Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a high-income developing country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $15,425 and an annual GDP of $21.6 billion (2020). It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean and is the third most populous country in the region with 1.4 million inhabitants. The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP for 2022 will increase by 5.4 percent as the economy rebounds following the economic impact of COVID-19 mitigation. TT’s investment climate is generally open and most investment barriers have been eliminated, but stifling bureaucracy and opaque procedures remain.
Energy exploration and production drive TT’s economy. This sector has historically attracted the most foreign direct investment. The energy sector usually accounts for approximately half of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. Petrochemicals and steel are other sectors accounting for significant foreign investment. Since the economy is tethered to the energy sector, it is particularly vulnerable to fluctuating prices for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.
Since the last ICS, TT has rolled back several pandemic-related measures that affected the investment climate including reopening borders to air travel; ending the state of emergency that only permitted essential services to operate; reopening the hospitality and entertainment sector to vaccinated individuals; and reopening schools.
TT is working towards implementing its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Climate Agreement through 15 percent reduction is emissions from power generation (including by the ongoing construction of utility-scale renewable power generation plants), public transportation (through the conversion to compressed natural gas as a fuel, and development of an e-mobility policy) and industry by 2030. The TT government (GoTT) is developing policies on carbon capture and storage, but this technology has been predominantly used to inject carbon into hydrocarbon reservoirs for greater output.
There are no significant risks to responsibly doing business in areas such as labor and human rights.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The GoTT seeks foreign direct investment and has traditionally welcomed U.S. investors.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, but some have seen the decision-making process for tenders and the subsequent awarding of contracts turn opaque without warning, especially when their interests compete with those of well-connected local firms.
InvesTT is the country’s investment promotion agency that assists investors through the process of setting up a non-energy business and provides aftercare services once established. Specifically, it provides market information, offers advice on accessing investment incentives, assists with regulatory and registry issues, and provides property and location services. It also assists with general problem solving and advocacy to the government.
While TT prioritizes investment retention, the U.S. Mission is not aware of a formal, ongoing dialogue with investors, either through an Ombudsman or formal business roundtable.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
There are no limits on foreign ownership. Under the Foreign Investment Act of 1990, a foreign investor is permitted to own 100 percent of the share capital in a private company. A license is required to own more than a 30 percent of a public company.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any sector-specific restrictions or limitations applied to U.S. investors.
TT maintains an investment screening mechanism for foreign investment related to specific projects that have been submitted for the purpose of accessing sector-specific incentives, such as for those offered in the tourism industry. Information on criteria to access the development incentives are listed in various legislative acts such as the Tourism Development Act of 2001.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for TT in 2019: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp488_e.htm
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre noted concerns about the expansion of Chinese investment in TT in 2019.
The GoTT’s business facilitation efforts focus primarily on investor services (helping deal with rules and procedures) through its investment promotion agency and is attempting to make the rules more transparent and predictable overall. However, more work needs to be done to achieve efficient administrative procedures and dispute resolution. TT ranks 158th of 190 countries for registering property, 174th for enforcing contracts, and 160th for payment of taxes in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, representing a deterioration of indicators that reflect a difficulty of doing business.
The business registration website is: www.ttbizlink.gov.tt . In 2022, the Global Enterprise Registration Network (GER) gives the TT business registration website an above-average score of 8.5 out of 10 for its single electronic window, and a below average score of 4 out of 10 for providing information on how to register a business ( http://www .TTconnect.gov.tt ). While the process is clear, the inability to make online payments and submit online certificate requests are the two primary reasons for the low score. A feedback mechanism allowing users to communicate with authorities is a strength of the TT business registration website. Foreign companies can use the website and business registration requires completion of seven procedures over a period of 10 days. The agencies with which a company must typically register include:
- Companies Registry, Ministry of Legal Affairs
- Board of Inland Revenue
- National Insurance Board; and
- Value Added Tax (VAT Office, Board of Inland Revenue)
The GoTT does not promote or incentivize outward investment. The GoTT does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
TT has bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with 13 countries: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/212/trinidad-and-tobago?type=bits .
