Trinidad and Tobago - Geography
Official Name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Capital City: Port of Spain
Area: 5, 128 sq km
Country Population: 1 305 000
Official Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)
Religions: Roman Catholics, Hindus and others
Land forms: The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying northeast of the South American country of Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. It shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.
The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous smaller landforms. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands; Tobago is much smaller. The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point in the country is found on the Northern Range at El Cerro del Aripo which is 940 m above sea level. Main ports: Port of Spain, Scabrous, Tembladora, Point a Pierre, Point Lisas.
Land division: Trinidad and Tobago is split into Regional Corporations and Municipalities. There are 9 corporations and 5 municipalities.
Trinidad and Tobago - History
Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin. Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7,000 years ago, making it the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean. Ceramic-using agriculturalists settled Trinidad around 250 BC and then moved further up the Lesser Antillean chain. At the time of European contact Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan-speaking groups including the Nepoya and Suppoya, and Cariban-speaking groups such as the Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi. Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on 31 July 1498.
In the 1700s, Trinidad belonged as an island province to the vice royalty of New Spain along with modern Mexico and Central America (Besson, 2000). However Trinidad in this period was still mostly forest, populated by a few Spaniards with their handful of slaves and a few thousand Amerindians.
In 1797, General Sir Ralph Abercromby and his squadron sailed through the Bocas and anchored off the coast of Chaguaramas. The Spanish Governor Chacon decided to capitulate without fighting. Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population and Spanish laws (Besson, 2000). The conquest and formal ceding of Trinidad in 1802 led to an influx of settlers from England or the British colonies of the Eastern Caribbean. The sparse settlement and slow rate of population increase during Spanish rule and even after British rule made Trinidad one of the less populated colonies of the West Indies with the least developed plantation infrastructure.
Indentureship of the Indians lasted from 1845 to 1917, over which more than 147,000 Indians were brought to Trinidad to work on sugarcane plantations. They added what was initially the second largest population grouping to the young nation and their labour developed previously underdeveloped plantation lands.
Columbus reported seeing Tobago on the distant horizon, which he named Bellaforma, but did not land on the island. The name of Tobago is thought to probably be a corruption of its old name, "Tobaco". The Dutch and the Courlanders had established themselves in Tobago in the 16th and 17th centuries and produced tobacco and cotton. Tobago changed hands between British, French, Dutch and Courlanders from modern-day Latvia. Britain consolidated its hold on both islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and they were combined into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889. As a result of these colonial struggles, Amerindian, Spanish, French and English place names are all common in the country. African slaves and Chinese, Indian, and free African indentured labourers, as well as Portuguese from Madeira, arrived to supply labour in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Emigration from Barbados and the other Lesser Antilles, Venezuela, Syria, and Lebanon also impacted on the ethnic make-up of the country.
Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation (from the United Kingdom) in 1962. The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II profoundly changed the character of society. In the post-war period, the wave of decolonisation that swept the British Empire led to the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence. Chaguaramas was the proposed site for the federal capital. The Federation dissolved after the withdrawal of Jamaica and the government chose to seek independence on its own.
In 1976, the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth, though it retained the British Privy Council as its final Court of Appeal. Between the years 1972 and 1983, the Republic profited greatly from the rising price of oil, as the oil-rich country increased its living standards greatly. In 1990, 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, led by Yasin Abu Bakr, formerly known as Lennox Phillip, stormed the Red House (the seat of Parliament), and Trinidad and Tobago Television, the only television station in the country at the time, and held the country's government hostage for six days before surrendering.
Trinidad and Tobago - Economy
Trinidad's economy is strongly influenced by the petroleum industry. Tourism and manufacturing are also important to the local economy.Tourism is a growing sector, although not proportionately as important as in many other Caribbean islands. Agricultural products include citrus, cocoa, and other products.
