Budget cuts hurt, but necessary says TCI Deputy Premier in parliamentary debate on hurricane funds
Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands – February 7, 2018 – Budget cuts to accommodate new spending demands were painful as government projects and departments had to fiscally re-calibrate in order to accommodate important costs associated with repatriation of illegal migrants and the September 2017 hurricanes.
Deputy Premier, Hon Sean Astwood aimed to roll back the curtain on what was happening behind the scenes as the PDM Administration led the re-organization of the already passed 2017-2018 National Budget.
The Government has been heavily criticized as having had a slow response to reconstruction in the aftermath of the ferocious storms. However, the Deputy Premier, also the Border Control Minister disagrees with that characterization.
“We have heard how this country has bounced back to our new normalcy in record time, and we have also heard how many – not just the political opposite – but many have tried to discredit the works of this Government and our direct involvement in making sure that persons who can now sit at home in the comforts of air condition, who can now pick up their mobile cell phones and WhatsApp any derogatory criticism or comment that they may decide to make – I would like for all of them to stop for just one second Mr. Speaker and take a full assessment of what it took to restore such comforts back to them.”
Almost four months to the day of the dismal encounter all of the Turks and Caicos Islands with Hurricane Irma, the Border Control Minister during House of Assembly debate on the changes to the budget, shared his experience while visiting another territory smashed by Irma: Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda was so badly damaged in the historic hurricane, which measured well above 200 mph wind speeds, that it remains evacuated, completely inhabitable.
“Two weeks ago I went to Antigua and Barbuda for a Summit on 21st Century Governance. Mr. Speaker the island of Barbuda is still a disaster zone. One cannot enter the island without direct government permission because of the current state of that island. Yet we here in the Turks and Caicos, we moan and we groan when the wind don’t blow, when the sun is too hot, when it rains the extra day, when the phone calls drop for a second, Mr. Speaker, we ought to be careful. This supplementary is a response to all that I have just mentioned, it is a response of this Government to set new priorities to deal with the new realities.”
Hon Astwood said the Supplementary, which includes a $600,000 increase to his Ministry for illegal migrant repatriation expenditure is a response to the needs of the country, evidence that the PDM Administration is paying attention and rightly responding to hurricane reconstruction and border protection.
“My same ministry would have gotten cuts in other areas and it hurts… to lose even a dollar we don’t want to lose it but we understand the needs and overall objective of the Ministry of Finance. We know they did not just sit down and arbitrarily decide to get rid of a project, to cut spending by ‘x’ percentage that is not an easy decision to make. I don’t think that the Premier, her PS or anybody, the Budget Director – anyone sits down having a good time in that exercise. So for persons to characterize this as some simple exercise, some ‘willy-nilly’ approach to governance where decisions are being made that affects the lives of our people, Mr. Speaker I don’t understand how anyone could think that’s a trivial matter that somehow the politics of things is more important than the lives of our people…. Mr. Speaker this supplementary is no politics.”
The Deputy further exposed that there were professional rows between ministers, permanent secretaries and departments as the country re-prioritised spending to pay for three exceptional areas of expense, namely: hurricane Irma and Maria clean up, overage in health care abroad costs and the budget busting repatriation of illegal migrants.
“I am sure the Permanent Secretary of Finance was hearing from other PSes that, ‘you can’t so that, you can’t take this from me!’ because that is what Ministers were saying to the Premier, you can’t take this from me, I need that. But collectively Mr. Speaker, with prudent leadership and a focus on where this country is now and where it needs to go we are here today in full support of the premier and her ministry of this Supplementary.”
Deputy Premier Astwood wrapped up his contribution on with a declaration of support of the proposed budgetary changes, making the statement that the PDM Administration is not only working hard, but producing.
“This supplementary is a short term measure to get us through the rest of this financial year and I commend the Premier and her staff for doing a good job.”
The Budget Supplementary passed through the Turks and Caicos House of Assembly on Tuesday February 6, 2018 on the eve of the four month anniversary of Hurricane Irma.
#tcibudgetdebate2018 #hurricaneirma #hurricanemaria #seanastwood
CIBC FirstCaribbean TODAY shuts another TCI branch, CONFIRMED
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, April, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos will be losing yet another banking branch following confirmation of reports that CIBC FirstCaribbean bank in Grace Bay will be shut down on Friday March 31st.
CIBC representatives confirmed the shutdown to MM Thursday March 30th. Employees at the Leeward Highway branch moved over to the Grace Bay branch in January to allow for necessary upgrades and expansions to infrastructure. That shift lasted for four months and employees were scheduled to move back to Leeward Highway in early April. No mention of a closure to the Grace Bay branch was made in the January 12 press release that detailed the upgrades.
