Turks and Caicos, April 4, 2017 – Providenciales – Budget Preparation – On December 15, 2016, General Elections were held in TCI. We were sworn in as the Government on December 20, 2016. On laying the Estimates for 2017/18 for TCIG and Statutory Bodies I reported that the newly sworn Government began its work right away and it was in fact on December 22nd and not the 29th as was reported in error yesterday. On the 22nd December, I chaired a Capital Board Meeting with all Ministers and Senior Government officials present to receive an update on the performance of the capital program for the financial year 2016/17.
A number of projects were earmarked for further consideration and further revamping by the newly elected government. It was noted that during the first nine months only a total of 12 capital projects were awarded and the total committed during this period was only $7.5m. It was then envisaged that during the last quarter of the year that a total of 63 projects costing $17.1, will have to be committed by March 31st, 2017. There was a total of 10 projects that were slated to be cancelled among which unfortunately was the removal of the boat at Governor’s Beach. This project was costed some two years ago at $2.5m but the Government since that time had allocated a mere $700k which was grossly insufficient and could not be used.
Yesterday we celebrated the laying of the Proposed Budget 2017/18 and noted the accomplishment of having met all the debt sustainability indicators that were set out in the framework document agreed between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Thus, this budget did not require the approval of the UKG. The calls to spend wildly and widely were many but this would have affected the cash required to meet this feat.
We met a large operating surplus but a challenged Project Program which saw millions of dollars tied up: monies that should be helping to stimulate the Island’s economy.
Immediately your Government embarked on getting tenders out and evaluations was carried out by our dedicated civil servants to the very end of the financial year. An aggressive Budget Circular was issued and Team Finance worked hard to ensure the new dates were met from FSPS approval to New Spend and Capital Program submissions to Challenge Meetings to extra Cabinet Meetings to the eventual laying of the Budget. I wish to again thank my Cabinet colleagues, my PS Finance, the Budget Team, the Permanent Secretaries, the CFO, the HODs, the Financial Managers and the Statutory Bodies for their efforts in realizing this goal.
Yesterday we laid a Budget projecting a 6.2% increase over last year’s expenditure resting at $267.9m and a projected revenue estimate of $273.5 million which will be funded through existing revenue streams and a $20 million loan through the CDB or a Commercial Bank.
Change Document and Throne Speech
We came to Office on a mandate of Change and we contrary to the new, new and even more destructive PNP, we have hit the ground running. You will have heard Ministers give an account of their stewardship (and you can get use to this) and I will do so now on behalf of the Premier’s Office and the Minister of Finance.
I begin by addressing the commitments made in the Blue Print and the Throne Speech:
Your Government committed to the return of Team TCI and an Economic Summit. This we did based on the premise that we could not imagine that any Government coming in after the Interim Administration period would not have created its own Policy for how they had wished for TCI to grow. Truth be told, I met the Investment Policy Statement of the Interim Administration in effect and did not agree to proceed on this. A consultant had been hired to carry out this work but was not engaged. My Ministry began dialogue with the consultant and gave the direction and vision of your Government and I am pleased to say that we are in possession of the White Paper which will be taken to Cabinet for input and then there will be consultation with the public and also during the hosting of the Economic Summit which will come. This Policy document is important as it says how we as a people wish to grow our country. Team TCI also hinges on the way we market TCI and this will be formed following the Economic Summit.
Supplementary Appropriation Bills
There were immediate needs and opportunities that presented itself that we could not ignore and so we were forced to bring 2 supplementary appropriation bills to address critical needs at HM Prison and the Home Help Program. We promised that we would expand home help and we did just that. We promised that we would address the needs of the Prison and we are doing just that. We have also to meet cost for detaining alleged poachers and of detaining and repatriating persons entering illegally by sloop. Your Government campaigned on growing TCIG’s assets and employing a strategy to reduce Government’s rents. We were presented with a year end decision to invest the monies wisely or allow it to go into a savings. It was a strategic decision and we moved a further supplementary as there was no budget in place to support the purchase of building already rented and occupied by TCIG. We subsequently made the decision to invest in the purchase of 2 Buldings that will house our Customer Care Center bring the change to services offered by Government through the Ministry of Border Control (Labour and Immigration), Road Safety of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Customs. I wish to again thank Team Finance, the hardworking Yaa McCartney of the AG’s Chambers and my Cabinet colleagues who saw the wisdom in saving our Government over $380k per year which can be used elsewhere against other priorities.
I have cause to travel on two occasions which were reported on before I left and on my return. I made representations on behalf of TCIG as promised on the matter of Post Brexit, SiPT Funding and Beneficial Ownership (which a live issue left unaddressed).
