This article aims to look at some aspects of economic developments in Trinidad and Tobago in the post-war era.

In essence, the paper argues that basically there has been no significant change in the pattern of economic performance and relationships of the post-war economy of Trinidad and Tobago. The economy appears to have been ‘unresponsive’ both to changes in the form of government and to whatever changes there may have been in government policies.

This situation could be explained on either of two grounds. The first is that there has been no basic difference in the policies of the successive governments of this era. The other is that, despite differences in policies of the governments, other forces (either local private, foreign private, or public) have been sufficiently strong to thwart any change in the structure and performance of the economy which these governments may have tried to bring about. The paper will make some tentative attempts to assess the relevance of both possible explanations.

It is important to this study to structure the post-war period in such a way as to allow the economic data to be fitted into the periods of political change. This permits distinctions to be made between economic developments which are the direct results of the policies of a particular government, and those which preceded or succeeded its tenure of office and direct influence. Accordingly, the study has been divided into the following five periods:

  • Period I -1939-1946- The Second World War
  • Period II -1946-1950- Adult Franchise
  • Period III -1950-1956- Ministerial Government
  • Period IV -1956-1962- Internal Self Government
  • Period V -1962-1666- Independence

Period I (l 939-1946) is intended to give some idea of the performance of the economy during the war and – more important – a picture of the economy as it emerged from the Second World War. Trinidad and Tobago was greatly affected by that war and an analysis of subsequent developments requires the construction of a sort of social and economic balance sheet of the territory at that time.

Period II (1946-1950) coincides with the first period of Crown Colony government under adult franchise. For the first time the mass of the local population had some influence on government policy, at least to the degree of determining which “honourable” gentlemen would be able to speak on its behalf in that august house – the “Leg Co.” It was also the period when the colonial powers were freeing their colonies and were thus being forced to recognise and aid their aspirations for economic development. Finally, it was also the period during which the wartime scaffolding of exchange controls and similar austerity measures was being dismantled.

Period Ill (1950-1956) represents responsible government and the introduction of the ministerial system. The portfolio allocation to ministers of the responsibility for specific areas of the country’s economic life gave the population a new vista on the economic activities of the colony. In the eyes of the population, a specific representative of the people could now be held up to blame or praise for specific failures or achievements.

Period IV (1956-1962) was the time of high drama in the political arena. First, there was the advent of party politics. Then there was the introduction of the Cabinet system. There was the birth, life and death of the Federation and the Chaguaramas issue. All this would have been enough for one period but, as it was, there was more. There was the first Five-year Plan and – the climactic event of all – Independence.

Period V (1962-1966) covers the performance of the economy in its first five years servicing an independent nation.