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Editorial: Resolve in Beaches case is Urgent and Important

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By Deandrea Hamilton – October 25, 2020 — Why won’t the Turks and Caicos Islands Government just turn up at the table in the Beaches Resort dispute?  There are so many solid reasons the Government should make every effort to confront the law suit and the claims.

The squabble had long ago gone public and why the wrangle rages on is concerning on many levels. Chief among them is that Beaches Resort is an investor and customer of the TCI Government, another is the fact if the Government is right about its position, the country stands to benefit fiscally to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from settlement of the suit.

Even the National Audit Office of the Turks and Caicos Islands is desperately worried about money managers and money management systems within the TCI Government. 

The Auditor General, in the financial statements report for the year ending March 2018 made striking interpretations, candidly expressing in the Executive Summary that, “We remain extremely concerned about inaccurate financial reporting over 10 years or more of disclaimers or adverse audit opinions, weak financial controls…” the report also said:  “Arrears have significantly increased over the last several years.  Currently, there exists $165 million owed to TCIG…”

Frighteningly, these kinds of reveals not only punctuate but populate the report which is a public document, available at the National Audit Office website. 

Government should act with haste given there are thousands of people dependent upon Beaches resort for their personal economies; hundreds of businesses which experience healthier earnings due to the over  70 percent of long stay arrivals Beaches Resort attracts; the myriad of taxes government gains due to the bustle of arrivals and commercial activity and one has to challenge whether the Government cares as much as it says it does given these factors.

Government-spun handouts to help are not going well amidst the pandemic.  The country is cash-strapped and entered a recession 25 days ago.

Magnetic Media has fielded and published a variety of comments on the matter; many wish they did not know about this fiasco and all want it to stop.  Basically, islanders tell us they want airlines to come back, tourists to come in and money to start making.

Should Beaches get away with paying its taxes?  Certainly not!  Now more than ever, Turks and Caicos needs that money, so how about someone actually making a move to get it.

It truly is a wonder why TCIG seems so complacent in gathering up these acorns for what economists predict will be a very, very long winter; and $26.5 million is a lot of acorns.

Beaches has delivered on some strong language which has elicited raised eyebrows, mine included.  But  I’ve had to ask myself are the characterisations really off-base?

Action speaks louder than words.

Bottom line, if we want to reignite the buoyancy of tourism in Turks and Caicos, which is hinged on this strategic alliance with Beaches Resort; I may have to reluctantly agree that the labels are hard but  true.

Here is what the Auditor said:  “The NAO is especially concerned now that since raising this audit issue over six years ago, millions in Capital Assets ($425 million and quite probably more) have not been properly accounted for.  We are unsure as to what these amounts make up, where they are located, their condition and whether or not they will ever be accounted for.”

Residents have turned their anger about these characterisations upon the resort when more accurately, this is a time when TCI Government should not be allowed to get away with its lack of transparency and accountability this hundreds of millions of dollars the Auditor’s Report claims the country was owed up to the end of 2017-2018 fiscal year.

It is not okay that the TCI Government plugs along at virtually no pace regarding this matter, all the while earning an uninterrupted, full salary while thousands of personal incomes are cut, thousands are laid off, thousands are in need of socio-economic support and businesses have had to shut their doors.

Many families are valiantly struggling to make ends meet.  Meanwhile, relevant leaders are on vacation.  Able to take themselves away from the stresses brought on by the coronavirus, while, it seems intentionally escalating a matter instead of ‘handling’ it.

Maybe Government leaders did need that pay-cut.  A slash in salaries over seven or eight months, as it has been for thousands of residents, may have fostered empathy and urgency.

But there is no pay cut for them and there is no urgency from them.

So, to the country leaders we note that there is time, though very little and there is ZOOM. 

It would seem more in synch with the struggle of the residents in this season, if vacations were cut short or interrupted in order to give the Beaches Resort matter some undivided attention and equitable closure. 

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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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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