Turks and Caicos, April 20, 2017 – Grand Turk – Mister Speaker, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, esteemed colleagues of this great People’s Democratic Movement Government, members on this Honourable House, strangers in the gallery, good morning.
Mr. Speaker, I am humbled by this opportunity to make my contribution to our government’s first budget presentation as we work together to achieve our vision for this country as set out in our government’s change document.
Before I outline my plans for the Ministry of Home Affairs, Transportation and Communication, Mister Speaker, permit me to congratulate our Premier, the Minister of Finance on having delivered her first budget entitled “
Mister Speaker, thanks and appreciation must also be expressed to all public officers involved in the preparation of this budget in such a timely manner, given that our government came to power, just three short months ago. Their continued commitment and dedication to duty is indeed admirable.
Mister Speaker, I now turn my attention to my contribution to this budget debate.
Mister Speaker, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Transportation and Communication will continue to carry out its mandate to ensure the provision of adequate social services, proper regulation of the telecommunications sector, effective and efficient communication, transport, prison and postal operations as well as cost effective procurement of government supplies.
To do that Mister Speaker, the following plans and proposals will be undertaken by my Ministry during this financial year. I begin with:
Mr. Speaker, the Road Safety Department will continue its efforts to ensure that our roads are safe for all road users. To facilitate this, we will ensure the continued management and enforcement of the Road Safety Ordinance through various strategic initiatives throughout the year, from the maintenance of road signs to the improvement of service delivery.
With effect from this month, Mar. Speaker, the department will be able to carry out daily vehicle inspections which will no doubt allow for a faster turnaround time.
The department is currently in dialogue with the Central Information Technology Unit to explore the possibility of offering renewal of Drivers’ Licenses and Motor Vehicle Registration online.
Additionally Mar. Speaker, my government has made provision for a License Plate machine to be purchased so that we can take ownership of producing plates based on demand and in a timely manner.
To complement strategies to improve efficiencies, an updated operation’s manual has been produced. This manual outlines procedures and service standards for handling various Road Safety Department applications. It also details training for staff in the areas of document verification and attention to details. This will no doubt reduce both staff and customer frustration and provide a faster turnaround time as well.
In keeping with our motto to have informed customers, Mr. Speaker, this honorable house will be pleased to know that the Department of Road Safety now has a new radio talk show that airs on Radio Turks and Caicos every Tuesday at 3.30pm. The name of the talk show is “On the Streets with Road Safety”. The main objective is to ensure compliance with the law and safe use of the roads.
Mr. Speaker, we will be embarking on a street labelling exercise which will involve the erection of road safety signs on Providenciales on Leeward Highway. Special attention will be given to the corner of Menzies’ Medical and Suzie Turn. These signs will provide clear instructions when entering or exiting onto Leeward Highway, thereby reducing the chances of an accident occurring at the locations mentioned earlier. This will be done in collaboration with the Crown Land Unit, Public Works and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force and will be a continuation of the 911 program that commenced some years ago.
Finally Mr. Speaker, it is worthwhile to note that the department has again surpassed projected revenue targets, for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. With a strong emphasis on compliance, it is expected that they will achieve similar success this year.
FIRE AND RESCUE
Mister Speaker, despite the challenges faced by the domestic fire services, I am happy to inform this honourable house that the long awaited state of the art purpose built fire station for Providenciales is on the way.
The change is here and we will be breaking ground within the next month or so.
Mister Speaker, my government is committed to ensuring that the domestic fire services has the necessary training, facilities, as well as tools and equipment that are necessary to respond efficiently and effectively to all emergencies.
In that regard, Mr. Speaker, staff from Domestic Fire will attend a number of training courses in the coming months to better equip them in the area of “Fire investigation and building construction as well as urban search and rescue”.
Finally Mr. Speaker, the Fire Department will continue its aggressive programme to ensure that inspections are conducted on all commercial buildings as well as private homes.
RADIO TURKS & CAICOS
Mr. Speaker, since coming to office, my Government has already begun to strengthen our national station by providing the necessary talent that will enhance the station’s output.
More local programming is being planned as the station is currently partnering with several other departments to bring the listening public more civic, gender, financial and transportation based programmes.
But it’s not stopping there Mr. Speaker, this summer RTC will be on television!
Our 45 year old station will now show you the personalities you have always heard; this is the 21st century and everyone wants to not just to hear but to see and my Government will see to it that
these are realised.
Television is a big step for RTC and in next year’s budget Mr. Speaker, we will provide more support to the station so that you can enjoy more live content and coverage.
