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Government watching, Tax Breaks & Concessions could be extended, says Premier



By Deandrea Hamilton



#TurksandCaicos, November 23, 2022 – The government is watching consumer pricing in Turks and Caicos supplier markets and according to Washington Misick, TCI Premier the move to cut taxes on imports and cap costs on fuel surcharges is a measure poised to be extended.

“I don’t want to pre-empt the decision by Cabinet, but  I believe it is fair to accept that to the extent that that prices continue to rise and to the extent that, until we are able to do something with the living wage, we will be making every effort to assist consumers by holding down the prices.”

The matter of the dreadfully high cost of living arose as among the first concerns of residents who turned up at the Gus Lightbourne Gym for the government hosted public meeting on Monday night.

“We don’t actually have a price control law in place.  What we prefer to do is to provide that support to consumers by way of subsidizing critical imports however there are many ways that the issue of cost of living is being addressed by the government.”

Turning to his Border Services minister, Arlington Musgrove, the premier announced there is a planned extension to the Food & Fuel Tax Break, which sliced 2.5 per cent of the Customs Processing Fee (CPF) and reduced government fuel tax by 25 per cent; a $15 million cost absorption by TCIG which was laid out in March 2022.

The concession took effect on April 1 for a period of 12 months.

“Only today, we agreed to extend – a policy decision made six months ago, to remove the duties including taking off the CPF a whole basket of goods, that is being extended for a further six months, if I am not mistaken,” he said on Monday in the second of a series of roving public meetings.

Residents want more however, fearing that the duty free concessions which were added to the Food & Fuel Tax break are not being passed down by retailers.  The premier admitted to similar concerns and agreed that government must find a way to track how the concessions meant for consumers are actually experienced by them.  Until then, the government is having to get creative so that the consumers feel the savings and assistance.

“What has happened is that the government realised that we can’t control the transfer of savings through customs duties that we might have given to the merchant.  Because of the absence of the ability (because of our tax structure) to literally examine people’s books and see what is going on, we can’t control whether they are passing those savings on.”

The PNP Administration, this summer announced a second plan to buffer the hard-hitting costs of consumables.  A $16 Million concession was rolled out and included duty exemption to all residents bringing goods in for their households and a duty free list of food items which resulted in savings at local grocers.  Residents also received a $1,000 cash stimulus and eventually benefitted from a $2.5 million Fuel Factor Stabilization Credit which resulted in a dramatic drop in energy bills.

The Government agreed to cap the fuel factor rate, which is being driven by high oil prices, paying the excess and saving FortisTCI customers hundreds of dollars at a time.

“Electricity now on your bill, you would notice, the fuel factor is something like about 30 cents or more, I’m not quite sure but we have capped to a maximum of 20 cents and that goes until the end of December, and the government has subsidised that directly to the consumer to the tune of $2.5M at least.”

The pace of this historic inflationary season is also challenging for governments; Turks and Caicos, like others is experiencing around an  11 per cent inflation rate, while salaries remain stagnant and as living costs, food and other commodities including fuel have surged to record-setting levels.

Caribbean News

Barbados bestows Humanitarian Award on PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne 



By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer


#Barbados, November 25, 2022 – The newest recipient of Barbados’ Humanitarian Award is outgoing Pan American Health Organization Director, Dr Carissa Etienne.  The government of Barbados grants this award to frontline workers who were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Etienne expressed her gratitude for the recognition, noting, however, that she was more grateful for the opportunity to have served on the island. She also praised Prime Minister, Mia Mottley for her diligence in leading the country and regional involvement during the pandemic.

Humanitarian medals were also given to Frontline workers who risked their own safety to ensure the needs of the public were met. Those who held supporting roles on the frontline received humanitarian lapel pins, and those who made generous donations were given humanitarian plaques.

Dr. Etienne highlighted one major lesson from the pandemic, “we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe”.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Bahamas News

Former Bahamian Cabinet minister defends record amid ongoing police investigation



By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer


#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – Former Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Lanisha Rolle is reportedly currently under investigation due to several allegations that came up during her tenure; she however knows nothing of this alleged criminal investigation.

After the minister resigned – unceremoniously –  in February 2021 with little explanation, the ministry was locked down by the Prime Minister for an audit of the National Sports Authority, which fell under her ministry.

Auditor General Terrance Bastin revealed that unauthorised contracts had been issued, some of which were later forwarded to the NSA for payment. Three cheques to contractors were also found, which were paid to individuals and then collected by a senior ministry official.

Despite the allegations, Rolle said she upheld cabinet standards and good governance during her tenure. She added that a minister is not always aware of “everything in a ministry at any given time.”

Rolle said she has not yet been approached by the RBPF regarding the audit findings.  Having served as a member of the Police Force for 11 years herself, Rolle told a crush of media on Wednesday (November 23) that she continues to trust that they will follow the legal process and in due time, the truth of her innocence will be revealed.

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