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TCI Opposition Leader points to little communication by PDM Gov’t; says he was told of two COVID-19 cases since last week

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – Full Statement by Leader of Progressive National Party (PNP) – In times of national crisis, the well being of people surpasses politics, and all decisions made with the potential outcome of securing the welfare of the TCI and its people will be supported by me.

The Premier contacted me last week Thursday, 12 March 2020 to say that there were two suspected cases of COVID-19; seven persons were in self quarantine and that she would keep me updated on matters as results became known. That was the only conversation during this crisis that I have had with the Premier.  However, I am happy to hear that to date TCI is COVID-19 free.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global panic that are seeing border after border closing and countries becoming virtual fortresses as whole communities are forced by their governments to retreat within the walls of their homes. The streets of many busy commercial districts are reminiscent of the sixty’s television series: The Twilight Zone except that this is not science fiction, but reality.

In this hypervigilant environment of fear the TCI must take its cue from governments and countries with the technical skills and means to assess the risk and potential fall-out from the pandemic without frightening its people into psychological paralysis. However, considering the social and economic impact of a prolonged life cycle of the virus one wonders if TCIG has to date move swiftly enough to prepare the islands in the event the virus gets into the general population.  

As an example, the government should by now have undertaken the mass distribution of surgical masks; and alcohol base hand sanatisers – because many people simply do not have access to a dependable source of water, and some who do, cannot afford mask and sanitizers assuming that they are available locally.  This is especially concerning given that there are no testing facilities and the availability of testing kits in the islands has not been disclosed neither has the process for testing suspected cases to ensure that samples can reach labs before the expiration of the life span of the virus outside a host.

The TCI is a tourism dependent destination and the hiatus in travel may be devastating for the country. The industry indicates that cancellation rate for stay-over visitors to the TCI as of today has exceeded 60% of forward bookings for the next six weeks, and new bookings have ground to a halt. By some estimates the current rate of global infection is expected to peak towards the end of April but will be with us at least through June.  Therefore, the rate of cancellation could possibly last for 90 days. At the same time, cruise passenger arrivals for the time being has been reduced by 100%.

The multiplier effect of visitors spending in the local economy is difficult to measure but according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) the multiplier for tourism is 3.2 times the initial dollar spent.  Given significant leakages because of TCI dependence on imported goods and labour, as well as limited activities and attractions in the destination, a multiplier of 2 is assumed to be more realistic. Assuming therefore an adjusted average daily spending (ADS) per visitor of $200, the total impact to the GDP would be $400 per day per visitor.

Average visitor arrivals for March through the end of May in 2018 was 100,000 with an average stay of 6 nights according to TCI Statistics Department. Assuming TCIG was on target to receive the same number of visitors in the same period of 2020 as it received in 2018 that would translate into 600,000 nights at $200 or $120 million directly to the industry; with a multiplier of 2 that equals a contribution to the GDP of $240 million.  A 60% cancellation over 90 days could result in lost revenue to the industry of $72 million, to the GDP of $144 million and $14.4 million to TCIG from stay over visitors. Cruise tourism arrivals for the period March through May 2019 was approximately 265 000 passengers.  Assuming similar numbers were expected in 2020: an average spent per head of $50 would result in lost revenue of $13.25 million to vendors and tour operators in addition to TCIG departure tax of $14 translating to 3.7 million of lost TCIG revenue in the beleaguered economy of Grand Turk

Based on the above, a combined total of upwards to $85 million could potentially be loss to the private sector, over $18 million to TCIG and approximately $160 million could be shave off of the GDP in the next 90 days. This is a potential reduction of 16% base on a one-billion-dollar economy. The gravity of the situation may require the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor under Section 37 (1)(c) of the TCI Constitution to mandate actions in the public interest.  What these actions should be would depend on the prevailing circumstances over time but should pertain to certain basic physiological needs of food, water, shelter and safety in its broadest sense; and may include rationing to discourage hoarding resulting in artificial shortages for some people; as well as price control on staples and sanitary goods.

Given the favourable cash balances of the TCIG, it should take action to ease the pressure off of consumers by removing duties and custom processing fees from all basic consumable merchandise imported, to make it easier on workers.  In addition, it should through the House of Assembly appropriate funding for social welfare to subsidize the living expenses of unsupported indigents, and other vulnerable groups; negotiate with financial institutions to freeze for a period of 90 days mortgage payments for those persons who find themselves unemployed or underemployed and unable to meet their payments; and negotiate a freeze on the Fortis rate increase and all other rates until further notice. Consider introducing a means testing framework to provide relief to basic wage earners in the hospitality and related industries until the industry recovers. 