TT has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with five countries, either bilaterally or as a part of CARICOM: https://tradeind.gov.tt/documents-resources/trade-and-investment-agreements/
A bilateral taxation treaty with the United States took effect in 1970: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/trinidad.pdf . The GoTT is in the process of modernizing its tax collection regime with the establishment of a new central revenue authority, which is expected to take effect within the second quarter of 2022. There are no ongoing systemic tax disputes between the GoTT and foreign investors or other taxation issues of general concern to U.S. investors. TT has bilateral taxation treaties with 16 other entities: Brazil, Canada, CARICOM, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
TT is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and has accepted the Inclusive Framework’s October 2021 agreement on the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges, including a global minimum corporate tax.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Through the TT Fair Trading Commission, the GoTT develops transparent policies and effective laws to foster market-based competition on a non-discriminatory basis and establishes “clear rules of the game.” Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within the ministries and regulatory agencies at the national level. The government consults frequently, but not always, with international agencies and business associations in developing regulations. The GoTT submits draft regulations to parliament for approval. The process is the same for each ministry.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. International financial reporting standards are required for domestic public companies. The GoTT promotes but does not require companies’ environmental, social and corporate governance disclosures to facilitate transparency to help investors and consumers distinguish between high- and low-quality investments.
Proposed laws and regulations are often published in draft form electronically for public review at http://www.ttparliament.org/ , though there is no legal obligation to do so. The GoTT often solicits private sector and business community comments on proposed legislation, although there is no timeframe for the length of a consultation period when it happens, nor is reporting mandatory on the consultations.
All draft bills and regulations are printed in the official gazette and other websites:
The U.S. Mission is not aware of an oversight or enforcement mechanism that ensures that the GoTT follows administrative processes.
There has not been any announcement regarding reforms to the regulatory system, including enforcement, since the last ICS report. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years, such as the mechanism to calculate and collect property tax and the establishment of the revenue authority, have not been fully implemented.
Establishment of the revenue authority is intended to increase collections and streamline the system for paying taxes.
At present, regulatory enforcement mechanisms are usually a combination of moral suasion and the use of applicable administrative, civil, or criminal sanctions. The enforcement process is not legally reviewable.
Regulation is usually reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments. Scientific studies or quantitative analyses are not made publicly available. Public comments received by regulators are generally not made public.
Public finances and debt obligations are transparent and publicly available on the central bank website: https://www.central-bank.org.tt
International Regulatory Considerations
TT is not a part of a regional economic block, although it participates in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a regional trading bloc that gives duty-free access to member goods, free movement to some CARICOM nationals, and establishes common treatment of non-members on specific issues. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is an initiative currently being explored by CARICOM that would eventually integrate its member-states into a single economic unit. When fully completed, the CSME would succeed CARICOM.
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally consistent with United Kingdom standards.
The GoTT has not consistently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of draft technical regulations.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
TT’s legal system is based on English common law. Contracts are legally enforced through the court system.
The country has a written commercial law. There are few specialized courts and resolution of legal claims is time consuming. An industrial court exclusively handles cases relating to labor practices but also suffers from severe backlogs and is widely seen to favor claimants.
Civil cases of less than $2,250 are heard by the Magistrate’s Court. Matters exceeding that amount are heard in the High Court of Justice, which can grant equitable relief. There is no court or division of a court dedicated solely to hearing commercial cases.
TT’s judicial system is independent of the executive, and the judicial process is competent, procedurally and substantively fair, and reliable, although very slow. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, TT ranks 174 of 190 in ease of enforcing contracts and its court system requires 1,340 days to resolve a contract claim, nearly double the Latin American and Caribbean regional average.
Decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal in the first instance. The United Kingdom Privy Council Judicial Committee is the final court of appeal.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
TT’s judicial system respects the sanctity of contracts and generally provides a level playing field for foreign investors involved in court matters. Due to the backlog of cases, however, there can be major delays in the process. It is imperative that foreign investors seek competent local legal counsel. Some U.S. companies are hesitant to pursue legal remedies, preferring to attempt good faith negotiations in order to avoid an acrimonious relationship that could harm their interests in the country’s small, tight-knit business community.
