I was in T&T from Dec 07 to Aug 08. The country obviously has problems, and I say that, not as a detractor, but as a sympathiser.
Clearly crime is a priority that needs to be brought under control. It's a small country, population-wise (1.3m, as you know), but to be ranked 3rd in the world for its murder rate is an indication of just how dangerous life can be there. If the same murder rate transferred to my country (UK), it would mean 18,000 murders per year. Here we could not imagine such a thing. Yet it happens in T&T, and just from crime - there is no armed insurrection, no civil war.
Up to the time I left, the country was undergoing a building boom. I don't know how the current world financial crisis has affected the country - the food prices hit there, whilst I was still resident, so I imagine the country is being hit badly by the recession also. I just found it incredulous that the country had to recruit building labourers from the People's Republic of China, and to seek bilingual (Chinese/English) site managers. It's possible that that construction frenzy has come to an abrupt end - you will know.
But Chinese building labourers might be symptomatic of T&T's fundamental economic problems - that historically it has allowed foreigners to exploit the country's resources. I don't just refer to British colonialism, and foreign oil companies, but you know that Syrians have made themselves obscenely wealthy, Germans live in Blanchiseusse in housing that most Trinis can only dream of, and so on. For a while I lived in a rundown part of Maraval, but further up Saddle Road, beyond the end of the bus route, there was a suburb (I forget its name), where the road was properly maintained, the grass vergers cut regularly, the housing hidden behind high walls, the cars that passed by were luxury, and the people there - well even if you did not see them, you knew they were white.
What impressed the heck out of me, before I went out there, was Vision 2020. Here, in the UK, we don't know what the government has planned for tomorrow, and yet I saw a developing country that had a long-term plan, a firm commitment, and a timetable to become a fully developed country. I was so impressed. In T&T, I found out that Vision 2020 was considered a joke. That's a shame - because the potential is there - but the commitment, the political will is lacking.
Like most countries, T&T has 2 main political parties. I was saddened to know that it is ethnic differences, and not political philosophy that divides the PNP and the UNC(A). I noticed that COP had tried to break that mould (even though it seemed to be largely a UNC-A breakaway), but, although it got a respectable proportion of the national vote, it suffered under a first-past-the-post system where one representative is elected per constituency.
Personally I think that T&T could progress, but the danger of popular complacency is that the elected representatives do what they please. The converse of that situation is that the electors are biting at the heels of their representatives constantly - ensuring that promises are adhered to, as far as possible; that MPs do what they claimed they wanted to do etc. That could be possible in T&T - the country is small in geographical size and in population. However, it also takes a lot of collective willpower, and how can that happen, if we all just want to lime as soon as we have some free time on our hands?