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The escalating cost of living in the Turks and Caicos Islands

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#TurksandCaicos, March 9, 2021 – Without a doubt, these are very extraordinary times in the lives of our people in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The economic impact and  inequality between the different Islands has drawn huge differences between those who can afford to continue thriving, and those who are barely making it. 

Therefore, we need to take extraordinary measures to move beyond the suffering of this pandemic, such as looking at the escalating cost of living and start with making provisions to raise the minimum wage. 

In my opinion, it should be on the priority list of this new administration’s agenda, along with the other pressing issues. What that increase should look like, will be up to the labor board and a trained economist.

Currently, the minimum wage in TCI is $6.25 per hour. Given the high cost of living in these islands, particularly those in the outer Islands, it’s uncomprehensive to swallow. Unlike many of the other Caribbean islands,  with the exception of seafood, practically all other consumable goods are imported and the service industry dominates the job market.

There are several benefits to higher minimum wage. As a matter of fact, many experts have said it will help create jobs and grow the economy. The declining value of the current minimum wage in these islands is one of the primary causes of wage inequality, especially when the price of groceries continues to increase.

There is also a huge wage disparity between low- and middle-income workers; and that’s the majority of Turks Islanders. I’m inclined to believe if you were to poll TI’s, a large majority will support increasing the minimum wage.

Income in these islands is a major determinant factor when it comes to the quality of life affecting the health and well-being of individuals and families. This varies by social factors such as age and ethnicity. Medical experts have concluded over the years that the impact can also lead to obesity and other health related issues.

Although there is a minimum wage law in TCI, due to the  long-held traditions, you will find that it is not uncommon for some employers to still pay employees what they feel the job is worth. As a small business owner myself, I realized that it could be difficult at times putting payroll together at the end of the week, but paying employees a fair wage is the right thing to do.

Many opponents may say given the economic challenges we are faced with, their businesses cannot afford to pay employees more, or will be forced to reduce hiring. I beg to differ as there is never a perfect timing, as a matter of fact it could further increase productivity in the long run. Perhaps, if low-income workers earned more money, their dependence on working two jobs may be reduced, thereby creating more opportunities in the job market. Being forced to work two jobs to make ends meet, could be very taxing on families especially those with children. In some cases, it could be contributing to the delinquency of our youth due to the lack of two fulltime parental homes.

Prior to the pandemic, improvements in productivity and economic growth in this country have outpaced increases in the minimum wage and housing affordability. The current minimum wage as it stands, has not kept up with worldwide inflation. For example, the cost of milk in Grand Turk in literally $10 plus a gallon unless on sale, and probably higher is a few of the sister islands. What that means is, you would literally have to work almost 2 hrs to afford a gallon of milk, that’s insane. No wonder why a large percentage of our people are not eating healthy.

As pointed out by a team of International Election Experts who recently visited the islands, the eligible voters population in TI is approximately 8581, with an estimated population of about 43k. Now ponder this for a moment. This data paints a disturbing picture, and it leaves one to wonder whether or not these chain grocery stores are catering to the working class in terms of affordability and income levels, or are the prices being driven by the high-end targeted population.

With that being said, don’t expect the prices of groceries to get lower anytime soon, which makes it unsustainable for a minimum wage worker and many others. To be quite frank, what we lack in this country is price control and worker protection..which at some point will have to be addressed in order to slow the widening gap of class disparity.

Henceforth, it’s high time we have a call to action on this initiative. Although it may be an inflated expectation, hopefully this government with take a pragmatic approach to this matter, while balancing it with the economic needs of the country.

Ed Forbes,

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk

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Caribbean News

ScotiaBank Turks & Caicos Awarded Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021

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Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Island – September 24, 2021 – Scotiabank TCI has been named the “Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021” by Global Finance (New York), which regularly selects the top performers amongst banks and financial services and is a trusted standard of excellence for the global financial community.

In commenting on the award, Patricia Adams, Managing Director (Acting), Scotiabank TCI said, “Supporting our customers during the ongoing uncertainties remains our top priority and we are thrilled that our significant focus and investments in our digital banking platforms continue to yield positive results.”

“During this period, we have continuously relied on feedback from our customers about their specific personal or business needs and we remain committed to further improvements as we aim to make it easier and safer for them to conduct their banking” Adams concluded.

Some of the most recent investments include the expansion of the capabilities of the Scotiabank Mobile App, upgrades made to the Bank’s ABM network to include intelligent deposit machines and the use of digital analytics to anticipate customer needs and deliver personalized financial solutions.

Winning banks were selected based on the following criteria: strength of strategy  for attracting and servicing digital customers, success in getting clients to use digital  offerings, growth of digital customers, breadth of product offerings, evidence of tangible benefits gained from digital initiatives, and web/mobile site design and functionality. Read more about the awards here.

Scotiabank TCI’s award for “Best Consumer Digital Bank” follows another recent global recognition for innovation in financial services by The Banker’s Global Innovation in Digital Banking Awards 2021. The ‘Most Innovative in Data’ award acknowledges the Bank’s investments in data and analytics, as well as its commitment to delivering a more personalized customer experience.

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Bahamas News

Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance.  The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections.  However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.

68,000 STAYED AWAY

While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.

However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.

PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER

This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.

Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

It could also be voter apathy.

BEST IN SHOW

Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.

North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.

VERY LOW SHOW

The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and   Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).

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Bahamas News

BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.

The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.

“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”

Among the new Ministers sworn-in on Monday were:

  • Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
  • Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
  • Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
  • Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
  • Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
  • Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
  • Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
  • Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
  • Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.

“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.

Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.

“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are here to meet them head on.”

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