. . . an overview
The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago consists of the two southernmost islands in the Caribbean archipelago. The country lies just off the northeastern shoulder of Venezuela, an OPEC-member country, on the South American mainland. The larger island, Trinidad, is 4,827 sq. km. The capital, Port of Spain, is on the island of Trinidad. The island of Tobago has an area of 297 sq. km., with Scarborough as its main civic center.
The economy of Trinidad & Tobago is very stable, and the country has earned a "most favored nation" status with the United States. It is considered a "safe" place to invest by the U.S. State Department, and has earned an investment grade credit rating from Standard & Poor's. The USA is the country's major trading partner, accounting for 57 percent of its exports, and 41 percent of its imports.
To move quickly into the mainstream western economy, the present day government of Trinidad incorporated privatization laws into its constitution, and adopted business contract laws that mirror those in Great Britain and the United States of America.
Trinidad & Tobago has a long history of industry. Sugar and rum were early commodities. Since 1908 petroleum exploration, production and refining have been a mainstay of the economy. Light manufacturing and assembly followed in 1950, and petro-chemical production began in the 1960's.
The nation's manufacturing activities include production of ammonia, methanol, urea, iron, steel and cement. The light manufacturing sector includes a wide range of goods such as nails, garments, household appliances, processed food, adhesive and cosmetics.
Tourism also accounts for a large part of the country's income.
Oil Production &
Trinidad is a significant producer of oil and natural gas. Oil was first discovered in Fyzabad, a southern district, in the late 1800's. The southern section of the island is considered synonymous with oil production.
Traditionally, oil refining in the country was centered around two major refineries, originally owned and operated by Texaco at Pointe-a-Pierre, and Shell at Point Fortin.
In 1974 the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago purchased Texaco's refinery. At that time, only 65,000 barrels of local crude were available for the refinery. Since 1988 the local refinery has imported crude to improve the economics of the industry and utilize the excess refinery capacity. Recently the government negotiated two contracts with Venezuela to process crude at both refineries.
The Pointe-a-Pierre refinery has now been upgraded and retrofitted with new technology, enabling it to produce a higher quality product, which meets the specifications demanded by USA and European markets. The modernized facility can process 160,000 barrels of oil per day. Because the refinery imports 36 percent of its oil to maximize throughput, local crude is in high demand.
Trinidad enjoys the most cosmopolitan mix in the Caribbean. At last census count, the population was 1,234,400. Descendents of African and Indian origin comprise 80 percent of the population. The remainder is divided among people of mixed races and persons of European, Chinese, Syrian and Lebanese descent. The Europeans who reside in the country are chiefly of British, French, Spanish and Portuguese origin.
The people enjoy freedom to worship under the Constitution of the Republic. Principal religions are Roman Catholic, Hindu, Anglican and Muslim.
English is the official language of the country. Trinidad & Tobago has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with an adult literacy rate of 96 percent.
Formerly a British Colony, the country of Trinidad and Tobago became self-governing in 1956, and gained independence on August 31, 1962. On August 1, 1976, the country became the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and remains within the Commonwealth of Nations.
Under the Constitution, legislative power is vested in the Parliament, which consists of the President, the Senate and House of Representatives. Elections are held at least every five years. The country has a long tradition of democracy. Since independence, elections have been held as required by the Constitution.
Judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, which consists of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeals.
Trinidad is cooled by Northeast Trade Winds. Located at 10 degrees 30 minutes N and 61 degrees 30 minutes W it lies virtually out of the hurricane alley. Temperatures range from 21 degrees C. to 32 degrees C. year-round.