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Establishment of Point Lisas

The eventual location chosen was Point Lisas, due to the nature of the coastline and crucially, the availability of large tracts of flat undeveloped land next to the coast.  This landholding belonged to Caroni Ltd., at that time a private company.  The ECTT engaged in a long series of negotiations with Caroni Ltd. and the Government in order to put together the necessary combination of approvals, financial capital and land to develop the port and the industrial estate.  These discussions were led by a team from the ECTT comprising Bobby Montano, Mr Max Marshall, of Texaco (and President of the Chamber 1967-69), Mr Sidney Knox, at that time working for Neal and Massy Motors in the south, and a young lawyer, Mr Khrishna Narinesingh. 

As a result of the constant activity from these four, and various other members, the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Company (PLIPDECO) was eventually established exactly ten years after the founding of the South Trinidad Chamber.  The new company had four categories of shareholders; a group of ECTT Council members who held shares as trustees for the Chamber; Caroni Ltd. which was granted shares in exchange for the land that it made available, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago which was granted shares in return for funding a feasibility study for the port development; and members of the general public who subscribed to the offer.

The structure of shareholding was designed to ensure that the ECTT retained control over PLIPDECO.  Over the next few years officials of the Chamber and PLIPDECO went on a series of road trips, mainly to the United States, to try to attract large heavy industrial plants to the estate.  Despite some potential successes they encountered difficulty in attracting investors, mainly because of issues with Government red-tape.  In the early 1970s the Government, with increased revenue available due to high international oil prices, offered to take-over PLIPDECO and to play the role of facilitator and in some cases major investor in new heavy industrial plants.  The ECTT accepted this offer and control of PLIPDECO was handed over to the State, though with the Chamber retaining a seat on the Board.  By 1976, Government investment in infrastructure at Point Lisas began to take off and the industrial estate and associated port facilities have never looked back.

With the benefit of fifty years hindsight, the Chamber’s decision to concentrate on heavy industrial development seems an obvious one.  But in the late fifties and early sixties, the ECTT’s position was very much a minority one, with most people in Government and business believing that we should concentrate on light manufacturing in order to absorb excess labour from the declining agricultural sector.   Members from this era frequently report that their vision for the establishment of a heavy industrial estate, linked to a deep-water harbour, was dismissed by other members of the national community.  The eventual realisation of this vision, however, has been one of the resounding success stories of Trinidad & Tobago in the Independence era.

 

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