Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands




Official Name: Trinidad and Tobago

Term for Citizens: Trinidadians(s), Tobagonian(s)

Capital: Port-of-Spain

Political Status: Independent, 1962

Form of Government: Parliamentary democracy and republic


Size: 5,128 sq. km.

Topography: Mountains and plains

Climate: Maritime tropical, high humidity


Total estimated in 1986: 1,199,000

Annual growth rate (in percentage) in 1986: 2.0

Life expectancy at birth in 1986: 68.9

Adult literacy rate (in percentage) in 1984: 95

Language: English

Ethnic groups: Black (40 percent), East Indian (40 percent); remainder several other groups

Religion: Roman Catholic (33 percent), Hindu (25 percent), Anglican (15 percent), Muslim (6 percent); remainder other Protestant denominations and African sects


Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TT$)

Exchange rate: TT$3.60=US$1.00

Gross domestic product (GDP) in 1985: US$7.7 billion

Per capita GDP in 1985: US$6,000

Distribution of GDP (in percentage) in 1985:

     Petroleum                           24
     Public administration               15
     Construction                        11
     Transportation and communications   10
     Financial services and real estate  10
     Distributive trade                   9
     Manufacturing                        7
     Agriculture                          3
     Electricity and water                2
     Other                                9


Armed forces personnel: 2,130

Paramilitary personnel: 0

Police: 3,000

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, an oil-rich nation, is nearer to mainland South America than any of the other Commonwealth Caribbean island countries. It has had one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean and is a producer of oil, steel, and petrochemicals. Most of its population is descended from African slaves and East Indian indentured laborers, and the two-island nation has a rich and varied culture within which different races have lived together in relative harmony.

Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, one of the first states of the Commonwealth Caribbean to do so. Transition to independence was quite smooth. The People's National Movement (PNM), a mainly black, middle-class party with Eric Williams as its leader, came to power in 1956, led the country into independence, and remained in office for thirty years. Trinidad and Tobago's independent history has been a relatively peaceful continuum, broken only in 1970 by Black Power movement (see Glossary) riots that threatened the government. There have been regular, free, contested elections every five years, and there have been no coups- -or attempted coups--since independence. After Williams's death in 1981, the PNM continued to rule until 1986. That year the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), a recently formed coalition party led by A.N.R. Robinson, won the election by a large majority. The NAR differed from the PNM in that it included many East Indians among both leaders and members. In 1987 the NAR's greatest challenge was the revitalization of an economy depressed by the fall in world oil prices.

Data as of November 1987