There is no “one-stop-shop” website for investment providing relevant laws, rules, and procedures. Useful websites to help navigate foreign investment laws, rules, and procedures include:
Competition and Antitrust Laws
The TT Fair Trading Commission is an independent statutory agency responsible for promoting and maintaining fair competition in the domestic market. It is tasked with investigating the various forms of anti-competitive business conduct set out in the Fair-Trading Act. No cases that involve foreign investment have arisen in the past 12 months. The agency adheres to fair and transparent norms and procedures. The agency’s decisions can be appealed to the judicial system.
Expropriation and Compensation
The GoTT can legally expropriate property based on the needs of the country and only after due process including adequate compensation generally based on market value. Various pieces of legislation make provisions for compulsory licensing in the interest of public health or intellectual property rights.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any direct or indirect expropriation actions since the 1980s. All prior expropriations were compensated to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Energy sector contacts occasionally describe the tax regime as confiscatory, pointing to after-the-fact withdrawal or weakening of tax incentives offered to entice investment once investment occurs.
Claimants did not allege a lack of due process in prior expropriation cases.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
TT is a party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).
Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards according to chapter 20 of the Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 1996.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The bilateral investment treaty between the United States and TT recognizes binding arbitration of investment disputes.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any claims by U.S. investors under the bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors over the past 10 years. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Some of the available types of alternative dispute resolution include mediation and arbitration. The Civil Proceedings Rules encourage parties to make reasonable attempts to resolve their disputes amicably with litigation as a last resort. Mediation and arbitration are most commonly used.
There is a domestic dispute resolution center that offers arbitration services. Domestic legislation, the Arbitration Act of 1939, is based on early English arbitration legislation and is not modeled on internationally accepted regulations.
The U.S. Mission has no records of any investment disputes involving state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Creditors have the right to be notified within 10 days of the appointment of a receiver and to receive a final report, a statement of accounts, and an assessment of claim. Claims of secured creditors are prioritized under the Bankruptcy Act. No distinction is made between foreign and domestic creditors or contract holders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.
The World Bank ranked TT 83rd out of 190 countries in resolving insolvency in its Doing Business 2020 report. This reflects TT’s recovery rate (cents on the dollar), which is worse than the regional average, and cost as a percentage of estate.
4. Industrial Policies
Investment incentives include the following: exemption from import duties and customs duties; tax credits and deferrals; cash refunds; carry-over of losses; and access to loans. These are available equally to foreign and domestic investors, but delays in cash refund payments are a frequent complaint of those due them. There are no specific incentives for underrepresented investors such as women. Additional information is available on the following websites:
The GoTT sometimes jointly finances foreign direct investment projects, but it is not common.
The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries continues to work on a Feed in Tariff (FIT) policy and a FIT Implementation plan under the Global Climate Change Alliance+ initiative.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Free Zones Act of 1988 (last amended in 1997) established the TT Free Zones Company (TTFZ) to promote export development and encourage both foreign and local investment projects in a relatively bureaucracy-free, duty-free, and tax-free environment. Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities as TT entities. There are currently 15 approved enterprises located in 12 free zones. Three are located within a multiple-user site in north-central Trinidad. The Minister of Trade and Industry can designate any suitable area in TT as a free zone.
Free zone enterprises are exempt from customs duties on capital goods, parts, and raw materials for use in the construction and equipping of premises and in connection with the approved activity; import and export licensing requirements; land and building taxes; work permit fees; foreign currency and property ownership restrictions; capital gains taxes; withholding taxes on distribution of profits and corporation taxes or levies on sales or profits; VAT on goods supplied to a free zone; and duty on vehicles for use only within the free zone.
A corporation tax exemption for entities that qualify for free zone status is also in force. Application to carry out an approved activity in an existing free zone area is made on specified forms to the TTFZ.
Free zone activities that qualify for approval include manufacturing for export, international trading in products, services for export, and development and management of free zones. Activities that may be carried on in a free zone but do not qualify as approved activities include exploration and production activities involving petroleum, natural gas, or petrochemicals. For more information, please review the following website: http://ttfzco.com/
The TT Special Economic Zones Bill, 2021, was passed in the Parliament in January 2022. The legislation will result in the creation of a Special Economic Zone Authority. The act will take effect upon proclamation by the President of TT (no date has been set).
