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Money transfer centers in TCI, are they supporting or inhibiting potential economic growth?

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#TurksandCaicos, July 20, 2022 – Shocked but not surprised. This is how I would describe the amount of outgoing remittances from TCI. I never grasped the gravity nor the dynamics of these independent financial outlets until recently. This sector continues to evolve, but not necessarily in the best interest of our country.

Financial remittances have long been recognized as an important developmental vehicle associated with migration.  It is commonly known as the money or goods that migrants send back to families and friends in countries of origin. 

Remittances is a very lucrative business and over the years has been an integral part of the Caribbean culture. It could also be considered a major contributor to the economies in the region.

I would imagine, for some countries, remittance flows for many migrant families can become an economic lifeline. 

New platforms such as online transfer services, digital wallets and mobile money applications are becoming more and more prevalent.  With these online platforms, it will be even more difficult to monitor the true outflow of remittances.

In the latter part of 2019, the Financial Services Commission(FSC) website provided information from three institutions and the numbers were staggering. The institutions are CAM, NCS eMoney Services (which operates as MoneyGram) and The Money Centre by Fidelity, which is also known as Western Union. Vigo®, a Western Union money transfer brand.

According to a report published in 2021 by TCIsun newspaper, despite the downturn in the economy, in 2020, a staggering $105 million USD was sent out of the Turks and Caicos Islands through money transfers.

The FSC figures revealed, the majority of the transactions, $36.3 million was sent to Haiti, followed by $26 million to the Dominican Republic, $11.4 million to Jamaica, $10.3 million to the Philippines, $1.3 million to the Bahamas, $1.2 million to the United Kingdom (UK), $9 million to the United States of America (USA) and $8.1 million to other countries.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic were again the largest receivers of outbound funds, together accounting for over 50 percent of the figures. 

Most remittances are primarily used for consumption, including, for instance the purchases of food, consumer goods, health care and housing.  However, based on the significance of the cash outflow in addition to the increase in illegal immigration, it calls into question the relationship between illegal entry and outgoing remittances.

Due to privacy laws and the way data is collected and reported, it may not provide as much information to identify the true receivers and end users.  With the level of outgoing financial activity, it makes our local banks look like check checking centers or staging area before transfer.

It would be intriguing to see what the remittance figures represented in terms of the impact on total gross domestic product (GDP) for TCI.

As a country, how do we slow down the outflow of funds precisely at a time when we want individuals and businesses to get out there and spend, so more of the money is circulating within our own economy?

As a way to heighten more awareness around this issue, why not set up a think tank committee to conduct a comprehensive study? This could help to determine the driving force behind immigrants not wanting to reinvest a larger portion of their earnings in TCI. 

Generally speaking, owning real estate is a sign of progress for many immigrant families.  Perhaps, the hesitation to invest in this area could be in part due to some local land owners allowing squatting for a nominal fee. 

Furthermore, the lack of adequate code enforcement and or allowing low accommodation standards in the country, this makes it easier for renters to live in substandard housing. 

As a result, there is no compelling need for any real individual investment, while allowing more money to be sent out of the country.

In my opinion, it goes right back to the fundamentals, failure to set strict industry standards, improving housing regulations and inspecting what is expected etc.

Would a more comprehensive immigration reform benefit in one form or another in terms of citizenship eligibility?

Offering Amnesty or any sort of immunity is a quagmire for any country. Although, I believe at some point it will become inevitable in TCI. This is one way to ensure the working class is paying their fair share into the system to offset medical expenses and the cost of other social services. 

With TCI recently introducing a new form of indirect taxation, it is evident that the money transfer sector would be a prime source from which the Ministry of Finance can consider increasing levy on.

The last report that was made available by TCI FSC, the vast discrepancy between total inflows and total outflows underscores the shortcomings of remittance data, and leaves one to believe the loyalty to our country for some is rather marginal.

What would be even more impactful is, if Government required more transparency on these institutions, like source of funds etc. 

Albeit, this will need to be accross the board, to include white-collar workers and capitalist who move money freely through bank wire transfers and drafts.

With TCI having a free enterprise market, pundits would argue there are a plethora of reasons why this would be socially unjust to foreigners. 

