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Back on the Road to Progress Hon. Jamell Robinson 2021 Budget Speech

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#TurksandCaicos, June 30, 2021 – Good Morning Mr. Speaker, my honorable colleagues, those in the gallery, and the good people listening across the length and breadth of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Today is a good day Mr. Speaker, I even venture to say it is a great day. Mr. Speaker with the commencement of this budget debate after four plus long years, I say we are finally back on the road to Progress!!

Mr. Speaker, I intend to demonstrate and highlight how and why I believe we are back on the road to progress. Not by repeating rhetoric but by pointing to specific programs and budget items where we set out to achieve or make progress for our commitments made with the people of these islands in our citizens contract.

Civil Servants Gratuity, Pensions, and Professional Development

Mr. Speaker in 2014, consultations with the Civil Service Association and the Deputy Governor’s Office began with the previous Good Good Progressive Government to see how best Civil Servants Gratuity and Pensions could be reinstated, having been unjustly removed during the Interim Government. Here we are over 6 years later, TCIG reserves having peaked to over 100 million dollars sometime in 2019, yet the issue is still not resolved. Thankfully Mr. Speaker, we are back on the road to progress. This good good Progressive Government, the people’s government has allocated an additional 2 million dollars for the reinstatement of the civil Servants pension scheme which includes gratuities (P 3.37).

Further, a key Programme strategy for the Deputy Governor’s office is the conducting of a consulation and a review of the TCI Public Service Pension and Terminal Benefits by the end of the 3rd quarter i.e. by the end of the year (P 3.89).  Hopefully, it doesn’t take that long as we have been beating this horse for some time now and it’s time to put this baby to bed in the best interest of Turks and Caicos Islander Civil Servants.

Mr. Speaker I’m all pleased to noted that for Civil Servants not only has your Professional Development vote been restored but it has been increased to the tune of $260,000! (P 3.98). Public Servants when I say this Good Progressive Government has your back, you can take that to the bank!! And there is more to come!

Review of the Public Service and Public Procurement Ordinances

Mr. Speaker both the Public Service Ordinance and the Public Procurement Ordinances came into force in 2012. Since that time only the latter was reviewed by the second quarter of the 2020/2021 fiscal year. However no further action was taken with either ordinance (P 3.89). The thresholds for the Public Procurement Ordinance must be revisited. Once cannot legislate integrity. Public servants must be given appropriate decision making responsibility and be held responsible for those decisions within reason. As for the Public Service Ordinance, it review is a must as only reviewing and updating the Public Service Handbook is not enough. The ordinance needs to expressly favor Turks and Caicos Islanders. Favor is not fair!!

Empowerment for Turks and Caicos Islanders

Mr. Speaker, I now turn to the empowerment of Turks and Caicos Islanders especially our Youth. On the campaign trail we committed to the following:

1. To ensure greater access to Financing and Capital through the MSME Program
2. To ensure greater access to Quality Jobs
3. To ensure greater access to Education
4. To ensure greater access to Crown Land

Mr. Speaker, I’m please to say in all regards we are indeed back on the road to progress!! In regard to financing and capital, through Invest TC we have committed to an increase in financial and technical support to domestic investment (P. 7.27/7.28). Additionally, the MSME Ordinance to scheduled for a review and updating with a view to improve service delivery, expand technical and financial support to MSME’s and to transfer the functions to a Development Financial Institute (DFI). All to be done by the end of the financial year. And guess what Mr. Speaker, money there to the tune of $690,975!

In regard to Quality Jobs, the Ministry of Education, Labour, and Employment services was set up with this specifically in mind. We educate you from early childhood straight to Tertiary Education and it’s our job to link the two to ensure you have a best opportunity in the employment market or on your career path. Of course if you want to go the entrepreneurship route, that’s good too. We have also seen the highly publicized jobs registration drive, J.O.B.S – Job Opportunity, Basic Skills. I’d like to commend the Minister of Education and her team for kicking this off the right way. If you are   unemployed or underemployed, please register.

In regard to Education, there was a 1.4 million increase in relation to Scholarships, Contributions to regional Institutions, and Subvention to the TCICC (P 3.123). I would even talk about the new buildings and programs on stream, as I will leave that for the Minister of Education to handle.