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The GoTT does not mandate – although it strongly encourages through negotiable incentives – projects that generate employment and foreign exchange; provide training and/or technology transfer; boost exports or reduce imports; have local content; and generally contribute to the welfare of the country.
The GoTT does not mandate that Trinbagonian nationals be recruited to senior management and boards of directors.
Several foreign firms have encountered inconsistencies leading to long delays in the issuance of long-term work permits, but there are no explicit, onerous requirements.
There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest.
There are no forced localization requirements.
There are no performance requirements, and thus no enforcement procedures. There is no indication of an intention to implement across-the-board performance requirements.
Investment incentives are uniform for domestic and foreign investors but offered on a case-by-case, vice across-the-board, basis.
There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.
There are no measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country.
There are no rules on local data storage within TT.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests are enforced in court. Mortgages and liens exist. TT has a dual system of land titles, the old common law system and the registered land title system governed by the Real Property Act of 1946. Nearly 80 percent of land in TT remains under the more complicated common law system, which is not reliable for recording secured interests.
The Foreign Investment Act of 1990 governs the acquisition of any interest in land by foreign investors. It states that foreign investors wishing to acquire land larger than five acres must obtain a license from the Ministry of Finance. Licenses are generally granted in practice per the criteria provided here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/51.pdf .
It is not clear what proportion of land does not have clear title. The GoTT does not make a defined effort to identify property owners and register land titles.
Property ownership can revert to squatters if they can prove exclusive possession of another’s land, without permission, for at least 16 years in the case of private lands and 30 years on State lands.
Intellectual Property Rights
The process of protecting intellectual property involves applying for and registering patents, trademarks, or designs. TT’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legal structure is strong, but enforcement is generally weak. Infringement on rights and theft is common.
TT is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 2020, TT acceded to the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks. Implementing regulations remain in drafting for the 2000 Patent Law Treaty and the Hague Agreement on Industrial Designs.
TT does not track seizures of counterfeit goods. At its May 2019 WTO Trade Policy Review, it reported one seizure in 2018. TT has prosecuted IPR violations in the past, but such prosecutions are uncommon.
TT is listed in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List for 2021. Challenges concern widespread copyright infringement and the country’s lack of institutional commitment to enforce IPR.
TT is not included in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The GoTT welcomes foreign portfolio investment.
TT has its own stock market and has an established regulatory framework to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. There is enough liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.
Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.
The GoTT and the Central Bank of TT respect IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payment and transfers for current international transactions. Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, however, cause considerable delays in payments and transfers for international transactions.
A full range of credit instruments is available to the private sector. There are no restrictions on borrowing by foreign investors who are able to access credit. Credit is allocated on market terms, but interest rates tend to be higher for foreign borrowers.
Money and Banking System
Banking services are widespread throughout urban areas, but penetration is significantly lower in rural areas.
Although the banking sector is healthy and well-capitalized, the IMF in its 2020 Financial Stability Assessment Program noted TT’s banks are exposed to sovereign risk and potential liquidity risks stemming from non-bank financial entities in the group. The financial system overall faces risks of increasing household debt, a lack of supervisory independence and out-of-date regulatory frameworks, the sovereign-bank nexus and the absence of a macro-prudential toolkit, and contagion risks between investment funds and banks. The report further states the financial sector legislation and regulation have not kept pace with international best practice. The supervisors operate with guidelines in key areas instead of binding powers, which limits their authority
In December 2021, the estimated total assets of TT’s largest banks was $23.1 billion.
TT has a central bank system. Foreign banks may establish operations in TT provided they obtain a license from the central bank. TT has lost correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any current correspondent banking relationships that are in jeopardy.
There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.
Shortages of foreign exchange, exacerbated by the government’s maintenance of the local currency at values higher than those which the market would bear, cause considerable delays in conversion into world currencies. Businesses continue to report a cumbersome bureaucratic process and a minimum three-month delay in such conversions.
The central bank intervenes to maintain an unofficial peg to the U.S. dollar using a managed float in which the exchange rate fluctuates mildly day-to-day, and limits the availability of foreign currency.
While there are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies to tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances, commercial banks have enacted policies that limit access to foreign exchange due to national shortages, on guidance from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank.
