courland River on Tobago.

About 31 percent of the land is covered by forests, with four-fifths of this forestland owned or administered by the government. Much of this land is located in the hill regions.


Trinidad is traversed by three mountain ranges: the Northern Range, the Central Range, and the Southern Range. The principal mountain system is the Northern Range, a rugged chain that covers the entire northern portion of the island. It includes the highest point in the country, Mount Aripo (Cerro del Aripo), with an elevation of 940 meters (3,085 feet). The Central Range runs diagonally across the island. Average elevations for the Central Range are 61 to 152 meters (200 to 500 feet), with a maximum elevation at Mount Tamana: 307 meters (1,010 feet). Along the southern coast, the low and discontinuous Southern Range reaches a maximum elevation of a little less than 304 meters (1,000 feet) in the Trinity Hills of the southeast.

Tobago is generally mountainous. It has an uneven terrain dominated by the Main Ridge, a series of mountains near the northeast coast about 29 kilometers (18 miles) long, with elevations reaching a maximum of about 548 meters (1,800 feet). South of the Main Ridge on Tobago are lower hills in which rivers have cut numerous deep and fertile valleys. The southwestern part of the island consists of an extensive and fairly level coral platform.


The Aripo Caves near Mount Aripo are part of the most extensive cave system in Trinidad and serve as home to many different types of birds.

The Gasparee Caves are located on the offshore island of Gasparee. These caves were formed as the underground limestone deposits dissolved through a combination of wave action, acidic rainfall, and percolating groundwater. The Blue Grotto is one of the larger caverns of the Gasparee Caves. It is lined with stalactites and stalagmites that sometimes form columns where they have joined. The caves house bats, yellow-headed parrots, rufus-necked wood rails, and pelicans.


There are no significant plateau regions in Trinidad and Tobago.


There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of Trinidad and Tobago.



Bereton, Bridget. A History of Modern Trinidad. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books, 1981.

O'Donnell, Kathleen, and Harry S. Pefkaros. Adventure Guide to Trinidad & Tobago. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing, 1996.

Winer, Lise. Trinidad and Tobago. Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1993.


Williams, A.R. "Trinidad and Tobago." National Geographic, March 1994, 66-89.

Web Sites

Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. (accessed April 11, 2003).

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago (trĬn´Ĭdăd, təbā´gō), officially Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, republic (2005 est. pop. 1,088,000), 1,980 sq mi (5,129 sq km), West Indies. The capital is Port of Spain.

Land and People

The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad (1,864 sq mi/4,828 sq km) and Tobago (116 sq mi/300 sq km), and their small neighboring islands. Lying just north of the Orinoco River delta in Venezuela, Trinidad is largely flat or undulating except for a range of low mountains (the highest point is Mt. Aripo, 3,085 ft/940 m) in the north. Pitch Lake, in the southwest, is the world's largest (114 acres/46 hectares) basin of natural asphalt. Tobago, just NE of Trinidad, is the exposed top of a mountain ridge (maximum height 2,000 ft/610 m) that is densely forested with large reserves of hardwoods. The climate of both islands is warm and humid, and rainfall (from June to Dec.) is abundant, particularly where the trade winds sweep in over the eastern coasts. The population is mainly of South Asian or African descent (40% each), with a mixed-race minority. English is the official language, but Hindi, French, Spanish, and Chinese are also spoken. There are many religious groups, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Christian churches, Hindus and Muslims.


The most important exports are petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals, steel products, and fertilizer. Trinidad possesses sizable oil and gas reserves, and its prosperity is linked directly to the production of petroleum and petrochemicals. A peaking of petroleum production in the late 1970s and the decline in worldwide petroleum prices in the 1980s caused economic problems. However, increased exploitation of the country's natural gas reserves since the 1990s, as well as rising prices for oil, petrochemicals, and liquified natural gas, have caused an economic boom. The islands also have a significant tourist industry. Agriculture employs a smaller proportion of the population than industry and services; agricultural products include cocoa, rice, coffee, citrus fruit, and flowers. The main trading partners are the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil.


Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1976. It has a bicameral Parliament made up of a 31-seat appointed Senate and a 36-seat elected House of Representatives; all members serve five-year terms. The government is headed by a prime minister. The head of state is the president, who is elected by the members of Parliament for a five-year term. Aministratively, the country is divided into 9 regional corporations, 2 city corporations, 3 borough corporations, and 1 ward (Tobago).