Mr. Speaker, the station is in its final preparation for relocating from Queen Street to Good Street, this move is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Additionally Mr. Speaker, Radio Turks and Caicos will soon be moving to one frequency that will allow us to have a strong presence throughout the islands. That’s the kind of change you voted for Mr. Speaker and Mr. Speaker the change is here!
Mr. Speaker, contingency plans are also on the way for our online listeners. Our futuristic website will be reactivated after the upgrades to the station. After the installation of the RTC App Mr. Speaker, it will allow you to carry RTC anywhere with you, once you have data.
Mr. Speaker RTC is breaking barriers, the data from last month’s coverage is over 90,000 listenership, the highest ever in one month! So television for RTC, a new home, new frequency and an opportunity for you to connect in Grand Turk and in Provo Mr. Speaker, RTC is seeing the changes that our listening public deserves, and there will be more to come!
DEPARTMENT OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND EMERGENCY
Mister Speaker, the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season commences on June 1, and while the storm prediction for this year suggests a lower than average season, DDME is actively engaged in its usual preparation to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to preserve life and property in the event of a storm.
Mister Speaker, permit me to use this forum to appeal to all residents of the Turks & Caicos Islands to begin their preparations for the season. It only takes one storm to destroy to cause significant damage to property and loss of life and so we ask all residents to ensure that you pay close attention to the various guidelines set by DDME.
My government is committed to ensuring that we do our best to prepare for the upcoming season and future hurricane seasons.
Towards this end I am happy to note that the capital budget for this year has the sum of $1.2 m to construct the long awaited purpose built National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) in Providenciales. Mister Speaker, is it not evident that the change is here? Mister just to note that there’s 200k for the upgraded of shelter and 100k for snorkel vehicles ,finally Mister Speaker, in preparation for the season, staff of DDME will be participating in a number of training courses, both locally and internationally, all in an effort to mitigate and respond to disasters effectively.
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note that the budget for Social Development has been increased as to enable the Department to commence full operation of the Juvenile Home here in Grand Turk. The purpose for the home is to help reduce delinquent behaviour amongst low risks juveniles between the ages of 12-17 years old.
A portion of the new funding will be used on employment cost including a House Manager and an assistant who should both be in post by next month. Additional staff, namely wardens, security officers and cooks will be interviewed within the coming weeks.
With the enactment of the various pieces of Family Law legislation passed in 2015, Mister Speaker, a number of regulations, policies, procedures and protocols have been worked on to ensure consistency and compliance in all areas. In this regard two consultants are presently working with the department to ensure the establishment of our Child Safeguarding Board as well as improvements to our Juvenile Justice Ordinance.
To support full implementation, training of our Social Workers and key stakeholders in our Family Law legislation is ongoing.
Mister Speaker, the Social Development Department has made a number of strides in areas under its responsibility and a number of new initiatives are planned which include transitional housing geared towards assisting 18-21 year olds to access housing, formalization of the Heineken House Policy, and establishment of a TCI owned and operated Children’s Home.
Mister Speaker, on a final note for the Social Development Department, the Ministry and Department will be exploring the possibility of streamlining their day to day activities to allow Social Workers to be better utilized.
GENDER AFFAIRS UNIT
Mr. Speaker, the Gender Affairs Department continues to fulfill its mandate to ensure the integration and main streaming of the gender perspective into the activities of both public and private life.
To that end Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce the reintroduction of our educational radio programme GENFO which is geared towards creating awareness and stimulate dialogue on various social and gender issues affecting our communities.
In addition Mister Speaker, the department will be working with Ministry of Education to launch a Gender Empowerment Programme that will target school aged boys and girls. A consultant is presently in country assisting with this and will be making a presentation to all stakeholders shortly.
Mister Speaker, in compliance with the passage of the Family Law legislation, the contract for the Domestic Violence Shelters has been awarded and work will begin shortly. It is hope that the buildings will be ready within the next six months and staffing issues will be addressed on a phased basis.
In the meantime, Mister Speaker the department will continue to sensitize and educate the general public on causes that are at the center of the Department’s mandate.
This will be done in collaboration with the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers and will include training of front line workers and key stakeholders on the revised Domestic Violence Legislation, and launching of a Gender Education Facebook page and website.
Mister Speaker, the Central Purchasing Unit recently moved to a larger storage facility in Providenciales and as a result of that we are now able to stock more supplies to facilitate departments in our sister islands.
Our staff complement in Provo has increased by one and another officer is expected to be employed later on during this financial year.
Mister Speaker, in addition to providing further training for staff, the department is working on an electronic inventory system as well as online ordering of supplies.
