A Basic Understanding of Politics and Government in Trinidad and Tobago.

Understanding Politics and Government in Trinidad and Tobago.

With elections fever still in the air, I wish to take this opportunity to shed some light as to the operations of Government in this twin island Republic.

 

Background

Trinidad and Tobago is a unitary state, with a parliamentary democracy modelled after that of Great Britain (ie the Westminster model).

The Westminster Model

  • A two-party system Political systems in which only two political parties effectively compete for government office. However, minor parties may operate in such a system, coalition governments occur only rarely in two-party systems.
  • In government, bicameralism (bi + Latin camera, chamber) is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a parliament or legislature which consists of two Chambers or Houses. Bicameral legislatures tend to require a concurrent majority to pass legislations.
  • In Trinidad and Tobago, the Parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate (31 seats) and the House of Representatives (41 seats). The members of the Senate are appointed by the president. Sixteen Government Senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, six Opposition Senators are appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine Independent Senators are appointed by the President to represent other sectors of civil society. The 41 members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people for a maximum term of five years in a “first past the post” system
  • The President is elected by an Electoral College consisting of the full membership of both houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister is elected from the results of a general election which takes place every five years.
  • There are 14 municipal corporations (two cities, three boroughs, and nine Regions) which have a limited level of autonomy. The various councils are made up of a mixture of elected and appointed members. Elections are due to be held every 3 years, but have not been held since 2003, 4 extensions having been sought by the government. Local Government elections are next due in July 2010.

 

Local Government

Local Government in Trinidad and Tobago is handled through 5 municipalities and 9 Regional Corporations in Trinidad, and the Tobago House of Assembly in Tobago.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is the local government body responsible for the administration of the island of Tobago within the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. The THA was established in 1980. One noteworthy fact is that in addition to the normal local government functions the THA handles many of the responsibilities of the central government, but lacks the ability to collect taxes or impose local laws or zoning regulations. The THA consists of 12 elected assemblymen and four appointed councillors. Three councillors are appointed on the advice on the Chief Secretary and one on the advice of the Minority Leader. The Chief Secretary is the leader of the majority party in the assembly.

The five towns with municipality-status are:

  The Borough of Arima

  The Borough of Chaguanas

  The City of Port-of-Spain

  The Borough of Point Fortin

  The City of San Fernando

The eight Regional Corporations are:

  Couva-Tabaquite-Talparo Regional Corporation

  Diego Martin Regional Corporation

  Princes Town Regional Corporation

  Rio Claro-Mayaro Regional Corporation

  San Juan-Laventille Regional Corporation

  Sangre Grande Regional Corporation

  Siparia Regional Corporation

  Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation: It is the largest by population of all the Regional Corporations The Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation is headquartered in Tunapuna. Other towns include Arouca, Blanchisseuse, Curepe, St. Augustine, Trincity, and Piarco

Name Type Urban Centres Population
Arima Borough Arima 32,278
Chaguanas Borough Chaguanas, Cunupia, Endeavour, Felicity, Montrose 67,433
Couva-Tabaquite-Talparo Regional Claxton Bay, Couva, Point Lisas, St. Mary’s, Tabaquite, Talparo 162,779
Diego Martin Regional Carenage, Diego Martin, Maraval, Westmoorings 105,720
Penal-Debe Regional Penal, Debe 83,609
Point Fortin Borough Point Fortin, Guapo, Teschier 19,056
Port of Spain City Port of Spain 49,031
Princes Town Regional Moruga, Princes Town 91,947
Rio Claro-Mayaro Regional Mayaro, Rio Claro, Guayaguayare 33,480
San Fernando City San Fernando, Marabella 55,419
San Juan-Laventille Regional Barataria, Laventille, Morvant, St. Joseph, San Juan 157,295
Sangre Grande Regional Guaico, Sangre Grande, Toco, Valencia 64,343
Siparia Regional Cedros, Fyzabad, La Brea, Santa Flora, Siparia 81,917
Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Arouca, Curepe, Piarco, St. Augustine, Trincity, Tunapuna 203,975

 

Sources:

Ministry of Local Government (Trinidad and Tobago)

Introduction to Caribbean Politics by Cynthia Barrow-Giles

Contending with destiny: the Caribbean in the 21st century by Denis Benn, Kenneth Hall

The concise Oxford dictionary of politics by Iain McLean, Alistair McMillan

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