Citing those upgrades, which are now complete, Managing Director of the Bahamas Operating Company, responsible also for TCI, Dr. Jacqui Bend said, “CIBC FirstCaribbean is continuing to work on a number of initiatives aimed at improving the processes and technologies that our teams use to support our clients and employees alike. We have committed further investments in simplification, automation, and security across our bank and, as always, our clients will be the beneficiaries of this renewed effort,
It’s a repeat of the firm’s new mantra focused on self-service and digitization that has seen the local presence of the country’s oldest bank diminish more and more.
CIBC defends the decision explaining that retail client services had already been ceased at that Grace Bay branch and the closure of it earlier this year, while expansion Leeward Highway’s location was designed to ‘reconfigure and improve’ their network for the future.
“While there may be a few teething issues being encountered while our teams and clients adjust to their new surroundings, our teams are working with an ‘all hands on deck approach’ to expedite service to our clients,” she said in the statement shared with Magnetic Media.
The shifts to more digitized services eliminates the in person experience and residents have voiced discontent with the strategy. Earlier this year CIBC First Caribbean indicated they would pare down services and the in branch experience at their Grand Turk location.
It left Grand Turk with no banks within which they could enter to get that ‘human touch’. While there was outrage, Government remained silent.
Since January 3rd, customers of the bank have had to shift to the digital approach which now requires smaller cash deposits and smaller cash withdrawals to be made via ABMs, which are more state of the art and it also means applying for many of the banking features online.
Three days, two matches, two wins for Natl Men’s Football
#TurksandCaicos, March 31, 2023 – Belief in themselves and an inspiring new coach has caused a dramatic shift in the Turks and Caicos National Men’s Football team according to captain Billy Forbes; the TCI National Men’s Football team secured two impressive back-to-back wins.
“The guys are buying in now, having a coach that they can look up to, who has played professionally before– it’s really amazing,” he explained. “For me, I’m really proud of the guys because three or four years ago that would have been us losing the game probably like 6-0, something like that. For us to go down 1-0 and come back and win it- I think that was fantastic, you can’t really ask for much more.”
He was speaking to the press after a March 28th match against Bonaire. The team is on a winning streak following back-to-back victories over the US Virgin Islands and Bonaire in the Concacaf Nations League. The most recent match with Bonaire almost looked like a miss just one minute in- but as Forbes said they pulled it together. Coach Hayden Mullins, former Crystal Palace, Portsmouth, and National English Footballer detailed the nail-biting match.
“I thought we started slow; we gave a goal away in the first minute,” he said. “The pleasing thing for me is we went from one nil down to 2-1 up at halftime. We had something to build on. Full assessment? The game had everything, we had a red card; we missed a penalty; we went goal down; but the resolve and the character from the guys was perfect. It’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
Sebastian Turbyfield (# 1 goalkeeper), concurred with his captain and coach. Turbeyfield performed quite a few gymnastic feats to keep TCI in the running throughout the match. He described his teammates as having a completely different resolve and promised they would only be getting better from here.
Mullings said the team is one that the country can be proud of and ‘could definitely get out of league C.”
The men returned to the country on March 29th.
Earth Day celebrations
#TurksandCaicos, March 31, 2023 – Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2023, and the Department of Environment and Coastal resources is hosting a poetry competition for TCI youth to mark the event.
Students of all ages are encouraged to write a sonnet to celebrate the TCI’s natural beauty; the winning poem will be published in the Times of the Island Magazine.
The deadline for poems to be submitted is April 30, 2023, and students should submit their poem via email to email@example.com or in person to any DECR office. Entries must include the student’s name, age and school.
The department promises that there are prizes to be won for the top poets.
April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement 53 years ago and helps demonstrate support for environmental protection. The theme for this year is “Invest In Our Planet.”
This year‘s theme follows years of missed climate action goals by governments globally, including poor climate financing. The Turks and Caicos and other small island developing states are particularly at risk environmentally because of the growing threat of climate change.
Currently the country is working through the Environmental Health Department DECR, Fisheries Department, and more to create sustainable fishing, farming, and marine practices that will benefit the country economically, but also protect its natural flora and fauna.
Projects include sargassum research, coral nurseries to rebuild the country’s coral reef, farming in schools, marine spatial planning to create an effective plan for the use of marine resources, participation in the UK Blue Belt program to protect local marine life, and much more.
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