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TCI Premier’s Press Conference disappoints; Islanders say they expected more

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos – August 25, 2020 — A press conference held by the TCI Premier today fell short of expectations and Magnetic Media continues to field a barrage of comments about the subject matter and the abrupt conclusion of the presentation by Hon Sharlene Robinson.

The press conference, held at 2pm today at the Office of the Premier in Providenciales, was attended by media in the room via Zoom.  It was carried live on Facebook and radio.

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A succinct report on Her Majesty’s Prison and the plan to curtail the anarchy, strengthen the human resources and restore dilapidated infrastructure at the facility was overdue; still residents expected more.

“That ending was so abrupt,” offered a listener in Grand Turk.

A woman in Providenciales commented: “I still trying to put my tea cup to my mouth and can’t because she hung up on us. All these relevant issues and you already had your face made up not to answer questions so why have a conference?  We need answers.  The woman hung up on us.”

From comments posted publicly during the social media broadcasts  and those coming to our news organization directly, it is clear, the PDM Administration must reconsider its public relations strategy to heed the repeated concerns about the tone of the media sessions which seem defensive, dismissive and evasive.

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From the Premier, residents learned of the deployment of members of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands police to manage the facility, as Her Majesty’s Prison – home to 71 inmates – prepares for a new Prison Superintendent.

The current superintendent – Grahame Hawkins – will not renew his contract with the Ministry of Home Affairs; essentially quitting the job which has been uncommonly brutal from day one. 

For those speaking candidly to Magnetic Media, this was not the national announcement they were looking forward to hearing. Many believe the focus should have largely been on the ongoing challenges linked to COVID-19.

“I guess we have to wait for another press conference later in the week!“

Desperation is building in the Turks and Caicos; no different from any other country struggling to regain footing under the weight of a crushing pandemic which has stolen the most valued of things. 

Now outlawed are breathing God-given air without a face covering in public, touching fellow human beings with handshakes, hugs, high-fives or fist bumps.  We feel strange clearing out throats, laughing out loud, standing too closely and most of us flinch, just a little, when a temperature gun is pointed at our foreheads.

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Covid-19 has decimated our economy.  The World Tourism Council reports that Turks and Caicos was robbed of $94 million between January and April alone; ranking No. 1 in the world for percentage loss of tourism revenue due to the pandemic.

People are despairing over the rocketing number of new COVID-19 cases; the dire financial strain on their families and businesses and the perilous prognosis for their more immediate futures.

Schools are not reopening, banks are not extending loans or special considerations, salaries are evaporating yet the bills keep on coming, and for many are even higher than before.

Plus, we are entering the height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and the low of the Tourism Season.

The Government has announced a one-time stimulus payment for individuals and qualifying companies; but roll out of the monies has lost significant steam; the first round of distribution remains incomplete. 

The Social Services Department is supporting 703 families, with room for 130 more until the allotted funds of $500,000 run out.  Each family, which qualifies, receives $200 per month for three months.

Turks and Caicos is not an independent nation, but it is inhabited by a fiercely independent people who are usually able to take care of themselves and their families.

It is clear this ‘once in a hundred years’ pandemic has brought an unexpected burden which is burying many families and companies and the hope is for Government to act on a plan which can hopefully keep these islands from going completely under.

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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Crown Land acreage to grow according to ISU progress report

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Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer 

 

#TurksandCaicos, April 19, 2024 – Slow but steady is how the ISU is carrying out its mandate to reclaim the 544 acres of illegally occupied land in the Turks and Caicos, revealing that 2.4 percent is now cleared and back under the control of its rightful owners; that 2.4% represents 13.15 acres of the initial 544.46.

In an April 11 newsletter discussing its 2023 year in review, the ISU revealed that at the completion of its mandate, almost half the land would go back to the hands of non-Crown landowners as the Unit is undertaking removals on private land, having been beseeched by the landowners who were dealing with squatters

It is expected that of the 544 acres of land, 11 percent will go back to the government 42 percent will go back to private landowners 45 percent was listed as ‘mixed’ and 2 percent had no clear owner.

Magnetic Media has asked if private owners are covering their own costs when it comes to clearing squatters from their properties.

It would come as no surprise to residents that the vast majority of informal settlements (37) were discovered in Providenciales, another nine were found in Grand Turk and a single settlement in North Caicos.