Trinidad was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1498 but was not colonized because of the lack of precious metals. It was raided by the Dutch (1640) and the French (1677, 1690) and by British sailors. Britain captured it in 1797 and received formal title in 1802. Tobago had been settled by the English in 1616, but the settlers were driven out by the indigenous Caribs. The island was held by the Dutch and the French before being acquired by the British in 1803. The islands were joined politically in 1888.

Before becoming an independent nation in 1962, the islands were part of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–62). In 1976 Trinidad and Tobago became a republic. In 1986 the People's National Movement (PNM), which had held power for three decades, was soundly defeated by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR); party leader A. N. R. Robinson became prime minister. He survived a 1990 coup attempt by Muslim extremists, but discontent with Robinson's economic austerity program helped return the PNM to power in 1991, under Prime Minister Patrick Manning. After the 1995 elections, Basdeo Panday, of the United National Congress (UNC), formed a coalition with the NAR and became Trinidad's first prime minister of Asian Indian descent. He and the UNC were returned to power in the 2000 elections, but corruption charges and a party split led to elections in 2001. When the UNC and PNM each won half the seats in the parliament, the president appointed Patrick Manning as prime minister, but the split control of parliament resulted in a deadlock that prevented that body from convening. New elections in 2002, however, resulted in a majority for the PNM.

In 2005, opposition leader Panday and his wife were arrested on corruption charges in connection with an airport development project; UNC officials denounced the charges as politically motivated. Panday was convicted in 2006, of failing to disclose a British bank account he held with his wife. The judge in the case subsequently accused the chief justice of attempting to influence his decision, but the charges against the chief justice were dropped (2007) when the judge refused to testify; impeachment proceedings were also brought against the chief justice, who was cleared later in the year. Panday's conviction was overturned (2007) on appeal on the grounds that the judge's actions were indicative of bias.

Manning and the PNM remained in power following the 2007 parliamentary elections. When Manning called snap elections for May, 2010, the PNM was defeated by the People's Partnership coalition, which benefited from corruption scandals invovling the PNM. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who had succeeded Panday as UNC leader, became prime minister; she was the first woman to hold the post. Beginning in Aug., 2011, the government imposed several months of emergency rule in an attempt to halt a surge in violent crime connnected with the drug trade.


See G. Carmichael, The History of the West Indian Islands of Trinidad and Tobago, 1498–1900 (1961); J. K. Black et al., Area Handbook for Trinidad and Tobago (1976); S. B. MacDonald, Trinidad and Tobago: Democracy and Development in the Caribbean (1986).

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago Republic composed of the two southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles, in the se Caribbean; the capital is Port of Spain on Trinidad. The larger island of Trinidad lies only 11km (7mi) off the Venezuelan coast. It is mainly low plains with coastal mangrove swamps. In sw Trinidad lies Pitch Lake, the world's largest natural source of asphalt. The Spanish colonized the island in the 16th century, but it was ceded to Britain in 1802. Tobago lies 30km (19mi) ne of Trinidad. The island, dominated by a mountain ridge, is heavily forested. Scarborough is the principal town. Tobago was initially settled by the British in 1616. After Spanish, Dutch and French rule, in 1803 the island became a British possession. In 1833, Trinidad and Tobago were integrated into a single Crown Colony, becoming an independent state in 1962, and a republic in 1976. In 1990, Prime Minister Arthur Robinson was captured and later released in an attempted coup. After 1995 elections, the United National Congress and the Alliance for Reconstruction formed a coalition government, with Basdeo Panday as prime minister. Panday was re-elected in 2000. Oil and gas production, asphalt, and tourism dominate the economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$9500). Area: 5128sq km (1980sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,484,000.;

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TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. A Caribbean country and member of the COMMONWEALTH, consisting of the two major islands at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles, close to the South American coast. Languages: English (official), English Creole, and some Bhojpuri, HINDI, FRENCH, and SPANISH. Both islands were visited by Columbus in 1498. The Spanish settled in Trinidad in the 16c and the island was periodically raided by the French, British, and Dutch. In 1802, it was ceded to the British under the Treaty of Amiens. Tobago, after being colonized by Dutch, British, and French settlers, became a British colony of the Windward Islands group in 1814. It was administratively linked with Trinidad in 1899 and the joint territory became independent in 1962.

The term Trinidadian English refers to the variety of English used for formal communication by educated speakers of Trinidad and Tobago. Its lexical distinctiveness derives from the use of Spanish and of a French-based CREOLE before the arrival of English speakers, as well as from the influence of East Indian languages dating from the earlier 19c. Its phonetic characteristics result from pressure from the Trinidadian and Tobagonian English-based creoles with which it coexists. See CARIBBEAN ENGLISH, CARIBBEAN ENGLISH CREOLE.