Consequently, at the end of the day, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I concur with a recent statement made by Premier Washington Misick, in which he said “The TCI has to develop a robust internal economy that allows money to pass through as many hands as possible”. To his point, this is not happening.

The government must create an enabling environment to encourage work permit holders and other foreign nationals to stem the outflow of remittances so more of the money is spent toward productive sectors of our economy.

The burning question is, do we have a bold enough politician with the political will to introduce such initiative in the house of assembly?

My final thought is, in order to leverage the true development benefits of financial and social remittances, a comprehensive and in-depth financial analysis must be done.

I’m afraid that without the ability to reign in this level of outflow activity, over time, it could become damaging to our country’s competitiveness in the world market place or the broader economy.

 

Ed Forbes,

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

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Bahamas News

Bahamas Development Bank Launches 50th Anniversary Celebrations  

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Nassau Bahamas, 3 March 2024- The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) recently commenced its golden anniversary celebrations with special church services held at Freeport Bible Church and Golden Gates Native Baptist Church, in Grand Bahama and New Providence respectively. Both services marked the beginning of a year filled with commemorations of the bank’s 50 years of financial service and national development.

Bahamas Development Bank Managing Director, Nicholas Higgs, said, “As we launch our 50th anniversary celebrations, we are reminded of our journey fueled by an unwavering commitment to our country. As we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, we remain dedicated to fostering economic growth, supporting local entrepreneurs, and building a prosperous future for The Bahamas.”

The New Providence service was led by Pastor Alonso Hinsey Jr., who serves not only as the senior pastor of Golden Gates Native Baptist Church but also as an executive at BDB. In his sermon, Pastor Hinsey emphasized the importance of trusting God and being trustworthy as two sides of the same coin.

“Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and our relationship with God is no exception. When we trust God, we believe who He says that He is, what He is going to do, and that He will do what He says He will do. We rely on Him to guide us, protect us, and to provide for us. Being trustworthy is just as important. When we are trustworthy, others can rely on us to keep our promises, can rely on us to tell the truth, and act with integrity.”

He referenced the story of God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his promised son Isaac.

“Trust is not easy when facing challenges. However, even in the midst of our doubts and fears, God is faithful and trustworthy.  When we are trustworthy, others know they can rely on us and that they will not be let down. When we are trustworthy, we are reflecting the character of God who faithful and true,” Pastor Hinsey added.

Hinsey also stressed that, “Trustworthiness is essential for building strong relationships and creating a just and harmonious society.”

The Bahamas Development Bank has been instrumental in providing financial solutions and expertise to Bahamian businesses and entrepreneurs, driving economic growth and sustainability across the country. The 50th anniversary marks a significant milestone in the bank’s history and will be marked by a variety of events, including community outreach initiatives, competitions, and celebrations that both reflect on the bank’s past accomplishments and outline its way forward.

Pastor Hinsey’s powerful message can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/live/c0FxUErI65o?si=em2vTZ7AfPIZklNk.

 

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Caribbean News

CARICOM says they want ‘Ceasefire’ in Gaza

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

March 3, 2024 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is calling out Israel for ignoring UN calls to put an end to the invasion, following the conclusion of the 46th Heads of Government Intersessional Meeting.

The February 29 statement was published online and maintained that CARICOM was “deeply distressed by the ongoing violence and deteriorating situation in Gaza, which has resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including the deaths of women and children on an unprecedented scale, and widespread displacement and suffering.”

Despite its calls for a cease fire, the regional bloc reiterated its strong condemnation of the attacks by Hamas ‘as well as of the Israeli actions that violate international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’

CARICOM is describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as ‘incessant’ and ‘catastrophic’ in impact on that region.

“CARICOM urges an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and safe and unimpeded access for the delivery of adequate and sustained humanitarian assistance. We also strongly advocate for the rule of law to prevail and for the return to their families of all hostages and persons held in administrative detention without charge.

Israel’s continued and expanding occupation of territory in the occupied West Bank poses a serious and continuing threat to a peaceful, secure and stable world.”

CARICOM is also reaffirming its commitment to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and has summoned stronger interference and enforcement by the United Nations (UN).

