Mr. Speaker, members of this Honorable House, my fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, a pleasant good morning. I would like to thank my almighty God for his goodness and mercies and the strength to carry on, for he is my light and my salvation.
I wish to take this opportunity to extend birthday wishes to both the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I woke up this morning with a heart burdened with questions as to whether or not I should carry on. Mr. Speaker, as per the usual, I asked my Lord for strength, guidance, wisdom and determination, and because of those I am here standing before you in this honorable House this morning.
Mr. Speaker, the past few weeks of duty in the Office of Premier of this country have been a reality check. You see Mr. Speaker, I was taught all my life to be honest, to be law abiding, to play by the rules as these are the best of policies to which one should adhere to safely see oneself through life. Mr. Speaker, to some extent these guiding principles are true, but in the current socioeconomic and political context of our beloved Turks and Caicos Islands, these qualities do indeed at times appear to be pointless and are the constant root causes of frustration as the rules are not in our favor. Mr. Speaker the rules that I am referring to are the constitutional rules of this country which give the Governor the uncensored power to do whatsoever he pleases. Mr. Speaker, if these powers were consistently used in the interest of Turks and Caicos Islanders to better their lives we may not have a problem. The difficulty, Mr. Speaker, is if government plays by these current rules, it would be to our detriment as we would not be serving the best interest of our people. What is unfair is, if Turks and Caicos Islanders attempted to challenge the status quo, it would also be to their detriment, so essentially we can`t win for losing. However Mr. Speaker I am a fighter. I am a leader and if I am going to die I would prefer to die trying and challenging the status quo.
Mr. Speaker, we came to government, elected by the people to improve their lives and well-being, not just economically and socially but also, more importantly, to improve their lives democratically. Mr. Speaker, the people of these islands elected us to make decisions in their best interest, to represent them, but the government of the people is having some of the most difficult times, being bound by chains and whipped when we try to break free in the interest of the people.
Mr. Speaker, the economy of the Turks and Caicos Islands has shown many positive signs of growth, as evidenced by our GDP which has grown by 3.4%, there are also major investments such as the Shore Club and the West Caicos development that were stalled and are now well on their way towards initiating activity. Very soon other developments like Dellis and Ambergris Cay will come along, and with new interested investors engaged, I am very optimistic that this economy will rebound completely. However, Mr. Speaker this growth must be to the betterment of the lives of our people who must be able to capitalize on the opportunities that would be presented to them. Mr. Speaker, the only way we can guarantee this in an environment of unfair competition is by strengthening our Belonger preference policies as we grow and diversify our economy and as we streamline and make more efficient, our business and labour policies.
Mr. Speaker, we are about leveling the playing field not making it uneven. Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my Turks and Caicos Islanders that we are mandated to empower them through protection of reserved categories of business and capital and investment facilitation and that we shall do. I can let the EU know now, that if the EDF grant of 15 million which is intended to improve and streamline business practices, has as its goal the
removal of Belonger reserve categories as a trade off, then they can keep their money as this will not happen under my watch at this time in our current economic state.
Mr. Speaker, Tourism is our main industry and it has served us and continues to serve us well even during to downturn in the economy. However, we are vulnerable to economic shocks and unless we diversify our economy we would always remain vulnerable and at high risk of not being able to withstand economic downturns. Mr. Speaker that is why we have begun the process of facilitating other industries, such a manufacturing and processing, and identifying trading partners for the importation of raw materials to serve these industries.
Mr. Speaker our neighbours of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas and other Caricom countries in close proximity may serve well as trading partners and allies, so too do other first world countries like the US and Canada. Mr. Speaker the diversification of our economies into the manufacturing and processing industry will, in addition to boosting the economy, create jobs and promote Turks and Caicos internationally with goods labeled ” Made in the Turks and Caicos”, these results all having an overall impact of lowering the cost of goods and cost of living.
Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to venture internationally to promote these islands to investors in an effort to encourage more new investments and major infrastructural developments. Mr. Speaker on September 22nd, I will be one of the key note speakers at the KPMG Miami Infrastructure conference where I will be presenting three key major infrastructure investment opportunities, namely the Phase 2 Providenciales Airport expansion with new international arrival and departure areas, the East Caicos Mega Port and Resort Facility and the Caicos Causeway. These projects we see as life changing projects for these islands that will bring economic prosperity and sustainability and diversify our bread basket.
Mr. Speaker, as a government, in addition to expanding this economy and providing jobs, a task that we are feverishly doing, we are also obligated to providing educational opportunities and adequate an educational environment for our people. Therefore Mr. Speaker, I would love to take this opportunity to welcome all of the school children back to school and congratulate them on their achievements that brought them to this level in their educational endeavours. Likewise, I would like to congratulate and thank those deserving parents, and teachers, for their hard work and support of all of those students whose academic achievements were outstanding. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the Ministry of Education and the Education Department for the provision of scholarships and educational opportunities for our students. Mr. Speaker, there were also a number of organizations such and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Baptist Union, The Rock of Jesus Ministries and others who made provisions for school supplies, scholarships and financial support, I thank these organizations and individuals and encourage them to continue to give back to their community as we raise this nation.
Mr. Speaker, the return to school in terms of readiness has been challenging and we as a government stepped up to the plate to address those challenges and for this I thank my Minister of Education and her team, however, there were challenges that we were unable to solve but not for lack of trying. Mr. Speaker, the matter of the over-crowding of the Clement Howell High School is still of grave concern for our government. We have tried to secure both capital and recurrent expenditure funding so as to split the Clement Howell High School as a short term measure to relieve the over-crowding, whilst we prepare for the building of a new high school facility in the medium to long term. But Mr. Speaker this did not come to fruition.
Mr. Speaker the British Government`s focus is on using our surplus to pay down loans whilst our people suffer and are deprived of educational opportunities. Mr. Speaker, as a Government we are motivated to find solutions to our financial challenges to meet the basic needs of our people. But whilst we are forced to raise taxes to meet loan obligations and provide educational and social services for our people, the British government continues to drain our purse with unchecked expenditure being incurred by the Civil Recovery Team and SIPT. Mr. Speaker, this situation is unbearable and just unacceptable. Mr. Speaker, I am hereby holding the AG and the Governor accountable for these actions and am calling on them to give account and justification for funds that we could be using on our children, sending them to school in proper and healthy environment. And Mr. Speaker whilst on the topic of health, likewise the hospitals which are another possible source of concealed internal hemorrhage, will be put in check, also providing funds that can be used more effectively either in healthcare or elsewhere. Mr. Speaker, our Cabinet yesterday had a presentation of the Interim Hospital Audit and an action plan has been devised to address the issues being highlighted in the interim audit. This healthcare situation will be fixed.
Mr. Speaker, I have made public my dissatisfaction with the recent actions by the outgoing Governor to make a strategic re-appointment of the Attorney General despite the objection of myself, my government, the Leader of the Opposition and the People of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I have taken the liberty of outlining my reasons for my stance on this issue and I am asking all Members of the House of Assembly to join together with one voice on this issue.
Mr. Speaker and Members of this Honorable House, may God continue to bless you and bless these Turks and Caicos Islands. I thank you.