Police Support Provided and Legislative Agenda Approved
National Security has been a priority for my Government from day one and my first trip to the UK as promised I made representations on the need for UK support. The UK responded favorably and contracted a team to assess our security needs. Whilst other OTs were included, we were among one of the first and we are grateful. The team came to the Islands and met with various stakeholders and we await the report. We await a response and we are cautiously hopeful. Nonetheless we must learn to sail our own ship and you will see if you looked at the Throne Speech, Blue Print and our 12 Point Plan that those points that are directly under our remit has made considerable strides:
As promised, we have already agreed as a National Security Council the need for a Comprehensive National Security Strategy. This we believe is critical as we seek to share our limited resources in a most effective way by unifying efforts. As promised, we have already met with the Senior Police Officers in Grand Turk and Providenciales and many ideas were shared and our vision was likewise shared.
As promised we have already agreed to provide the Police with much needed equipment, laws and modern tools. The purchase of the Carlos Simmons Building is in support of providing the Police the space needed to house modern crime fighting initiatives and a more strategic approach to crime fighting. We have already agreed new vehicles, more manpower and a legislative agenda that will see the use of biometrics, fingerprinting, cctv and data protection, public order, matters addressing communication and a review of the Police Ordinance. The latter can be stated with assurances because this Good Government within its first 100 days has agreed a Legislative Agenda.
Rehabilitation of Offenders
Whilst we will provide the necessary resources for enforcement, we have also stated over and over again that prevention is critical and so is rehabilitation. We believed four years ago as we do strongly today and we must ascertain the reasons for crime and that we have done. I have spoken and met with a representative group of those who are incarcerated and those who were former inmates and I have concluded that unemployment, frustration and drugs are at the root of the majority of crimes. Your Government has therefore taken on a hands on approach and have already prepared an Information Paper for a national rehabilitation and prevention policy which will address skills, employment, entrepreneurship, health and rehabilitative programs for those incarcerated and those with criminal records who find it hard to find employment and support on release. In fact the Premier’s Office is already support the CED Entrepreneurship Training for inmates named Gateway To Hope and a separate Program for former inmates named Change Our Future. The public and the private sector will be clear and defined roles on how we can help to reduce the rate of reoffenders and this is near launch. We can no longer shun those who have already paid their debt to society and expect all to be well. We must also recognize the level of drug use in this country from our Schools and up. There are social issues that we must address head on and drug use and abuse is another.
We committed to supporting the Police and we will do just that through our own efforts and through strategic crime fighting and modern tools all enveloped in a national security strategy. You will already have heard that as Premier I have elevated the Ministry of Border Control to national security level so as to change the mind set of workers and the public as to the seriousness of the work of this Ministry and our commitment to ensuring that we bring the much needed change to this Ministry in terms of resources and reputation.
Meetings with Clergy and Church Services
We also committed in the Throne Speech that we would meet with the Clergy early and would have held Prayer Services around the Turks and Caicos Islands. This was included in the Throne Speech and today we can say Mission accomplished. We have heard from the clergy, taken our nation into prayer and forged valuable partnerships.
We have paid keen attention to the leading sectors of this country and have met with the TCHTA and Chamber of Commerce in Providenciales and also the Chamber of Commerce in Grand Turk.
We have also reengaged the GT Cruise Port/Carnival and moved pass an impasse in relationship between TCIG and Carnival Owners. We are pleased to announce that we have already agreed to major infrastructural projects for GT from the stalled $6m Infrastructure Fund; A Vendors Stall and the rebuilding of the GT Library. I was pleased to have the initiative for the rebuilding of the library from the owners of Carnival in a well – received call to myself the morning after the fire. We are committed to engaging all businesses in this country for the greater good of our country.
We have also met with vendors operating on GT and have encouraged the formation of associations and we are pleased to say that two associations have already been formed and will receive support from your Government.
Financial Services Sector
As Minister of Finance I have met with the Financial Industry Association and the Chair and CEO of the FSC to share your Government’s vision for the sector. In our first 100 days we have revived an old project and altered its mandate, appointed leaders in the sector to assess the state of our financial services sector and to make recommendations for a path to growth. We eagerly await those findings as we remain committed to growing this sector and to diversifying the economy.
Vision Document & Medium Term Strategy
As Minister of Finance we have agreed the continuation of the Vision Document and the Medium Term Strategy at TCIG’s cost. This will see the introduction of a National Development Plan. We promised a National Symposium and a national direction and this will be finalized by August of this year.
