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Opposition Leader says Budget increases going to Consultancies not TCI People

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2023 – The increases in the PNP’s historic $424 million budget are hidden in consultancy, utility, and normal salary inflation costs while programs and services to the people of the Turks and Caicos either remained the same or were directly cut sometimes by thousands of dollars; Edwin Astwood, Leader of the Opposition, was speaking in his response to the new budget.

Astwood maintained, on Wednesday, it is money residents won’t see directly.

“There are big jumps in utility and electricity costs, that is what the minister is bragging about. It isn’t programs, it isn’t money going directly to the people.”

Astwood, who had referred to the budget as a ‘Historic Budget of Constraints,’ found cuts in every ministry and department he shared during his response on May 17th. He said the size of the budget increased every year making them all ‘historic,’ but what was important was the amount of money going directly to the people. That is where he says this budget fails.

“I have seen budgets from former PDM and PNP Administrations provide far, far more for our people while being less in total expenditure. Previous administrations had a higher percentage of the budget going to the people, whereas this budget has almost nothing going directly to the people. The $424 million is the most ever in the overall total but the least ever percentage being spent directly on the people.”

In that vein, he listed what had increased and what had been cut for residents listening in. Astwood said decreases (in budgeted or actual spending) were recorded in: Community Policing; Social Welfare for the Police: Local Training for the Attorney General’s chambers and Deputy Governor’s office; Court Costs; Advertising for the Deputy Governor’s Office; Youth Activities for all schools’ Witness Protection (cut by half); Local Government Transformation; Ministry Travel; Youth Activities in the Youth Department; Cemetery Upkeep; the DMV; Travel, Rations, Maintenance and Social welfare in the Department of Corrections; the Works Program; Maintenance of Roads, fixed assets medical buildings; and public assets in the Ministry of PPID.

There were no decreases (or increases) awarded to the following: Training for police; Legal aid; Repatriation; Invest TCI; Street cleaning under PPID; Maintenance of Street Lights and Vehicles and Youth Activities in the Department of Heritage; Scholarships.

Astwood was incensed at the cuts and lack of increases he said, “We aren’t increasing scholarships? The position of our country today and how we need scholarships– there’s not one cent more in this historic $424 million budget with over $200 million in the bank?” he asked.

He said he was especially frustrated at the cuts and non-increases to youth programs.

“It’s much ado about nothing, nothing has changed. Everything is the same, no increase-” he said, referring to the Department of Heritage’s stagnant budget.

“That is saying that this money isn’t for our children –  we have $424 million and $200 in the bank but our children, taking part in culture, you get nothing.”

Despite claims to the contrary, Green and Gender Budgeting are copiously missing from the budget according to Astwood. He expressed disdain at the $4,800 budgeted for Environmental Awareness Week.

“It’s just a catchphrase for you all. I don’t know if the Premier and Finance Minister knows what green budgeting is; from the allocations here, I have to draw that conclusion,” he said.

Astwood acknowledges increases in the following areas:  National Celebrations; Home Help and Welfare; Consultancies in the Police Department, Immigration, Education, and Tourism. Utilities in the Judiciary; Home Affairs among others also increased. Daycare, After School Programs and Feeding Programs were new programs with significant allocations. Civil Servant costs increased across most departments.

E Jay Saunders, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier, had lambasted Astwood on Tuesday for disparaging his Budget, maintaining that they were spending more on the population than ever before.

“We are spending $135 million more on the people of our beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands than has ever been spent prior to our government— if I’m wrong, tomorrow or today or whenever you come with your speech, please show me where we’re spending less,” he challenged.

Astwood responded to the claims, “We can’t be talking about the biggest budget ever and we’re here cutting and cutting— The Minister of Finance tried to make me out to be a teller of untruth– someone who is misleading the people but we can see it right here in front of us cuts, cuts, cuts!”

He maintained that he was committed to presenting the truth to TCI islanders as it was his job and he would continue to do so.

Listed are a non-exhaustive list of the actual figures itemised by the Leader of the Opposition as as read from the year’s budget book with decreases either from the Budgeted or actual spending in the last financial year:

