3rd October 2012 was very definitely a red letter day in the Globe family – Day 1 of our work to prepare a new National Spatial Development Strategy (NSDS) for Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a complex (and very exciting) project with a challenging timetable, aiming for the Strategy to be ready in just 18 working weeks – the week before Carnival starts!
A small Globe team was fortunate enough to be visiting Trinidad a couple of weeks ago, just as the country was marking 50 years of independence and we felt privileged to be able to join in some of the celebrations. I feel even more privileged now to be leading a team that is helping to plan the next stages in this amazing country’s development. Trinidad and Tobago is not big – almost 1.4 million people in an area just a bit smaller than Lincolnshire – but geographically, culturally and economically it is incredibly diverse and I believe that in its own way it could well be a world leader in the next few decades. One reason for this is that this small country is having to face up now to serious challenges that we will all be having to tackle over the next few decades.
Oil and gas resources have enabled Trinidad and Tobago to emerge as one of the wealthiest, most industrialised and urbanised states in the Caribbean. With those resources expected to deplete substantially over the next 10 to 15 years, but with big socio-economic and environmental issues still to be tackled – the big challenge is to restructure, economically, socially, and physically, to prepare for a world without plentiful and cheap carbon-based fuels – and probably with a much more volatile and potentially problematic climate too.
To give a crude example of the scale of impact likely to be experienced, I filled the very-nearly-empty tank of my rented car as I took it back to the airport before heading home a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t quite squeeze ten pounds worth of petrol in! That situation is clearly not going to last: national revenue from oil and gas will be declining and at the same time the cost of travel for the average citizen will be mounting. The government’s strategy to prepare for the new world in to which Trinidad and Tobago is rapidly moving is to promote and invest in sustainable alternatives: developing a knowledge-intensive economy (the country now has two thriving universities and has been investing heavily in its schools and colleges); boosting agriculture to strengthen food security and reduce the country’s disproportionate food imports bill; reviewing its whole approach to transport and travel; developing the shipping and ship maintenance sectors to take advantage of Trinidad and Tobago’s established expertise and its strategic location in relation to some of the world’s busiest cargo routes; and developing tourism – with an emphasis on eco-tourism – further (it is concentrated almost wholly on Tobago at present). At the same time, of course, the whole global economic order is changing and traditional market assumptions, loyalties and dependencies are having to be reassessed.
The solutions will differ from country to country but I believe that the process of planned re-structuring on which Trinidad and Tobago has now embarked is one that most – probably all – countries will be needing to replicate soon. Globe Consultants International is delighted to have been entrusted with the responsibility of leading the UK / Caribbean team that will be working on the spatial planning aspects of this exciting and challenging process.