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Can TCI Gov’t and Beaches Resort resolve tax row in 10-days? Mediator can start work Nov 8

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Beaches Resort unveiled new Covid ready amenities, Photo by Magnetic Media

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 19, 2020 — Negotiations to resolve the multi-million dollar claims of non-payment or over-payment linked to Beaches Turks and Caicos could begin in 20 days, now that a mediator proposed by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government has been accepted by the resort.

“After four years, the Government has finally agreed to a process of mediation to which we are fully committed in an effort to bring this long outstanding matter to a fair conclusion. TCIG proposed a list of mediators and we agreed to one of them. The Mediator is available the week of November 8, 2020 and we have advised the TCIG that we are ready, willing and able to proceed.  We trust that the TCIG will enjoin in the mediation process during this period in good faith as committed,” explained Beaches Resort in a statement issued today.

In response to Magnetic Media questions  about who is the mediator and what is the proposed timeline for start and conclusion of the negotiations, the Premier said via email that, “The matter with Beaches remains sensitive. Both TCIG and Beaches are moving with urgency and until dates are finalised, TCIG is not in a position to state a timeline outside of as soon as possible. 

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I will ask Beaches and TCIG’s lawyers as to whether information about the mediation process can be shared at this point.”

Sharlene Robinson, TCI Premier and Minister of Finance, in a letter issued last week to media informed of the offer of a mediator.

“Obvious by its absence in Beaches’ press release is reference to the ongoing urgent discussions and actions between the parties’ respective lawyers to appoint a qualified mediator to facilitate a resolution. TCIG has since May this year agreed to a mediator and it is hoped that such a mediation will take place next month.”

Beaches Resort over the weekend confirmed to Magnetic Media that it was true; they were in receipt of a list of candidates. The fact had not made it to any of their public statements on the litigation.

The Premier rejected the characterisation of ‘incompetence’ by Beaches Resort and in a TCI Sun newspaper article, was resolute that government has not ignored the law suit for years. 

“The line being peddled by Beaches that a lawsuit remains unresolved after 4 years is demonstrably untrue. As I have previously made clear, Beaches first issued proceedings in May 2019. We continue to await their amended claim, promised by their attorney in August 2020. They have also brought proceedings seeking to challenge an assessment made in February 2020. It does not follow that, because Beaches repeatedly assert that they don’t owe taxes, that that is legally the case,” she said.

Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos has added thousands of features to brace for a post Covid reopening. Photo by Magnetic Media

Magnetic Media has learned the individual, a male, is a Queen’s Counsel (QC) attorney with experience in negotiating tax disputes.

The background and adeptness of the QC is critical as there is so much riding on the process, not least of which is the impending re-opening of the resort on November 18.

Beaches’ Board of Directors is adamant that it will not re-open the property which employs 2,000 people and which attracts the lion’s share of long stay visitors to the country, until the matter is addressed.

“We echo the sentiments of TCIG that the Turks and Caicos Islands is also beautiful with remarkable people and we look forward to re-opening our doors in due course once approved by the Board of Directors. The statement also explained, “Beaches TCI wishes to make it clear that it has made no unreasonable demands whatsoever. Beaches is not asking TCIG for any favours or special treatment and any suggestion to the contrary, is simply a PR spin on the facts.”

Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos claims its Development Agreement was breached and they had been overpaying taxes. 

“Beaches simply wants the Government to honour the terms of its Development Agreement(s) and other legally binding commitments, nothing more, nothing less. Breaches of these Agreement(s) by TCIG is the reason Beaches was compelled to file its lawsuit in May 2019.”

TCIG claims Beaches Resort is severely in arrears to the tune of a reported $20 million dollars. 

Beaches TC, five days before opening its mega resort property on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, announced it would postpone reopening amidst the coronavirus pandemic from October 14 to November 18; it was a devastating announcement.

The result is a volley of spicy statements which had not nudged the needle until now.

The mediator has indicated he can begin the negotiation process on November 8. The ball is now in TCIG’s court.

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.

Caribbean News

TCI Tourist Board – Represented at New York Travel & Adventure Show

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Manhattan, New York (Friday, February 3, 2023) – The Turks and Caicos Islands recently participated in the successful New York Travel & Adventure Show held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York from Saturday, January 28th – Sunday, January 29th. The event was New York’s largest travel gathering since 2019, providing the perfect platform to showcase the Turks and Caicos Islands and its unique luxury offerings as a multi-island destination. This was part of a larger effort by the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board to showcase the destination at several major travel shows in the United States.

Mary Lightbourne, the Acting Director of Tourism, and Gabriel Saunders, the Senior Public Relations Officer, proudly represented the Turks and Caicos Islands at the event and emphasized its status as a premium travel destination. During the event, they engaged with travel enthusiasts, media outlets, influencers, and more to further increase visibility about the World’s Top Trending Travel Destination for Fall 2022. Visitors at the booth were given informational brochures on the destination and treated to a tasting of Bambarra rum, as well as Bambarra rum cakes. As a special souvenir, they were also gifted Beach Buddies keychains, designed as queen conch shells, spiny lobsters, Turks Head cacti, flamingos, and pelicans – symbolizing the coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“The New York Travel & Adventure Show was an ideal platform to facilitate us bringing the stunning beauty and diverse offerings of the Turks and Caicos Islands to a massive audience of travel enthusiasts”, stated Mary Lightbourne. “Through this opportunity, we were able to foster valuable connections with key industry leaders and share our islands’ captivating allure with travel lovers in a significant source market”, added Lightbourne.

