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Survey asks TCI Government to negotiate and support ‘survival’ loans for Tourism industry

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#TurksandCaicosIslands, May 13, 2020 – Hassle-free loans with soft terms are a viable option to bring buoyancy to some of the tourism and hotel sector businesses in Turks and Caicos struggling to survive in the midst of a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, revealed a new survey.

More than half of those who participated in an April survey, conducted by KPMG and commissioned by the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, TCHTA replied that ‘yes’, they would take out a loan.

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“Fifty-four per cent of employers said that they would choose to apply for additional debt if it can be made available on “soft terms” i.e. with no “red tape”, no additional security and where it is to be used for specific purposes. This does not take into account other sources of finance such as private equity, mezzanine finance etc.” said that survey which was, this week, issued to members of the TCHTA and media.

It is not a far-fetched prospect for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to support the opportunity for companies to stay afloat amidst the public health crisis which has grounded travel indefinitely.  With so much at stake, the survey recommends that TCIG would do well to support a Staff Retention Program and government-backed loans.

“This is another suggestion that has been put forward to TCIG and HMG on behalf of TCHTA which is modelled on an initiative already introduced in the UK called a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme. In the UK 80% of such loans are backed by the government.  

Any initiative in TCI along these lines need not necessarily be exactly the same as the initiatives introduced in the UK but it appears from anecdotal evidence that something similar with a credit enhancement component e.g. a sovereign guarantee of some description will be needed to make more debt available in the prevailing circumstances and to entice employers to take on more debt to finance commitments to the program.”

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The suggestion, explained the report, is both practicable and internationally touted.

“This initiative put forward by TCHTA is also consistent with the actions that WTTC are advocating to global governments with substantial tourism industries.”

A government guaranteed loan scheme is however, not hugely popular for the membership of the TCHTA.  Some 46 per cent of those taking the survey expressed that they would not apply for a loan.

The survey was administered between April 12-20. Employers participating in the questionnaire represent 5,606 employees.

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Caribbean Development Bank to offer solutions for TCI with Sea Defences

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has committed $600,000 to investigate upgrades to sea defences in the Turks and Caicos Islands, disclosed by the Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Akierra Missick as she sought to reassure residents about the state of the defenses.

Concerns were raised by residents recently when the newly paved Front Street, Grand Turk was severely flooded because the sea wall was unable to hold back massive waves.

Minister Missick acknowledged the concerns but said that the government had been working on upgrades since August of this year. This, she said, had begun with a “holistic review of all of the island’s sea defenses.” It was revealed that this review is being done through an environmental consultancy agency.

The consultancy is set to run for 11 months.

At the end of the consultation period, the government should have what Missick described as shoreline characterization for Grand Turk and Salt Cay as well as designs for measures to break wave strength before it reaches shore and infrastructure upgrade designs for the entire coast of Grand Turk and Salt Cay.

Feasibility studies will be carried out alongside these infrastructure designs to determine their effectiveness.

Meetings between CDB and stakeholders including residents, tourism operators, engineers, coasts resource advisors, and others are set to occur over the 11 month time frame.

A coastal resource and vulnerability analysis is also set to be completed. This, Missick said, is a pre-emptive effort to prevent future problems.

Opposition leader Edwin Astwood spoke out regarding the flooding incident. He said the flooding was caused by faulty engineering of the sea wall rather than drainage along the road. In the House of Assembly on November 22, Astwood claimed the wall, which should have been built with a curve, was built flat.

Missick has not yet responded to the claims but has promised that CDB’s preliminary report should be tabled with Government by Summer 2022.

 

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Leading revenue earners need to include a boosted Financial Services Sector says Finance Minister Saunders

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos economy has surpassed expectations for revenue by almost $90 million dollars. Finance Minister E.Jay Saunders revealed the top four categories that spearheaded the increase, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the revenue brought into the TCI.

The information was presented at a November 8 press conference where the Finance, Investment and Trade Minister also provided a simplified version of country finances in a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget.

Saunders said, in his presentation, that every single revenue item overachieved, pushing the original $271 million dollar budget to a projected $361 million.

The first category was Work Permits which is projected to have, a near $2 million dollar increase. Next was Accommodation Tax, which is projected to have an almost $15 million dollar increase in revenue, followed by Customs Import Duties with a projected $22 million dollar increase.  Finally, Stamp Duties rounded out the main four with a whopping $34 million projected increase.

He did warn that despite its brilliant performance, the TCI economy must diversify and do so soon. He cited supply chain issues that are currently affecting the global market saying that if even one of the major categories of revenue were to be affected it could be detrimental for the economy.

He said “Over 80% of our revenue comes from four categories…When we talk about diversifying this is one of the reasons why, because of anything happens to say, Customs Import duties it would be a disaster.”

In tandem with this call to diversify that the minister made significant mention of Financial Services as a fifth category for fiscal development. He said that despite the industry still being fairly small that “if the government can manage to grow it just a little bit it would make a huge difference.”

Cayman and the BVI were cited as examples of territories which had managed to build strong financial services sectors. He assured the press that, “The only thing we have to do is modernize our legislation and become more of a competitor…and we don’t need to increase our market share significantly to grab another 50 million dollars.”

In contrast, the biggest expenses were Salaries, Pensions, and Hospital charges with the Ministry of Health getting the bulk of the budget.

While the Finance Minister was pleased with the progress, he also expressed his determination that the TCIG be able to increase their now $360 million budget to $400 or even $500 million.

This, said Saunders, would allow the government to hit their 2040 goals to improve quality of life for TCI citizens.

 

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Land must be cleared for two new Coastal Radars to boost Border Security

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

 #TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – Minister of Immigration and Border Services, Hon. Arlington Musgrove disclosed in a press conference that two new sites had been cleared, and civil works have begun for the commissioning of coastal radars.

The radars will be established in Northwest Point and Long Bay Providenciales. The Minister assured the public that this project should be completed by March 2021.

He described the radars as “one of the first sets of eyes in the detection of our most prevalent threats to border security.” Likewise, reports from the Director of Immigration indicate several detections by the current radar stations.

According to the reports, the TCI repatriated about 1,187 people during the first seven months of 2021. Approximately 905 migrants were taken into custody from illegal boat landings and 282 from apprehensions and operations. An additional 12 people are currently held at the detention center.

Musgrove added that the radars will improve coastal border security and increase the number of interceptions and detections of illegal vessels coming into the TCI.

The cost of repatriation of illegal migrants is about $1.5 million. Also, an additional $2.3 million is allocated for this period. Musgrove said the government could use this amount of money for other national operations.

“Just by those numbers, we have to do something, and we’re doing something,” the Minister said.

He added that eight new Border Force officers were hired. Thus, adding to the efforts to protect the country’s border. Also, there will be a merger of Immigration and Customs border forces, which will be technology-driven.

“By merging, Customs and Immigration will get me a more solid board of force to attend to the migration of illegal people, goods, and drugs and guns,” said the Minister.

Musgrove announced a series of Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) between the TCI and in-country Haitian Consulate. He said this agreement will include the sharing of information and assistance regarding Haitian illegal migrants.

“Too frequently, we just rely on what’s going on here, and that’s after the people arrive. So we’re trying to have some kind of dialogue that we can put some kind of preventive measures here and in Haiti to deter people from coming in,” Musgrove advised.

Meanwhile, he added that the ship-rider agreement with The Bahamas and the US Coast Guard will be signed on December 2, 2021.

 

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