Recent growth has been fueled by investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), petrochemicals, and steel. Additional petrochemical, aluminum, and plastics projects are in various stages of planning. Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is heavily dependent upon these resources but it also supplies manufactured goods, notably food and beverages, as well as cement to the Caribbean region. Oil and gas account for about 40% of GDP and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment. The country is also a regional financial center, and the economy has a growing trade surplus. The expansion of Atlantic LNG over the past six years created the largest-single sustained phase of economic growth in Trinidad and Tobago. It has become the leading exporter of LNG to the United States, and now supplies some 70% of U.S. LNG imports.
Trinidad and Tobago has transitioned from an oil-based economy to a natural gas based economy. In 2007, natural gas production averaged 4 billion standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d), compared with 3.2 bcf/d in 2005. In December 2005, the Atlantic LNG fourth production module or "train" for liquefied natural gas (LNG) began production. Train 4 has increased Atlantic LNG's overall output capacity by almost 50% and is the largest LNG train in the world at 5.2 million tons/year of LNG.
Trinidad and Tobago's infrastructure is good by regional standards. The international airport in Trinidad was expanded in 2001. There is an extensive network of paved roads with several good four and six lane highways including one controlled access expressway. Nevertheless, even though most roads are paved, the island is in contact gridlock, a situation which leads to loss of productive hours. The Ministry of Works estimates that an average Trinidadian spend 4 hours in traffic per day. Emergency services are reliable, but may suffer delays in rural districts. Private hospitals are available and reliable. Utilities are fairly reliable in the cities. Some areas, however, especially rural districts, still suffer from water shortages. The government is addressing this problem with the construction of additional desalinization plants.
Trinidad and Tobago - Culture
It is also the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan, which is widely claimed in Trinidad and Tobago to be the only acoustic musical instrument invented during the 20th century. The diverse cultural and religious background allows for many festivities and ceremonies throughout the year.
Trinidad and Tobago claims two Nobel Prize-winning authors, V.S. Naipaul and St Lucian-born Derek Walcott. Edmundo Ros, the "King of Latin American Music", was born in Port of Spain. Designer Peter Minshall is renowned not only for his Carnival costumes, but also for his role in opening ceremonies of the Barcelona Olympics, the 1994 Football World Cup, the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 2002 Winter Olympics, for which he won an Emmy Award.
Trinidad and Tobago - Political system, law and government
Trinidad and Tobago is a republic with a two-party system and a bicameral parliamentary system based on the Westminster System. The Head of State of Trinidad and Tobago is the President, currently George Maxwell Richards. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister Patrick Manning. The President is elected by an Electoral College consisting of the full membership of both houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister is elected from the results of a general election which takes place every five years. The President is required to appoint the leader of the party who in his opinion has the most support of the members of the House of Representatives to this post; this has generally been the leader of the party which won the most seats in the previous election (except in the case of the 2001 General Elections). Tobago also has its own elections, separate from the general elections. In these elections, members are elected and serve in the Tobago House of Assembly.
The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate (31 seats) and the House of Representatives (41 seats). The members of the Senate are appointed by the president. Sixteen Government Senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, six Opposition Senators are appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine Independent Senators are appointed by the President to represent other sectors of civil society. The 41 members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people for a maximum term of five years in a "first past the post" system.
Since 24 December 2001, the governing party has been the People's National Movement led by Patrick Manning; the Opposition party is the United National Congress led by Basdeo Panday. Another recent party is the Congress of the People, or COP, led by Winston Dookeran. Support for these parties appears to fall along ethnic lines with the PNM consistently obtaining a majority Afro-Trinidadian vote, and the UNC gaining a majority of Indo-Trinidadian support. COP gained 23% of the vote but failed to win a single seat. At present the PNM holds 26 seats in the House of Representatives and the UNC Alliance (UNCA) holds 15 seats, following elections held on 5 November 2007. There are 14 municipal corporations (two cities, three boroughs, and nine Regions) which have a limited level of autonomy. The various councils are made up of a mixture of elected and appointed members. Elections are due to be held every 3 years, but have not been held since 2003, 4 extensions having been sought by the government. Local Government elections are next due in July 2010.
Trinidad and Tobago is a leading member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), of which only the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) is in force.