Burgers, Peacocks & Surpluses
By Deandrea Hamilton
#TurksandCaicos, May 11, 2022 – Yesterday, I was seated in a room of thirty travel agents, one of the companies is among the top five in the world for vacation bookings, and it was a rousing reminder that these are the individuals who are making direct contact with the 1.5 million (plus) travellers who are choosing Turks and Caicos for their Caribbean holidays.
The men and women who sensibly lapped up the loving attention from Team Beaches Resort, were being personally thanked by Gary Sadler, 37-year executive and Vice President of Unique Vacations, a subsidiary of Sandals Resorts International. It was Global Travel Advisor Day and it meant much to be in the room during a season when travel and tourism have roared back to life following a life-sucking pandemic period.
The individuals, I learned are directly responsible for keeping Beaches Resort Villages & Spa, which accounts for over 70 per cent of long stay visitors to the British overseas territory at well over 90 per cent full for at least the past ten weeks.
It again hit me in the gut; essentially the undeniable popularity of the Turks and Caicos Islands has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the people that want to come, the people who book their holidays and the people who work at the properties where these guests stay and play.
It’s a people thing.
In my 14 years here as a working journalist, I have not yet met a Travel Agent who told me that when a guest sought them out for a Turks and Caicos Islands vacation, they enquired on whether the Progressive National Party or the People’s Democratic Movement were in governing power.
Instead, it’s what they’ve seen on social or traditional media, you know those jaw dropping vistas fabulously framed by luxury resorts; hues of blues and turquoise in our dynamic slice of the Atlantic Ocean and the pristine wonders endemic to the Turks and Caicos which have lured them here. For most islanders, that remarkable beauty is attributed to no political party, it is a credit laid solely at the feet of a very good, masterfully creative heavenly God.
Bottom line, no matter who was the vote leader in the February 2021 General Election, this tourism revival would have belonged to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Underpinning my observation as a point of fact and not of fiction is the ongoing National Budget Debate. The general public is subject to a concerning and revealing peacock parade in the House of Assembly.
On the one side, there is the elected government administration – the PNP – which is happily patting itself on the back for the economic buoyancy in the Turks and Caicos. Sharing a lot of strides it counts as its own, but which are largely linked to foreign owned companies, professionals or interests in tourism and real estate – who do their own marketing and managing.
On the other side, there is the elected opposition which is happily unimpressed by the fiscal plan laid in parliament; a plan it says remains out of synch with the souls of the people because the average person is still hard pressed to ‘feel’ the financial boom.
The twist? Both political sides are right. If I had a $20 million dollar surplus and boosted the budget by $78 million dollars; I would brag my butt off too.
If I reviewed this Budget and noticed that savings were swelling while people were hurting and public sector pay increases and tax breaks were a mirage, I would also blast it to pieces.
So the country, at least the electorate is saddled with the reality that we could be simply flipping a burger. So what happens when both sides are well done?
Do we eat and then… well you know. Or do we keep flipping until the meat patty is so badly burned, that it is unfit for consumption?
Last year, when the former Sharlene-Robinson led administration was shown or at the very least appeared to be prepared to allow over $12M in stimulus money to go back to the piggy bank, the new Government cried shame and did swift work to more easily and equitably distribute the resources. This year, the same PNP Government who cried foul had the audacity to announce that $20M would be returned to the piggy bank when life on the planet has never been so expensive and people are struggling.
Now, another banner year for tourism and real estate is predicted. The country’s economic rating is poised for an upgrade and cash reserves will be healthy. All refreshing, heartening news.
But can a political party take the credit for the robust economy? And is there a political party truly prepared to ensure that there is no blockage when it comes to the overflow of prosperity?
Only time will tell. But God knows, we’re on the third flip (since the end of UK Direct Rule) and I am tired of eating surpluses… ah, I mean; hamburgers.