In regard to Crown Land, there is a twofold approach.  The first and more immediate is the reestablishment of the Housing Department which will later become the Housing Authority whose primary responsibility will be to ensure adequate housing is available for Turks and Caicos Islanders. Once we are providing turnkey home to our people there will be less of a demand for land to build homes in the traditional way. Secondly and of greatest importance Land and all related departments inclusive of the Crown Land Unit, Land Registry, Survey and Mapping, and the Valuation Office are to be returned to a Ministerial Portfolio. To this end constitutional talks are due to resume with the FCO and the Premier’s office this September. So there is no doubt, if you were to check out Page 7 of the Citizen’s Contract, we campaigned on this issue and put it in black and white. This will ease the pressure on the AGC and allow for a greater focus on the legal side of things.

As an aside, I note that the Policy Planning and Administration Support of the Ministry of Finance is seeking to hire a Crown Counsel (P 4.28). This is noteworthy because given the complexity of Legislation interpretation and implementation, having a legal mind on staff is definitely a plus. I believe this is something that should be duplicated in each ministry even if they are housed within the AGC which responsible to provide specific advice to each Ministry and would help with improve understanding of the legal obligations of Government Departments and Statutory bodies which is a key programme strategy for the AGC.

Mr. Speaker, together all these empowerment tools and initiatives put us back on the road to Progress!!

Policing and National Security

Mr. Speaker, I will briefly speak about Policing and National Security. I commend the Force for its ramping up of the Community Policing Program and I would like to give special thanks to ACP Grant who heads the unit and Officer’s Clarke and Diaz, plus everyone who are a part of the team. For several years now there has been a freeze on the issuance of new gun licenses and while the overall crime statistics has been low during the Covid-19 pandemic largely due to the various curfew measures in place there will come a time again when law abiding citizens and business owners will need to protect themselves and their families or customers.  This stance needs to be reviewed and those fit to carry a firearm should have the option to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the Minister of Immigration and Border Services for commissioning a consultancy to go forward for conversion of the Customs and Immigration Departments to be merged into the Department of Home Land Security. This is a step that will get us ever closer to cutting our own cloth (P 3.41). 

Ministry of Health

Mr. Speaker, before I close out there are three burning issues I must touch on, namely: the Dumps across the TCI; the Health Care Delivery System; and Special Needs. It is important into context why it was important for the Country to put us back on the road to Progress by first electing this Progressive Government, the People’s Government.

In 2016, the last Good Good PNP Government secured roughly an 80 million dollar loan facility with the Caribbean Development Bank specifically to address the seawall defenses on Front Street and for technical support to find a solution to the TCI’s Waste Management Issues i.e our Dump problem. Through all the issues over the last four years seen in the TCI, especially with the people of Wheeland, this loan was not drawn down on. Mr. Speaker if you ever want to find out why something is not changing, all you have to do is find out who is benefiting from it. Clearly, the people of Wheeland sorted out that problem. 

Mr. Speaker, the People’s Government has seen it fit to allocate $672,500 of the CDB loan facility for the conduct of a Waste Management Study across the entire Turks and Caicos Islands (P 3.234). While this study is good news, we cannot and should not take a hundred years for recommendations and solutions.  Further, in the interim we have allocated over 4 million dollars to address Waste Collection and Waste Management Service within the existing system (P 3.238). I want to Member from Wheeland and the people of Wheeland to know that we have your back, as a commitment made will be a commitment kept.

Mr. Speaker, the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation. We here in the Turks and Caicos Islands have a Universal Health Care System that is the envy of the Caribbean. Is it perfect? No. However, it’s my belief that our Health Professionals genuinely want to improve service delivery as was originally envisioned. Together we can and together will. We must continue to strengthen Primary Health Care services throughout our Clinical network. To end at least 4 new registered nurses will be hired for PHC (P 4.91). Preventative Care is central to the development of Healthy Lifestyles here in the TCI.

Mr. Speaker, again context is important in understanding why it’s critical for the TCI to be back on the Road to Progress. On March 31st, 2017 an Actuarial Review of NHIB was completed and only four years later are the recommendations being seriously considered at a time when a new actuarial review should be conducted (P 7.67). Imagine allowing a patient to go 4 years without treatment after being diagnosed with Cancer. One would be sued for medical malpractice but yet here we are with a system costing over $53 million dollars for Overseas Treatment ($19.5 Million), InterHealth Canada Clinical Services ($30.8 Million), and Hospital Utilities ($3 Million) only. We must seriously explore Third Party Income options to offset some of these expenses, in addition to finding the most efficient and cost effective way to operate without compromising service delivery for Turks and Caicos Islanders. The NHIB three year Strategic Plan that’s been long in coming has to be a matter of urgency (P 7.68). I believe we have the talent on the ground to develop it and in areas we don’t we must import it. Hopefully from the TCI Diaspora as a first option.  Also, tapped is the development of a National Emergency Medical Services Strategy as a part of an updated National Health Strategic Plan (P3.230).