Although there are no official time limitations on remittances, timeliness of remittances depends on availability of foreign currency.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The value of TT’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), the Heritage and Stabilization Fund, as of September 2021 is approximately $5.6 billion. The fund invests in U.S. short duration fixed income, U.S. core domestic fixed income, U.S. core domestic equities, and non-U.S. core international equities.
The SWF follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the Santiago Principles. TT participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWFs.
None of the SWF is invested domestically. There are no potentially negative ramifications for U.S. investors in the local market.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
TT has 55 SOEs comprised of 43 wholly owned companies, eight majority-owned, and four in which the government has a minority share. SOEs are in the energy, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, financial services, transportation, and communication sectors. Information on the total assets of SOEs, total net income of SOEs and number of people employed by SOEs is not available. The Investments Division of the Ministry of Finance appoints directors to the boards of state enterprises, reportedly at the direction of the Minister of Finance. SOEs are often informally or explicitly obligated to consult with government officials before making major business decisions. According to TT’s constitution, the government is entitled to:
- exercise control directly or indirectly over the affairs of the enterprise
- appoint a majority of directors of the board of directors of the enterprise; and
- hold at least 50 per cent of the ordinary share capital of the enterprise.
A published list of SOEs for 2022 can be found here: https://www.finance.gov.tt/2021/10/04/https-www-finance-gov-tt-wp-content-uploads-2021-10-state-enterprises-investment-programme-seip-2022-pdf/
In sectors that are open to both the private sector and foreign competition, SOEs are sometimes favored for government contracts, which might negatively impact U.S. investors in the market.
The country has not adhered to the OECD corporate governance guidelines for SOEs.
TT does not have a privatization program in place, but the GoTT has issued initial public offerings of various state-owned companies to obtain revenue, primarily in the finance and energy sectors.
Foreign investors can participate in the initial public offerings of SOEs.
The purchase of initial public offering shares on past occasions was open to the public, easy to understand, non-discriminatory, and transparent. For example: https://ngc.co.tt/media/news/ngl-initial-public-offering-brokerage-details/
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is general awareness of expectations of, and standards for, responsible business conduct (RBC), including obligations to proactively conduct due diligence to ensure businesses are doing no harm, including with regards to environmental, social, and governance issues.
The GoTT has not put forward a clear definition of responsible business conduct, nor does it have specific policies to promote and encourage it. The GoTT has not conducted a national action plan on RBC, nor does it currently factor it into procurement decisions.
There are five reports of forced labor in the last 12 months. There are no reported claims in the last five years by indigenous or other communities that a government entity improperly allocated land or natural resources.
There have not been any high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.
TT has laws to ensure protection of human rights, labor rights, consumers, and the environment. Enforcement, however, is lacking due to staffing shortages, capacity issues, and a bureaucratic judiciary.
The GoTT, in collaboration with civil society, created the TT Corporate Governance Code, which incorporates governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The code, however, is not mandatory.
The Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in TT that freely advocates for responsible business conduct and improved corporate governance practices in the Caribbean.
The GoTT does not encourage adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. There are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies sourcing minerals originating from conflict-affected areas.
As a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the GoTT publicly declares annually all revenues received from companies engaged in the extractive industries. The companies, in turn, publicly declare payments to the government.
TT is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
The GoTT has a national climate change policy focused on emissions reduction, a National Biodiversity Strategy, and an Action Plan (NBSAP) which outlines the status of biodiversity in TT. The NBSAP takes into consideration the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services to human health and well-being, the threats to biodiversity, and the legal and policy context in which this NBSAP will be implemented.
The GoTT has not yet introduced any policies to reach net-zero but it is in discussions and planning sessions with stakeholders from various sectors on how this can be achieved. There are currently no regulatory incentives to achieve policy outcomes that preserve biodiversity, clean air, or other desirable ecological benefits. Within the last twelve months, the GoTT has asked ministries to consider environmental considerations when procuring.
Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:
- The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
- The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to public authorities’ official documents. The intention of the act was to address the public’s concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the act, designated officers in each ministry and statutory authority process applications for information.
- The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
- The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.
The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. Effectiveness of these measures has been limited by a lack of thorough enforcement. These laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties. TT does not have laws or regulations to counter conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
The GoTT has been a party to the development of corporate governance standards (non-binding) to encourage private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials. Some private companies, particularly the larger firms, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials, although this is not a government requirement.
