JAMAICA OBSERVER – During the good times, earnings from natural gas and oil exports made the tiny Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago one of the richest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The collapse in world oil prices now has it facing the threat of a punishing and prolonged downturn.
After two decades of nearly uninterrupted prosperity, the government is being forced to scale back spending by 7 per cent, siphon some US$1.5 billion from a stabilisation fund over the next couple of years, and warn its 1.3 million people that they will have to make do with less.
“We must all appreciate that the circumstances we now face as a nation require sacrifice and managed adjustment in our living standards,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley cautioned in a recent speech.
Those standards include American-style shopping malls, cheap electricity, subsidised gasolene and so many families with multiple cars that highways weaving past abandoned cane fields are often clogged with traffic jams in both directions.
Things have been going so well for so many years that locals repeat the mantra “God is a Trini”, meaning the twin-island republic, known for high spirits and rollicking Carnival celebrations, is so blessed that things will always turn out well. But the spectre of tough economic times is starting to prompt a glum self-examination.