As Minister of Finance on assuming office, I was advised that the surveys on the matter of service charge provided to employers and employees were low in response and that the Statistics Act had to be employed to obtain responses. I have had to then revisit this topic and on March 7th had a letter remitted to the Committee to suspend activities until a new budget was prepared and mechanisms were put in place. Service charge is not a political issue and that is why we took the approach of bringing a motion as this caused government to use its resources to find the best way forward on this issue in a manner that did not see the benefactors losing any of their varied benefits. We are committed to this issue and works will commence on the passage of this Budget and consultations with all stakeholders will resume. I will also visit with and meet employees in the hospitality industry with particular emphasis on Hotels and Resorts.
Review of Air BnB and VRBOs Sector
The Ministry of Finance has secured a consultant to conduct a review of Air BnB and VRBOs. This review is completed and a draft Report is in hand. We will update our people on this issue in the very near future.
Business Transformation Project
As Minister of Finance I remain committed to delivering on the goals of the Business Transformation Project and as such we have reengaged the consultant to complete the much needed work in delivering efficient and modern service to the people of this country.
Review of Statutory Bodies
As Minister of Finance and again in the Throne Speech we committed to a review of Statutory Bodies and I am pleased to say that we have met with all and will announce more in this area shortly.
Climate Change Committee
As promised in our commitment to the environment and to be a progressive Government, we have reestablished the Climate Change Committee and have added Planning representation to the Committee as we deem this office presence vital.
Highlights: A few Cabinet Papers
We have met the required number of Cabinet meetings with additional meetings to facilitate the early passage of the Budget and the saving of monies from this year end.
We have already agreed as promised support for stalled projects and I am happy that the Minister of Tourism was able to report your Government’s support for the moving forward of a stalled Project in North Caicos known as the Royal Reef. We have also agreed a new Tourism Property Project for North Caicos. We have already approved the Development Agreement for the Toscana Project also known as “The W Project”. After much complaints from a cross section of our people we have agreed a consultation for time change. As promised in the Change Document, we have already agreed the need the creation of a Policy Registry to fulfill our promise for policy consistency. Having suffered loss from flooding over the years, we have agreed an increase in insurance coverage to include flooding etc.
Your Government is working fast to meet the UK imposed deadline of June for the creation of a central registry. There will be more updates and dialogue about Beneficial Ownership in the weeks to come.
Though the Former Government had had even our agreement to repurchase the former TC Invest loans sold to TOLCO, your Government had to revisit the matter, give instructions to sign the contract and facilitate the payment. We will actively move forward now in agreeing a mechanism for its management.
National Savings Fund
We have already agreed the creation of a national savings account called the TCI National Wealth Fund and this will be presented during the next session of the House of Assembly.
I am pleased to announce today that the next Meeting of the House of Assembly which will be on April 18, 2017 and this will be the Budget Session.
I have given the directive for the creation of a Concessions Policy, the tidying up of an already prepared Cabinet Paper to give an incentive to first time home owners and to implement a shift system for customs that will aid in improving services and revenue.
Civil Service Association
As promised I have met with the CSA Representatives and I am only awaiting the executive to meet with public service.
Caribbean Development Bank and Overseas Countries and Territories Association
On assuming the Office of Premier and Minister of Finance, I have assumed the role of Chair of OCTA and Chair of CDB. We are moving ahead feverishly to receive dignitaries in the coming months to meetings on our shores.
Within the next few weeks we will continue the constitutional and crown land dialogue on our people’s behalf to the UK.
New Employment Opportunities Appeal
I wish to close by making a public appeal. In this upcoming Budget there will be 100 vacancies and there will be over $60m in projects. We need you to position yourselves to take advantage of the opportunities. We especially want persons to apply for the 18 new Police and the 10 new Prison Officers and the 8 new Immigration Task Force Officers. We must get serious about national security and protecting our country. I will in a few days announce meetings with local contractors that will be coupled with training for the tendering and bidding process.
It is your Government’s role to provide the opportunities: It is up to you to take advantage of them.
Happy 100 Days Turks and Caicos.
Happy 100 Days Colleagues!
We are well on our way!!!!!!
GBPA invests $1.1 million in major road infrastructure improvements for city of Freeport
#TheBahamas, May 20, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) will commence its $1.1 million road resurfacing project in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Sunday, May 22, 2022 beginning with the Fishing Hole Road, and West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout.
“Our City Maintenance and Management section is excited to begin this important initiative to resurface roadways within Freeport,” said Troy McIntosh, GBPA Deputy Director of Building and Development Services. “Our city has been through many challenging storm events which did catastrophic damage to infrastructure around the island, including our roads.
