Overseas Business Risk Trinidad & Tobago

Overseas Business Risk – Trinidad & Tobago

Information on key security and political risks which UK businesses may face when operating in Trinidad & Tobago.

Political and Economic

Political and economic risks are considered to be low. Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is a unitary state, with a parliamentary democracy modelled after that of the UK and it has a stable political system with routine orderly changes in Government. There have been no serious cases of political violence since 1990. General elections are held every five years, however, the last election was held in May 2010, approximately 2½ years earlier than they were constitutionally due. The elections were viewed to be free and fair, and the next elections are now due in the year 2015.

Economically, Trinidad and Tobago is different from other Caribbean countries because of its significant oil and gas reserves. It has an open, market-driven economy, which promotes trade liberalisation, foreign investment and public sector reform and it is currently the sixth largest exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG) in the world.

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations, is available in the FCO Travel Advice

Human Rights

The main human rights concern surrounds civilian deaths at the hands of the police – when persons are apprehended or while in custody. There are incidents of ill-treatment of crime suspects, detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions are harsh, and may impact on inmates’ health. Prisoners are however allowed to submit uncensored complaints to judicial authorities and through the Office of the Ombudsman. Generally, prison conditions for women are better than for male prisoners.

In August 2011, the government called a State of Emergency (SOE), which lasted until December 2011.. Under the SOE, the special measures in place allowed national security enforcement agencies to carry out numerous arrests without warrants, detaining persons without charge and placing a ban on public demonstrations (in particular labour union gatherings) and strikes. Overall, T&T is void of politically motivated killings, and there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.

In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere. Please be guided by the Bribery Act 2010.

In 2012, Trinidad and Tobago was ranked 80 of 174 countries in the World Transparency International Corruption index, rising from 90th place out of 182 in 2011. There are low levels of bribery in the private sector. However in the public sector, there have been allegations of corruption and a lack of transparency with respect to procurement processes. In December 2008 the Uff Commission of Enquiry was launched into the affairs of state owned Urban Development Corporation Of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) and the entire local construction industry. This was due to allegations of corruption in a number of state run projects. Such allegations are said to have involved contractors, consultants and government officials, the Uff Commission was due to deliver its report initially in September 2009. However the report was eventually laid in the Senate in April 2010. This highlighted concerns relating to procurement practices and performance within the construction sector, including transparency, planning and other regulatory issues.

More recently, the World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators reflected that government corruption was a problem, and it was found that some public officials did not abide by asset disclosure rules, citing The Integrity and Public Life Act as being invasive. Also posing a challenge at a national security level is that of police corruption. Some officers were found to be involved in illegal activities including alleged gang association. At prisons, screening devices are used to prevent smuggling of contraband by prison guards.

In Tobago, there have been a few cases of property fraud.

Visit the Business Anti-Corruption portal page providing advice and guidance about corruption in overseas markets

Read the information provided on our Bribery and corruption page.

Terrorism Threat

The threat from terrorism remains low. In 1990 there was an attempted coup by the Jamatt Al Muslimeen. There were considerable anti terrorism training of T&T Security Forces ahead of the – the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April 2009 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November of the same year.

Read the latest Travel Advice for Trinidad and Tobago from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Read the information provided on our Terrorism threat page

Protective Security Advice

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

There is a high level of gang-related violent crime in Trinidad. Incidents are concentrated in the inner city neighbourhoods east of Port of Spain’s city centre, but can occur in other areas. There was a spate of kidnappings for ransom in Trinidad between 2002 and 2005. This activity decreased in 2007, but remains of concern. Although kidnapping does not appear to be targeted at foreign nationals, crime against tourists in Tobago remains a serious concern. Although the authorities are taking steps to improve the situation, on the ground the police have not proved effective in taking follow-up action to apprehend and prosecute offenders.

Transhipment of illegal drugs, money-laundering and associated violent crime are all of serious concern in Trinidad and Tobago. There is a high level of domestic violence and very few prosecutions. Regarding identity theft, there have been few instances of card cloning.

Read the information provided on our Protective security advice page

Read the latest Travel Advice for Trinidad and Tobago from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Intellectual Property

IP rights are territorial, that is they only give protection in the countries where they are granted or registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally, they you should consider registering your IP rights in your export markets.

Laws on Intellectual Property have been the subject of reform in order to bring existing legislation in line with international developments and to improve the conditions for trade and investment. Trinidad and Tobago is now a party to several international conventions on intellectual property and is also a member of the International Union for the protection of Intellectual Property and is a participating member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). There is a strong trade union movement in T&T, with approximately 20% of the workforce represented by trade unions that have negotiated collective bargaining agreements which set the terms and conditions of their employment.

Read the information provided on our Intellectual Property page.

Organised Crime

Organised crime activity is almost exclusively limited to narcotics and does not generally pose a threat to foreign business interests.

Read the information provided on our Organised crime page.

More information is available on overseas business risk in a range of markets.

Human Rights

The main human rights concern surrounds civilian deaths at the hands of the police – when persons are apprehended or while in custody. There are incidents of ill-treatment of crime suspects, detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions are harsh, and may impact on inmates’ health. Prisoners are however allowed to submit uncensored complaints to judicial authorities and through the Office of the Ombudsman. Generally, prison conditions for women are better than for male prisoners.

In August 2011, the government called a State of Emergency (SOE) , which lasted until December 2011.. Under the SOE, the special measures in place allowed national security enforcement agencies to carry out numerous arrests without warrants, detaining persons without chargeand placing a ban on public demonstrations (in particular labour union gatherings) and strikes. Overall, T&T is void of politically motivated killings, and there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

The constitution upholds freedom of speech, the press, internet freedom, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement. However, in the 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index, Trinidad and Tobago fell from 30th to 50th place out of 179.. The downgrading came as “a result of a scandal involving spying on journalists, as well as moves to boycott radio and television stations and procedural abuses”. Additionally, the Prime Minister revealed that the state’s Security Intelligence Agency (SIA), without the public’s knowledge, had been operating and illegally tapping telephones and intercepting e-mails of high profile persons. Subsequently, legislation was brought in the form of the Interception of Communications Bill, to deal with the issue of interception. Both the Parliament and the Senate unanimously supported the bill towards its successful passage. In 2012-13, Trinidad and Tobago’s press freedom ranking rose again to 44th place.

Same-sex sexual activity is a criminal offence and immigration laws may also prohibit lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons from entering the country. Whilst legislation is not enforced by the government, there have been a couple of high profile nincidents surrounding international figures.

UK Trade & Investment Contact:

Bernadette.Bacchus@fco.gov.uk

Countries: Trinidad and Tobago
Topics: Insurance & Risk
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