Emma Okocha…..Dateline, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Trinidad and Tobago, the most industrialized English speaking Caribbean nation, like Venezuela is an oil producing state. With an economy which has transitioned from oil to a natural gas based economy, Trinidad and Tobago is also like Barbados, a window to the Caribbeans. Â
In 2007, the island’s natural gas production averaged four billion standard cubic feet per day.Â In December 2005, the Atlantic LNG fourth production module for liquefied natural gas [LNG] began production.Â With over 50% increment in the Atlantic LNG’s overall output capacity, at 5.2 tons a year, Trinidad and Tobago can boast of the largest LNG train in the world. With this explosion, she has become the number one gas exporter to the United States.
Before we address the social benefits accruing to the people and what the government of this nation have provided for the people, as a result of the mammoth oil and gas earnings, let’s remember that the name Trinidad was the original creation of Christopher Columbus who landed here in 1498, foraging the seas and the coastlines for a route to India. After him, more Spaniards arrived and fell upon the native Arawaks and decimated them.
A country of some I. 3 million, with a mixed population of Indians and the Chinese from the far East, descendants of African slaves, some 2500 Arabs who since the Ottoman Empire have continuously fled the Middle East, running away from religious persecution, or have simply gotten tired of unending wars. These are usually Christians from Syria and Lebanon.
Then there are other South American locals, the Amerindians, and of course, few white Europeans of French, Dutch, British, Spanish and Portuguese origins. These group are mainly found in the island of Tobago, the island that changed hands twenty- two times, as the French, Dutch, British or Spanish fought each other for the control of this tiny island.
Eventually, in 1803 the British took over the island and in 1888, incorporated Tobago and Trinidad under oneÂ nation. In 1962, Trinidad and Tobago attained its Independence and was proclaimed a Republic in 1976.
Embarking on a tight monetary policy and economic reforms, avoiding deficit spending Trinidad and Tobago in 1992, opened up the Investment Climate, and eliminated almost all the investment barriers inside the island.
Consequently, it has managed to independently win a fair monetary exchange with the dollar, exchanging some six or seven Trinidad dollars for one US dollar. At the same time, Guyana with a lot of hardwood lumbar, diamonds and gold is probably exchanging her own two hundred national currency for one US dollar! Jamaica is not doing so well. Her exchange ratio is between eighty -five to ninety Jamaican to one US dollar!
The oil money has indeed restrained the island from kowtowing to the growing influence of her equally rich South American neighbor, Venezuela.
We observe that while most of the wobbling tiny and moderate sized entities of the Caribbean have succumbed to the Venezuela cross border largess to prop up their sagging economies, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is yet to enter into any agreement with Venezuela. It is yet to sign for any Petrocarib favor as promoted in this region, by President Hugo Chavez.
On the other hand, the nationals of this country enjoy free education all the way to university level, they can go to any hospital and be treated by the best and all the services are free. The infrastructure is good by Caribbean standards. The Ministry of Works estimates that an average citizen spends about four hours in traffic per day, thereby saving a lot of man hours for the Labor department.
The Caribbean Airlines is the national airlines of Trinidad and Tobago and in May , 2010, she also acquired the ailing Jamaican Airways. Workers on retirement enjoy all sorts of pensions. In addition to that, the state provides its people some mouth watering Social Security benefits which is exclusive to this island and its peoples.
NEXT WEEK: Ambassador John Musa and Nigeria -Caribbean Relations