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Beaches Resort Turks & Caicos says ‘incompetence’ and ‘ineffectiveness’ prolonging closure

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 15, 2020 — Although vacation bookings for the October 14 opening of Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos were not through the roof, executives today explained it was not expected that they would be and the slow crawl of tourism amidst the coronavirus pandemic is absolutely not the reason the 700+ room resort has delayed its restart. 

Magnetic Media was aiming to ascertain if there could be alternative causes for the announcement of a delay just five days before the luxury family all-inclusive was expected to open its double gates to guests.

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Our probing, however, only unearthed more of the same; Beaches will not re-open to tourism until a four-year-old tax dispute is addressed.

“Breaches of our Development Agreement(s) and other legally binding commitments have yet to be resolved for nearly 4 years, despite tireless efforts by Beaches.  The Board of Directors has therefore mandated that the re-opening of Beaches be postponed,” said BTC in a statement on Friday, October 9.

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International which owns Beaches, has a high level executive team in country, hoping to end the stalemate.  Progress is however, slow going and this legal limbo is characterised as the worse experience Beaches Resort has ever encountered.

“Our team and the citizens of the TCIG deserve so much better from an elected government. Unfortunately, we must admit that this is the most ineffective Government we have ever had to deal with when compared to the other jurisdictions in which we operate. Our Development Agreement(s) and other legally binding written commitments have been disregarded and trampled on.”

Many residents are dumb-struck by the allegations.  Could government really be this irresponsible about untangling a fiscal mess with such a prominent investor and mammoth partner in tourism?

Beaches Craft Market day; Photo by Magnetic Media in February 2020

Five days later and no assurances are coming from the Ministry of Finance, which is led by Sharlene Robinson, the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

It is a wait and see as the Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) has, since the disappointing announcement, been mute; having stated previously it prefers not to engage in a public row with the resort which employs 2,000 people; the largest employee complement in the private sector. 

Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos however, is less given to silence and is not playing coy; a new press statement issued today to Magnetic Media called the Government Administration incompetent.

“Beaches is told that the TCIG has been “working hard” to resolve the matter. If that is the case, then 4 years later it certainly appears to us that it is incompetence.”

This fiscal fiasco cannot be blamed on COVID-19.  The ongoing dispute does however deepen the already severely depressed Turks and Caicos economy. Turks and Caicos tourism, as a result of the unrelenting ravages of the pandemic on the travel industry, is forecast to fall by over 50 percent and that could worsen.

Hon Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Chairman, Sandals Resorts International

“Beaches empathises with the hardship being experienced by so many.  Commercial activity has been at a standstill since March of this year.  Time is of the essence for the TCIG to bring economic activity back to life to ensure the wellbeing and health of the citizens of the TCI who have suffered for far too long.  This continued inaction by the TCIG is so grave that Beaches would be irresponsible if we were to remain silent.”

Chairman Stewart, Magnetic Media is informed, was prepared to reopen Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos with the irregularly low bookings.  The expectation brought hundreds of staffers back to work at the start of the month in preparation for the first guests.  Team members we spoke to were happy, optimistic for the first time in a long time and they were not alone. 

Beaches Resort’s expansiveness brings buoyancy to the entire island of Providenciales and beyond – taxi drivers, retailers, grocers, craft market vendors other hotels, sister islands and the airlines are all happier when Beaches is open.

“As the anchor resort in the TCI, we can assure our incredible and dedicated team members together with the taxi association and the wider community that we remain committed to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We continue to extend our hand in having this matter resolved fairly.”

Beaches responded to Magnetic Media with the explanation that the company is not trying to bully the government and regrets that it did not keep its promise to open on Wednesday.

Before the Covid-19 Pandemic crashed the travel and tourism industry; tourism was projected to surge beyond the 600,000 long stay visitor mark for Turks and Caicos. Photo by Magnetic Media in February 2020

“Beaches Resorts like so many others, looked forward to re-opening its doors on October 14, 2020. Sadly this did not take place despite every effort, humanly possible by our team to have these long outstanding matters resolved with the TCIG.  Beaches has been extremely clear for nearly 4 years, that it owes no taxes whatsoever. As such, there is no favour or forgiveness being sought from the TCIG.”

Beaches adds, they believe the matter related to the dispute about unpaid or over paid taxes could be resolved in a matter of days. 

Beaches Resort Villages & Spa in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos has given its new reopening date as November 18.

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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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