Millions to come from FSC
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – Revenue from the Turks and Caicos’ Financial Services Sector will more than double in the next few years, if E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister gets his way. It ‘s one of the reasons the country is investing so much capital into getting off of the EU blacklist and becoming a secure trustworthy financial destination.
“The FSC’s revenues for 2020/21 was $10.5M— the figures for 2021/22, would be about similar,” he said. He further explained that $10.5 million from the FSC represented about 2.6 percent of the country’s 408.5-million-dollar revenue. Though it increased to $14 million in the 2021/22 financial year, finance is still a small fry compared to tourism or even stamp duties but that will change, says Saunders.
“My revenue goal for the Government by the year 2029 [or] the election after the next election – is $500M. By that time, I want the financial sector (FSC) revenues to represent at least 5% ($25M). So that’s my goal for the financial sector by 2029.”
This goal, should it be met, would increase the Government’s revenue by 100 million dollars, a significant increase in spending power for local upgrades and improvements for Turks and Caicos residents and visitors.
Saunders says it’s time for the TCI to diversify its sources of revenue to make sure that what happened in the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw residents out of a job for months, will not happen again. Tourism now makes up around 80 percent of the country’s GDP. The Minister of Finance wants to push that down to 60 or even 50 percent.
Debrief on Haiti Caribbean heads visit
#Haiti, March 17, 2023 – When a CARICOM delegation visited Haiti earlier this month, conspicuously absent was the Turks and Caicos Islands despite being one of the nations most directly affected by the multi-dimensional crisis there. There is no comment, as yet from the Premier, to say why this was the case.
Still, from the expedition, CARICOM heads of Government have informed that there will be lobbying in Africa for assistance in Haiti. They say they have decided that the best course of action for the Caribbean country is to bolster the Haitian National Police and act as intermediaries with Africa and the world. The decision follows a one day visit on February 27th, and a March 5th meeting chaired by the Bahamas.
CARICOM says during the trip delegates ‘met with a broad range of Haitian stakeholders to hear their views on the way forward to a Haitian-led solution’. With that in mind it has made a decision on how to proceed.
“The Heads of Government agreed to support the Haitian National Police in their efforts to address the security situation. The focus of the Community will be the provision of training for the HNP and the provision of humanitarian assistance to HNP and the wider Haitian society, taking into account the challenging humanitarian and security situation”
It’s not clear yet where and how this training will take place. Also distinctly absent from the report, no more mention of boots on the ground from other countries despite CARICOM Member States indicating they were ready and willing should it come to that.
In addition, recognizing ‘the common historical experiences and the strong African-Caribbean relationship’ CARICOM says,
“Heads of Government also agreed to seek support from African countries for Haiti. They also agreed to work with the Governments of Canada and the United States as well as the UNDP”
Magnetic Media has reached out to the Premier’s Office to get a full debrief of the February 27th visit (led by Jamaica; including The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago) to learn of Turks and Caicos’ posture following the critical sessions.
New ASHLEY’S LEARNING CENTRE CONCERT
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – Musicians from the New World Symphony will be in the Turks and Caicos in concert next month and residents are invited to attend in support of the future of Ashley’s Learning Center.
A fairly young orchestral academy based in Miami, the New World Symphony was launched in the 1980s by 1987, Michael Tilson Thomas and Ted Arison,Carnival Cruises founder. From the 1500 applicants who vie for a spot each year, the symphony accepts around 35 music graduates annually for training fellowships.
A select few of those graduates will be in country on April 8th headlining at the Ashley’s Learning Center concert ‘We’re all in this together’. The concert which also feature local artistes will be held at Brayton Hall on Venetian Road from 6 pm to 8:30 pm
Tickets are available ON ISLEHELP $75 PER GENERAL SEAT $125 PER PREMIUM SEAT $195 PER GALLERY SEAT – with /FREFRESHMENTS.
For TICKET RESERVATIONs you can call: 649-341-2304 or email EVENTS@ASHLEYSLEARNINGCENTER.ORG
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