Democracy prevails as Trinidad and Tobago changes leadership
Ever since Columbus first saw the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in 1498, during his third voyage to the Caribbean, the major European colonial powers have fought over and exchanged ownership and control of the islands many times. Trinidad had a much less turbulent time than Tobago with the island being a Spanish colony from its initial European discovery by Columbus until 1797, when the British invaded and captured the island without resistance. This British ownership was solidified with the signing of the Treaty of Amiens between the Kingdoms of Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and France in 1802. Tobago was combined with the island of Trinidad in 1889 to form one colony.
Unlike Trinidad, possession of Tobago changed many times with the Spanish, Dutch, French, Courlanders and British all fighting for ownership of the island at one time or another until the British consolidated their ownership during the Napoleonic Wars. In total Tobago changed hands twenty-two times between 1626 and 1814. Maybe it was the azure waters and natural white sand beaches, the central ridge equatorial rainforest, the absence of a large indigenous population, the proximity to the larger island of Trinidad and the South American mainland or the presence of a large numbers of bays and inlets that provided safe anchorages that prompted the constant fighting over ownership.
The colony of Trinidad and Tobago remained under British stewardship until 1962 when the islands gained Independence from their colonial masters. This Independence was further strengthened in 1976 with the island nation becoming a Republic and replacing the Queen of the United Kingdom as the head of state with a non-executive President. Despite the move to Independence and then Republicanism the new nation adopted the Parliamentary method of governance modelled after the British Westminster system. This system is a bicameral one consisting of a lower house comprised of elected representatives (House of Representatives) and an upper house consisting of selected senators (Senate). The political party that has the most elected representatives in the lower house forms the Government with that party’s political leader also becoming the Prime Minister. Furthermore the Government has the privilege of selecting sixteen (16) of the thirty one (31) senators within the Upper House. Of the remaining fifteen senators six (6) are nominated by the Opposition party and nine (9) are appointed as Independents by the President of the Republic.
In keeping with the well-entrenched democratic traditions that have become the norm after Independence, Trinidad and Tobago held General Elections on September 7th 2015. These elections saw the incumbent Peoples Partnership (PP) party losing to the Peoples National Movement (PNM) who consequently formed the new Government in the 11th Republican Parliament. On September 15th 2015, the new Government approved a policy framework which is meant to serve as a guide to the planning activities of the various Ministries and state bodies responsible for managing the country’s affairs. Within the policy framework the Government has identified certain key industries within which they intend to work very closely. The key industries identified are -
- Agriculture and Agro-processing
- Maritime Services - shipbuilding, ship repair, dry-docking and yachting services
- Fishing and Fish Processing
- Aviation Services - aircraft maintenance and repair
- The Creative Industries -film, music, entertainment, fashion and design
- Software Design and Applications – making Trinidad and Tobago a technology and innovation centre
- Financial Services - to be developed through the initiatives of the Trinidad and Tobago International Finance Centre (TTIFC)
Despite the identification of the specific industries listed above, the Government within their policy framework has also articulated on rebuilding and sustaining growth in the Manufacturing sector through:
- Appropriate strategies to create and sustain a more enabling environment to facilitate increased global competitiveness of local businesses. Trinidad and Tobago despite having been named as one of the global top ten reformers in the ease of doing business by the World Bank in their 2015 report will continue to implement measures to ensure the country continues to improve.
- Proactively addressing the challenges faced by manufacturers including shortages of skilled labour, difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange, reduction of bureaucracy, speedy processing of customs documentation, trade liberalisation and other regulatory issues affecting competitiveness and the ease of doing business. As the hub of manufacturing within the Caribbean region all issues facing manufacturers will be addressed to ensure the continuance of leadership within the region and ability to compete beyond the region.
- Encouraging and facilitating linkages between local manufacturers and exporters within the diaspora in Canada, the USA and the UK, as a catalyst to entry and penetration in these markets. Trinidad and Tobago will also provide export assistance with the intent of allowing easier market access via its in-force trade agreements to an almost one billion person international market.
- Creation of synergies between the energy, manufacturing, services and creative sectors
- Market Access for manufacturers into the Latin American market via trade facilitation, negotiation of market access, investment treaties, promotional tours, trade diplomacy and Government to Government arrangements. Trinidad and Tobago is currently negotiating trade agreements with Guatemala and El Salvador to complement the agreements already in place with Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
- Improvement and streamlining of the operations at the air and sea ports for easy import and export of materials and goods.
Provision of viable Real Estate through:
The completion of the Tamana InTech Park
and the Piarco Aero Park
in Trinidad and the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park
The upgrade of all existing industrial estates
The establishment of new industrial estates in designated new growth areas throughout Trinidad and Tobago
The specificity of the policy framework with respect to industrial growth seeks to add focus to the country’s economic diversification however the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that they intend to maintain a stable, growing economy through which all industries and businesses can flourish.