The Turks and Caicos has the unsavory distinction of being the only UK territory where shanty towns or informal settlements are so firmly established.

It’s not just irregular migrants desperate for a place to call home who are perpetuating the land crisis. Legitimate residents have been found in breach as well according to sources speaking to the news team.

According to the newly minted ISU, here is what will happen if you build on a lot without direction from the Planning Department.

You will be served an eviction notice if your structure is found to be illegally occupying Crown Land.  The ISU says then, you will have one month to secure other accommodation and leave.

If the structure is unoccupied after 28 days, reclamation procedures will commence.

If the structure is occupied, individuals will be evicted before reclamation, the ISU says.

The ISU anticipates that there will be claims against eviction orders and is advising people who wish to contest the notice, visit a Crown Land Unit office.

Those contests came in a flood following eviction notices in November 2023 and the Crown Land Unit is still trying to straighten them out with a promise that residents will be treated fairly.

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‘Incredible Environment’ for Real Estate continues for Turks and Caicos

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, April 18, 2024 – Tourism and real estate sales continue to boom in the Turks and Caicos Island (TCI), over other Caribbean territories, with sales numbers and pre-construction sales numbers reflecting an incredible environment.

There are hosts of opportunities for new development offerings, some currently under construction and some that are about to announce their plans. A number of the larger parcels of beachfront land in Providenciales will be reshaped into high-end, branded hotels, and residences to keep pace with the seemingly endless demand for investment and vacation properties.

In a report by the Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty, it states that “our superb tourism offerings continue to attract A-listers from around the globe as seen throughout the social media channels as well as buyers looking for a place to call home amongst the abundant turquoise blue ocean views throughout, the temperate climate, and tranquil laid-back Caribbean atmosphere,” the report said.

It added that the first quarter of this year witnessed another major groundbreaking celebration in Providenciales, by the same developers of The Ritz-Carlton Residences with The St Regis on Grace Bay, as well as the formal public sales launch by Grace Bay Resorts with The Point.

The two new luxury developments have already recorded over 70% (St Regis Tower I of three towers) and 65% (The Point) units sold/reserved. The Loren on Turtle Cove, which broke ground in June 2023, is showing a unit sales production of 52%, and Andaz Turks & Caicos after officially breaking ground last year, is reporting unit sales production at 65%. ARC at South Bank is 50% sold with construction to start in May of this year.

“This new condominium inventory is satiating the overdue demand with buyers who are willing to wait for up to three years for the completion of the resort properties. We are also gaining momentum on some of the boutique new developments, such as Villas at Blue Mountain, with multiple pre-sales which will soon start construction, and The Summit at Blue Mountain, which has strong momentum and is well under construction,” the report further added.

While the pre-construction sales in the Condominium Sector are high and not officially recorded within our TCREA MLS statistics, in this 1st Quarter, the re-sale condominium sales volume was $18M, 25%-65% lower in comparison to the past three years with the average price remaining high at $1.1M which resulted in a $/SF of $1,100 at the luxury end (+$1.5M).

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$485 Million Budget for TCI; Figures Revealed for 2024-2025

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Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, April 19, 2024 – The PNP Administration is using their final budgetary allocation, an all-time high of $485 million to do ‘More in ‘24 ’ according to Washington Misick, TCI Premier and Finance Minister, when he opened the 2024/25 budget debates on April 16.

A people-focused budget is what Misick says the PNP has created for residents with tackling cost of living as its ‘number one priority.’Citing the expanding economy with rates over 12 percent and the possibility of a revised A Economy rating he said:

”The one thing that keeps me up at night is the constant quest for ways to help our people, especially those in the middle-income bracket and those below the poverty line. Our macroeconomic success must translate to human and social development. It must mean well organized and functioning communities where modern amenities are available and it must mean a better life for all.”

The Premier cited this determination as the reason for denying the recent FortisTCI application for an electricity rate increase and lowered fuel taxes.

In the Construction realm, Misick maintained the government was leveraging its power to deliver for residents as well while criticizing the PDM for allowing wealthy contractors to slide without paying maximum taxes

“Everywhere you turn there’s a new building going up— because of the splitting of purchase contracts for land and construction by foreign wealthy individuals, which the former administration supported, the government is earning less from stamp duty but I promise that will change,” The. Premier said

Misick revealed that the PNP had removed tax holidays, allowing more money to flow into the country from large developments.

