Trinidad is the sort of place when you ask somebody to show you the sights, they go out of their way to show you the industrial park. "Point Lisas, mon. Gotta see Point Lisas." So we saw Point Lisas.
It is quite impressive. The place employs more than 11,000 people (about one out of every 50 working Trinidadians, not including ancilliary operations in the surrounding area) in a urea manufacturer, a chlorine producer, a lube-oil blending installation, a natural gas fractionation facility, 4 methanol factories, 10 ammonia plants, and one giant honking steel mill.
The Point Lisas Industrial Estate (related to, but not quite the same as the eponymous port) started under the administration of Eric Williams, Trinidad’s first prime minister. It could have been a poster child for the failure of 20th-century socialism. The place took two decades to get running, and once it did its heavy industries managed to lose money at such a prodigious rate that the industrial park managed to play a large role in Trinidad’s debt-led economic collapse in the 1980s.
Past failure is not what makes Point Lisas interesting; certainly less interesting than its equivalents in (to pick two countries completely at random) Romania or Armenia. What makes Point Lisas interesting is the place's present success, and what that says about Trinidad's economic and political future.
More below the fold.