Social Welfare (Police)  $284 thousand (actual) down to  $250 thousand

Local Training (Attorney General) $26 thousand down to $22 thousand

Court Costs (Judiciary $361 thousand down to $346 thousand

Advertising (Deputy Governor) $55 thousand down to $50 thousand

Local Training (Deputy Governor) $52 thousand down to $40 thousand

Youth Activities (HJ Robinson) $20 thousand down to $14 thousand

Youth Activities (Youth Department) $142 thousand down to $125 thousand

Witness Protection (Home Affairs) $54 thousand down to $21 thousand

Local Government Transformation $49 thousand down to $35 thousand

Cemetery Upkeep from $10 thousand down to $7,500

Travel (Dept of Corrections) $23 thousand down to $13 thousand

Rations(Dept of Corrections) $369 thousand down to  $356 thousand

Maintenance (Dept of Corrections) $439 thousand down to $191 thousand

Social welfare (Dept of Corrections) $251 thousand down to $150 thousand

Works Program (PPID) $3.4 million down to $900 thousand

Maintenance of roads (PPID) $670 thousand down to $635 thousand

A non-exhaustive list of increases as quoted by Astwood included:

Consultancy (Judiciary) $2,000 up to $44 thousand

Consultancy (Immigration) $79 thousand up to $3.1 million

Local training (Immigration) $1,900 up to $3,185

Daycare (Education) new items

National Celebrations (Tourism) $177 Thousand up to $ 213 thousand

Home Help (Home Affairs)  $1.5 million up to $1.6 million

Welfare (Home Affairs) $2.37 million up to $2.38 million

Welfare Grants (Home Affairs)  $128 thousand up to $210 thousand

Government

REOPENING OF THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

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The First (1st) Sitting of the First (1st) Meeting of the Third (3rd) Session of the Twelfth (12th) Legislature of the House of Assembly of the Turks & Caicos Islands

 

 The Opening Ceremony for the First (1st) Sitting of the First (1st) Meeting of the Third (3rd) Session of the Twelfth (12th) Legislature of the House of Assembly occurred on the 14th September at 10 o’clock in the forenoon with its usual pomp and fanfare.

During the proceedings, the Honourable Premier and Minister for Public Policy, Hon. C. Washington Misick, moved the motion that the House of Assembly be suspended to allow for the reading of the Speech from the Throne, presented by Her Excellency, the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam.

The Speech from the Throne, having highlighted some of the Government’s accomplishments since being elected to office on 19th February 2021, culminated with the proposed Legislative Agenda to be considered for the upcoming legislative year which included, but is not limited to:

Constitution (Amendment) Order;

Retiring Allowance (Amendment) Bill;

Community College (Amendment) Bill;

Gaming Control (Amendment) Bill;

Business Licensing (Amendment) Bill;

Real Estate Licensing Bill

Immigration Bill; and

Crown Land (Amendment) Bill

The Speech from the Throne took a long-term perspective and placed emphasis on fulfilling the objectives of the Vision 2040 document and the Government’s strategic plan to move the Turks and Caicos Islands towards developed country status within the next two decades by investing in projects and policies that will result in a more robust triple-bottom-line economy.

The Speech from the Throne also addressed short to medium term deliverables; highlighting that the Government has twelve (12) high-priority projects being progressed.  It posited that the National Delivery Unit (NDU) is tasked with assisting project owners and implementers advance the Government’s priorities. The value added by this Unit is the facilitation with streamlining of project management processes to ensure the most efficient timelines and use of available resources – all for the ultimate benefit of the citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The day’s proceeding ended with a motion entitled: Write-Off of TC Invest/TOLCO Loan that was tabled by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable E. Jay Saunders. The motion which sought to write off $10.8 million in debt accumulated by scores of borrowers was passed.  This write-off was a welcomed intervention by many Turks and Caicos Islanders, laden with debt obligations for over 11 years following the divestiture of the former TC Invest Agency.  The write-off directly affects over 150 borrowers but is indirectly beneficial to many more.

For some, giving them a second lease on life, which, when property ownership is considered can be extended to inter-generationally.

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Turks and Caicos Islands Government Reminds Residents in the Islands of North, Middle and South Caicos of the Availability of On-Island Customer Services

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#TurksandCaicos, September 19, 2023 – The Customer Services Department, in the Ministry of Immigration and Border Services, herby reminds residents in the islands of North and Middle Caicos, and South Caicos of the availability of its services on those islands.

Persons in North and Middle Caicos applying for work permits, visas, residence permits, homeowners permits, birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates can submit applications at the Immigration Office in North Caicos and conveniently pay for such applications at the Government Treasury, both located at the Paul Higgs Complex, Bottle Creek, North Caicos.

Persons in South Caicos applying for work permits, visas, residence permits and homeowners permits can submit applications to the Immigration Office located in the new Government Complex near Regatta Village and at the District Commissioner’s Office for birth, marriage and death certificates. Services can be paid into the Government Treasury also located in South Caicos.

Unfortunately, applications for naturalisation and permanent residence certificates cannot be submitted on islands other than Grand Turk and Providenciales at this time.