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Culture Name

Depending upon which island in this twinisland state is being discussed, the culture name is "Trinidadian" or "Tobagonian."

Alternative Names

Trinidadians, but not Tobagonians, often refer to citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as "Trinidadians" or "Trinis," or occasionally in an effort to be inclusive, as "Trinbagonians."


Identification. Trinidad was named by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage to the New World. On the morning of 31 July 1498, he saw what appeared to him as a trinity of hills along the southeastern coast. The island was called Iere, meaning "the land of the hummingbird," by its native Amerindian inhabitants. Tobago's name probably derived from tabaco (tobacco in Spanish).

Trinidad (but not Tobago) is ethnically heterogeneous. Trinidadians and Tobagonians of African descent are called "Negro," "Black," or "African." Trinidadians of Indian descent are called "East Indian" (to differentiate them from Amerindians) or "Indian." More recently the terms "Afro-Trinidadian" (or "Afro-Tobagonian") and "Indo-Trinidadian" have gained currency, reflecting heightened ethnic claims to national status. Trinidadians of European ancestry are called "White" or "French Creole." There are a number of designations for those of blackwhite ancestry, including "Mixed," "Colored," "Brown," and "Red" among other terms. The term Creole, from the Spanish criollo, meaning "of local origin," refers to Blacks, Whites, and mixed individuals who are presumed to share significant elements of a common culture as well as biogenetic properties because most claim these designations do not represent "pure races." The term Creole thus tends to relegate non-Creoles like East Indians to a somewhat foreign status. Creole also serves to modify whiteness. The term "French Creole" refers to white families of long standing whether their surname is French-derived or not. The terms "Trinidad White" and "Pass as White" are sometimes used to deride those who are considered White in Trinidad but would not be so considered elsewhere. Trinidadians and Tobagonians (the population of Tobago is almost 100 percent of African descent) identify strongly with their home island and believe each other to be different culturally.

Location and Geography. Trinidad and Tobago are the southernmost islands in the Caribbean Sea. Trinidad is 1,864 square miles in area (4,828 square kilometers), and Tobago is 116 square miles (300 square kilometers). At its closest point, Trinidad is some seven miles from the coast of Venezuela on the South American mainland. Trinidad is diverse geographically. It has three mountain ranges, roughly parallel to each other, running east to west in the north, central, and south parts of the island. The mountainous north coast is heavily wooded. The central part of the island is more flat and is where sugar cane is grown. The EastWest corridor is an urbanindustrial conurbation from Port of Spain, the capital, in the west to Arima in the east. San Fernando in the south is Trinidad's second city. The Point Lisas industrial park is nearby. Scarborough is the capital of Tobago. Afro-Trinidadians and other Creoles predominate in urban areas and in the north of Trinidad; Indo-Trinidadians live mostly in the central and south parts of the island.

Demography. According to the 1990 census, the total population was 1,234,400. The two major ethnic groups are Blacks (39.59 percent of the population) and East Indians (40.27 percent). The remainder of the population in 1990 included Mixed, White, and Chinese.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English. At present, Trinidad is multilingual, with inhabitants speaking standard and nonstandard forms of English, a French-based creole, nonstandard Spanish, and Bhojpuri. Urdu is spoken in some rural areas. Arabic, Yoruba, Bhojpuri, Urdu and other languages are used in religious contexts, and the traditional Christmas music called parang is sung in Spanish. Trinidadians delight in their colorful speech and like to emphasize its distinctive use and development as a marker of identity. Standard and nonstandard English are spoken in Tobago.

Symbolism. The public symbols of the nation tend to evoke the themes of multiculturalism, unity in diversity, and tolerance. The national motto is "Together we aspire, together we achieve." The national anthem features the line "Here every creed and race find an equal place," which is sung twice for emphasis. Some public holidays and celebrations emphasize group contributions to the nation, including Independence Day (31 August), Emancipation Day (1 August; commemorating the ending of slavery), and Indian Arrival Day (30 May).