Mister Speaker, the Publishing Department has acquired a few pieces of new equipment that will enable the publishing team to offer a number of new services including lamination, personalized stamp, full colour printing and photocopying services.
In addition Mister Speaker, the department has a number of updates and upgrades to our existing services planned.
I want to encourage all departments throughout the government to stop by the department and familiarize themselves with the various services that we offer and make our Publishing Department your first choice for all your printing and binding needs.
Mr. Speaker, dialogue has already commenced with key stakeholders about the future of our prison service however, much needed attention has been paid to areas of immediate concern.
In an effort to begin rebranding our penal system, the Ministry will be working to have the name changed from HMP to Her Majesty’s Correctional Facility. Mr. Speaker, we believe that this is a first step to not only change the image and stigma attached to the prison on the outside but to provide much needed encouragement and interest to those on the inside as well.
Mr. Speaker much has been said about the need for a Juvenile Detention Centre and my Ministry will be engaging the Ministry of Infrastructure to explore the possibility of attaching the Juvenile Detention Centre to the Correctional Facility, with the hope that the staff complement would be maximized to attend to both the male and female wings of our correctional facility as well as the Juvenile Detention Centre.
The ministry in conjunction with the Superintendent will be establishing a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to assist in preparing persons for reentry into the society. In this regard, discussions are already ongoing with a number of private sector entities to solicit partnership with the Ministry and the prison to offer our “Chance for Change Programme”.
This programme will allow parolees an opportunity to work with various private sector companies in an effort to prepare them for full reentry into society.
Mr. Speaker, having heard the appeal of the Superintendent and the Ministry regarding staffing of the prison, the staff complement will be increased by six Prison Officers and three Senior Officers during this financial year.
In addition to this Mr. Speaker, there are two major capital projects that are about to commence at the Prison, and both will be done simultaneously.
The first is the upgrading work to both the Green and Blue residential wings. The value of this work is approximately five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) and will include the complete replacement of the sanitation system, the installation of in-cell lightning and the introduction of fire alarm systems.
This work is expected to be completed towards the end of September.
Mr. Speaker, the second project will involve much needed repairs to the perimeter fencing of the prison and will include the addition of new and improved razor wire along the length of the prison secure line. This project will cost approximately three hundred thousand dollars ( $300,000 )
POSTAL AND BUREAU SERVICES
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased with the work of our Postal Services; and wish to note that the much needed Post Office Redevelopment Project is about to commence.
We will be installing more mail boxes throughout the communities of Providenciales (in particular Chalk Sound, Long Bay), Grand Turk (South and North Back Salina)and North Caicos (Whitby and Bottle Creek) in order to make it more convenient for visitors to our shore to use the Postal Services.
Additionally Mr. Speaker, drop off boxes will be placed at hotels in Grace Bay, Providenciales Airport, and the Cruise ship port in Grand Turk.
In fact we hope to have at least three thousand mailboxes installed by November of this year.
Mr. Speaker, the Postal Stamp Exhibition will be held in Providenciales this year on World Postal Day, which is October 5th 2017.
Just to note a few highlights Mr. Speaker, the Postal Services has again surpassed the 2016-17 revenue targets, the Postal Code for the TCI has been put in place, (TKCA1ZZ) and new computers and bar code machines have been purchased for the department,
These bar code machines print mail bag tags as well as print labels for mail which provides easy tracking.
Mr. Speaker, the Post Service now offers express mail to the United States and it gets there within two days.
Finally Mister Speaker, the Ministry of Home Affairs has a number of ambitious plans and Proposals and my team and I are committed to ensuring that they materialize.
Mister Speaker to my People of Wheel and “The Change is Here” we are on our ways to great thing this year the people of wheeland will see roads being paved, Starting will Levy Ave. together with the private sector you will see upgrades to our basketball court “The Kareem Walkin and the One in Phase One” we will see the upgrade to our boat ramp, more clean up being carry out,a floating boat ramp, and yes Mister Speaker our bird sanctuary so mister speaker big things are going on in wheeland
Mister speaker i would like to offer my sincere thanks to my former Permanent Secretary (Mr.Atswood) for all the work that he did in so ably leading the Ministry and I want to formally welcome my new Permanent Secretary (Mrs Gardiner) and my new Deputy Secretary (Mr. Cox) and also Mrs Newman who remain with the ministry thanks to all my support staff at the Ministry and by extension the Heads of Departments and their staff for their continued commitment and dedication to the mandate of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Mister Speaker, I am fully committed to all the people of our “Beautiful by Nature Turks & Caicos Islands” and working together we will bring about real change for all.
May God Continue to bless our beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands