Any Time is Trinidad Time

By Morgan Ramkallawan

Informal institutions shape formal institutions in ways such as creating or strengthening incentives to comply with formal rules. Helmke defines informal institutions as socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels. There are four types of informal institutions; the focus in this blog post will be on competing informal institutions. This occurs when informal institutions coexist with ineffective formal institutions: in such cases, the fact that the formal rules and procedures are not enforced permits actors to disregard them. Informal institutions can promote this behaviour.

An example of this is the concept of Trinidad time, culturally and even globally known as the inability of Trinbagonians to be punctual in almost every circumstance. Although Helmke distinguishes that informal institutions are not culture, “Trini time” is far more than culture, in certain situations arriving on time can lead to social exclusion. It is so heavily indoctrinated within the society, in almost every situation individuals are late and are expected to be late; for parliament, court cases, and even informal social gatherings. This is because, although the formal institutions are formed which include punishments for violations, i.e. code of conduct and therefore warnings for tardiness, it is hardly ever enforced. Specifically, with employers and employees recognizing that individuals would not arrive on time, there is an inadequacy of punishments for those who do not comply with these formal institutions, which has affected the productive capabilities of the twin island nation.

Projects end up taking a much longer period of construction given that deadlines cannot be met on time, thereby transaction costs rise, or in some circumstances, due to the competing informal institutions, some projects are outsourced to foreign labourers. Similar to a cycle, the absence of enforcement promotes the informal institution, the acceptance of tardiness overall preserves an ineffective formal institution. As the famous Lord Kitchener sang, “they tell you eight…they come half past late”.

A Model of Success to Post-Colonial Development

By Morgan Ramkallawan

In the Comparative Analysis of Spanish and British colonies, Lange focuses on the economic models that the Spanish and British colonizers used in order to evaluate the impact these models had on the post colonial development of their colonies. The model used recognized the main variables as the pre- colonial development, the identity of the colonizers and the amount of settlers, the levels of colonialism, the institutions that affect the GDP of the colony. Lange’s conclusion recognized that in most cases British colonies had a higher post-colonial development in comparison to Spanish colonies.

Although there are limitations to Lange’s model such as the time of independence between the colonies, Lange’s model can be used as an explanation for the success of Trinidad and Tobago post-colonial development. After gaining the territory from the Spanish in 1797and officially forming the treaty agreement in 1802, Trinidad mainly consisted of some French settlers, and their African slaves. The British influence over the islands however was quite limited, excluding law and governance and the promotion of English education and language. Moreover, there was no heavy influx of British settlers, rather migrants and labourers, who promoted the agro-economy of sugar cane.

Furthermore, towards the end of the nineteenth century, oil was discovered on the island, the institutions put in place to successfully cultivate it whilst maintaining the agricultural society promoted successful economic development within the island. The British remained influential until independence in 1962, however all the institutions in place remained the same, just loyal to a different country. The lack of extractive policies and little British settlers as well as the liberal economic model, according to Lange, promoted the notion of a strong economy. Something which can be seen today, given that the island’s economy has one of the highest GNI per capital in Latin America and the Caribbean with US $18,600.