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NEW Housing Programs for Q2 and Q3 of the financial years, says Minister Robinson 



By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 



#TurksandCaicos, May 23, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ Housing Policy was officially passed in March, now armed with cash from the newly approved budget, TCIG is greenlighting promised (and desperately needed) living solutions for residents as they struggle with high rent and mortgage prices. Jamell Robinson, Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development updated the public during the National Budget Debate on Thursday May 18th.

“We are looking to develop online applications for two of the housing projects by the second quarter,” he said, indicating that they were attempting to then officially launch two programs by the third quarter of the financial year.

The Ministry of PPID had promised three initial projects would be put into motion once the policy was passed. They included Housing Concessions for Residential Developers, Home Improvement Programs, and Community Urban Renewal and Infilling. All three programs incentivise the construction or improvement of long term rentals or residences which are in short supply in the Turks and Caicos currently.

Robinson had already explained Project Number 1: Housing Concessions as he spoke with Drexwell Seymour on RTC’s Financially Speaking, it could give residents building long term residential homes (not AirBnB’s or the like) a 100 percent duty exemption on their building materials.

“We are looking to give anyone who is building five units or more up to 100 percent duty free so you can make your application,” Robinson had said.

Residents may be looking to take the Government up on its offer as many are already making applications for building permits to erect apartments.

Based on the latest publicly available minutes from the planning department detailing a March 2023 meeting, conditional approval was granted to seven different developers for eleven new apartment buildings and one extension in Providenciales, which when complete, will add a total of 141 units to the housing market.

Robinson said the department was still tying the last of its loose ends including hiring more employees and making sure their offices were properly fitted before projects began in earnest.

The minister said the Housing Department had already received $3 Million to jump start the programs in the last fiscal period.

Caribbean News

Lasco Financial Services Partners with FirstCare Medical Plan to Expand Access to Financial Products and Affordable Healthcare



#Kingston, Jamaica – June 19, 2024 – Lasco Financial Services, a leading provider of financial products, including their LASCO GOLD Visa prepaid card, proudly announces its strategic partnership with FirstCare Medical Plan. This collaboration aims to expand access to financial services and affordable healthcare for individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Jamaica.

As part of this groundbreaking partnership, cash-based customers can now load their LASCO GOLD Visa card to pay for their FirstCare membership online, further broadening the healthcare plan’s accessibility. This partnership allows Lasco’s clients to use their cards to pay for their healthcare plan as well as provide another payment option for FirstCare members.

“We are excited about this partnership as it opens new avenues for financial inclusion and healthcare accessibility,” stated Jacinth Hall-Tracey, Lasco Financial Services Managing Director. “Our goal is to empower cash-based and underserved communities by providing them with the tools they need to lead healthier, more financially secure lives.”

Cash-based customers can use the Lasco prepaid card to pay for their FirstCare membership online, significantly broadening the accessibility of this essential healthcare plan. Additionally, LASCO Microfinance Ltd, with its nine branch locations island-wide, provides financing up to $2.5 million for personal loans and up to $10 million for business loans, supporting SMEs in their growth and development.

Addressing the partnership, Jheanell Thompson, FirstCare Country Manager, highlighted the company’s dedication to creating sustainable healthcare solutions.

“At FirstCare, we believe in the power of partnership to transform our community’s health. Our strategic alliance with Lasco is designed to expand affordable primary healthcare access to all. This initiative will empower individuals and small and medium-sized corporate groups to maintain their health without sacrificing their bottom line, reinforcing our commitment to helping build healthier, more productive individuals and teams.”

Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Jamaica

Today, many individuals and small business owners are struggling to afford comprehensive medical care. FirstCare addresses this gap by providing free doctor visits and significant discounts on specialist services, labs, imaging, optical, pharmacy, and dental services. The plan’s vast network includes more than 300 medical providers, with over 100 General Practitioners spanning ten parishes, ensuring quality healthcare is accessible to all Jamaicans.

“Recognizing the critical gaps in healthcare accessibility in Jamaica, together with Lasco Financial, we aim to bridge these gaps,” shared Thompson. “SMEs often struggle to provide comprehensive healthcare benefits to their employees due to the high cost of healthcare services. Our collaboration marks a significant step forward in ensuring that business owners and their employees can thrive professionally and enjoy healthier lives with access to essential medical services.”

Key Benefits of FirstCare:

  • No Cost Primary Care Visits: Free unlimited visits to more than 100 in-network general practitioners, plus discounted ambulance services and 24-hour urgent care.
  • Discounted Labs & Imaging: Up to 15% savings at in-network labs and imaging centers.
  • Specialist Doctors: Discounts at more than 100 in-network specialists across major cities.
  • Optical Benefits: Save up to 40% and enjoy a free eye exam at over 20 locations.
  • Pharmacy Savings: Instant savings of up to 15% at participating pharmacies.
  • Dental Services: Save up to 20% on dental services.
  • Lifestyle Rewards: Discounts at spas, restaurants, hotels, and more, which enhance overall well-being and lifestyle enjoyment.

Enhanced Financial Solutions for SMEs

Lasco Microfinance Ltd (LASMF), a subsidiary of Lasco Financial Services Ltd., will now offer FirstCare Medical Plan as an added benefit to their loan packages.