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Claimed by Columbus for Spain, Trinidad was a forgotten Spanish colony for three hundred years. Native Amerindians died upon contact with European diseases, were forcibly exported to the mainland to work in mines, and those who survived were subject to Spanish missions and labor schemes. The African slave population was small during Spanish rule. The Spanish Cedula de Población of 1783 was designed to convert Trinidad into a plantation colony. It attracted white and colored French planters who brought their African and African-descended slaves to cultivate sugar and cocoa. While controlled by Spain, Trinidad became French in orientation and dominant language use. Captured by the British in 1797, the island was formally ceded to Britain in 1802. British administrators, British planters, and their slaves added to the island's ethnic, national, and linguistic diversity. Enslaved Africans arrived from varied ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious groups from along the West African coast, while Creole slaves spoke a French or English creole, depending on their islands of origin. Spanish-speaking peon laborers from Venezuela arrived in the nineteenth century to clear forests and work in cocoa cultivation. Even before the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the end of the apprenticeship system for ex-slaves in 1838, free Africans arrived. Blacks from the United States also settled in Trinidad. From 1845 to 1917, about 144,000 indentured Indians were brought to the island. The majority were from the north of India and were drawn from a multiplicity of castes. The vast majority were Hindus, but there was a significant Muslim minority. Planters were encouraging Portuguese speakers from Madeira and Chinese from the Cantonese ports of Whampoa and Namoa to come as indentured laborers.

Tobago developed separately, with the Spanish, French, Dutch, English, and Courlanders all laying claim to the island at different times. Plantation agriculture based on enslaved labor existed alongside a significant peasant sector. The British colonies of Trinidad and Tobago were united administratively in 1889.

Under British colonialism there was a clear ethnic division of labor, with Whites as plantation owners, Chinese and Portuguese in trading occupations, Blacks and Coloreds moving into the professions and skilled manual occupations, and East Indians almost completely in agricultural pursuits. Blacks and East Indians were separated geographically, as many Blacks were urban-based and East Indians were more numerous in the agricultural central and south parts of the island. There was little if any intermarriage and little intermating between the two groups. These divisions dictated the course of national identity and nationalist politics.

National Identity. The political process has molded ethnic relations. Colonial discourses on African and Indian ancestral culture depicted Blacks as culturally "naked" and Indians possessing a culture, albeit an inferior one to European culture. Perhaps for this reason, Blacks have emphasized Western learning and culture and Indians have emphasized the glories of their subcontinental past. Despite imposed divisions, Blacks and East Indians united in the nationalist labor movements of the 1930s. However, politics quickly became contested terrain. Political parties and candidates appealed to ethnicity. Oxford-trained historian Eric Williams (19111981) started the People's National Movement (PNM) in 1955 with other middle-class Blacks and Creoles. Williams maintained that the PNM was a multi-ethnic party, but its interests were soon identified with Blacks. The PNM held power from 1956 until 1986, leading the country to independence in 1962. Its perpetual opposition parties were identified as "Indian," given the composition of their leaders and followers. Politics became an ethnic zero-sum game.

With independence, symbols of the state and nation were conflated with what was taken to be Afro-Trinidadian culture, such as Carnival, the steel band, and calypso musicturning the colonial hierarchy on its head. Deviating cultural practices, such as "East Indian culture," were labeled as unpatriotic and even racist. The country was depicted as a melting pot where races mixed under the rubric of "creolization." Those who did not were less than Trinidadian. A discourse of the past entered, centering on arguments over which group historically contributed most substantially to building the nation, which therefore is construed as legitimately belonging to that group. There were two opposing but related processes at work. First, an identification of nation, state, and ethnicity to construct a "non-ethnicity" where there are "Trinidadians" and then there are "others," that is, "ethnics." There is also the construction of ethnic and cultural difference to prove and justify contribution, authenticity, and citizenship. Through the mid-1990s, Afro-Trinidadians and Creoles were able to command this discourse, but East Indians began to mount a serious challenge. At the same time, there was even a small group claiming "Carib" Amerindian identity.

Ethnic Relations. Post-independence ethnic relations have involved contests to control the state and the allocation of resources. The PNM maintained dominance through a patronage network targeted at urban Blacks as recipients. This was accomplished by a tremendous state expansion facilitated by the oil boom of the 1970s, which led to one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Indo-Trinidadians were also able to take advantage of gains in education and fill lower-level state jobs. The government nationalized many industries, including sugar, which employed mainly Indians. A downturn in oil income severely limited state patronage opportunities. Albeit absent from formal politics, Whites, Chinese, Syrian, and some Indo-Trinidadian entrepreneurs control significant sectors of the economy. By 1986, several forces led to the formation of a black-Indian coalition party, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), that toppled the PNM. However, ethnic and personality strife broke the NAR apart, and the PNM won the next election. But by 1995, an Indian-based party, the United National Congress, barely prevailed, bringing to power the country's first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister, Basdeo Panday. While symbolic ethnic conflict seems to permeate daily life, it must be emphasized that Trinidad has never exploded in ethnic violence, as has its neighbor Guyana which has a similar demographic profile.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

