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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. 

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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COVID Works programme launched by Ministry of Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development

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#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – The Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development, the Honourable Akierra Mary Deanne Missick and the Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development team are pleased to announce the launch of the COVID WORKS Programme, that went live on September 1, 2021.

The Programme seeks to support many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, while providing labour intensive work for economic exchange opportunities for persons to be engaged.

Works are set out in three (3) levels and comprise a variety of categories example, cleaning, road works, demolition and general construction to name a few.

Level 1 – value $1,500 – $9,999

Level 2 – value $10,000 – $39,999

Level 3 – value $40,000 – $70,000

Turks and Caicos Islanders with valid business licenses are also being encouraged to submit proposals to the Public Works Department for consideration for works throughout the islands. 

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Hon. Missick said, “We are very much mindful of the impact that restrictions introduced by Government in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, has had on the islands, many continue to experience financial hardship. Whilst, the hospitality and construction sectors in Providenciales have rebounded well, as an Administration, we cannot rest knowing that other industries are still limping along.

As a result, during the remainder of this financial year, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government has now launched the COVID Works Programme to provide an opportunity for Petty and Small Contractors to assist the Government in the enhancement of our communities, through programmed works, to the benefit of all of us as residents”.

The Minister went on to note, “This Programme is set to the tune of US$5,000,000.00, and works will be rolled out across the Islands in batches, as we have to ensure that we do not go beyond the allotted expenditure and that financial oversight and transparency are maintained.”

The initial batch of works for South Caicos, which comprised the following, was returned and evaluated on Monday, September 13, 2021 and included:

South Caicos 

Demolition- Queen’s Shed

Demolition- Distribution Concrete Tank

Demolition- Old Clinic Building

Demolition- DECR Building

Demolition- Library Building

Repair of Water Cistern

Works for Grand Turk included:

Grand Turk 

Demolition- Blood Bank Building

Demolition- Geriatric Ward Building

Demolition- Kitchen Building

Demolition- X-ray Building

All returning bids must be sent to the COVID Works email at tcigworks@gov.tc

Kindly note that as of Monday, September 20, 2021, the following works are planned to be released:

Grand Turk: 

Beach Cleaning (Eastern portion of Grand Turk)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

Providenciales:

Beach cleaning (Areas of Shore Club and Five Cays)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

A number of other works for Middle & North Caicos, as well as Salt Cay will be released shortly. This is a six month program that will spread throughout the TCI and we encourage persons to continue to register via tcigworks@gov.tc or the local Public Works Department and District Commissioners’ offices, to be eligible for this opportunity.

These works will continue on a monthly basis and the programme will come to an end in March 2022.

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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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