Lastly Mr. Speaker, Special Needs is everybody’s Business. FDR said “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those that have too little.” This is near and dear to me, not only because I am the owner of an educational center but because we made a commitment that if given a chance to govern we would take a holistic approach to special needs. We’ve more than doubled the allocation for Treatment and Care to $200K, while also once again trying to recruit an Occupational Therapist and a Speech and Language Pathologist (P 3.241/4.97). The latter is critical because we must have the ability on island to diagnose kids from as early an age as possible so we can have a true understanding of the resources and facilities needed to service this specific population.

Mr. Speaker, I end by saying the words of Aberjhani “First steps are always the hardest but until they are taken the notion of progress remains only a notion and not an achievement.” I dare say Mr. Speaker that this budget is the first step back on the road to progress. Thank you.

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Bahamas News

Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis pledges to govern in the interests of all Bahamians

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#TheBahamas, September 19, 2021 – During his ceremonial swearing-in today as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister, Hon. Philip Davis pledged to govern in the interests of all Bahamians and to consult widely with the Bahamian people.

The best way to make progress as a nation is to bring people together, said Prime Minister Davis, who was presented with his instruments of Office in ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Centre, on Saturday 18 September 2021.

Prime Minister Davis was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on Friday 17 September 2021 at the Office of the Governor General.

“We will uphold the constitution and the rule of law, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly, so that it’s not one rule for one set of people, and another for another set of people,” said the Prime Minister.

“There is much work to be done; but I know that by working together we can succeed and build the kind of prosperous, independent Bahamas that our founding fathers dreamed for us.”

Prime Minister Davis said that while there are big challenges ahead for The Bahamas, his team has the right vision and policies to take the country forward.

The Prime Minister said the new administration is coming into office at a time when the Bahamian people are hurting as never before.

The country faces many crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy in decline and deeply concerning challenges in education, said Prime Minister Davis.

If everyone works together towards a common purpose, in the common interest and for the common good, great things are possible for The Bahamas and its people, said the Prime Minister.

But no government can do great things on its own, Prime Minister Davis added.

“I am sure that my government can only succeed if we partner with the Bahamian people,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are going to listen, we are going to consult widely and we are going to bring people together.”

_
18 September 2021
Office of the Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Contact: opmcommunications@bahamas.gov.bs
Website: opm.gov.bs

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Caribbean News

North Caicos man beheaded in what could be TCIs most bizarre murder case yet

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#TurksandCaicos, September 18, 2021 – Explosive talk show host Courtney Misick lost his brother last weekend in a bizarre killing which raised alarm and left residents flabbergasted at the extreme violence, which pointed to a heinous killer being at large in North Caicos.

While police have now made two arrests; giving one suspect bail and holding another on suspicion in the gruesome killing, the pastor, farmer and former election candidate publically questioned the time it took for investigators to arrive at the scene.

He said, in a string of Facebook posts, that it was some six hours before police got there.

Royal TCI Police confirmed the body of the male found in a home in Kew North Caicos; that they got the call at 5:45pm.

“The Police can confirm that the body of a man was found inside a house in Kew, North Caicos and that the body was decapitated. Although formal identification procedures have not yet taken place, the body is believed to be that of 57-year-old old Isaac Missick. The Police are in contact with the next of kin at this difficult time,” informed a Thursday press release.

Rev Misick, at 11:30pm on Saturday posted that investigators from Provo had finally arrived; another team got in on Sunday morning.

Family was disappointed with North Caicos police manpower “wasting hours guarding the crime scene” instead of “looking for Mack-B’s killer.”

Isaac “Mack-B” Missick was beheaded and worst of all, his head could not be found at the scene of the crime.  People were dumbfounded by the monstrous nature of the killing and the family was activated to mount their own hunt for the body part.

There was no success, however, for the family and friends of Mack-B.  Relatives spent the day on Wednesday in Kew battling heat, the blazing sun and swarming mosquitoes in an effort to find the head.

Mack-B’s sister, niece, cousins and eldest son travelled to North from Providenciales determined to give it a try, said Orville Selver, a cousin of the deceased who also described the scope of the search: West of the victim’s house, in the bush from Hall town, to Henfield town, near the house of Mack Bs mother, who died in May this year; on Forbes road and near all the old wells.

The search party which began at 9am fanned out in two groups;” some went on the north side and others went the south side into the deep woods,” he said.