Attendees had the chance to interact with the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board’s representatives and learn about the destination’s diverse offerings, including world-class beaches, turquoise waters, luxury resorts, and vibrant culture.

“We were honoured to showcase the distinctive character of our destination and provide attendees with a taste of the local flavours and products that make our tourism product truly remarkable,” said Gabriel Saunders. “The Turks and Caicos Islands offers an unparalleled travel experience and we were grateful for the opportunity to inspire more people to come discover its beauty” added Saunders.

The New York Travel & Adventure Show was a two-day event that brought together top travel experts, destinations, and cultural attractions from around the world to provide inspiration and information to travel enthusiasts. The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board also represented the destination at the recent Chicago Travel & Adventure Show and will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Atlanta Travel & Adventure Show and the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show.

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Caribbean News

The Idea that became an Iconic Event for Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 2, 2023 – An idea executed to perfection with the help of the entire Turks and Caicos community, that’s Island Fish Fry.  Born 10 years ago, in January 2013, it was a partnership between the Government, Private institutions, vendors and supporters all working together to make develop an authentic TCI experience; today it is an indisputable success.

Since its inception, Island Fish Fry has become a staple of the TCI community.   It’s where you can get your T-shirts to Lobster Mac and Cheese, a taste of Monkey Bag rum or TCI brewed beer, natural coconut water in branded coconut mugs, the oceanic beauty captured in charms and household items or glittering handmade bangles with entrepreneurs and crafters clamouring for their space at the ‘Fry’.

We spoke to several people who told us about the history of the event and what they love most about the evolution and realization of Island Fish Fry Ralph Higgs, Former TCI Tourist Board Director under whose direction the event was conceptualised recalled its beginnings.

“I do remember my first Fish Fry, it was the 29th of January 2013— It came as a result of many of our local businesses, mainly restaurants and other businesses featured at the fish fry saying ‘we don’t have an avenue or an outlet where tourists can come and try our products’.  Hence the idea of a weekly fish fry where tourists can come and try our products, try the cuisine, see the art and craft and then go on to enjoy it.”

Higgs says the event is a source of pride especially considering its capacity to nurture the arts in young Turks and Caicos Islanders

“Well I feel proud of the event but more so many of our local businesses and artisans that have found themselves at fish fry,” he used Wellington Williams, one of the country’s most prolific jewellery makers, as an example, “I remember him as a little boy trying to find his way in that business and he approached us at the Tourist Board for space at the Fish Fry and we were delighted to have him display his art. I think the rest is history. He is a success story by every definition and there are many others who have been able to find their footing because of the event.”

In a decade, the well-loved event has not faltered, only inclement weather and the Covid-19 pandemic have the reputation of putting the brakes on the outdoor festivity which features live music, community dancers, on the grill cooking and picnic styled eating.  Yet, even those challenges were overcome.

In 2021, Josephine Connolly became the country’s newest Minister of Tourism and in our chat with her about Island Fish Fry, Connolly described her elation when she was able to lead a team into resuming the event, finally.

“Fish Fry belongs to the people of this country— We made a concerted effort to make sure that a sense of normalcy returned to the people of this country, our tourist arrivals [had] continued to increase during COVID therefore we had to continue with the fish fry to ensure that our guests received their TCI flavour though it.  I am elated that Fish Fry returned and the entire Turks and Caicos and our guests are elated.”

Higgs praised the continuity of the event highlighting the vendors, musicians, entertainers, crafters, officials and others who have persevered to ensure there was a rich range of Turks and Caicos creativity and culinary skill on display week after week.

“There were many who came and showed support and many of them are still at the fish fry playing music, selling their goods and services and I’m so proud of all of them.”

Island Fish Fry celebrated its ten year anniversary on Thursday January 26th 2023.

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Bahamas News

Consumer protection, 85 businesses to be put under watch 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

 

 

February 2, 2023 – Grocery stores and dozens of other businesses will be under the microscope soon as the government begins aggressively enforcing the Consumer Protection Ordinance passed back in 2016 with an all-new Compliance and Regulatory Enforcement (C.A.R.E) Drive.

Carried out by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Fair Competition the drive aims to “actively educate providers whilst enforcing the main provisions to protect consumers under the Consumer Protection Ordinance,” a press release explained.

Firstly, Consumer Officers charged with protecting the people of the TCI from unfair business practices will be assessing the prices of selected breadbasket items in 23 different stores countrywide each month to see whether price gouging is being carried out by businesses.

Breadbasket items are currently duty-free under the Food and Fuel Tax Break until the end of the financial year in March and all savings from those tax exemptions should be passed on directly to the consumer. After each assessment, which will continue for several months at least a monthly price report will be published on the Department of Trade’s website.

In addition, the Consumer Officers will be monitoring other business activities across the country “to ensure that providers are compliant with their duties to consumers.”

Those responsibilities include:

  • Giving customers certain basic information about goods and services being sold;
  •  Informing consumers about terms and conditions before any payment is made (e.g., warranties, refunds, returns, exchanges, etc.) and;
  • Abstaining from misleading and deceptive conduct, false representation and unfair business practices.

The government says they will reach at least 85 businesses with the C.A.R.E. Drive but they did not indicate the process behind how these businesses had been singled out. Non-compliant ones will be fined after a thorough investigation and warnings are issued by the Department of Trade.

With this in mind, business owners are being encouraged to familiarize themselves with their duties under the Ordinance lest they be caught in breach. The government did not say what entities would be assessed and whether that included major retail grocery stores, gasoline dealers, water companies, electricity providers, telecommunications companies and other essential providers of the services that all islanders spend on.

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