Speaking on the availability of these services in the family islands, the Deputy Governor and Head of the Public Service, Her Excellency Anya Williams stated: “As a part of our efforts to improve service delivery across the Turks and Caicos Islands, additional recruitment and training has taken place on the islands of North, Middle and South Caicos in order to provide more on-island support to the population of those islands and to ease the burden of persons having to travel to Grand Turk or Providenciales to receive certain services.

The Ministry of Immigration and Border Services is heavily focused on the implementation of our new border management system.  This system will give persons the ability to access services from anywhere in the Turks and Caicos Islands and around the world. More updates on this will be issued periodically through press releases and stakeholder engagement.

Meanwhile, our newly appointed Director of Business Transformation is currently performing an in-depth audit of systems and processes across government, to assist in mapping out plans to make necessary changes in government ministries and departments to improve service delivery.

The transformation of service delivery across government is a key objective for the public service in this and future financial years. We recognise where there are gaps and we are working diligently to improve the way we serve the public going forward.”

Hon. Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services with responsibility for the Customer Services Department and the elected representative for Electoral District 4: North and Middle Caicos, remarked: “As a government, we have a responsibility to bring our services to the people and to ensure that doing business with the public service is easy, convenient and efficient. There should be no barrier to services for residents who do not reside in the islands of Grand Turk and Providenciales.

The majority of these services have been available in the family islands for quite some time now, but we recently refreshed our training, processes and our engagement in these islands, to ensure that we are serving the people in the most efficient manner.

I am proud of my team’s efforts to improve these services and I am reminding the people of ED 4, as well as South Caicos, that they do not need to travel to Providenciales or Grand Turk just to submit applications or pay receipts, as they can do so conveniently on their home islands.”

The Customer Services Department continues to review all of its processes and procedures in all islands, to ensure that it is meeting its mandate to the public and invites you to participate in its customer satisfaction surveys which are undertaken quarterly.

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Avi Adams appointed Director of Department of Tourism Regulation

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#TurksandCaicos, September 19, 2023 – The Office of the Deputy Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Avi Adams to the post of Director of the Department of Tourism Regulation (DTR) within the Ministry of Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries, Heritage, Religious Affairs, and the Environment.

Mr. Adams is a native of Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, who graduated from the H.J. Robinson High School in 2000. His tertiary education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY, New York, NY, and a Master of Business Administration from Edinburgh University, Edinburg, SC. He also holds several certifications in accounting, finance, and human resources.

Mr. Adams has a proven track record of success in various roles, including ten years as an Accountant/Financial Analyst, ten years in Human Resources and 15 years of management experience. He has also worked in the hospitality industry for the past three years. His previous roles include several at Fortis TCI, including Supervisor of Accounts Payable, Superintendent of Supply Chain Management and the Manager for Human Resources. Mr. Adams also most recently served as the Human Resources Manager at the Shore Club Resort with the Hartling Group.

Mr. Adams is community-focused and heavily involved in various community initiatives, including coaching youth sports teams and mentorship programs.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr. Adams stated:

“It is incredibly humbling to be chosen to lead the new Tourism Regulatory Department. Only with God have I come this far, and it will only be him that sustains me to continue pushing forward for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.

I am thankful for everyone who has contributed to this new beginning. I am excited to take on this new challenge with the Ministry of Tourism to ensure that the Turks and Caicos Islands remain a premier tourist destination. I am confident that my skills and experience will positively impact our work.”

Deputy Governor and Head of the Public Service, Her Excellency Anya Williams, in extending congratulatory remarks to Mr. Adams, stated:

I am pleased to officially announce and congratulate Mr. Avi Adams on his appointment as Director of the Department of Tourism Regulation (DTR) within the Ministry of Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries, Heritage, Religious Affairs, and the Environment.

The Department of Tourism Regulations (DTR) has been formally established under the Ministry of Tourism to absorb the functions of the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board Quality Assurance Unit and TIDES Training Unit. The DTR’s mission is to develop and promote a regulatory environment conducive to a dynamic, competitive, and sustainable tourism sector in TCI.

As Director, Mr. Adams is tasked with the DTR’s oversight, coordination, and leadership, which will be responsible for regulating our leading industry. Mr. Adams will also play an integral part in legislative and policy reform that will help shape the success of our tourism product.

Mr. Adams comes to us from the private sector with a vast amount of administrative and leadership experience that will add invaluable support to efforts being made by the Ministry of Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries, Heritage, Religious Affairs and the Environment.

This appointment is a pivotal step for the Turks and Caicos Islands as it moves into its new tourism management and regulatory structure.

Congratulations on your new appointment, Mr. Adams and welcome to the Turks and Caicos Islands Public Service!”

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