In cities, glass and steel high rise office buildings mingle with colonial houses with gingerbread fret-work. The colonial Red House is the parliament building, and Woodford Square, the site of political rallies, sits opposite. Exclusive neighborhoods feature modern and colonial mansions with satellite dishes. Concrete public housing projects evoke their counterparts elsewhere and shanty towns exist on the urban periphery. Suburban developments are reminiscent of American ranch-style houses. The ever-present cacophony in urban areas is the result of cars, taxis, "maxi-taxi" minibuses, street vendors, pedestrians, and the homeless jamming the streets. Women develop stock responses to men's "sooting" (cat calls). Development in rural areas means concrete houses built on pilings to allow a breezeway and carport underneath.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Cuisine is ethnically marked. A typical Creole dish is stewed chicken, white rice, red beans, fried plantains, and homemade ginger beer. Indian food consists of curried chicken, potatoes, channa (chick peas), white rice, and roti, an Indian flatbread. Chinese food is typically chow mein. However, all of these are simultaneously regarded as national dishes and food metaphors are made to stand for the nation. Trinidadians are said by Creoles to be ethnically "mixed-up" like callaloo, a kind of soup made from dasheen leaves and containing crab. Crab and dumplings is said to be the typical Tobago meal. A society-wide concern for cleanliness is revealed when concerns over food preparation are voiced.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Indian food taboos and customs remain in some areas, while in others, the food customs are reinterpreted and take new form or are not relevant. A society-wide ethos valorizing generosity with food prevails, especially at ceremonial occasions. Trinidadian novelist V.S. Naipaul wrote in his travelogue The Middle Passage about Creoles that "Nothing is known about Hinduism or Islam. The Muslim festival of Hosein, with its drum-beating and in the old days stick-fighting is the only festival which is known; Negroes sometimes beat the drums. Indian weddings are also known. There is little interest in the ritual; it is known only that food is given to all comers." Creole knowledge of Indian rites is now considerable, as is their participation as guests at these events. Food is important in both Hindu and Muslim celebrations. In Christian families, sorrel, made from a flower, and ponche de creme, a kind of eggnog with rum, are typical Christmas drinks. Ham and pastelles are Christmas fare.

Basic Economy. Upon independence the PNM followed the colonial "industrialization by invitation" import substitution strategies to lure foreign capital and protect local manufacturers. The oil boom of 19741982 saw continuous real Gross Domestic Product growth averaging 6.1 percent a year, and during this time the government acquired and established a number of state enterprises, including oil and sugar companies. Government and private spending accelerated. Members of the expanding middle-class made frequent shopping trips to Miami and Caracas. The subsequent fall in oil prices meant losses in savings and foreign exchange, disinvestment, privatization, International Monetary Fund-directed trade liberalization policies, and general austerity. In the 1990s unemployment ran at more than 20 percent. Imported food and consumer goods are still prized. Agriculture occupations continued to decline as service industry occupations grew. By the end of the 1990s there was reason for optimism. In 1997, the economy grew by 4 percent, compared with a 1.5 percent contraction in 1993. Over the same period, inflation dropped to 3.8 percent from 13 percent. Income per capita (in 1990 dollars) rose from $3,920 to $4,290.

Land Tenure and Property. Land ownership is thoroughly commoditized and the government maintains significant holdings. The Sou-Sou Lands organization, named after a rotating credit association, redistributed land. Squatters remain in a number of areas. The Afro-Caribbean institution of "family land" exists in Tobago. A rural cooperative institution known as gayap is a means whereby some lands are cultivated and houses constructed.

Commercial Activities. There is considerable formal and informal market commercial activity in the sale of imported and locally-produced consumer goods. Towns like Chaguanas in central Trinidad have impressive high streets devoted to shopping. There are air-conditioned shopping malls around the country, supermarket chains, and small "mom and pop" shops ("arlors") with the owners living upstairs. Sales are fueled by a well-developed advertising industry and communications network. There are a number of regional open-air produce markets.

Major Industries. Government- and foreign-owned oil, natural gas, and iron and steel industries are the most important industries. A number of international goods are manufactured locally under license. Sugar is exported by the state firm. International tourism is underdeveloped in Trinidad, but government has taken steps for its promotion. Tobago is a growing international tourist destination.

Trade. Commodities sold on the international market include oil, steel, urea, natural gas, cocoa, sugar, and Angostura bitters. It is the world's second-largest exporter of ammonia and methanol. The major trading partner is the United States, but inroads were made in the late 1990s into Latin American markets.

