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Finance

Budget passed but Opposition Abstains 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 23, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ largest ever budget has passed, but it went without the seal of approval from the Opposition after weeks of back and forth between the country’s two major political parties.

The country now has $424 million at its disposal for this financial year.

It is money that the PNP Government says will fund projects that fulfil its citizens’ contract, address inflation, improve infrastructure and more.

At the same time the Opposition PDM Party had little faith in its ability to get money directly to the people, and Opposition Leader Edwin Astwood along with Opposition Appointed Member Alvin Garland, took the PNP to task over what was described as an “Historic Budget of Constraints.”

In their contribution on the National Budget, the Opposition pointed to severe budget cuts within various departments from Police to Education and the Department of Corrections.  Highlighting also what they cited as flaws in the plan and exaggerations of better and unique spending under the Washington Misick led administration.

E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister says the Budget will address funding for the Informal Settlement Unit; Modernising E-Gates for Border Services; provide funding for the TCI National Credit Union; see to the implementation of a multi-employer Pension Plan; finance to the see to fruition the Crown Land recommendations and Community based rehabilitation programs.

Even after days of debate lasting from May 16th -19th, the two sides could not come to an agreement regarding allocations resulting in Astwood and Garland’s decision to abstain, rejecting the National Budget in an historically rare move.

A key point of the Opposition was that the public’s funds were being shifted to consultancies and utilities rather than projects for residents.

Washington Misick, TCI Premier defended the state of the budget, cuts and all, maintaining that a single line item in the budget could not be isolated from their associated projects and used to judge the budget. He described that as a ‘fool’s errand’.

Residents were left to make their own decisions on the Budget and its objectives after a wealth of information was shared from both sides of the House.

Finally, after more than 24 hours in total over four days in the House of Assembly, held in the HJ Robinson High School, Deputy Premier Saunders, as instructed by House Speaker Gordon Burton, made a motion for the bill to pass.

Indicative of the deep divide and high tensions between the two sides on the issue, instantantly there was a flurry of activity off screen as two MP’s called out to second the Budget bill.  The Opposition immediately called out for a division and the Speaker tried to wrest back control of the HOA.

A division requires all members to individually answer aye or nay to the bill in question, instead of the usual general chorus; making it more obvious for the record to reflect exactly who voted for, against and abstained.

In this case, all PNP Members of Parliament voted for the Bill to pass as did the Governor’s Appointed Members; the two Opposition Members abstained.

The National Budget passed with 14 ayes.

Caribbean News

CDB Approves Millions for Regional Improvement such as Health, Education and Poverty

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Rashaed Esson

Staff Writer 

#RegionalDevelopment#CDB, February 28th, 2024 – Projects for the improvement of water, renewable energy, education, health as well as budgetary support for governments in the region, are being financed with an approved USD$461 million by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Included in the approval are The Bahamas with USD$125 million and Saint Lucia with 43 million. Additionally, as announced in a release from the Bank, climate resilience and poverty reduction will also be prioritized through the funding. 

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Finance

Economic Growth at 12 Percent says Premier Washington Misick

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

#TurksandCaicosIslands, February 22, 2024 – The Turks and Caicos’ economy is growing at a stellar pace according to Washington Misick, TCI Premier.

“We took an economy that was floundering and today it is stronger than ever. In 2022 and 2023 our economy experienced a remarkable surge, with growth rates exceeding 12 percent,” he said during the State of The State Address on Monday February 19.  

Tourism is once again the driver of economic success locally according to Misick and he has detailed other plans that he said his government was putting in place to make sure residents benefited.

“We also removed tax holidays from new development agreements; established TCI Finance – a sister entity to Invest-TCI; amended the restricted and reserve categories for business licenses to protect and support TC- Islanders especially in construction,” he explained. 

The idea behind all of these activities is that more cash will flow to both the government and the residents. TCI Finance was created to advertise the country to investors as a place to do business, and goes hand-in-hand with the delisting of the Turks and Caicos from the EU tax blacklist. 

The year 2024  is also expected to be one of growth for the country. 

“The GDP has grown consistently since we came to office. It is projected to grow this year to 1.5 billion dollars. This year our economy is expected to grow between 3.6 and 5 percent,” Misick said.

The premier indicated that unemployment was also trending down though he did not provide figures. 

The PNP administration says part of its mandate is to diversify the country’s finances away from just tourism. 

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Caribbean News

Deputy Premier Spot on, TCI TODAY Removed from EU Blacklist

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Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

#TurksandCaicosIslands – February 20, 2024Sixteen months after being added to the European Union’s Black List for non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, the Turks and Caicos Islands is now off that list.

“Today,the Council removed The Bahamas, Belize, Seychelles and Turks and Caicos Islands from the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.”

The release explicitly states that in the case of the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas, “ever since October 2022, deficiencies in the enforcement of economic substance requirements had been identified in both of these jurisdictions by the OECD Forum of Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP).”

It was recommended for remedy to the deficiencies has now been “converted from hard to soft recommendations,” said the statement.

That pivot was fundamental in the de-listing of the two countries said the information from the Council.

“…which allowed the Code of Conduct Group to consider these jurisdictions with no or only a nominal corporate income tax.”

When Magnetic Media spoke to E. Jay Saunders, Turks and Caicos Deputy Premier and Finance Minister in March 2023 he had full confidence that it was only a matter of time before the TCI was given a more favourable position with the EU. 

“There is no question about it. I’m confident that by February 2024, we will be off the list– I’m completely confident and there are no lasting repercussions.”   

 It had been sub-par computer systems that landed the TCI on the list.  The Deputy Premier, at the time offered that the EU was being too dramatic and its language, disproportionate surrounding the issue. 

That black listing and gray listing is often viewed as a black eye in the financial services sector, therefore this announcement today is vindication for the TCI and a huge plus for the Fintech ambitions of the Misick-led government.

 Twelve others remain with the unsavory categorization including Caribbean neighbours: Trinidad and Tobago; US Virgin Islands; Anguilla and Antigua and Barbuda.

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