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Premier sets record straight, no write offs, beneficiaries revealed

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – March 7, 2019

On February 18th, the following Bills were read in the House of Assembly for the first time and it was publicly announced that the Debate would take place on March 4th and 5th :

The Hotel Tourism and Restaurant Taxation Bill (HRTT) which provided an overhaul to the Law passed since 1985 allowing for a modernization of the law and a strengthening of the collection of taxes;

The HRTT (Amnesty) Bill which allowed for an Amnesty commencing April 1st and allowing for a waiver of all penalties and payable on any outstanding taxes due and payable under the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism (Taxation) Ordinance for the years up to and including the year ending 31 March 2019.

The HRTT (Validation) Bill which sought to ratify past actions.

Regrettably not all persons were able to hear the Debate in the House of Assembly where three serving former Ministers quite adequately shared their thoughts on why we were where we are today.

Of particular concern was the Amnesty Bill that offers relief to 41 local and expatriate owned Businesses. I offer again the following facts as stated during the Debate:

There has been NO WRITE OFF OF TAXES for any Business.

Financial Implications

There are currently 41 establishments that are in arrears position of which 7 have been refferred to AG Chambers, 15 have paid the entire principal amount but not the interest (not accruing), and 19 have made no payments. (interest accruing).

Of the 19 businesses, Beaches TCI and Club Med collectively account for 96% of the amount outstanding. Should these businesses opt to benefit from the Amnesty, $28,638,820 of principal will be collected and $85,191,912 in interest will be forfeited.

Total amounts in arrear of principal and interest are $29,684,123 and $89,147,690 respectively as at January 31, 2019.

On the matter of Beaches, three former Ministers of Finance currently serving correctly summed up the situation as it relates to Beaches. Hon Derek Taylor spoke to the fact that the actions should be considered for what it is: a cleaning up exercise; Hon Royal Robinson offered that it was a matter that the issue has run on so long and now the “chickens have come home to roost and certain adjustments must be made” and Hon Washington Misick stated that he believe that this was a genuine oversight by all Governments: PDM and PNP since 1997. I agree with all save for the fact  that I have every reason to believe that the immediate past Minister of Finance had knowledge of this matter and in fact his Party has issued a Release saying that he commissioned the Audit that revealed the Findings. The Audit covered September 2014 – August 2016 and it revealed that though Beaches and successive Governments operated on the understanding that it should pay 60% of the 12% tax, there was no written evidence save a letter written by Hon Washington Misick in 2014 confirming this to be the practise. Despite the findings revealing the oversight on the part of all successive governments, my Government has requested the payment of the full 100% of taxes for this period. I wish to thank the Revenue Control Unit for its work. In addition I wish to assure the public that Beaches and Club Med continues to pay its monthly taxes before the statutory deadline.

As it relates to Club Med, who since its opening has been allowed to pay 40% of the 12% tax under a Development Agreement. This Development Agreement has since expired and the former Administration had continued to collect under the same rate under the expired Agreement.

To this end, the Revenue Control Unit had to asssess both establishments on 100% and this is the matter before us.

Only Penalties are proposed to be written off. Penalties under the current Ordinance calculates monthly at 10% compounded. For an amount outstanding of $29,684,123, the total penalties are $89,147, 690. To be clear all businesses owing under this Audit are now attracting 240% in interest/penalty on the original taxes owed. As an example if a business owes $10,000 in taxes, it now attracts a penalty/interest of $38,000.00 for the Audit period. While penalties have been put in place to deter late payments, we believe the rate of 10% compounded monthly was too onerous and have reduced the rate and how it is calculated going forward under the new Ordinance passed on Monday.

I wish to confirm that local businesses will benefit under this Amnesty. Despite there being no request by the Opposition for a list of proposed beneficiaries, I now release the list of businesses that stand to benefit under the Amnesty Program and encourage them to take advantage of the offer that allows payment plans for up to 2 years. I appeal especially to locally owned businesses that have popular standing. We are more than happy to be able to provide such an opportunity.

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Caribbean News

RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#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.”

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Education

Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program

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#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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News

DECR Launches Important Tropical Plant Areas & Species in TCI Project

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#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2022 – The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) along with visiting scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) will launch the DarwinPlus 114 Project Tropical Important Plant Areas and Important Plant Species in TCI. The project was originally to begin in May 2020, but with Covid-19-related travel restrictions, along with restructuring at DECR and RBG Kew, two years of deferments were necessary. The project has begun and will be officially launched this week in a workshop on Thursday 12 May 2022 beginning at 9:00 AM in the National Environmental Centre.

In reference to the project, DECR Director Lormeka Williams stated, “With the recent completion of the National Physical Development Plan, the signing of the Climate Change Charter, and the review of the National Parks Ordinance, we are poised and ready to utilise new information on land use and impacts to our Protected Areas and green spaces. We are newly energised to commit to the discovery and description of our most sensitive and significant plant diversity hotspots. We’re inspired by our colleagues in the British Virgin Islands having completed the pilot of this project. We are also ready and excited to find out what these plants are that evade identification and may prove to be something unknown to science.”

The project is focused on identifying Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Turks and Caicos Islands. TIPAs are a network of the key sites for wild plants and threatened habitats identified using scientifically robust data. They are not legal designations, but a means to identify the most important sites for wild plant diversity and to inform the protection and management of sites. Identifying TIPAs will help prevent the global loss of plant diversity, whilst safeguarding the role of plants as primary producers and providers of ecosystem infrastructure, products, and services.

TIPAs also provides a framework for Governments to implement target 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Strategy for Plant Conservation – to ensure the protection of at least 75% of the most important areas for plant diversity of each ecological region by 2020 with effective management in place for conserving plants and their genetic diversity. TIPAs also contribute to implementing the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 – by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained. Criteria for identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas were developed, and the first nationwide project was completed by RBG Kew and the Virgin Islands National Parks Trust in the British Virgin Islands in 2019. Assistant Director of Research and Development B Naqqi Manco participated in the April 2019 BVI TIPAs Workshop, and discussed the potential to replicate the project with long-established partners at RBG Kew in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Following the TCI TIPAs Launch Workshop, the DECR and RBG Kew team will trial the criteria over several sites of high plant diversity in Providenciales, North Caicos, and Middle Caicos. Over the next three years, the teams will cover other islands as well. Of particular importance will be the Turks and Caicos Islands eight known endemic plant species – those found nowhere else on earth. A secondary component of the project focuses on investigating some unique populations of rare plants in TCI, which may constitute new varieties or even species. RBG Kew will use DNA analysis to explore the relationship of these species to their closest relatives. Importantly, the rare and endemic species will be targeted for IUCN Red Data Listing as well, to assess their wild population status and trends.

 

Release: DECR

Photo: This beautiful Encyclia orchid is one of the unique groups of plants that will be studied by the project.

 

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