Division of Labor. The traditional ethnic division of labor has tended to break down somewhat with time, but whites and other minorities have retained significant control of the economy. Firms owned by one ethnic group tend to have members of that group in management and as employees. State hiring is more credentials-based, despite the feeling among Blacks and Indians that certain sections of the public service are one or the other's preserve.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Given ethnic diversity and ethnic politics, the salience of class is often overlooked or even actively denied. In fact, ethnicity and class work in tandem. Blacks and Indians have lagged behind other racial groups in earning power. Caste for Indians broke down with migration, but informal claims to high caste ancestry are still made at times.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Status symbols tend to be Western symbolsmaterial possessions such as cars, the year model of which are designated by their license plates, houses, television sets, and dress. Education and use of standard English are key symbols of middle-class status. A tension exists between individualism and expectations of generosity. Upward mobility exposes one to community sanctions, captured by the proverb "The higher monkey climb, the more he show his tail."

Political Life

Government. The government of Trinidad and Tobago consists of a parliamentary democracy with an elected lower house and an appointed upper house. The prime ministerthe leader of the party with the most seats in parliamentholds political power. The appointed president is the official head of state. The Tobago House of Assembly retains some autonomy.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties have for the most part made their appeals on the basis of ethnicity, even if not overtly, and nationalism, rather than on class or ideology. Cases of corruption have been highly publicized. The media, including tabloid newspapers, is particularly aggressive in making corruption allegations.

Social Problems and Control. High unemployment, especially for youth, is a central problem, spawning others. Since the 1980s, crime is seen as a serious problem, especially violent property crimes connected to the sale and transhipment of illegal drugs. Some also blame cable television and the Internet for inculcating North American values and aspirations. In neighborhoods and villages, gossip exerts control, although one loses status for being "long eye" (envious) or a maco, someone who minds the business of others.

Military Activity. There is a small Defense Force and Coast Guard. These forces cooperate with the United States and other countries in drug interdiction.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

A number of programs exist with specific areas of interest. For instance, women's groups include Concerned Women for Progress, The Group, and Working Women. Servol is a Catholic organization based in Laventille, a slum area, that teaches job skills to youth. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is also active.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations range from influential religious groups, such as the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, a Hindu organization, to FundAid, an NGO that funds small businesses. Fraternal and civic organizations are very popular among the middle classes. Trade unions are very organized and influential.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women have made many gains in the last three decades: they now join men as lawyers, judges, politicians, civil servants, journalists, and even calypsonians. However, despite generally better educational levels, women earn less than men, especially in private industry. Men dominate as artisans, mechanics, and oilfield riggers. Many occupations are dominated by women, such as domestic service, sales, and some light manufacturing. Many women are microenterprise owners. Sexual harassment has been a societal issue since the 1980s.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Power differentials remain salient in different contexts. Afro-Trinidadian women enjoy some autonomy and power within domestic domains and are often heads of households. Women are said to dominate in "playin' mas'," participating in Carnival, where they demonstrate an assertive sexuality. Women are marginalized from leadership positions in the established churches, Hinduism, and Islam, but are influential in the Afro-Christian sects. Women run the sou-sou informal rotating credit associations. An active women's movement has put domestic violence, rape, and workplace sexual harassment on the public agenda.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage practices differ according to ethnicity and class, although for both blacks and Indians kinship is bilateral in structure. For the middle and upper classes, formal marriage with religious sanction is the norm. Legal recognition for Hindu and Muslim marriages came very late in the colonial period. In the past, East Indian women were betrothed in arranged marriages at young ages. Many Afro-Trinidadians entered into noncoresidential relationships, then common-law marriages, and then, later in life, formal marriage. There is evidence that this is changing, with the age of marriage for Indian women increasing along with their propensity to enter non-coresidential relationships, and the importance of arranged marriages greatly diminished. The prevalence of noncoresidential relationships is increasing for the upper classes as well. Many Indo-Trinidadians see creolization as tantamount to miscegenation. Given the persistence of colonial stereotypes of Blacks, there has generally been strong Indian resistance to intermarriage with Blacks.

Domestic Unit. As with marriage patterns, the domestic unit has historically varied with class and ethnicity. Upper class families are often multi-generational. Many working-class Afro-Trinidadian households are female-headed, and multi-generational. In the past, a married Indian couple lived with the husband's extended family; however, neolocal residence is increasingly seen as the preferred form.

