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About Trinidad & Tobago

Home  -  About Trinidad & Tobago

Geography

Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island nation located in the Caribbean Sea just north of Venezuela. It is the southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. Trinidad is located on latitude 10½°N, longitude 61½°W and has a total area of 4828 square kilometers. Tobago is located on latitude 11°N, longitude 60°W and has a total area of 300 square kilometers.

The capital city of the country is Port of Spain, situated in Trinidad. Other important cities include Chaguanas and San Fernando in Trinidad and Scarborough in Tobago.

The climate is tropical, with a dry season from January to May and a wet or rainy season from June to December. The temperature ranges from 21 to 31 degrees Celsius and northeast trade winds are common.

The country is just south of the hurricane belt and rarely experiences hurricanes. The annual rainfall is about 200 cm (40 inches) over most of the country.

Climate

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 experiences hurricanes.

Temperatures range between 25-30 degrees Celsius during the day and northeast trade winds are common.

History

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 islands.

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.

Government

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.

Economy

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 modern.

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 and tourism.

People

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 adherents (5.8%).

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.