Trinidad and Tobago Economy and History

Trinidad and Tobago Economy and History



With a gross national income (GNI) of (2017) US $ 15,350 per resident, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the richest countries in the Caribbean. The economic basis is the extraction and processing of crude oil and natural gas. The profits from the energy industry make up almost half of the state’s revenue. In view of the limited oil reserves, the state is trying to diversify the economy as part of an investment program. In 2014, the share of the oil and gas sector in the gross domestic product (GDP) was still 42.1%; the rest of the manufacturing industry (including construction) reached 12.6%. Services generated 44.8% (of which about a third were financial services), the agricultural sector only 0.5% of GDP.

Foreign trade: The foreign trade balance is heavily dependent on the price development on the crude oil market (import value 2014: 8.39 billion US $; export value: 11.8 billion US $). With an export share of around 85%, crude oil, fuels and petroleum products are the most important export goods. Chemical products, iron and steel, food and beverages as well as fertilizers are also important. The most important trading partners are the USA by a large margin ahead of Gabon, Colombia, Brazil and the countries of the Caribbean Community.


The agricultural sector only employs (2014) 3.3% of the workforce. Above all, citrus fruits are grown for export. The livestock industry includes cattle, pig and poultry farming. Much of the staple food has to be imported. The fishery serves the local supply.

Natural resources

The main oil production areas are in the Gulf of Paria, in the southeastern coastal shelf and in the south of Trinidad. The proven oil reserves amount to 728 million barrels (2014), the (2014 daily output: 81,300 barrels), the proven gas reserves around 370 billion m 3 (annual production 2013: 41.7 billion m 3). The asphalt lake Pitch Lake is home to the largest natural asphalt deposit on earth. In addition, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the world’s largest exporters of ammonia and methanol.


According to allcountrylist, the industrial sector (including mining) employs 32% of the workforce. Oil refineries are located at Pointe-à-Pierre and Point Fortin. The natural gas deposits form the basis for a developing petrochemical industry and the energy base for the iron and steel works in Point Lisas. The centers of the food, steel and chemical industries are the capital Port of Spain, Point Lisas and Point Fortin.


Tourism, which is to be further expanded, is mainly concentrated on the island of Tobago and the Carnival in Port of Spain. The majority of the approximately 436 700 foreign visitors (including 49 200 cruise passengers) come from the USA and Canada.


The road network (around 9,600 km, around half of which is paved) is well developed on Trinidad, but little developed on Tobago. The railway network has been shut down since 1968. The largest sea ports are Port of Spain, Point Lisas, Point Fortin. International airports are Piarco, Trinidad, 25 km east of Port of Spain, and A. N. R. Robinson, Tobago, 8 miles from Scarborough.


Christopher Columbus discovered both islands on his third voyage (1498). Spain began to colonize Trinidad in 1552, but it was not until around 1700 that Spanish settlers established plantations (especially cocoa plantations) with the help of African slaves, which, however, could not survive. In 1783 Spain opened the island to foreign Catholic colonists. There came v. a. French from Grenada with their slaves. In 1797 the British conquered Trinidad, which they were awarded in the Peace of Amiens in 1802. Until it was finally ceded to Great Britain in 1814, Tobago was often fought over between the British, French and Dutch. 1834 became slavery abolished. Instead of slaves, contract workers were v. a. brought to Trinidad from India. Both colonies were combined into a crown colony in 1888. Since the 1930s, the trade union movement fought for the political participation of the population. In 1946 universal suffrage was achieved. 1958–62 was a member of the West Indian Federation of Trinidad and Tobago. On August 31, 1962, the islands became independent as a parliamentary monarchy in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1976 the island nation adopted a republican constitution; Prime Minister Eric Eustace Williams (* 1911, † 1981; PNM), who has been head of government since 1956, became Prime Minister. Four opposition parties formed the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and won the 1986 elections. Became prime minister Arthur N. R. Robinson (* 1926, † 2014). In 1987 Tobago received the long-sought full internal self-government. In the same year the heterogeneous NAR began to disintegrate; the ethnic polarization of the party system, which was believed to have been overcome, intensified again. In 1990 the Jamaat al Muslims, an Islamist group consisting predominantly of Afrotrinid converts, took almost all members of the government and parliament hostage and attempted a coup. The 1991 elections were won again by the PNM (Prime Minister Patrick Manning, * 1946, † 2016). After the 1995 elections, the UNC and NAR formed a coalition government. With UNC chairman Basdeo Panday (* 1933) first became an Indo-Trinidadian prime minister. The UNC was able to rule alone after the 2000 elections, but lost its majority due to a split. The 2001 elections resulted in a stalemate in parliament between the UNC and the PNM. Manning (PNM) was appointed Prime Minister by President Robinson (1997-2003), which was not accepted by the UNC and answered with a boycott of parliament. The new elections in 2002 brought a majority for the PNM under Manning. A liberal economic course and a booming energy sector thanks to significant oil and gas reserves brought economic growth to the island nation in the years that followed. Trinidad and Tobago qualified for a soccer world championship for the first time in 2005. Participation in the 2006 World Cup in Germany sparked great jubilation among the football-loving population. In the parliamentary elections on November 5, 2007, the PNM won 26 seats, the UNC got 15 seats. Manning thus missed a two-thirds majority, which would have been necessary for a constitutional reform he had announced. On November 7, 2007 he was sworn in for a further term as Prime Minister.

Early elections on May 24th, 2010 led to a change of power. The multiethnic party alliance “People’s Partnership” won 29 seats, the PNM only got 12 seats. UNC chairwoman K. Persad-Bissessar became the new prime minister. This is the first time that a woman has assumed the office of head of government in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2013, Anthony Carmona (* 1953) succeeded George Maxwell Richards (* 1931, † 2018), who had held the office since 2003, as the new president of the country. The former Vice President of the World Football Association FIFA, Jack Warner (* 1943), resigned as Minister of Security of Trinidad and Tobago in the same year because of allegations of corruption in connection with the construction of a sports complex. Warner had already resigned his office at FIFA due to his involvement in a bribery scandal in 2011. Gang and drug crime remained a major domestic political problem.

Parliamentary elections were held on September 7, 2015, and the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) emerged victorious. The PNM won 23 of the 41 seats in the House of Representatives. The government alliance “People’s Partnership” around the United National Congress (UNC) had 18 seats. The PNM leader K. Rowley was sworn in as the new head of government on September 9, 2015, succeeding Prime Minister K. Persad-Bissessar. Successor to A. Carmona as President of Trinidad and Tobago was on 19/03/2018 Paula Mae Weekes. She is the first woman in this role.

Trinidad and Tobago Economy and History

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