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Anti-fronting legislation and its importance in the Turks and Caicos Islands

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#TurksandCaicos, April 4, 2022 – The question all concerned citizens should be asking our government is, are they willing to work feverishly to push through anti-fronting legislation as hard as they did to push through the Beach and Coastal Vending Ordinance?

This article in part, is a reverberation of a previous one I wrote, addressing this said issue. To my knowledge, as of this date, nothing has been done to tighten the loopholes.

Whilst I’m not totally against the Beach and Coastal Vending Ordinance and its entirety, there are a few line items in the bill that needs to be repealed and amended.

The expediency in which the bill was passed without proper consultation from the general public and relevant stakeholders, it appeared to be for the appeasement of a select few.

Similarly, “fronting” is not in the best interest of our people, which prompted me to bring to light the issue again.

Currently, in TCI fronting is technically not a crime, but in some cases it is certainly a corrupt practice. Over the years, I have discovered that the easiest way for foreign investors to open a business of any kind, is by “fronting”.

For those who are not familiar with the use of this word, fronting usually refers to a term used to describe the practice of interposing a third party in a transaction or a misrepresentation of facts so as to circumvent the illusory of compliance with the laws of a country.

It’s usually a twofold benefit, it gives the locals an opportunity to become a business partner without having to come up with any sizable out of pocket funds or minimal amounts at best, depending on the scale of the business.

On the other hand, it enables the foreign investors to acquire lucrative business opportunities without having to go through the normal red tape, and eventually making it easier for them to acquire legal immigration status in the long term.

In addition, a foreign partnership company would be in a better position to expand rapidly due to greater access to capital, which could put them at an advantage because of the accessibility to unmatched resources they may have.

At the end of the day, it only superficially benefits historically disadvantaged individuals.

Fronting practices are an all-too-common occurrence in TCI, and usually rely on the misrepresentation of facts regarding the extent of a company’s compliance with its economic empowerment obligations.

In some cases, the local is only involved with the Holding company, but has nothing to do with the day to day operational or financial side of the business. This allows a shady investor to manipulate the books to their advantage.

Fronting can take many forms. For example:

  • A company may appoint a local to a prestigious position but prevent them from participating in the management or core activities of the company.
  • In some cases, they are paid considerably less than their counterparts.
  • They may also sign up as fictitious shareholders in essentially Expats owned and managed companies.

Such practices create the impression that the company has complied with the government’s obligations, but in essence it’s not.

This also allows the company to take advantage of incentives such as tax breaks or other fringe benefits that come along with being compliant.

We welcome foreign investors’ partnerships, however, if the business practices do not result in real transformation of the company or the flow of benefits to the locals, the appearance of compliance is illusory.

Fronting therefore undermines the purpose of the investment opportunity policies and prevents benefits from reaching those locals it is meant to reach.

It also perpetuates the systemic exclusion of local owned businesses from economic empowerment.

Imperfect though it may be, it would be beneficial for the FSC to draft legislation to introduce a comprehensive definition of “fronting” into our laws. In addition, they should create a new oversight body to investigate allegations of unscrupulous business deals.

The reality is, we know due to the privacy laws and the fear of reprisals, it’s a slippery slope when it comes to the public’s right to know about what is perceived to be shady deals and our duty to report it.

Nevertheless, if it was required by the FSC for these foreign companies with local joint venture partnerships to divulge financial records showing the bank transactions of the 51/49 split or who have the controlling shares, it would be a game changer.

As a people, we must also be brave enough to speak up when we see corruption or things that undermine

the basic principles of our core values.

Until legislation is enacted to address the social and economic imbalances in this country, this sort of shady practices will continue to prevail, leaving underrepresented local business partners with the short end of the stick.

 

Ed Forbes,

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk

News

CRIMINAL: Indonesia bans SEX before MARRIAGE; Tourists included 

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Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Indonesia, December 7, 2022 – Indonesia has made it illegal to have sex outside of marriage following the passing of a controversial new criminal code in Parliament.

The Criminal Code which carries a host of new regulations criminalizes sex between any two people outside of marriage on pain of a year’s imprisonment, including residents, foreign nationals living in Indonesia and even tourists.

The Muslim majority country signed the bill into law on Tuesday December 6th according to state owned media outlet Antara.  It passed unanimously.

The law also applies to adultery and even unmarried couples living together, both now carry jail time.  In addition to that, it places restrictions on speech and religion.

AP news says it carries punishable clauses on blasphemy, deviating from the five recognized religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism – spreading communist messaging and even insulting the president.

Chairman of the House of Representatives, Bambang Wuryanto told Antara it had been perfected through holistic means by accommodating inputs from all members of society.

But after it passed, young people gathered in front of Parliament protesting.

Human rights activists are describing it as a dramatic rollback of individual rights.

Usman Hamid, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Executive Director said,  “What we’re witnessing is a significant blow to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms–Outlawing sex outside marriage is a violation to the right to privacy protected under international law.  Such ‘morality’ provisions could even potentially be misused to criminalise victims of sexual assault or to target members of the LGBTI community.”

Indonesia is one of the most popular destination spots in the world and Bali especially has become a world renowned island swarming with tourists from across the globe all year round.

According to Bali Management Villas, in October alone, more than 300,000 tourists visited the island.

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US News Organizations could be barred from Facebook

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#USA, December 7, 2022 – Facebook parent company, Meta is threatening to block US news organizations from its sites after congress tabled a bill that would allow news organizations to have more bargaining power with the company over money made from their content.

The bill in question is the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act introduced to Congress last week. It makes provisions for a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws (which bar some companies from owning daily newspapers and TV Stations and cross ownership).

During this time, print, broadcast, or digital news companies would be able to collectively negotiate with online content distributors including social media companies about the terms on which the news companies’ content may be distributed by online content distributors.

Meta describes the bill as ‘ill considered’ said if Congress passed it they would take immediate action.

“We will be forced to consider removing news from our platform altogether rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions,” The company said.

Meta says publishers and broadcasters put their content on Facebook unprompted because it brings them traffic and the company benefited little.  “No company should be forced to pay for content users don’t want to see and that’s not a meaningful source of revenue,” it said.

Pew Research says 47 per cent or nearly half of Facebook’s users regularly get news from the site.  The Act which has bi-partisan support has been tabled but not passed by congress, yet.

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Caribbean News

JAMAICA: PM Announces New State of Public Emergency

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#Kingston, December 7, 2022 – States of Public Emergency (SOEs) have been declared in several parishes and police divisions islandwide to address an increase in criminal activities and ensure public order.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, made the announcement during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister this morning (December 6).

The parishes are St. Ann, Clarendon, St. Catherine, specified areas in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover.

Mr. Holness said that the Government, after careful consideration of the recommendations of the security chiefs, decided to advise the Governor General that it was necessary and appropriate to declare the SOEs.

“Since the end of the last SOE, we have seen, unfortunately, an increase in criminal activities in these areas and, indeed, a threat to property and in some instances public disorder,” he said.

He noted that the security measure is also aimed at protecting lives and property during the Christmas period.

“This will be the first Christmas season since the ending of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) [which imposed COVID-19 restrictions] and already we are seeing and projecting an increase in activities, including entertainment and commercial [events].

“We are already seeing a demand, a stretch on the resources, and we have to guarantee our citizens that they will be able to go about their business in a safe and secure manner,” he said.

SOEs were previously imposed in several of the areas on November 15 but ended on November 29 after the resolutions to facilitate the extensions failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

 

Contact: Chris Patterson

Release: JIS

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