Inheritance. Among East Indians and upper class others, inheritance was patrilineal. This has become more egalitarian in terms of gender. Among Afro-Trinidadians, inheritance patterns have not necessarily favored males. There are often disputes over the inheritance of land.

Kin Groups. Fictive kinship and godparenthood are important institutions. Most families have migrant kin abroad, some who play significant roles with visits and remittances.


Infant Care. Practices vary somewhat significantly according to ethnicity, class, and the age and education of the parents and/or caretakers. Middle class parents read North American child care books and often are knowledgeable of the latest trends. Still, there are some commonalities. For all groups, older siblings, kin, and neighbors often play significant roles. Infants are not confined to separate spaces or playpens and often sleep in the same bed as the caretaker. Infants are carried in arms from place to place. Strollers or prams are not used. Car seats for safety are becoming popular. Many toddlers are sent to pre-schools and nurseries by age two. Corporal punishment in public for toddlers is common.

Child Rearing and Education. Values inculcated vary by ethnicity, class, and the sex of the child. In general, caretakers, be they parents, grandparents, or other kin or fictive kin, are quick to discipline children. "Back chat" to an adult is not permitted. Children are expected to show that they are "broughtupsy" having decorum, but not to the point of being "social" (pretentious). A "harden" (disobedient) child or a wajang (rowdy, uncouth) youth involved in commesse (scandal, acrimony) is an embarrassment to the family. Boys are expected to be aggressive and, as they get older, sexually aware, but respectful to adults. Ideally, girls do not have free reign. Most girls are encouraged to emphasize physical beauty.

Higher Education. The society places a high value on higher education and many parents and kin make great sacrifices to enable students to reach their educational goals. In the past, training for white-collar professions was favored and emphasized, and titles and diplomas were fetishized. Status is attached to better secondary schools, such as Queen's Royal College (state) and Catholic Church-affiliated Saint Mary's College for boys and Saint Joseph's Convent for girls. The Trinidad campus of the regional, comprehensive University of the West Indies (UWI) is in Saint Augustine (other sites are in Barbados and Jamaica). UWI in Trinidad began in 1960 when the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture became the Faculty of Agriculture of the University College of the West Indies, University of London. Many citizens with higher education were trained abroad and they often emigrate permanently.


While class and ethnic differences matter, as do contexts, sociability and gregariousness are generally highly valued. Business settings require more subdued behavior, but it is not considered good form to talk about one's work endlessly at cocktail parties. Middle-class men receive status for offering their comrades imported Scotch whiskey. In general, punctuality is not expected. "Trinidad time" refers to habitual lateness and "jus' now" means "in a little while" but in practice can mean hours. On city streets it is common for men to verbally harass women and women generally lose status if they reply. In country districts, it is expected that one salutes passers by with a "good morning" or "good aftimiernoon." Slarly, one should begin phone conversations, address fellow passengers upon entering a taxi, and address occupants when entering a room or a home with a "good morning," "good afternoon," or "good night."


Religious Beliefs. The country is noted for its religiosity and religious diversity. In 1990, the majority religion was Roman Catholic, encompassing 29 percent of the population. The majority of Indians are Hindu, but many are Christians, resulting from Canadian Presbyterian missions in the nineteenth century. Evangelical Christian sects from North America are growing rapidly. American Muslim groups claim adherents. There are followers of Sai Baba and Rastafarians. Afro-Christian forms of worship are prevalent, such as the Orisha religion and the Spiritual Baptists, and worship in these is not exclusive of membership in established churches. There are folk beliefs in jumbies (ghosts, spirits). Official religious holidays include Divali (called Holi in India; Hindu), Eid (Muslim), Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day (30 March), Good Friday, Corpus Christi, and Christmas Day. The two days before Ash Wednesday, when Carnival is held, and Phagwa (Hindu) and Hosay (Muslim) are holidays for all intents and purposes.

Religious Practitioners. Religious leaders include imams (Muslim), pundits (Hindu), priests (Anglican and Catholic), Orisha and Spiritual Baptist leaders. There is a hierarchy in established churches, with a Catholic archbishop and an Anglican bishop at the head of those communities.

Ritual and Holy Places. On Holy Thursday night, thousands of Hindus pay homage to a carved wood statue of the Madonna at the Catholic church at Siparia. Weeks later, Catholics parade the same statue through the streets. In the past, Chinese came to honor the statue when it passed on the street. Places of worship, such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain and the Abbey of Mount Saint Benedict, a functioning monastery, are seen as holy places. The Caroni River, where Hindu cremations are held, is an important ritual and holy place.