SMEs who secure loans from LASMF will also receive healthcare coverage through FirstCare Medical Plan, ensuring that essential healthcare services are more accessible. This initiative helps ensure that business owners and their employees can prioritize their health while focusing on growth and development.

FirstCare is at the forefront of digital innovation in healthcare, making it effortless for individuals to sign up and manage their health plans entirely online. Customers can easily enroll in the FirstCare plan from their smartphone or any device with internet access in under five minutes using their Lasco prepaid card and begin using their benefits immediately within the local network.

This streamlined, digital-first approach not only enhances accessibility but also empowers all Jamaicans to take proactive steps toward maintaining their health efficiently and affordably. Once enrolled, members can present their FirstCare membership card at any of the over 200 medical providers in the network to access their benefits.

For more information, visit FirstCare Jamaica and Lasco Microfinance.

Photo Caption:

Strategic Partnership Announced to Provide Enhanced Healthcare Benefits: Jheanell Thompson, FirstCare Country Manager (left), and Jacinth Hall-Tracey, Lasco Financial Services Managing Director (right), sign partnership agreement, marking a new era of healthcare accessibility and financial empowerment for individuals and SMEs across Jamaica.

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Caribbean News

Caribbean Central Bank Governors agree to NEW Trade Regime for ease of doing business



Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer



#TurksandCaicos, June 18, 2024 – Regional Central Bank Governors have agreed to implement a system that allows countries in the Caribbean to trade using each other’s currencies without a third-party currency.

Making the disclosure, Governor of the Barbados Central Bank, Kevin Greenidge who is also the Chairman of the CARICOM Central Bank Governors, said it will be a version of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) which was launched by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in January 2022 to reduce reliance on hard currencies like the US dollar for transactions between African nations.

Once it is replicated in the Caribbean, the system could allow goods and services to be paid for directly in the currencies of the respective CARICOM nations involved, rather than being settled in a third currency like the US dollar, arguing thatg the payment system would reduce transaction costs, minimise the need for holding substantial foreign currency reserves, facilitate smoother intra-regional trade and lead to lower retail prices for consumers.

Noting that the decision was unanimous, Mr. Greenidge said “we just had a meeting in May, and we agreed to push ahead with the pilot programme and we have a technical team working out some of the kinks, how to move ahead with the programme. We are approaching that as soon as possible,” he said while addressing the recent AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2024), at the Baha Mar Convention Centre in Nassau, Bahamas.

The Central banker who once served as the senior economist who supervised Barbados’ economic restructuring programme for the International Monetary Fund, before taking up the Governor’s job in March 2023, argued that “If we get with one voice and start to speak to these things, call for reforming the way the rating agencies view and assess our position, including debt, we will then make a difference,” he told his audience.

Adding further, he said the region can get where it wants on its own, as he urged both regions to speak with one voice on reforming global financial architecture, while accusing credit rating agencies of bias against small economies.

Speaking with one voice in the Caribbean, in support like the Bridgetown Initiative, Mr. Greenidge believes “we can make a difference.” The Bridgetown Initiative calls for reform of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to better support climate-vulnerable countries.

“The more we can achieve partnerships around the world, the better we are regarding financing and investment in Barbados and providing the necessary diverse products to do the financing we need. Naturally, the African continent would be a partnership,” he said

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Caribbean News





Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, has informed that the current inflation target for the Bank of Jamaica will remain at four to six per cent.

Dr. Clarke made the announcement during a statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 7).

He explained that the process for setting and renewing the target was codified into law via the Bank of Jamaica Amendment Act 2020, which, among other things, formally introduced Jamaica’s inflation targeting regime.

Dr. Clarke stated that in April 2021, after consultation with the Bank of Jamaica, documents were tabled advising of the renewal of the inflation target of four to six per cent, which was effective for three years.

“Following consultation with the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, who is also Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee, I confirm and have so tabled documents advising that the inflation target for Jamaica, calculated as the 12-month point-to-point percentage change in the consumer price index as measured by STATIN, will remain at four per cent to six per cent for the next three years,” Dr. Clarke said.

“The midpoint of this range of five per cent will be the operational target for the Monetary Policy Committee. This target remains consistent with Jamaica’s economic structure and stage of development,” he added.

The Minister noted that a lower inflation target than what currently obtains would require higher interest rates for longer, which could be detrimental to growth and to fiscal dynamics.

Furthermore, Dr. Clarke said Jamaica’s recent experience has highlighted that there are constraints to targeting a lower inflation rate at this time.

“In particular, the frequency of economic shocks, labour market rigidities, low productivity, a weak monetary transmission system and regulated price adjustments, constrain the ability of the Bank of Jamaica to deliver a lower inflation rate than what is currently targeted in the near term,” the Minister said.

Dr. Clarke stated that these constraints speak to inherent challenges that as a country “we must tackle if we are to target and enjoy the levels of inflation of our main trading partners”.

“Going forward, I will support all efforts to ameliorate these constraints. On the other hand, setting the target higher than four per cent to the six per cent range would be problematic for most Jamaicans who do not have the independent means to protect themselves against higher targeted inflation,” he noted.

Dr. Clarke explained that it is for these reasons that the inflation target for Jamaica, calculated as the 12-month point-to-point percentage change in the consumer price index as measured by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), will remain at four to six per cent for the next three years.




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