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TCI: EU tours and praises projects funded; Largest Education sector investor at $21 Million USD

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The $21 million dollar investment of the European Union into the public education sector of the Turks and Caicos Islands was to ensure access of more children to quality and diverse learning – a transformation – which was on display for the visiting Ambassador from the EU Delegation; in country June 20-23rd, 2021.

“We have come here today, to acknowledge the significant marker in the very constructive and fruitful partnership we’ve been building up over the years between the European Union and the Turks and Caicos Islands, lately in particular in the field of education,” said Her Excellency Marianne Van Steen, EU Delegation Ambassador in addressing an audience of school faculty and students, the project’s contractor and high level government officials. 

A site tour and plaque unveiling ceremony was held at the newly constructed Thelma Lightbourne Primary school in Long Bay, Providenciales.  The school opened following the 2021 Easter break when the new government relaxed restrictions.  It allowed children – across the country – to resume in person learning or to incorporate a hybrid approach after Covid-19 forced the dramatic closure of schools a year earlier.

For the past four years, the TCI Ministry of Education has been drawing from the EDF-11 Fund.  A fund initially granted for the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2013; earmarked to Education as a boost to build capacity in schools, which are often oversubscribed.  

“It is a very important day for me to see the result or at least one of the results, the European Union has wanted to do and to support here in the country,” the Ambassador added, “What has been done and what is in the making for the future, it is the Turks and Caicos Islands.  It is the former government, it is the current government, all the stakeholders, the teachers, the staff at the school and anyone involved in the education sector with our program; they’re the ones to be applauded.  What we did from the European Union side, was sign a cheque, giving support, accompanying a process which was really a process of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

Today, the Thelma Lightbourne Primary School stands as a tangible symbol of European support of students in the British overseas territory. 

Originally from Belgium, Ambassador Her Excellency Marianne Van Steen, was appointed by the EU in September 2020 and is stationed at the EU Delegation office in Kingston Jamaica; H.E Van Steen, with 25-years diplomatic experience is the ambassador to Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

In her first ever visit to TCI, Ambassador Marianne Van Steen had high praises for the destination and high anticipation for the two-school tour which would also take her into the island of South Caicos.

“We will support what we think is important and that is indeed what we did and I am very happy to see that indeed we have done something good.”

The student of Thelma Lightbourne Primary delivered a profound poem, ‘Hey Black Child’ by award winning writer Useni Eugene Perkins.

Education Minister Rachel Taylor was moved by the piece and moved by the premises and acknowledged the work to get to completion.

“I want to take this opportunity right now to commend the former Minister of Education, the Hon Akierra Missick whose vision this was and to also give props to the former government, who actually caused this project to materialize.  And then again to our government for being here to unveil; so you see consistently must develop throughout and we all must give credit where credit is due.”

Also on hand was patron of the school, Mrs. Thelma Lightbourne, a 40-year educator; Hon. Akierra Missick, Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development; Hon Josephine Connolly, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage; Hon Kyle Knowles, Member of Parliament for Wheeland and the project’s contractor: JaMalco Ltd, owned by Jermaine Malcolm.

“We have become for the education sector, I think, the biggest donor with 17.52 million, that’s $20 or $21million USD.  It was not just because we were wanting to increase access to education for all children of the island(s) by constructing this school and refurbishing or renovating or improving other schools but in the Government’s sector reform program we also wanted to support the quality of the education by making sure the teachers are being trained and by making sure there is a better match between what the country needs in terms of labour and what the country can offer,” explained H.E. Van Steen.

Her Excellency commended Ministry of Education for now establishing a plan toward full activation of a Technical and Vocational institute. 

The ladies toured the school, approvingly.  The tour followed the plaque unveil, which in sophisticated black and gold is embedded in the wall of the school’s entry way.  He plaque reminds students now and into the future of the generosity and support of the European Union.

“I am very happy to see the school, I am very happy to hear that the access to about 200 to 300 students is now guaranteed,” said the Ambassador, who applauded the room made for Special needs children. 

“It looks state of the art, and I have no doubt it is.  It looks amazing.  I am particularly happy that indeed there are also special facilities foreseen for children with special needs and that is very much in line, with what I have heard is the motto of the relatively new, recently established government that actually says, we do not want to leave anyone behind.”

A similar service was held on the island of South Caicos at Iris Stubbs Primary school; also newly rebuilt thanks to EU funding. 

Iris Stubbs was devastated in the hurricanes of 2017; EU funding supported a completely fresh reconstruction which was completed in December 2019. 

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Opposition Leader strong admonition to New RBC Manager

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 29, 2024 – The Opposition has proposed to the new Managing Director of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), that the institution open new branches in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), with services that can lead to financial inclusion.

Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Edwin Astwood says while the Managing Director has his welcome to the TCI, he said a meeting she had with significant Government officials, has been keenly noted, especially for RBC’s involvement in funding key Government projects, and for “talks to progress further than this, I believe the discussion on Financial Inclusion must take place.

“Providing much-needed access to banking services to individuals and businesses in our underserved communities. This can help improve financial literacy and access to financial products for the family islands population outside of Providenciales,” the Opposition Leader said in a statement.

He added that a discussion on Supporting Economic Development, must also be on the table, as a “caring Government” would have been soliciting the respective bank for more access to capital for the people on TCI-owned businesses, stressing that the Opposition is cognizant of the fact that by offering small to medium-sized business loans, banks can support entrepreneurship and economic development in communities throughout the TCI.

Further, he said access to capital is crucial for small businesses to start and grow, and by providing loans, banks can help stimulate local economic activity and job creation, underscoring that when banks invest in rural districts through branches and business loans, they contribute to the overall growth and prosperity of the community.

