Citizens of this country might understandably take shame, to the extent that they fear T&T may have gained the image of a failed or failing state. It is apparent that a surge in local crime and corruption will have undercut national self-esteem, especially as national institutions fall far short of meeting investigative and corrective expectations.
It is a sobering and reassuring reality, however, that T&T is far from being shunned by the rest of the world. Once again, last month, came signs of world powers’ reaffirming respect for T&T. The historic T&T visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the staging here of a Caricom summit, reaffirmed the presentable international standing of this country.
T&T, it has been affirmed, is not only worthy of being called upon in its own right, but it is also regarded as the key point of contact and interaction with the Caribbean region. Prime Minister Abe’s visit fitted a now-familiar pattern seen with US Vice-President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both of whom came calling, on the same basis, within the last year.
Those visits of course followed the 2009 holding in Port of Spain of the Americas Summit and of the Commonwealth Heads conference. Both those exercises implied high costs in terms of management and finance, and formed the basis of criticism for overreach identified with the then Patrick Manning PNM administration.
Evidently, however those summits helped to advertise T&T to the rest of the world as a place where positive things can safely and successfully take place. The Japanese Prime Minister’s visit thus represented yet another by heavyweight world leaders, that identified T&T as the must-go Caribbean destination, for purposes of international politics, economics, and diplomacy.
This may not of course be consistent with how people of T&T see ourselves. Troubled on so many fronts, T&T may well be under-estimating the measure by which it lines up with reasonably comparable countries in the rest of the world.
Almost immediately after the Abe visit came news of the decision by Turkey, an important European Union state, to open an embassy in Port of Spain. This mission, it was reported, would form the base from which Ankara plans to overview and manage its relations with other Caribbean countries.
Having established a Beijing embassy, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration is now actively considering the establishment of one in Tokyo. Japan, as it seeks to win friends and influence countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, likely in competition with the US, China and now, Turkey, has recognised in T&T something that people in this country are only slowly coming to realise: the image of a critical international partner, and the staging point for enlarging regional relations.