“The Community, therefore, calls on the United Nations General Assembly to invoke its powers in the UN General Assembly Resolution 377A “Uniting for Peace” to hold an emergency session and to issue appropriate recommendations to UN Member States to collectively impose measures designed to motivate Israel to adhere to its obligations under the said UN Resolution and under the ICJ Order.”

Israeli Jews and Palestine are steeped in a bloody conflict which began following an October 7, 2024 attack on Jewish people by Hamas militants which reportedly resulted in hundreds being killed, it was reported that 260 bodies were recovered and 130 Israelis were taken hostage.  The response by Israel has been incessant and merciless, the latest criticism coming on February 29, when Israel was accused of opening fire on Palestinians crowding a UN orchestrated, relief convoy where 112 people were killed.

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Bahamas News

Abaco Hurricane Shelter ‘progressing’ despite inherited delays

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Bahamas Information Services

March 3, 2024



Central Pines, ABACO, The Bahamas – The new, State-of-the-Art Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre currently under construction in Central Pines, Abaco, is scheduled to be fully completed by November 2024, despite some inherited delays.

Contractors add that the dual Shelter/Community Centre, which is anticipated to be a prototype for the future design and construction of shelters in The Bahamas, will have an “occupied date” of early summer, meaning that the facility should be available to host those persons requiring assistance at that time, if the need arises.  This is good news as the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and runs through November 30.  Abaconians will continue to have access to a host of other approved shelters throughout the island, and not just rely on the prototype alone, however.

Disaster Risk Management officials further say the dual Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre will be “one of a kind” in the region in terms of its construction and design. The building is being constructed under “a new building code,” that calls for its structure – doors, window, roof — to withstand hurricane force winds of up to 250 miles per hour (Category 5 Hurricane and higher).

Its mechanical systems are designed to accommodate diverse loads, including an industrial kitchen, communication systems, air-conditioning system, male and female bathrooms and showers, office spaces for emergency personnel, in addition to storage areas.

Standby generators to ensure continuity with communications, water, sewerage, air-conditioning, refrigeration, safety and security, will be installed in order to mitigate the impacts of disruptions in power.

A ramp that was not included in the original design, was added to allow persons with disabilities and the elderly — considered two of the more vulnerable populations particularly during natural disasters such as tropical storms and/or hurricanes — easy frontal access to the facility under the protection of a canopy.

“Construction is going very well, particularly now that we are back on schedule,” said Mr. Chris Symonette, Project Manager. “We had lost almost a year due to some faults that we found in the ground, and in the foundation, we met in place when we assumed responsibility for the project. These corrective measures took us about 9 months to resolve.

“The building is one of a kind in the region. As a matter of fact, this will be the first 250 miles-per-hour hurricane shelter design in The Bahamas. We had to exceed the ratings while ensuring that we have redundancy upon redundancy,” Mr. Symonette added.

Raeh Williams, a Director, with Wilkem Solutions, a Bahamian-owned entity that specializes in development, civil works and waste management, among other services, said the construction team has been “pushing every day” to ensure that they meet the projected dates. The company took over construction operations a little over one year ago.

“We met a lot of challenges that were a real test of our skill and tenacity because there were caves, holes and a lot of other issues that basically caused us to have to perform a lot of corrective work to get us where we are today. The scheduled completion date is November 2024, but we are anticipating having an occupied completion by June/July which is right at the beginning of the Hurricane Season so that if there is some need to use the shelter, it will be available. That is our push and we are pushing every day to make sure that we stick to that.”

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Header: Minister Lundy and delegation reviewing building plans for the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre. (BIS Photo)

1st insert: Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre Project Manager Chris Symonette (right) updates Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Risk Management, the Hon. Leon Lundy (second right) during State-Minister Lundy’s Official Visit.  (BIS Photo)

2nd insert: Minister Lundy (second right) and team conduct a walk-through of the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre under construction in Central Pines.  Also pictured (from left) are: Mr. Kirk Cornish, Member of Parliament, North Abaco, and Mr. John H. Pinder, Member of Parliament for South and Central Abaco and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation.  Project Manager, Mr. Chris Symonette is at far right. (BIS Photo)

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