The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island, democratic state located in the Southern Caribbean. Trinidad, the larger of the two islands at approximately 1,864 sq mi (4,828 sq km) is the more industrialised of the two and the seat of Government. Tobago is just 116 sq mi (300 sq km), but with its natural beauty it is a popular destination for tourists.
Despite being a single country today, Trinidad and Tobago did not share a common history until 1889 when the two islands were made into a single colony by the British. Trinidad was discovered by Columbus in 1498; Tobago was sighted on that same voyage, but received little attention from the Spanish colonisers. History tells that on his third voyage and after a particularly difficult journey, Christopher Columbus sighted three hills and name the land Trinidad in honour of the Holy Trinity. The name Tobago may have been a derivation of ‘tobacco,’ the crop grown by the indigenous people living there at that time. At different times in history, the islands were claimed by the Spanish, French and Dutch (Tobago only), until becoming British colonies in the 18th century.
Centuries of occupation by various European nations and domination of a plantation economy have shaped the people and culture of Trinidad and Tobago in unique ways and have made it one of the most cosmopolitan countries of the Caribbean. People of African, Indian, Asian, European and Middle Eastern descent all call Trinidad and Tobago home, and have influenced the cuisine, music, religion and cultural pastimes of the country. Carnival, by far the biggest cultural event was brought by the French; calypso, the music of Trinidad and Tobago has both French and African influences; the steel pan, the only musical instrument invented in modern times, was invented by the descendants of African slaves and parang, music played at Christmas time, is still sung in Spanish.
After years of British colonialism, Trinidad and Tobago finally won its independence in 1962, due to the efforts of Dr. Eric Williams, the country’s first Prime Minister and Father of the Nation. The party that he founded, the People’s National Movement, continues to dominate the politics of the country to this day.
After the fall of the plantation economy, oil was discovered in 1857 and Trinidad and Tobago has never looked back. Oil, natural gas and petrochemicals account for almost half of GDP and have shaped the economic fortunes of the nation in a way that no other sector could. Today, Trinidad and Tobago boasts one of the highest standards of living in the hemisphere with a per capita income of approximately US$18,000 and a GDP of US$20.9 billion (2008 estimates), due in no small part to a vibrant energy sector.
The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, the Ministry responsible for monitoring, controlling and regulating the energy and mineral sectors of Trinidad and Tobago, was first established in 1904 as the Mines Department. It was re-designated the Petroleum Department in 1948 and as the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines in June 1963. Since then there has been eight name changes with slight changes in ministerial responsibility.
As the energy sector expanded so have the roles and functions of the Ministry. Today, the Ministry operates a range of activities including: