TT minus one

Just completed my first full work week in Trinidad at the UN ECLAC. The place is already starting to feel a little like home, not in any small part due to the incredible hospitality and friendliness of my new co-habitators (I am living in the spare room of the apartment of a Venezuelan couple) and my new co-workers.

Now to give you a little idea of what I’ve been up to, I shall take you on a guided tour. One that shall be somewhat limited by the fact that I forgot to bring my camera cable to upload photos, and therefore will be totally reliant on what I can find online…

So here we are, in Cascade, my new neighbourhood.

No, I don’t live in a performing arts centre…but I do walk past this everyday, and it’s the only picture I could find of the area…

Cascade is a sort of middle-class type neighbourhood near downtown Port of Spain, and basically separated from my office by a giant open space called Savannah Park. At first I presumed I would catch a cab or a “maxi taxi” to work each day, but having discovered that it’s about a two mile or so walk, I’ve basically been walking to and fro, getting a bit of exercise and saving some cash. Think I must stand out quite a lot as so far I have literally been the only person walking on most days, while hundreds of cars cruise past me in traffic. But nevermind, it’s not a bad walk, seems safe, and after getting around much bigger distances in Colorado without the use of a car for the past 10 months or so, quite acceptable.

Savannah Park, from above

Savannah Park from below

From what I can gather, Savannah Park is basically a recreational hub of Port of Spain. People jog and bike around it, play cricket, football and rugby in it, and Carnival happens on it at the right time of year. Around the edge are these gorgeous blossoming trees, covered in purple and red flowers. Definitely not a bad way to have to walk to work.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the road that rings it, there are incredible old buildings that I have yet to determine the history of, but for the one with a sign which reads “Office of the Prime Minister”. Unfortunately, as with the historic buildings in the Bahamas, most of them are in extremely degraded state at the moment, and I can only hope there may be plans to restore them to their former glory.

This one, however, is a favourite and doesn’t seem to be doing so badly compared to the rest:

Caribbean castle anyone?

At work itself, the office houses around 50 people or so. This includes the Economic Development Unit, Sustainable Development Unit, Social Development, Statistics, Knowledge Management and and Disaster Management Units all housed within the UN ECLAC building. Next door is the UNDP, and, perhaps not surprisingly, yet more interns (Germans, Swedes…they all somehow find their way here).

Within the Economic Development Unit, where I am based for the next three months, there are five economists plugging away diligently in the face of major data-availability constraints (the Caribbean being deemed a “data poor region”, but more on this later…) to create meaningful research and analysis of trends and developments on economic issues in the Caribbean. This forms the Caribbean element of the work of ECLAC at large, which is headquartered in Santiago, Chile, and has around 400 staff members. Essentially, ECLAC Port of Spain’s aim is to foster sustainable economic development and integration within the region, through their research, policy recommendations and technical cooperation with governments.

As for my responsibilities, I have been pulled in to assist the department in the preparation of several different small and not so small projects already. One of the best parts about the experience is the fact that interns are treated as part of the team, and given meaningful assignments that will contribute to the real work of the department. Already I can see that a major benefit I think I will take from my experience here is a broader appreciation of the details of the economic and social landscape of the Caribbean region, beyond The Bahamas. Up until now in my work in The Bahamas, my focus has been very country-centric and so over just these past few days it is has been incredibly interesting to compare and contrast the recent performance of my country with its similarly-tourism dependent neighbours, and also those countries in the region which are not tourism-dependent, such as Trinidad and Tobago itself, or Guyana and Suriname.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to attend a live broadcast of the launch of the unit’s latest publication, “Macroeconomic Report on Latin America and the Caribbean”, which was launched in Santiago, Chile, but which we were able to “attend” via a live stream and in conjunction with our own small conference regarding the Caribbean component of the report.

Here we heard about some of the indicators and trends in Latin America and the Caribbean 2011 and heading into 2012, which showed growth pick up during last year, only to slow and in some cases pick up again moderately in 2012 Q1. One thing that is very clear is that the experience of the Caribbean cannot be compared easily with that of natural resource rich Latin America. Even within the Caribbean itself, there is wide divergence of development trajectories coming out of the crisis, but more on that later.

If you look really closely…You might see me in the back of one of those screens on the wall of the Chilean conference room during the report’s launch on Thursday….or more likely, you will not. However, I am there!
Macroeconomic Report on Latin America and the Caribbean, June 2012

For those who may be interested, here’s the press release related to the launch of the report:

As my first weekend in Trinidad approaches, I’m saddened to note that a hike which was planned for tomorrow has been cancelled due to a friend’s car breaking down, but happy to report that a trip to the famous Maracas Bay is still on the cards for Sunday.

There I may or may not be planning to try something known as a “Bake and Shark”, that is…Trinidad’s most famous fish sandwich.

Posted on June 15, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. hmmmm can’t determine it yet … will wait for more stories…

  2. I don’t want to lose your love, toniiiiigggght!

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