“But our community is resilient, and we are seeing a positive shift in the economic tide,” continued McIntosh. “Excitement for future opportunities and anticipation of new investments is palpable through the city, so we knew this was the ideal time to start this aspect of Freeport’s much-needed makeover to which GBPA is fully committed.”
Roadworks are scheduled for main thoroughfares and a number of residential roads. These areas include the Fishing Hole Road, West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout, West Atlantic Drive at Rayvin Mall roundabout, Beach Way Drive, Bahama Reef Boulevard, Pioneers Way, Waterfall Drive, Tarrytown Street and Grand Bahama Highway. “We selected these locations using our Road Rating System, which allows inspectors to assess the condition and rideability of our roads on an annual basis,” added Mr. McIntosh.
The GBPA roadworks project went out to bid in December 2020. In March 2022, the bid was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), who specializes in heavy civil engineering projects including major highways.
“We ask motorists to drive with due care and attention while roadwork is underway,” Mr. McIntosh advised. Flagmen and temporary traffic lights will be in position to direct traffic. Please obey the speed limit and posted signs to help ensure the safety of all motorists and crews as they conduct work. Delays are expected as there will be partial lane closures in some areas.”
The initial phase of road resurfacing is scheduled to be completed at the end of June 2022. For the latest updates and information on redirected travel routes, residents can follow any of the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s social media sites or visit its website at www.gbpa.com.
RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure
#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.
Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.
The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.
Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe. In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm. I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program
#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – Since the official announcement of the Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association’s High School Mentorship Program, ten mentees have been selected for the inaugural group and will begin their journey on the road to embracing the fundamentals of the real estate field this month.
TCREA Ambassador and Director of the mentorship program, Mr. Trevor Musgrove, shared how pleased the committee was to have received thirty applications for the program, “We extended the opportunity to high schoolers and young college students aged 13-17. Initially, the invitation for applications was shared only with Providenciales students because of the logistical challenge to accommodate in-person sessions with sister island students, as all our committee members are based in Providenciales.
Luckily, once the Ministry of Education came on board and endorsed the program, Honourable Rachel Taylor immediately encouraged us to extend the mentorship opportunity to all islands, pledging her Ministry’s commitment to handling the necessary authorizations and cost to ensure successful applicants outside of Provo would be able travel here as needed,” said Musgrove.
The successful applicants and their respective schools are as follows:
· Clement Howell High – Dashawn Brooks, Alyssa Callum
· Raymond Gardiner High – Olique Stubbs, Lewis Walkin, Jr.
· Precious Treasures – Aniyah Bovie
· Maranatha Academy – Shamya Missick
· British West Indies Collegiate – Pavla Lalakova, Andino Parker
· Louise Garland Thomas High – Abnise Noel, Antoine Gedeon
Musgrove said they were pleased to have had applicants from North Caicos and were hopeful to have students from Grand Turk and South Caicos among the group, however no applications were received from those islands.
On Tuesday, May 10th the final group came together for a virtual meet-up and briefing, where they were formally introduced to the program’s mentors and were given an overview of what to expect in the coming months.
The teens will receive a monthly educational module over the next six months and will be provided 1-2 weeks to internalize the information. They will then enjoy a monthly in-person session with their mentors where they will put their real estate acumen to the test in interactive sessions, field trips, and more.
Program mentor Manfred Smith of Sotheby’s Turks & Caicos shared his elation for the program’s momentum thus far, “We are excited about providing this opportunity to introduce high school students to the real estate industry. From the initial feedback, the students are also very keen to learn, which makes it rewarding for all as we contribute to the development of tomorrow’s professionals.”
Smith says the program also demonstrates TCREA’s continued commitment as good corporate citizens in the rapidly growing country. The committee hopes that the mentees would grasp all that they can as they continue their educational pursuits.
The program’s Facebook page, @tcreamentors, is live and will document the group’s journey as they move through the program’s phases. Along with Musgrove and Smith, the community can get to know more about the other committee members: Blair MacPherson of REMAX; Nina Siegenthaler of Sotheby’s; Vernica Delancy and Dedra Gray of Keller Williams; and Sean O’neill, of The Agency through the social media page as well.
At the end of the program, the students will sit a mock real estate license exam and will enjoy a retreat for a fun and memorable close-out.
It is TCREA’s hope that this initiative will garner an interest and appreciation for the industry among high-schoolers and will act as springboard to the development of the next generation of local real estate professionals in these islands.
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