Death and the Afterlife. Funerals and all-night wakes, called "sit-ups," are important social occasions. Obituaries are read on the radio. Cremation at the Caroni River is practiced for Hindu Trinidadians.

Medicine and Health Care

There is a national health service, but private medicine serves a large share of the population. Both are based on the Western bio-medical model. There are traditional healers, some related to Afro-Christian forms of worship. Many ordinary citizens use herbal teas and bush medicine for everyday ailments. Drug addiction and AIDS are seen as serious problems and the country has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world.

Secular Celebrations

Besides Emancipation, Independence, and Indian Arrival days, official secular holidays include New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Labour Day (19 June), when 1930s labor leader T.U.B. Butler and the trade union/nationalist movement are commemorated, and Boxing Day (26 December). The pre-Lenten Carnival is the biggest secular celebration.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The government supports Carnival, the Best Village competition (which includes dance, music, and drama), the National Youth Orchestra, the biennial Music Festival, and the National Museum.

Literature. An impressive literary tradition exists among writers who have mainly made their names and reputations abroad, including C.L.R. James, Ralph de Boissie`re, V.S. Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, Samuel Selvon, Earl Lovelace, Ismith Khan, Ramabai Espinet, and Michael Anthony. Calypso must count as oral literature. Contemporary calypsonians include the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, the Mighty Chalkdust, Gypsy, Black Stalin, Drupatee, Cro Cro, Calypso Rose, Super Blue, David Rudder, Crazy, Baron, Explainer, Sugar Aloes, and Denyse Plummer among many others. Relatively new music forms are Indian music-influenced "chutney" and "pitchakaree," performed by well-known singers such as Sundar Popo, Anand Yankaran, Heeralal Rampartap, Savitri Jagdeo, Vinti Mohip, Jagdeo Phagoo, and Ramraajee Prabhoo.

Graphic Arts. Trinidad's best known artist is perhaps the painter Michel Jean Cazabon (18131888). Some of the better-known artists of the past few decades are Dermot Louison, M.P. Alladin, Sybil Attek, Amy Leong Pang, Pat Chu Foon, and the sculptor Ralph Baney. Active living artists include Carlisle Chang, LeRoy Clarke, Boscoe Holder, Francisco Cabral, Pat Bishop, Isaiah Boodhoo, Ken Crichlow, Wendy Naran, and Jackie Hinkson. A younger generation includes Eddie Bowen, Kathryn Chang, Chris Cozier, and Che Lovelace. A recent appreciation of untrained artists has resulted in the establishment of the Museum of Popular and Folk Art.

Performance Arts. Carnival is Trinidad's most noteworthy performance art, attracting tourists, emigrated Trinidadians, and scholars from abroad. Masquerade designer Peter Minshall is one of the best known internationally. He was artistic director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony in the United States. Live calypso and steelband performances occur in the Carnival season (Christmas through Lent). A dance performance tradition centers around Beryl McBurnie and the Little Carib Theatre.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

In 1961, the UWI Faculty of Engineering opened. In 1963, teaching in the arts, natural, and social sciences began. There are a number of research institutes, such as the Centre for Ethnic Studies, the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, and the Institute of Social and Economic Research. In Tobago the government-run Hospitality and Tourism Institute offers tourism training. Some locallybased social scientists are very visible as pollsters, newspaper columnists, and television analysts.


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LaGuerre, John G., ed. Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad, 1985 [1974].

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Miller, Daniel. ModernityAn Ethnographic Approach: Dualism and Mass Consumption in Trinidad, 1994.

Oxaal, Ivar. Black Intellectuals and the Dilemmas of Race and Class in Trinidad, 1982.

Reddock, Rhoda E. Women, Labour and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago: A History, 1994.

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Kevin A. Yelvington

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago (neighbouring islands) lie off the coast of Venezuela and form an independent republic within the Commonwealth. Trinidad was discovered by Columbus and colonized by Spain. In 1797 it was captured by Sir Ralph Abercromby and ceded in 1802. Tobago, originally a Dutch colony, was taken from the French in 1793, restored by the treaty of Amiens in 1802, and recaptured in 1803. The islands were united in 1888 and became independent in 1962. The capital is Port of Spain and the population is more than 1¼ million. The main economic resources are oil, natural gas, and tourism.

J. A. Cannon

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago


The population of Trinidad is estimated to be 43 percent black, 40 percent Indian, 14 percent of mixed descent, 1 percent European, and 2 percent Chinese and other. Tobago is predominantly black.

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