Tiger of the Caribbean
has often been described in the international business media
as the Tiger of the Caribbean, and with good reason.
Foreign direct investment more than doubled from an average
of US$209 million over the period 1990-1993 to US$757 million
between 2000 and 2003, an increase of roughly 262 per cent.
The bulk of this investment has been in the energy sector
and downstream industries. Government fully recognises that
energy is a non-renewable asset, hence the aggressive targeting
of investments in the non-energy sector, in order to build
a sustainable and diversified economy.
After Government, the non-energy sector is the second largest
employer. Encouraging development and investment in the sector
is not only good economic sense, it is also part of the holistic
policy to achieve developed country status by 2020.
A concentric circle approach to development
By early 2006, the T&T economy will be fully integrated
within the Caricom Single Market. Simultaneously, this country
will be pursuing integration into the Latin American economy,
through membership in the Association of Caribbean States
(ACS). That market could then be used as a platform to enter
the wider global economy, through membership in the Free Trade
Area of the Americas and the ACP Group.
Concurrently, our free trade agreements with Costa Rica, Cuba,
the Dominican Republic and Colombia allow prospective investors
direct access to these markets.
At the heart of the hemisphere
Today, while T&T is a gateway to the Carib-bean and Latin
America, Governments vision is that, in time, we will
become the hub of the Americas. Hence the focus on certain
key initiatives over the past couple of years, namely:
Positioning T&T as the major manufacturing, transshipment,
business and commercial platform in the region.
Integrating this country into the wider Latin American economy.
Creating expanded market access opportunities through strategic
Refocusing the Eximbank to support manufacturing sales to
Facilitating the process for citizens to increase their ability
to communicate in the Spanish language.
The intention is to maximise our ideal geographic position
between North, Central and South America, along the middle
Atlantic stretch, to become the nexus for investment, finance,
manufacturing and transshipment.
T&T is a convenient midway point to everywhere in this
hemisphere. Well-served by major airlines, with two large,
secure deep-water harbours, the country is poised to enhance
its role in international shipping, building on the experiences
gained in handling specialised cargo.
Through managing the requirements of transporting products
such as LNG, T&T has developed a cadre of personnel well
versed in applying the most exacting standards of the shipping
industry, and is now creating the appropriate infrastructure
to complement these developmentsfor example, through
the programmes offered at the University of T&Ts
The world is our marketplace
the world our marketplace is the philosophical underpinning
of all recent trade and economic policies. Government is developing
new industrial complexes through the north-south corridor
that stretches along the west coast of the country, while
at the same time pursuing critical air transport links with
the South/ South Route Development initiative.
The flagship industrial development is the Wallerfield Business
and Technology Park, envisioned as a nexus for technology-driven
business, research and development, and academic achievement.
It will also serve as the campus for the UTT.
Putting the right legislation in place and upgrading existing
trade and business laws will also be crucial to this countrys
continued economic success. In this regard, Government is
seeking to improve the operations of the Customs and Excise
Division, the Bureau of Standards and other critical regulatory
agencies to sustain the proper environment for trade to flourish.
Meanwhile, the Prime Ministers Standing Committee on
Business Development is co-ordinating the development of strategic
plans for targeted sectors, where a level of competitive advantage
already exists, along with a strong human and capital resource
And while all of this is underway, the initiative to make
Spanish the first foreign language of T&T will have as
its ultimate goal designated sectors of the community capable
of communicating effectively in both English and Spanish by
2020, providing investors with a human resource base capable
of transacting business in the two major languages of the
Becoming more investment-friendly
In the final analysis, being a hub for business and commercial
activity is not just about physical location. It also involves
a particular frame of mind, sensitivity to clients in different
locations, and a commitment to meeting and exceeding their
Government is working to create the kind of environment that
is good for businesswhether it be a local firm, a foreign-based
Trinidadian firm or a foreign investor. Investment is a crucial
mechanism which can help us maximise our potential and achieve
our developmental goals.
Therefore, in order to be successful, our investment initiatives
must focus on creating an investment-friendly environment
and effective promotion strategies. This is the basis for
the draft investment policy currently being prepared by the
Ministry of Trade and Industry for submission to Cabinet.
The specific initiatives in this policy include:
Upgrading investment incentives.
Removing disincentives to investment.
Reforming the investment approval process taking into consideration
the need for increased transparency, simplicity and efficiency.
This country has also signed a number of double taxation treaties
with other countries, including the US, Canada, the UK and
Germany, as well as investment protection and promotion agreements
with the UK, the US, Canada, Spain, the Peoples Republic
of China and the Republic of Korea.
The big pay-off
By year-end 2004, T&Ts economy had expanded by over
six per cent, a creditable achievement, given the difficulties
that were being experienced in some major markets such as
the US and Caricom.
It seems that T&T has gotten the formula for economic
Relatively low inflation.
A stable exchange rate.
An educated and competent workforce.
A strong and relatively diversified manufacturing base.
A stable government and transparent governance policies.
It is quite an achievement for a tiny twin-island state. As
Trade and Industry Minister Ken Valley puts it: This
is an exciting time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are on a growth trajectory, and can truly say that we have
the ability, drive, understanding and resources to plan and
design our nations economic future.