Trinidad and Tobago
Capital city: Port of Spain
Land area: 5,131 km²
Official language: English
Legal system: English common law
Time zone: GMT-4
Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)
GDP: 27.00 USD Billion (2021 est.)
Main industries: petroleum and petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG), methanol, ammonia, urea, steel products, beverages, food processing, cement, cotton textiles
Principal exports: Petroleum and petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG), methanol, ammonia, urea, steel products, beverages, cereal and cereal products, sugar, cocoa, coffee, citrus fruit, vegetables, flowers
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic nation located in the Southernmost part of the Caribbean near the continent of South America. Even though the country is often referred to as containing “twin islands”, the country in fact consists of around 21 more smaller islands apart from the two respective main islands of Trinidad and Tobago, which in total make up around 5128 km² of the country’s area. Of the two main islands, Trinidad is by far the larger one, being around 4800 km² in area. Among the country’s smaller islands, Little Tobago, or Bird of Paradise Island, is one of its more well-known isles, as it was once a sanctuary to birds of the same name.
The country’s two main islands were once administered separately by different foreign influences. The indigenous Trinidadian Indians on island Trinidad were first joined by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, while control of Tobago was later passed from one colonial power to another for more than 30 times, including countries such as Britain, France and Courland, until both islands were eventually ceded to Britain. Britain unified the two islands as one country under its joint administration in around 1888 and, upon movements for self-governance within the country in the 20th century, Trinidad and Tobago formally became an independent state in 1976.
During the country’s colonialization, plantation systems were formed on the islands which brought in many immigrants, plenty of which were African slaves, and after emancipation, East Indian indentured workers. Today, these two ethnic groups still live on the islands and form the two main ethnicities within the country, with each respectively contributing to around 35% of its ethnic composition. Other migrants are of Spanish, Southeast Asian and Middle East descent. The diverse ethnic makeup gives rise to the multiplicity of languages existing on the islands. While English is the only official language of the country, most inhabitants speak Trinidadian Creole English. Other common languages include a Hindi dialect, other creole-based languages and Spanish, etc.
Trinidad and Tobago is led by a president who is the head of state, and a prime minister, who is the head of government. The country has a bicameral legislature which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives elected by adult universal suffrage. Tobago has its own internal government which is granted self-governance as long as it does not conflict with the unitary state as a whole. The country follows a common law legal system, and appeals may be heard in the country’s Supreme Court or sometimes in the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
The two main islands flaunt different geographies. Trinidad is mostly made up of plains with some mountains and hills. It has several waterfalls and swamps, with mud volcanoes also being found in some areas. Tobago is largely hilly, with the island itself being of volcanic origin. Sandy beaches and coral formations can be found in Tobago, making it a popular tourist destination where visitors may opt to go scuba-diving and snorkeling. Many also travel far to witness the island’s spectacular natural views and fishing villages. For Trinidad, its annual carnival celebrations, featuring its traditional Calypso music and steel drum bands attract tourists at its Northwestern peninsula. Although the country is not as heavily reliant on its tourism industry as other Caribbean countries, its industry has seen a steadily rising trend, with the country welcoming around 480,000 foreign tourists to the country in 2019 and contributing $2.4 billion USD in GDP in the same year.
Trinidad and Tobago was traditionally an agricultural nation, but its agriculture industry has since been replaced by its massive oil and gas sector. Trinidad and Tobago’s wealth of oil and gas resources makes it one of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean. With its large reserves of petroleum, natural gas and other resources such as coal, gypsum, limestone, sand and gravel, the country’s oil and gas sector accounts for around 40% of its GDP and 90% of its exports as of 2020. At the same time, it has one of the lowest energy costs in the world. Trinidad and Tobago works closely with the United States as a trading partner, with 48% of its exports flowing to the country. The country has also actively formed bilateral investment agreements with major countries such as the United States, Canada and China, and trade agreements with several South American countries. Trinidad and Tobago’s manufacturing industry is also firmly established on top of its oil and gas production.
However, the government has introduced policies to diversify the country’s economy. In 1988, it established a Free Trade Zone program to attract more non-energy based projects. Moreover, the government has form the national investment promotion agency InvesTT which assists in the growth of non-energy industries. For the manufacturing industry, the manufacture of other products such as chemicals, iron and steel products, motor vehicles and the like were encouraged. Other targeted industries comprise of the information and communication technology industry, the shipping industry and so on. Along with the country’s newest creative industry sector, these industries have marked potential in growth.
Trinidad and Tobago joined the Commonwealth in 1962 following its independence from Britain. The country has actively participated in the Commonwealth Games, winning plenty of medals throughout the years. It was chosen as the host country for the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021, which was unfortunately postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trinidad and Tobago has participated in environmental and trade connectivity agendas as a member of the Commonwealth, and its citizens have also been proud recipients of literature-related prizes hosted by the Commonwealth in the past, including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.