#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 9, 2020 — I have been asked to comment, by Magnetic Media, on a piece of social media distributed by ‘CaribbeanNewsGlobal’ not least because it carries a photograph of a UK Minister and quotes unnamed, but supposedly well-placed sources in London, suggesting that the UK is making a set of financial demands on TCI.
These are non-attributed quotes, to an unnamed journalist, circulated by an unknown social media platform, purporting to be a Caribbean news outlet, that no one has heard of. As a result the story should be dismissed as an example of the very worst in social media fake news – if poorly executed. My statement of the 15th September, that includes a section on the economy, is the UK’s position.
Without dignifying the story, but given the headline, there are two falsehoods that need to be squashed. The first, because in these difficult times families do not need to be subjected to unnecessary fear, is that there is no truth, whatsoever, that the UK is seeking a 20% reduction in civil service salaries. No such conversation has taken place.
The second, given those choosing to invest in TCI, or institutions intending to lend to TCI, follow commentary generated for internal consumption, it is also important to put on record – categorically – that there is no truth whatsoever that the UK has decided to ‘intervene in TCI’s finances’ nor any suggestion a CFO is needed. It was needed in the past because of previous rampant corruption.
Today the UK does recognise that the Finance Ministry in the TCI is first class and entirely able to manage the Territories Finances without UK oversight. This, after all, was the first year when TCI did not need to present its Budget for approval.
Given TCI presently carries an extraordinarily small debt and given the Government of TCI has been prudent – entering the COVID crisis with strong reserves – should the TCI Government wish to take on well sourced and competitive debt the UK will, I’m sure, be supportive. That support is necessary because the UK takes on the contingent liability for all Overseas Territories debts. But that is where the conversation presently rests with the UK – the Premier as Minister of Finance signalling she is looking for the best deal she can secure, and the UK waiting to hear what the Governments approach to debt will be.
Given the UK itself is having to borrow very serious sums of money to weather the COVID19 crisis it will obviously be sympathetic to an Overseas Territory that, over the last years, carried almost no debt.
Looking forward the Governor’s Office will not be giving a running commentary on so-called news – as it relates to the UK / TCI relationship – purporting to come from ‘Caribbean News Global’. It is clearly a fake news platform.
One truthful statement that relates to the TCI / UK relationship, which of course helps confuse the reader by mixing established fact with falsehood, is that the UK is indeed supporting TCI’s Ministry of Health having sent Professor Ian Cumming to support the Premier, Minister and Permanent Secretary along with an epidemiologist, with a PhD from Cambridge, to support our own excellent Dr Malcolm and a fast stream civil servant from the UK’s National Health Service to work with the National Laboratory, and other areas, as the Minister of Health wishes. That would seem the right thing to do at time of pandemic and is a far better real world characterisation of the present relationship between the UK Government and TCIG.