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August 17, 1998

Distance-education featured prominently in the just-ended visit by Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister, Mr. Basdeo Panday, who was on an investment promotion mission to the United States, with promising contacts made during his trip to Houston, Chicago and the Washington area. The oil and gas, information technology and tourism also stand to benefit from the prime minister's promotional tour.

Mr. Panday, leading a week-long mission to the US from August 10 through 16 seeking to attract more business investments into the twin island Caribbean republic, was looking at various distance-learning models, for different applications. "We saw the application being used to teach at the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel Management at the University of Houston," said Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador to the United States, Michael A. Arneaud, who was part of the investment promotion mission.

Speaking on the results of the mission, Ambassador Arneaud, who is also permanent representative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), qualified the prime minister's trip as a successful one. He said distance-education models were also looked at in Chicago. Trinidad and Tobago was looking at this very seriously as well, "so that the parents would not have the burden of transportation costs of moving all your kids to where they have all the brighter teachers. Instead we'd be able to bring the brighter teachers to the outlying districts so the kids would have the same level of education that those in the urban areas are getting."

Ambassador Arneaud explained in an interview that the current low price for oil and gas, cornerstone of the Trinidad and Tobago economy, meant that government had to continue its overall strategy to diversify from over-dependence on oil and gas.

Fairfax in Northern Virginia is a rapidly-growing information technology corridor and the ambassador said the investment promotion team also saw electronic government applications in Washington, with different software packages available to government. "We expect a lot of it will find its way to application in Trinidad and Tobago."

Tourism was another non-oil sector promoted during the trip, and the ambassador reported that meetings were held with executives of a few hotel chains, some of whom were expected to visit Trinidad and Tobago soon for a first-hand look at the situation there.

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