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Budget cuts hurt, but necessary says TCI Deputy Premier in parliamentary debate on hurricane funds

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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

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Caribbean News

Jamaica Rum Festival Endorsed

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#Jamaica, June 27, 2022 – Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, endorsed this year’s fourth staging of the Jamaica Rum Festival at the Aqueduct in Rose Hall, St. James, on Saturday (June 25).

Ms. Grange, who officially opened the event, noted that rum, and spirits in general, has deep cultural significance in Jamaica, spanning centuries.

“From the cane fields, where our enslaved ancestors worked, through to today, where we have the best rum in the world… we have a lot to be proud of,” she added.

For his part, Tourism Director, Donovan White, commended the organisers of the festival, which attracted a significant number of patrons, including visitors from overseas.  He said the Ministry of Tourism, through the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), was pleased to be a partner in the event that showcased top quality products by local rum purveyors.

Minister Grange, representatives from the Tourism Ministry’s agencies, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, were presented with limited edition Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum.

 

Contact; Okoye Henry

Release: JIS

 

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Bahamas News

49th Independence Anniversary Celebrations Kick Off with National Pride Day

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#TheBahamas, June 27, 2022 – Under the theme: “Proud to Be Bahamian”, the National Independence Secretariat is set to kick off the 49th Independence Celebrations on Friday, July 1, 2022.

In its efforts to promote pride and unity throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Secretariat is encouraging a National Flag Raising Ceremony be held at all Government, and private corporate offices.

This ceremony should be staged at 9am on the Friday, simultaneously.

Bahamians are urged to wear the national colours of aquamarine, gold and black and assemble together as the National Flag is being hoisted and to sing the National Anthem, followed by a prayer.

The Secretariat is also encouraging participants to capture the event in photos and or videos, for posting on social media platforms, and inclusion in the national jubilee booklet and documentary next year.

Send images to: info@celebrate-bahamas.com

 

Photo Caption: Sienna Evans beautiful costume was created by Patrice Lockhart. Special thanks to Commonwealth Fabrics for their generous donation of the Androsia fabric used in the gown.

 

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Caribbean News

Education Ministry Recommits to Expanding Uniformed Groups in Schools

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#Jamaica, June 27, 2022 – The Ministry of Education and Youth remains committed to increasing the number of uniformed groups in schools.  This is in keeping with its thrust to fulfill this mission under the Safety and Security in Schools Programme, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, has said.  She further noted that “it is a part of our series of measures to improve discipline among students.”

Mrs. Williams was speaking during the Council of Voluntary Social Services’ (CVSS) uniformed groups church service on Sunday (June 26).  The service was held at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Cross Roads, Kingston.

Mrs. Williams remarks came against the background of what she said were “heightened concerns” in recent months over incidents of violence in schools across Jamaica and calls for a more concerted effort to provide civic and character education for students.  She noted that several initiatives within the Ministry to address these concerns were being expanded, among them support for uniformed groups in schools.

“The Ministry has been supporting uniformed youth groups in the development of a Three-Year Strategic Plan and [Memoranda of Understanding] with individual groups which will, at one and the same time, advance the missions of the groups and the mandate of the Ministry to these groups,” Mrs. Williams added.

The Minister pointed out that these cohorts, including Girl Guides, Brownies, Boys Brigade, Cub Scouts, Cadets and Pathfinders, “have played an invaluable role in shaping the character and awakening the social conscience of our young people for decades.”

“It has been well-established that students who participate in clubs are more out-going as they are engaged in activities that support socialisation with their peers. These students tend to be more comfortable in group settings where communication and team-work are necessary. This is a valuable asset as it will also benefit these students outside of the school setting,” she stated.

Mrs. Williams said the activities engaged in at meetings also complement classroom learning and emphasise social, emotional, and physical development.

Additionally, she said they provide opportunities for informal learning and life experiences.

“Uniformed youth groups represent a cohort of the nation’s youth that is organised around a set of core values, such as honour, discipline, service, loyalty, commitment, integrity, perseverance, industry and spiritual fortitude,” the Minister emphasised.

She noted that while most are based in schools, units may also be organised at church and community levels.

“Indeed, we know that the church has been a main source through which many new members are recruited. There is a challenge, however, and that is, over the past few years, there has not been as robust an interest in these groups as in previous decades,” Mrs. Williams indicated.

She said it was acknowledged that the society’s youth now have many more interests and distractions, “but we should still try to encourage them to see the value in participating in groups such as these”, while citing an “urgent need” for volunteer adult leaders.

The Minister also noted that older and more traditional groups, such as Boys Scouts and Girl Guides, are international in scope and maintain linkages with the worldwide movements.

“Support from these fraternal organisations has, however, diminished over the years, and local organisations must find the resources to sustain operations and pay the required affiliation fees. So once again, it is important that we, in the local community, pitch in to provide the needed support,” she added.

In this regard, the Minister commended members of the uniformed groups and CVSS for ongoing efforts to forge long-term alliances that facilitate mutual support and joint action.

Further, she said, for representing the concerns of the social sector, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, at the regional and international levels.

“We, as a collective, continue to dedicate ourselves to creating a supportive and safe environment for our students to learn and experience as much as possible to become productive members of society,” Mrs. Williams stated.

 

Contact: Douglas McIntosh

Release: JIS

 

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