TT adheres to the UN Anticorruption Convention. There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption, but investigations are not feared since corrupt actors are rarely punished.
U.S. firms often say corruption is an obstacle to FDI, particularly in government procurement, since TT’s procurement processes are not transparent.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Mr. Rajendra Ramlogan
The Integrity Commission
P.O. Box 1253, Port of Spain
The Integrity Commission of TT Level 14,
Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, 1A Wrightson Road, Port of Spain
Mr. Dion Abdool
TT Transparency Institute (local chapter of Transparency International)
Unit 4-12, Building 7, Fernandes Industrial Centre, Laventille
10. Political and Security Environment
While non-violent demonstrations occasionally occur, widespread civil disorder is not typical. There have been no serious incidents of political violence since a coup attempt in 1990.
Subsequent to the closure of state oil firm Petrotrin in November 2018, which resulted in the lay-off of nearly 6,000 workers, there were reports of damage to installations.
Certain areas of TT are increasingly insecure due to a critical level of violent crime.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The labor market includes many skilled and experienced workers, and the educational level of the population is among the top 10 in North America, according to the Human Development Index, although there is a gap between official literacy statistics and functional literacy. In 2020, the International Labor Organization’s estimate of unemployment was 4.5 percent, while youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was estimated at 11.17 percent in 2020. Information on the informal economy is not widely available.
Agricultural employment accounts for 3.6 percent of total employment while employment in services accounts for over 60 percent. The estimated non-agricultural workforce in the informal economy is 10 percent of the overall labor force. TT’s workforce includes not only TT nationals but also citizens of 11 other CARICOM countries as part of the free movement of labor without the need to obtain a work permit. In 2019, TT granted 16,523 Venezuelan refugees and migrants the right to work in the country for a period of one year under a temporary protective status. In 2021, the GoTT allowed registered Venezuelan refugees a one-year extension of status. Some members of the business community have indicated that many migrant workers have returned to their countries of origin due to the unavailability of job opportunities following the pandemic related closures.
TT is a net importer of expatriate labor, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, and extractive industry specialists. There are surpluses of accountants and attorneys and shortages of unskilled workers for the hospitality, retail, and agriculture sectors. The GoTT subsidizes tertiary-level education for citizens whose income falls within a minimum range. The Multi-Sector Skills Training Program provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism for eligible citizens of TT. The GoTT also encourages continuing learning opportunities for the disadvantaged via the Skills Training Program, which develops skills that can aid in the creation of home-based production of goods and services and employment generation.
There is no government policy requiring hiring of nationals, although it is encouraged, particularly in the energy sector.
There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions via severance. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act provides guidance entitlements based on specific circumstances. Severance pay is usually only paid to retirees and workers who have been made redundant. An employer is not required to pay severance to workers if everyone is severed, since the business is being closed. However, if only a portion of the workforce is rendered redundant, the employer must pay severance. Unemployment insurance does not exist for workers who have been laid off for economic reasons, but programs designed to help job seekers get employed as quickly as possible are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted a 3-6-month unemployment benefit program for those laid off.
Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no separate labor law provisions for special economic zones, trade zones, or free ports.
Collective bargaining is common, with approximately 15 percent of the population covered by collective bargaining agreements. Government workers, including civil servants, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and staff in several state-owned enterprises, are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Unions are also quite active in the energy, steel, and telecommunications industries. Collective bargaining takes place between the firm and the recognized majority union rather than on an industry-wide basis. The government as an employer also bargains collectively. The process of collective bargaining is regulated by the Industrial Relations Act. There are close to 30 active, independent labor unions in TT.
The Industrial Relations Act provides for dispute resolution through an industrial court in instances where the issue cannot be resolved by collective bargaining or through conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Labor.
There was no strike in the past year that posed an investment risk.
The International Labor Organization has not identified any compliance gaps in law or practice regarding international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. The GoTT does not have a labor inspectorate system to identify and remediate labor violations, but the industrial court investigates and prosecutes unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or improper dismissal of union members.
There were no new labor related laws or regulations enacted or in draft over the last year.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
As a high-income country, TT is ineligible for DFC programs.