Whatever the outcome, the situation has place in sharp focus the tremendous vulnerabilities we face as a small tourism dependent country. In the face of the challenges, it cannot be business as usual.  We must immediately reprogram our collective mind-set to suit our unique circumstances. In the new reality food and citizen security, social development and environmental sustainability MUST trump everything else. We simply must prepare ourselves for the growing natural and manmade threats of the 21st century. Regardless to how we arrive here and whatever our political persuasion maybe we face a common and uncertain future at least in the short term; and in these times must coalesce around the common value of cooperation and community.

Finally, I wish to appeal to all to heed the massages from the authorities. The risk is high, the threat is real, resources are limited and facilities are rudimentary.  Stay at home unless you absolutely need to be out. This too will pass, but in the meanwhile hunker down.

Sincere thanks and gratitude to all those on the frontline especially our medical professional and senior public health officials for your tireless efforts in monitoring this pandemic in the interest of all of us.  It is in these times when your genius shine. I appreciate your invaluable contribution and sacrifice and pray for your safety and good health.

May God bless our beautiful Islands and may he keep us safe and healthy!!!

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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What will it take to reclaim our country from the unrelenting scourge of violent crimes?

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Ed Forbes 

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

 

#TurksandCaicos, August 16, 2022 – With the news cycle moving at such a rapid pace, too often we tend to overlook or forget the pain and suffering some families are still going through from the senseless loss of their love ones to gun violence.

As a resident of Grand Turk, I am still angered and heartbroken over the loss of so many young lives and the senseless acts of aggression within our communities across these islands.

We are seeing a disturbing and significant increase in violent crimes primarily among our young men. Many  of the crimes appeared to be gang affiliated, pent up anger or some score that needed to be settled.

Now is high time we come together to find solutions to eradicate violent crimes. Rather than casting blame or pointing fingers let us stand alongside each other and our elected leaders with determination and power to actualize change.

Yes, we need to hold our elected and appointed leaders accountable for their actions or lack thereof, but I dispel this notion that having x number of additional police officers on the streets would have prevented these unfortunate incidents from happening. In addition, we cannot expect law enforcement nor the government to have all the answers.

Our communities need to become more proactive and we cannot rest until we see more positive results because this is what our citizens deserve.

With that being said, what progress if any has been made on the crime prevention initiatives for Grand Turk? Such proposal stemmed from a town hall meeting held nearly 6 months ago, following a devastating fire on an apartment complex in Grand Turk that left residents temporarily displaced.

Such initiative is what helps to keep the communities more engaged. Make no mistake about it, with the easy access between Islands, it could only be a matter of time before we see a spill over of criminal related activities.

Criminals are becoming more stealthier and lawyers are becoming savvy. Therefore, if our policing strategies are not regularly re-evaluated and revised, one of the challenges we will continue to face is suspects will be arrested but the evidence will be lacking to prosecute them.

And again, we are not telling law enforcement how to do their jobs, just offering what we see as viable solutions.

These are unprecedented times; therefore, we must take bold and sometimes costly steps to affect the desired results.

The most practical and effective way to impact armed violence is a relentless effort to stem the flow of illegal guns into TCI, and inter island transport of weapons.

If the escalating gun violence is largely in part due to the result of compromised boarders, then put the necessary resources in place to fix it.

For example, a dedicated marine vessel in Grand Turk.

Border control is one of, if not, the most important benefit of Turks and Caicos Islands being a British overseas territory. As such, they have an obligation to properly protect our boarders, provide adequate support and enhanced technology in this area. Henceforth, let us hold their feet to fire to help get the job done.

If we fail to properly protect our borders head on, like many third world countries, there is a clear and present danger of TCI becoming the next heaven for illegal weapons trade.

One may never grasp or understand why these good upbringing young individuals do what they do. Maybe they have lost hope in the system of justice, struggling with mental illness and are now embracing their new twisted beliefs with a fervor that is, perhaps, not understandable or comprehensible to others.

Thereby, this may be the driving force that push them to commit these heinous acts of violence against one another and our citizens.

Either way, their actions impacts every single one of us in some form or fashion. The question that will always remain is, are these really heartless criminals or are they just seeking social mobility and trying to make progress for themselves for which they now deem as acceptable norms?

In my professional opinion, what we are seeing in this young generation in terms of their behavior, is simply a shift in attitudes. Some of these individuals become very frustrated because they are not finding any routes to making real progress, they find their paths blocked and frustration can lead to aggression. As a result, they are now classifying violence as a justified means to an end.

What we need are long-term and short-term public policies to address these issues, to include a strong focus on neighborhoods suffering from socio-economic inequalities. We have got to find ways to avoid our youth from becoming expandable in the wrong areas of life, because in the end, no one wins.

Below are some suggestions of a 7 point short-and long-term solution and a framework which we can continue to build upon to help curb crime and improve outcomes.

