Trinidad and Tobago experiences two seasons – the dry season from
January to May and the wet or rainy season, from June to December.
Between mid September to mid October the rain is interrupted by
sunshine, a period referred to as Petit Crème. Annual rainfall is
about 200 cm (40 inches) over most of the country.
Trinidad and Tobago is just south of the hurricane belt and rarely
Temperatures range between 25-30 degrees Celsius
during the day and northeast trade winds are common.
Trinidad was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1498 but was not
colonized because of the lack of precious metals. The island was
inhabited by Amerindian tribes called Caribs and Arawaks. These
inhabitants were displaced by the Spanish. 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 was 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.
Under the British, the country was a sugar plantation and the British
imported labour to work these plantations. At first labour was brought
from Africa, after slavery was abolished in 1833, Chinese and Indian
indentured labourers were introduced. Today’s society is a melting pot
of descendents of all the different peoples that settled in these
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. As an independent country, it has followed the
democratic tradition and strives to maintain a stable and progressive
political, economic and social environment.
Trinidad and Tobago follows the Westminster model of government
and upholds the traditions of parliamentary democracy it inherited
from Britain. The country gained independence in 1962 and became a
republic in 1976. It is a member of the British Commonwealth.
Executive power lies with the President (Head of State) and the Prime
Minister (Head of Government) and his Cabinet.
The President of Trinidad and Tobago is elected for a five year
renewable term by an Electoral College consisting of members of the
House of Representatives and the Senate. The President appoints the
Prime Minister who is usually the person with the most support among the
elected members of the House of Representatives. The Cabinet is
appointed from among the Members of Parliament which constituted elected
Members of the House of Representatives and appointed Members of the
Senate. General elections are held at least every five years. The
minimum voting age is 18 years old.
Legislative power lies with the bicameral body called the Parliament. It
is comprised of the Senate (31 seats) which is appointed members of
Parliament and the House of Representatives (41 seats) which are elected
members of Parliament. The Senate’s members are appointed by the
President; sixteen on the advice of the Prime Minister, six in the
advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine independents are
selected by the President.
Elected councils administer the nine regional, two city, and three
borough corporations on Trinidad.
The Judiciary is independent of the Government and is composed of the
Supreme Court and district courts. This is guaranteed by the
Constitution which provides for the entrenched protection of fundamental
human rights and freedoms.
Tobago has its own elected House of Assembly responsible for the
administration of the island, and for the implementation of policies
that are referred by Parliament.
Trinidad and Tobago is a democracy with multiple political parties.
Since independence there have been numerous political parties and over
the years some have merged or ceased to exist. Some of the most active
political parties include the People’s National Movement (PNM), the
United National Congress (UNC), the National Alliance for Reconstruction
(NAR), the Congress for the People (COP) and others.
Trinidad and Tobago has the most industrialized and diversified
economy in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
There are large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, and well
developed heavy industries – iron and steel, methanol and nitrogenous
fertilizers and petroleum products.
Air, sea and land transportation links are excellent, and
telecommunications links with the Americas and Europe are completely
During the 1970’s, high world oil prices created a rapid expansion of
the local economy, with real GDP growing by 72.5% between 1970 and 1977.
These were the boom years in Trinidad and Tobago and much of the
country’s infrastructure was developed during this period. However,
depressed oil prices coupled with high levels of public expenditure led
to a prolonged period of economic contraction which began in 1988 and
finally ended in 1993.
Now, after a period of radical economic adjustment under International
Monetary Fund and World Bank supervision, the government economic policy
is well in line with prevailing market principles: trade liberalism,
open market-driven economy, rationalization of public sector, promotion
of private enterprise and foreign investment, and development of exports
The population of Trinidad and Tobago is 1.3 million people.
About 4% of the population resides in Tobago. The ethnic composition
include East Indians (40%), Africans (40%), mixed (15%) and others
(5% - including white, Chinese, Syrian and Lebanese).
The official language is English. In 2004 Spanish was declared the
official second language partly because of our close proximity to Latin
America. Other languages spoken that are spoken by some were passed down
from the foreign laborers introduced to the islands under the colonial
rule include patois, a local French dialect, Hindi and Chinese.
Christianity (56%) and Hinduism (23%) are the two predominant religions
adhered to in Trinidad and Tobago. There is also a minority of Muslim
The historical legacy of the country has resulted in a rich multi
cultural society where people of different ethnicities – East Indians,
Africans, Anglo, Syrian, Lebanese, Chinese, Amerindian, French Creole -
and religious backgrounds live in harmony and often take part in each
other’s socio-religious celebrations.