Meanwhile police were questioning two suspects in the case, now ruled a murder.  It is the TCI’s sixth homicide for 2021.

“Today, the Police made an application to the court to seek an extension to the time Officers can keep the arrested man in custody. The court case was adjourned until September 23rd, 2021, during which time the man will be held in police custody. The man arrested on Suspicion of Murder on Sunday, September 12th, 2021, has been released on police bail pending further investigation.”

It will most likely go down as the most gruesome killing in Turks and Caicos history; the beheading of this beloved North Caicos construction worker on Friday or Saturday at his home in Kew.

Our interview of his brother, Rev Missick, unearthed that Mack-B said he had to go home, he did so but never returned to work on Friday September 10.  Upon being missed by some relatives, his cousin set out to check on him and the discovery was gut-wrenching.

Said to be a gory scene as the man, lay on the ground with no head.  While relatives believed the head was at the scene, they later learned that it was missing.

From Police: “This is a very distressing and complex murder that will take time to investigate. However, many specialist Officers are involved in this case, and they are doing everything possible to fully understand the events leading up to this horrific attack. North Caicos is a very close community, and the Police seek their assistance in providing vital information to progress the investigation.”

Isaac Missick, leaves behind a wife and two sons.

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Bahamas News

PRESS RELEASE: Prime Minister Minnis Thanks Bahamians for the Last Four Years

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#TheBahamas, September 18, 2021 – Free National Movement (FNM) Party Leader, Hubert A. Minnis thanked Bahamians for the last four years in tonight’s concession speech:

“Tonight I spoke with Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Davis and offered my congratulations to him and his party on their victory at the polls.  I offered him my best wishes as his Government now faces the continued fight against COVID-19, and the restoration of our economy.

I would like to thank the tens of thousands of Bahamians from across The Bahamas who voted for Free National Movement candidates.  I also congratulate the FNM candidates who won seats in the House of Assembly.  I am in that number, and again my gratitude goes out to the people of Killarney for making me their representative for the fourth consecutive time.

I will lead the Free National Movement into the House as the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.  The Bahamas has a proud democratic tradition.  The people decide who serves as government.  Our party presented its vision for the future to Bahamians from the northern islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, all the way to the southern islands of MICAL.

The people determined that they preferred the Progressive Liberal Party.  My party and I accept that result.  We are proud of our record the past four-plus years.

During our term we faced the most difficult times in Bahamian history.  In September 2019, Abaco, the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama were struck by the strongest storm to hit The Bahamas.  Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest storms recorded on our planet.  It caused generational destruction to our northern islands.  Six months later, we were in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout each crisis my Government worked hard to assist the Bahamian people.  On the northern islands we have had to rebuild roads, water systems, schools, docks, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

In the pandemic, we provided tens of millions of dollars per month in food and unemployment benefits to citizens, along with tax credits to businesses.  We fought hard to secure more than half a million doses of three of the best vaccines in the world.

The FNM has a proud legacy.  We have governed The Bahamas over four terms.  Our philosophy is to use the resources of government to provide opportunity to those who have historically been without.  That is why we invested in free preschool, providing early education to thousands of children. That is why we invested in free tertiary education at the University of The Bahamas and BTVI.

That is why we created the Over-the-Hill initiative to benefit people in grassroots communities with tax concessions and development assistance.  That is why we invested record amounts in Family Island infrastructure.  That is why we created the Small Business Development Centre, extending millions of dollars to help Bahamians realize their dreams.

Our belief in the Bahamian people was also evidenced in the manifesto we ran on in this election.  We pledged a Universal School Meals Program, expanded access to afterschool programs, $250 million to Bahamian small businesses over five years, expanded access to Crown Land, support for the arts and agriculture and fisheries, along with many more policies for the people.

We did not win this time.   But I say to the next generation of FNMs that you should stay firm to this party’s founding ideals.  Always put the people first, and be honest in government.

The people have asked us to be the opposition.  We will ensure the people’s resources are spent properly. We will ensure there is accountability.  We will oppose when necessary. We will agree when the Government’s plans are in the best interests of the people.

I thank my wife Patricia and my family for supporting me during this term, and throughout my life.  I also thank the officers, members and supporters of the Free National Movement for their assistance and encouragement during my time as leader.

And to the Bahamian people, I say a warm and heartfelt thank you for my time being your Prime Minister.  You are a strong, hardworking and resilient people.  Hurricane Dorian did not break you. The pandemic has not broken you.

You trust in the God who has brought us this far.  Trust that He will bring us further to brighter times.  Again, thank you. And may God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

 

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