Returning home, to Trinidad and Tobago – 03 Aug 2008

Moving towards 2020

Derren Joseph

“Returning home, to Trinidad and Tobago”

  • The economy is booming.
  • Consider that perhaps Trinidad and Tobago may be in a period of transition – or the early stages of its evolution as a young society.
  • If ever there was a time for Trinbagonians to return home, it may be now.

There has never been a better time to be based in Trinidad and Tobago.  Sometimes when I say that, people watch me funny.  It’s been nearly one and a half years since I have been back in Trinidad and Tobago.  I am often asked whether I regret returning ‘home’.  ‘No place like home’ is my usual response. 

Like many of us who have lived outside of Trinbago to study and/or work, I remember when, I dreamed of returning home.   Living in London, we would have some good limes at a flat in Battersea to talk about the economy and the politics of Trinidad and Tobago.  Especially with my friends, Stuart, Stuart and Lino (no, not a typo, there were two Stuarts!).  Given a choice, most of us wanted to return but our personal circumstances meant that wasn’t easy.  Number one concern was crime of course.  Number two was probably that our career paths dictated that we stay in England / Europe, because returning to such a (relatively) small market would not be best.  Despite these two concerns, we, together with many of our contemporaries in the UK, Canada and the US have made the decision to return to Trinidad and Tobago.

Being back in Trinidad and Tobago, I can see that crime is worrying.  At the same time, the impression we got from the local media in its internet publications, is that everyone lived under a self imposed curfew.  To be fair, it is unfortunate, but in some   parts of our beautiful island, this may be the case.  But taking a drive along Ariapita Avenue on any Friday / Saturday night, outside the Stadium/Oval for any concert, or even looking at traffic backed all the way to West Mall for Tribe’s band launch last weekend in Pier 1, it’s clear to me that to some extent, we can and still do enjoy life like always. 

Commercially, the Caribbean may be a smaller market than the US or Europe, but the Caribbean basin has about 30 million people (about the same as Canada) speaking different languages, under differing laws etc – a dynamic enough environment for any young professional to hone his/her skills.  Trinidad itself is in the midst of a gas-fuelled economic boom while experiencing a labour shortage.  What that means, is that well qualified professionals, can actually pick opportunities as top companies literally fight over the limited talent pool.  And as we read that Trinidad is moving closer and closer to realising the government’s aim of becoming an International Financial Centre – things can only get better for businesses and professionals that position themselves to take advantage of this.  I now see so clearly, that fear of stunting one’s career is no reason not to come back home – in fact, it could be an asset to one’s career to return and excel in this environment. FBAR Reporting Singapore

Don’t get me wrong, all is not well in Trinidad and Tobago.  I am certainly not naive to the challenges we are facing as a society.  But there may be some validity in the views expressed by two of our native sons – Naipaul and Meighoo that Trinidad and Tobago is really a ‘half made’ society.  Half made in the sense that we are still in the early phases of our own evolution – without a firm intellectual / cultural / political / economic base.  I once chatted with a student in England who I think did an Arts degree – we spoke of the (so called) Third World and she reminded me of the England that Dickens wrote of – dark, brutal, harsh.  Yet after a couple ‘world’ wars, Europe as a whole, is doing better.  Perhaps Trinidad and Tobago is growing through the rumblings typical of the early stages of any country’s evolution?  An idea I firmly believe is worthy of continued debate. 

Returning home is not an easy step.  I know some who have tried and went back up North – maybe to try again in a few years or maybe not.  It all depends on personal circumstances – every one is different.  The arguments against a move back home get played out in the headlines everyday.  But for those thinking about it, aside from the warm weather and being close to old friends and family, bear in mind that –

  • Post secondary education is now subsidised by the state and in many cases, free.  In fact, stipends are available to help with living expenses.
  • The beach facilities at Maracas are being upgraded.  This together with Bake and Shark from Richard’s or Vilma’s, help make the weekend special.  Except when it rains…
  • The savannah still holds a special magic. Coconut water is still available on the side by White Hall but now in fancier carts.  Nothing like a cold coconut water after jogging round d savannah! 
  • Traffic has got worse but that’s because it seems like everyone has a car, and the government is doing lots of work to widen the highways and the big overpass by Grand Bazaar seems to be progressing really quickly.

So if ever there was a time to consider returning home, it has to be now, as we make progress towards Vision 2020.Return to Articles

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