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Infrastructure connects islands’ potential to reality

Article - October 1, 2014
The Caribbean leader’s continued economic growth consequentially motivates a need for continued development of the country’s infrastructure and opportunities to invest are not in short supply as the nation looks to maintain its regional pole position through its energetic marketplace and a new airport city.
The twin islands enjoy a long-standing reputation as a great destination for investment. Whether it be in the country’s booming oil and gas market, aided by the government’s fiscal incentives, tourism, thanks to its stunning scenery, or agriculture and its rich production of cocoa, cassava, rice, citrus fruit and vegetables, investment in T&T has long been a safe bet.

One of the largest and most exciting opportunities for both Trinbagonian and foreign investors comes in the form of the ambitious Piarco Aeropark, the Caribbean’s first ‘airport city’. Masterminded by the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT), the project is known affectionately as an ‘aerotropolis’ and will bring business and tourism together under one hub with a city-like site and commercial center growing around an airport.

“Our idea is to have a portfolio of services and industries that all come together and thrive off each other, creating an environment that uses the airport as its nucleus,” says Jason Julien, Chairman of the AATT. “These enterprises will include hospitality and entertainment, retail and shopping, manufacturing and warehousing, as well as aviation related services.”

Located roughly 16 miles east of the central business district of Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain, Piarco International Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports serving the southern Caribbean, and it is the home of T&T’s national flag carrier, Caribbean Airlines. With its 16-gate terminal and modern facilities, it is a vital crossroads for international air traffic in the region, having direct connections to many destinations in North, Central and South America, as well as Europe.

Piarco Aeropark aims to go beyond just aviation services and to truly become a city built around the airport, operating in a whole sphere of services, business and entertainment.
Many carriers also fly into A.N.R. Robinson International Airport in Tobago, connected to Piarco via a bi-hourly air service. In addition, a daily ferry service also links Port of Spain and Tobago’s capital city, Scarborough.

“Those gateways go two ways; they allow our citizens to connect to new opportunities abroad, and at the same time they allow foreigners to come to Trinidad and Tobago for business, investment and tourism,” says Mr. Julien.

In addition, Trinidad’s two fully developed industrial ports in Port of Spain and Point Lisas serve as major transshipment hubs between the Americas, handling dry and general cargo, industrial bulk and containers.

“The challenge with a growing economy is that if the infrastructure doesn’t grow with it, there become huge bottlenecks,” comments Richard Young, Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB). “The government and administration is looking for and understands the importance of investment. They also recognize that business should be run by the private sector and the government’s role is to facilitate and encourage that.”

With some of the crucial infrastructure already complete, including road links and drainage, there are numerous options for investment that AATT’s chairman believes will help diversify the economy.

“We are now looking at opportunities beyond just the arrivals of passengers; we are talking about the arrival of business, investment and capital into the country,” says Mr. Julien. “We want to go beyond just aviation services and to truly become a city built around the airport, operating in a whole sphere of services, business and entertainment. We have 600 plus acres of land around the Piarco Aeropark; this represents an incredible opportunity.”

The increased tourism that Piarco Aeropark will bring to the nation will have a domino effect with the opportunities to expand infrastructure further. With its beaches and stunning scenery, tourism is high up on the agenda when it comes to investors eyeing the twin islands’ potential. The stunning Chaguaramas peninsula is a popular destination that is being further developed through the construction of the Chaguaramas Boardwalk project as T&T places a major focus on its cultural products.

“We are bringing a number of activities and we are encouraging both local and international tourism in that area,” says Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development. “We are now in discussions with an investor for the development of the golf course; we also have a hotel in Chaguaramas which has tremendous potential and we are inviting people to invest in that as well.”

The focus is not solely on making T&T accessible to the world, however, with its people also benefiting from expanding the country’s infrastructure. On top of public-sector investment, the country is already working with the private sector to attract capital.

“We have various approaches for generating investment,” says Roodal Moonilal, Minister of Housing for Trinidad and Tobago. “We work with the private sector, and this country’s development in the private sector is large. Private constructors are able to export their services. We also generate partnerships. Meeting the demand for housing is hard, so we meet it with public and private-sector construction.”

With various subsidies and tax exemptions in place to aid public and private-sector partnerships, investors are keen to get on board and the government is ensuring everything is in position to make T&T an unmistakable destination for investment.