Misick doubled down on his administration’s commitment to social welfare programs highlighting the over $6 million increase in welfare since the start of their tenure. For retirees, a 20 percent increase has been granted and the pension fund now has $21 million as of March 31, 2024.

”Fairness to us is supporting people out of poverty not trapping them in a cycle of dependence,” he maintained.

In terms of figures many remained unchanged from the draft budget tabled two weeks earlier. Revenue remained at $452 million while expenditure went up to $389 million.

The GDP of the country grew by 13.7 percent in 2023 and is projected to grow by 4 percent in 2024, and the TCI is now listed as a ‘positive’ economy up from a ‘stable’ rating.

TCIG only managed to spend 29 million out of the 57 million that was budgeted for capital projects which the premier blamed on the drawn-out procurement process, outdated laws, and insufficient resources. He maintained that the government is spending 300,000 in this financial year to review the procurement process. Optimistically TCIG again budgeted $63 million for capital projects this year.

The $485 million budget for 2024/25 was split into 10 main parts.

  1. $117.4 million – Public Service (Offices of Governor, House of Assembly, Ministries etc.)
  2. $ 90.5 million – Health
  3. $86.5 million –  Economic Affairs (Environmental and Coastal Resources,  Media, Energy and Utilities, Infrastructure Development including land acquisition, Tourism Product Enhancement, Agriculture, and Catastrophic Risk Insurance)
  4. $71.6 million –  Public Order and Safety ( $39.0 million will go towards Police Services, $20.9 million to the Judiciary, $19.2 million for Customs and Border Protection, Immigration, and Repatriations, $7.7 million for Prisons, and  $1.5 million has been allocated for Fire and Rescue.)
  5. $58.7 million – Education (Special Needs, Community College, Primary, Secondary and Daycare)
  6. $27.0 million – Social Protection
  7. $18.8 million – Estate Management, Housing and Community Amenities
  8. $9.6 million Defense (National Security Secretariat, Military, Disaster Management)
  9. $3.1 million  – Environmental Protection
  10. $1.3 million – Culture

The Premier also broke down a list of priority initiatives encapsulated in the allocation, they included:

  • $157.3 million for staff costs, around $30.7 million compared to the previous year.
  • $6 million for the Community Enhancement Projects/Works Programme across all islands.
  • $3.7 million for the Border Force
  • $3.5 million for the pay and grading exercise of statutory bodies.
  • $3.1 million for the Senior Citizens’ Financial Assistance Programme.
  • $1.5 million was added to Social Welfare allocations for a total of $10.1 million.
  • $1.4 million to cover an increase of 20 percent for pensioners and former legislators.
  • $900,000 for MSME Investment, which includes funding for training programs, technical assistance, and opportunities for business development.
  • $ 300,000 for the Prison Reforms and the Juvenile Intervention and Diversionary Programme to review the prison resourcing model within the Department of Correctional Services.
  • $ 800,000 for additional staff enhancement of the growth and capability of the TCI Regiment to strengthen the islands’ security against illicit activities.

As for how the Turks and Caicos will afford all of this, revenue is expected to be $465 million leaving the country in a deficit of $19 million. Misick admitted, though, that it was unlikely that the deficit would come to fruition.

The top ten earners are expected to be:

  • $119.6 million – Accommodation Tax
  • $112.5 million –  Import Duties
  • $54.2 million – Other Receipts
  • $50 million – Stamp Duty on Land Transactions
  • $42.9 million – Work Permit
  • $38.8million – Other Customs Duties
  • $11 million – Excess Revenue from Ports and Sea Travel Taxes –
  • $10.9million – Fuel Tax
  • $7.9 million – Vehicles and Driver’s License Fees
  • $7.3 million – Business and Banking Related Receipts

Misick maintained that the PNP is delivering for the people, and the budget would provide ‘More in ‘24’, he said:

”If you recall, when we came to office in 2021, I made it clear that this is “The People’s Term” We have never wavered from that commitment. We have used the People’s Contract as our guidepost to ensure that we deliver on the promise—Our budget is designed to give our people opportunities and change their lives for the better.”

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