  1. The formation of an active tactical police unit geared specifically toward gang related crimes. This should include the necessary training and expertise in this area. Let us try to nip this in the bud before it gets way out of hand and more innocent bystanders or unintended targets become victims.
  2. Focus on creative ways to rid illegal guns off the streets, coupled with data-driven deployment of officers.
  3. Implement a focused deterrence approach geared toward high-risk repeat offenders to include increased visits from their probation officers and providing available resources to assist them.
  4. Increase the existing budget for CCTV cameras for both Grand Turk and Provo, to include additional placement and quality of equipment to improve video footage.
  5. Conduct close review of law enforcement salaries compared to other departments and agencies. This will determine equitable compensation and cost of living regardless of Belongers status. This will also help to improve officers morale and loyalty and minimize any thoughts of corruption.
  6. Based on in-depth analysis and crime data, set up police substations in high crime ridden areas or communities that are suffering from spatial displacement of police presence.
  7. Real rehabilitation and mental health treatment for incarcerated criminals, because they are not serving life sentences and will eventually be released into society.

We are certainly at a crossroad here and what brought us to this point is certainly not for a lack of effort on the part of our dedicated men and women serving on our police force.

What we must demand at every level, is accountability of performance and results driven leadership. I am still confident, that collectively we can come up with some viable and effective solutions to this growing madness. It’s a must, as our lives and our livelihood are depending on it.

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New Locally Produced Talkshow Series Trailblazing Chats Airs

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The First Two Island Beauty Queen with Aaliyah Elliott | Trailblazing Chats: EP1

 

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, August 15, 2022 – Trailblazing Chats is a series where Trailblazers talk about the trails they paved for future generations. Pioneers, innovators, influencers, and lifelong learners share their illustrious paths and individual experiences on this show to immerse viewers in their world. Each episode, join the discussion with a special guest presenter as we explore previously trodden paths.

The series was produced by Leonardo “Leo” Lightbourne and Nolan “Nolz” Smith, the owners of Open Thought Communication. Leo Lightbourne, shared that the goal of Trailblazing Chats is to inspire the next generation to follow the trail to excellence. He said “I believe too often as a youth; we believe we have to invent the wheel and while so innovation is necessary, there are also some core values and beliefs we must learn to achieve greatness too. Trailblazing Chats takes listening through the trails of these pioneers and explores the life lessons and experiences that led to their historical achievements”.

For the premiere episode of Let’s Get Candid Co-Host, Lori Hall sat down with the Turks and Caicos’ first two crown beauty pageant, Aaliyah Elliott, to discuss her historic accomplishment. Aaliyah is the first person to secure victories in both Miss Regatta and Miss Grand Turk in the same year; she won both pageants within one month. The conversation explored Aaliyah’s childhood and the different experiences that led her to participate in beauty pageants.

Pageants globally often come under a lot of criticism, and the Turks and Caicos Islands is no exception. Aaliyah got really candid with Let’s Get Candid Co-Host Lori Hall as she opened up about the criticism she has received as the holder of two crowns. Some hold the belief that pageants should be regulated in the Turks and Caicos Islands restricting winners from participating in other island pageants. However, Aaliyah believes pageants should not be regulated and that winners of one island pageant entering others will force the other contestants to “step up their game”.

The Miss Turks and Caicos Islands Beauty Pageant have not been held since 2014. Shanice Williams is still our reigning Queen after 8 years. Aaliyah also advocated for the reinstatement of Miss Turks and Caicos and plans to enter if it returns in 2023.

Trailblazing Chats premiered Sunday, August 14th, 2022 at 8pm on the YouTube and Facebook Channels of Open Thought Communications.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO CHANNEL TO WATCH TRAILBLAZING CHATS: https://www.youtube.com/c/OpenThought

 

FOLLOW THE LET’S GET CANDID SHOW:

INSTAGRAM | https://instagram.com/ OpenThoughtTV  

FACEBOOK | https://www.facebook.com/OpenThoughtTV

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Caribbean News

TCI Premier and Delegation visit NCI in Jamaica

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#Manchester, Jamaica, 14 August 2022 – The Honourable Charles Washington Misick, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and his delegation have arrived at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Central Jamaica.The Premier will give the address at the second commencement ceremony and will be conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Commerce Degree.  The Premier completed high school at West Indies College which is now NCU more than 50 years ago.  Premier Misick and his delegation are on a four day visit to Jamaica.The Office of the Premier and Public Policy will bring commencement live on its Facebook page at 2PM EST.The Premier’s delegation includes: First Lady, Mrs. Delthia Russell-Misick; Hon. Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services; Hon. Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, Labour, Employment and Customer Service; Mr. Wesley Clerveaux, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Labour, Employment and Customer Service; Ms. Althea Been, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Immigration and Border Services; Mr. Miquel Swann, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Office of the Premier and Public Policy; Mr. Edwin Taylor, Commissioner of Labour; and Mr. Bentley Johnson Aide De Camp.

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