The most important month in the history of Trinidad and Tobago is just coming to an end.
I imagine you’re wondering what on earth prompts me to write this. Lots of other months in Trinidad and Tobago’s history have witnessed much more drama and global attention. You could argue that the most important month was August 1962 when Trinidad and Tobago got its independence. Or April 1970 and the Black Power tumults. Or July 1990 and the Muslimeen coup attempt.
Everybody knows those dates as key milestones in the history of this country. But October 2011? What’s so important about that?
Before I answer that I wanted to ask another question – is Trinidad and Tobago a developed country? This is one that, rightly, matters to people here. The achievement of developed country status has been an objective of the government of Trinidad and Tobago for some years. Vision 2020 was a major national campaign to reach that aim. And like any ambition, you have to have a way of knowing when you’ve got there.
Which brings me back to October 2011. It all comes down to something called the OECD DAC list. The OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is an international economic organisation based in Paris. It has 34 member countries, including the UK as well as most of the countries of the EU, Japan, Australia and North America. The OECD, among other things, plays an important role in co-ordinating the aid policies of the world’s biggest donor countries. This includes the definition of which are actually developing countries – the so-called DAC list – that qualify for aid money from the biggest donors, whether it’s the USA, Japan or major European countries.
In October 2011 the DAC list was updated. For the first time, Trinidad and Tobago is no longer on that list, reflecting a sustained period of economic growth and relatively high per capita income. This means that the premier international organisation that makes a judgement on such matters considers T&T to be a developed country. Of course, it would be simplistic to suggest that being a developed country is the same as a country in which everyone has access to development. All countries, whether officially regarded as developed or developing, are in a state of development and change. This goes for the UK as much as for T&T. And for some purposes, being a developed country may seem a disadvantage – T&T might no longer qualify for certain types of aid or funding.
But there has to be a point in time when the consensus of opinion regards a change as having taken place. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, that point was October of this year: you made it. You are now a developed country. I’ve not seen this achievement noted anywhere in the press or by the government. Surely this is the most important moment in your history?