Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Trinidad and Tobago: The Magic of Doing a Lot with a Little: Prime Minister Patrick Manning Talks with Americas about Developing His County's Wealth of Human and Natural Resources

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Trinidad and Tobago: The Magic of Doing a Lot with a Little: Prime Minister Patrick Manning Talks with Americas about Developing His County's Wealth of Human and Natural Resources

Article excerpt

When Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago visited OAS headquarters in Washington last fall, he spoke of how "the focus of our efforts at development must be the welfare and productivity of our peoples." If societies are to flourish, the Prime Minister said, development must proceed in a way that is comprehensive, taking into account the need for universal education as a bedrock for future competitiveness, not to mention democracy and good governance. These are exciting times in Trinidad and Tobago, as the country develops its oil and gas reserves and joins an elite group of world-class exporters. But, "whatever we do," emphasizes Prime Minister Manning, "whether it is in the energy sector or it is in the agricultural sector, at the end of the day, the acid-test is how it benefits people."

Prime Minister, you describe an exciting time for Trinidad and Tobago.

It's a very exciting time for Trinidad and Tobago, primarily because of our oil and gas resources. We've made the point before and I'll make it again, that on very. little, Trinidad and Tobago has been able to do quite a bit. Our oil and particularly our gas reserves are minuscule in relation to world reserves. Yet, we have become world class in a number of areas. We are the world's largest exporter of methanol, the world's largest exporter of ammonia, the largest exporter of LNG in the Western Hemisphere, the sixth largest manufacturer of DRI [direct-reduced iron]--all kinds of things. We've done quite well with little and in fact, the Trinidad and Tobago magic, as we like to term it, is what we have been able to do on very low oil and gas reserves.

We're just at the tail end of an upsurge in oil prices, so that must have helped the country's foreign reserves. Is that right?

It helped a bit. We don't think it's over yet., because while the current drop he price is based on the high stocks hi the developed countries, the basic issue is supply and demand, and the reality is that the demand is greater than the supply and therefore there is an upward pressure on prices, which you will see as you come towards the heating season.

You spoke about some key issues, some policy priorities of your government over the last several years, for example, education. Where is education in your national development priorities?

Education is priority number one. It has been for a long time; it continues to be, with a renewed vigor. We have in Trinidad and Tobago, universal primary education, and it is free; universal secondary education, and that is free. Indeed, last year approximately twenty thousand students accessed secondary school free with a lot of other assistance surrounding that entire system--free school meals, free transportation, book rental program, and so on. What we introduced in this academic year ... was free university education ... and a system to assist [university students] with some things [like] books, accommodation, and so on. [We also hope to have] universal, free pre-school education by 2010 ... [Our plan is to] build 600 new pre-schools by then.

Under your leadership, is it two new universities, or is it one?

Well, it is one and a half. The Caribbean Union College, which was a tertiary education affiliated with Andrews University in the United States, has now gained full university status as the University of the Southern Caribbean, and they are expanding. The government has offered a system in their development program so we could increase the number of places available to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. That's the first one. But the real jewel is the University of Trinidad and Tobago, which came into being just about two or three years ago and is entirely the creation of this administration. So we now have three universities in Trinidad and Tobago, and we're proud of that. And it is part of the overall determination of the government to expose more and more of our citizens to tertiary education. …

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