August 25, 2006

The Economist sizes up our neighbor

Katy says: I have always been curious about Trinidad and Tobago, our neighbor to the northeast. I have never been there but would would love to visit because, aside from being a beautiful place, my grandmother on my mother's side was born there.

The Economist has an interesting article this week ("A Caribbean tiger") on Trinidad and Tobago's current economic boom. It starts off saying,

"IF YOU fly into Port of Spain at night over the Gulf of Paria, you see the island of Trinidad ablaze with lights from roads, suburbs, shopping malls, building sites and a necklace of chemical and steel plants. The facing Venezuelan coast is dark. Since the late 1980s successive governments of Trinidad and Tobago have welcomed private investors willing to develop the country's offshore natural gas. That reverses the statist policies of Eric Williams, a Marxist historian who led the country to independence from Britain in 1962. It is also a contrast with today's Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez has been less keen on foreign investment.

Cash is pouring into Trinidad. It has become the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas to the United States, and the world's top exporter of methanol and ammonia. Last month Methanol Holdings, a Trinidadian-German group, agreed a loan of $1.2 billion for a new chemical complex. Essar, from India, wants to spend a similar amount on a steel mill. Alcoa and Alutrint, a Trinidad-Venezuelan joint-venture, each plan new aluminium smelters."

Interesting read. Although bullish on T&T, I see many of the same ills there as in 1970s Venezuela. It reminded me of an article by National Geographic from the 70s called "Venezuela's Crisis of Wealth". Hopefully the Trinidadians (or is it TNTers?) will avoid our mistakes of the past.