EDITORIAL: Keep eye on happenings in Trinidad
THERE ARE DEVELOPMENTS in Trinidad and Tobago which warrant more than a cursory attention from Barbadians given the deep economic and cultural links between these two CARICOM members. The area of greatest concern is the spiralling criminality plaguing the twin-island nation. It is not yet the end of the first quarter of 2016 and the number of murders recorded has exceeded 112.
This is not the kind of statistic of which Trinidadians can be proud. The senseless beheadings and other brutal crimes, against nationals and visitors alike, have left residents there frightened and uneasy. In the last decade murder rates in Trinidad and Tobago have not fallen below 368 in any given year and there is little likelihood of a decline this year. In Barbados we need to pay special attention to this situation and ensure it does not spread across borders and undermine our stability.
There are the obvious hotspots in and around the capital, Port of Spain, which are quite dangerous. Barbadians travelling there should avoid Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, South Belmont and inside of the Queen’s Park Savannah. The precaution must also be extended to the Piarco International Airport where for the unsuspecting visitor criminals are always lurking to exploit any weakness.
At the same time there is high criminal gang activity, coupled with the movement of illegal narcotics and firearms. To compound matters, a number of Trinidadians are known to be going off to join and fight for extremist terror groups particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Our security services must be fully attuned to these developments.
The drop in world oil prices has severely impacted Trinidad, CARICOM’s leading crude producer, leaving it reeling and facing new uncertainties. There has been a sharp rise in unemployment, growing disenchantment among the youth and a national budget under strain.
This may have one net result. Trinidad businesses may want to extend their already big economic footprint in Barbados while at the individual level some of our neighbours to the south may want to buy property in a still relatively peaceful, safe and economically sound jurisdiction. In an era of free movement of people, capital, goods and services, it is all about exploiting the available opportunities. It would also be nothing more than a vote of confidence in Barbados.
Trinidad also remains an important source market from where we attract regional visitors. There is a high level of trade in goods and services even if in Trinidad’s favour, and many Barbadians go there to study, work, take part in cultural activities or exploit business opportunities.
We remain optimistic that these exchanges will continue despite the violence, corruption and pessimism in the twin-island nation. But, the Keith Rowley-led administration must take responsibility and bring the situation under control.