“Small businesses are often the backbone of rural economies, and by supporting them, banks can help these communities thrive. I believe that banks doing business should be concerned about Building Customer Relationships. Opening branches in our family islands and underserved communities of Providenciales and providing business loans can help banks build long-term relationships with customers,” he said

He argued that by being present in the community and supporting local businesses, banks can establish trust and loyalty among residents, which can lead to increased customer retention and satisfaction.

Mr. Astwood in his strident statement, said citizens deserve better from banking institutions, and the people of Providenciales where the banks are located deserve better, and “our people in the family islands deserve better, therefore the TCI deserves better, and that is a PDM Government who will work to foster a healthy and inclusive financial system that includes serving the interests of all our people in all our islands,” he said.

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Norman B Saunders Airport Opens, opportunities touted by Gov’t

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 29, 2024 – Employment and business opportunities are now looming in the South Caicos, and Government officials are urging young people, along with entrepreneurs to prepare themselves and maximise the openings.

Speaking at the renaming of the of South Caicos Airport to the Norman B. Saunders Snr. International Airport, Deputy Governor, Hon. Anya Williams said the Government is diversifying the economy, and expanding tourism to all the outer islands.

“You have to be part of that. For this airport to operate as an international airport, we need additional staff. We will need immigration officers, custom officers, fire officers, and we will need other staff,” the Deputy Governor said.

She added that the Government is providing small grants, assistance in preparing business plans, and technical advice for the setting up of “your businesses. Prepare to come back home because your island will need you,” she told her audience.

The Deputy Governor noted that having had the opportunity to work with Mr. Saunders, she found him to be a great “encourager, and someone who is so smart and articulate,” and always take the opportunity to “grant wisdom” to others, and “I developed so much respect” for the former Parliamentarian, she said.

For Premier, Hon. Charles Washington Misick, the new airport is a catalyst for progress, as the Government has signed an agreement with American Airline, while major resorts are entering the area, and “plans are afoot to have an activity here, that you have never seen before in South Caicos,” he said.

Declaring that young people should “get ready,” the Premier said, “this is your moment, so, South Caicos, I want you to appreciate what you see here, I want you to treat it properly and well, and all of you, young people should strive to leave a positive legacy,” as Mr. Saunders has done, he said.

Mr. Misick also said Mr. Saunders who became Chief Minister of the Turks Caicos Islands (TCI), from 1980-1985, with responsibility, among other things, as well as  Immigration, Fisheries, Civil Aviation, went “above and beyond the call of duty,” in the performance of his duties, and “we are all better for it. Naming this airport in his honour, is only a very small token” of the recognition he should be given, the Premier said.

In his response, Mr. Saunders said he enjoyed all the moments in public live, and “we believe that South Caicos will be the next big spot, and area for tourism. I trust that this place will be the gateway to other islands, and I am confident that everything I did, was for the benefit of this country,” he said.

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Caribbean News

A King and High Level Speakers open SIDS Conference in Antigua & Barbuda

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#Antigua, May 29, 2024 – The Caribbean Island of Antigua and Barbuda is hosting the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which seeks to build resilience, and find solutions to the pressing challenges of debt burden, and to achieve sustainable development goals.

Opened on Monday, in St. Johns, under the theme, “Charting the course toward resilient prosperity,” the Conference which run from May 27 to 30, had addresses from 33 countries, where speakers pressed the need for actions on financing for Climate emergency, and crises such as spiraling debt, and health challenges.

Speaking via video link, King Charles III, said island nations are leading the way in confronting Climate Change, protecting biodiversity, and stewarding the global Ocean, while pointing out that there is potential for large investors to contribute to Climate financing, and the benefits of collaboration among SIDS. The King also called for “bold action” and said “your future is our future.”

Host Prime Minister, Gaston Browne told his audience that SIDS face unprecedented global challenges, that they did not create, and “large-scale polluters” bear responsibility for compensation, as he called for ending fossil subsidies.

The Prime Minister also called for   the establishment of the Commission of Small Island States (COSIS) and the recent unanimous advisory opinion from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which affirmed the legal duty of state parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to mitigate Climate impacts to protect the marine environment.

In the Caribbean region, PM Browne has been at the forefront of advocacy to develop a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index that truly reflects SIDS needs for development finance, and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados has spearheaded the Bridgetown Initiative to transform lending and provide inclusive, resilient finance to countries facing Climate crises.

Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Philip Davis urged the SIDS Conference to support a new global tax treaty to be negotiated and for financial flows to be regulated to ease the crippling debt burden impeding many SIDS from fully developing their potential.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres aid SIDS stands as a test case for Climate and financial justice, and called on all countries to align with the 1.5°C Climate targets, and for Climate finance to double by 2025, and for significant contributions to the Loss and Damage Fund. “SIDS can make an almighty noise together to deliver meaningful change to benefit the whole of humankind,” he said.

Many SIDS remain dependent on imported fossil fuels, curtailing both their environmental and economic efforts. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), some SIDS would need an investment of around US $5.9 billion annually to achieve their renewable energy targets by 2030 and reduce their fossil-fuel dependency.

The COVID-19 pandemic deepened existing fragilities and triggered the most acute economic contraction across SIDS, increasing their debt burden and depleting resources. Over 40 per cent of SIDS are now on the edge of or are already grappling with unsustainable levels of debt. Between 2000 and 2019, the external debt of SIDS rose by 24 percentage points of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The total public debt for SIDS now stands at approximately US $82 billion dollars.

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