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The Ayes Have it – Youth Parliament in TCI a Rivetting Row over Minimum Wage

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, December 7, 2022 – A raise in the minimum wage was the topic up for fierce debate in this year’s Turks and Caicos Youth Parliament; Young people from across the TCI sitting as various Cabinet Ministers represented the hypothetical interests of residents as both the Government and Opposition argued about the best course of action.

The motion was raised by  Lee-Anna Sutton, Minister of Education with responsibility for labour who proposed that the (hypothetical) $6.25 minimum wage be raised to $8.50.

“A raise in minimum wage is justified on moral social and economic grounds– it will provide an improved quality of life for all in the Turks and Caicos” she said referencing all the detrimental effects of poverty on the country including low birth rates and an increased likelihood that young people would be funnelled into crime.

Manville Gardiner, Opposition Leader questioned what percentage of islanders would be benefitting from the raise as many of the jobs in the category were held by expats.

Gardiner, who referred to his party as the ‘Government in waiting’ said the minimum wage was the wrong way to go and explained why.

“The motion says Islanders find it hard to make ends meet. I find it hard to believe that this government thinks that the minimum wage alone is what is standing in the way– our problem is not simply low resources but high costs. The government solution should not just be increasing resources but lowering costs.”

He suggested putting more TCI islanders in higher positions in local companies and increasing agricultural production.

Slamming the bill as thoughtfulness, he dismissed the proposal with: “it aint ready…”

“Our people have to eat secondhand important vegetables that can be grown in our own backyard” the opposition leader said, “The current minimum wage cannot keep up with inflation and that’s a fact– Who will benefit the most from an increase? Our local low income families.” was the response to the opposition’s points by Jatavia Howell, Minister of Tourism.

In a spirited argument, the minister pointed to another tourism heavy destination – Los Angeles – and the benefits of minimum wage increase there including lower turnover rates, less employee absenteeism and stronger staff retention.

On the other side of the aisle, describing the raise in minimum wage as a ‘quick fix’, Andy Missick, Opposition Appointed Member said the government would continue to fail at breaking the cycle of poverty if they employed these short term ideas.

“The raising of minimum wage might slightly reduce poverty but it also comes with many possible implications– we are looking for a long term solution” he maintained.

It was an engaging and feisty afternoon as several members of the governing party including Dixie Smith, Premier of the TCI threw their support behind the bill.

Youth Premier Smith referenced the lighthouse effect that had occurred in other countries in the Caribbean where a minimum wage increase resulted in  an overall increase in all wages.

“Let us be realists, low wages in the Turks and Caicos islands pushes households that are already at a threshold into poverty– why earn less when you could earn more.”

The debate continued with contributions from Shakiah Lewis, Minister of Home Affairs; and Adrian Parker, Governor’s Appointed member who were tightly regulated by Alex Taylor, Speaker of the House.

The motion passed 4-2  with one abstaining.

The speed with which ideas and quips were tossed across the floor broke even Madame Speaker’s facade as a laugh escaped once or twice. After the end of the debate, which attracted many supporters in the gallery, all of the young people were allowed to speak on the experience, some admitting cases of nerves rattled them but still pushing forward.

Madame Speaker used her position to encourage residents between 18 and 29 to join the country’s youth parliament “So that the youth will have a voice.”

All the young people were supported by family, friends and elected government members including Anya Williams, Governor (actg); Otis Morris, Minister of Home Affairs; Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education and Youth; E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Akeirra Missick, Member for Leeward and Long Bay who is credited with being a mentor to the Youth Parliamentarians.

Caribbean News

Barbados to Host 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace this Spring

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

 

#Barbados, February 2, 2023 – Barbados has been selected to host the 41st edition of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The event will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown from May 9 -11, and it is expected to build on the success of the 40th staging held in Puerto Rico last fall.

CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who made the announcement recently, said it’s the first time in the organization’s history that the association’s largest annual event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services, will be staged in Barbados.

“CHTA has a very strong relationship with both public and private sector stakeholders in Barbados, and as we position the region’s top earner for robust growth this year, we are delighted to lock arms with our Bajan partners to drive business to the Caribbean,” she stated.

Noting that: “This year’s Marketplace will also provide unique access to the Eastern Caribbean for buyers and tour operators as the region places a strong focus on the revival of multi-destination travel.”

Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados Ian Gooding-Edghill, said the Barbados tourism industry was undergoing a major renaissance in the post-COVID environment, and the timing could not be better to welcome Caribbean Travel Marketplace to local soil.

“We are honoured to host such a preeminent gathering of tourism stakeholders from around the world,”  Minister Gooding-Edghill said, noting that the meeting aligns with Barbados’ value offerings, which appeal, among others, to the very important MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] market.

The launch of the first Caribbean Travel Forum & Awards, a highlight of the Puerto Rico meeting, will return for a second edition and will be held in Barbados on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, ahead of the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace.

The Forum will also focus on the business of tourism, and business appointments will be conducted on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11.

Over 150 delegates, including Ministers of Tourism and key private sector leaders, engaged in the Caribbean Travel Forum last year.

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Bahamas News

National Food Policy to be created in the Bahamas

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

 

#TheBahamas, February 2, 2023 – A new initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs in the Bahamas will see the creation of a National Food Policy geared towards ensuring food security on the island.

“This agricultural policy would encompass a holistic approach and incorporate regulations, legislation, and other aspects to assist the farmers who have not really gotten the attention they deserve for a long time,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting.

Other initiatives within the agriculture sector will also be implemented, such as the digitalization of applications and forms, which will make farming more efficient.

Clay said, “we have already digitalized for the most part the Department of Marine Resources and soon we will unveil new services such as dog licences, import permits, and other services needed for a successful agricultural sector.”

The construction of the Cultivation Centres (TCC) in Eleuthera and New Providence with produce exchange, food processing kitchens and farm stores will continue.

Sweeting said he hopes these initiatives will help to decrease the country’s yearly $1 billion food import bill.

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Africa

The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

 

#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.

Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.

As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.

He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”

David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent.  By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera.  Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.

“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”

Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.

“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.

Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains ​that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’

There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.

On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.

In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.

“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”

David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.

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