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TCIG can afford to do lower LIVING COSTS; surplus hits $73 Million says Finance Minister

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2023 – Residents and politicians agree, the cost of living in the Turks and Caicos is especially high. It has been a regretful admission and an enduring complaint respectively over the years, even more so in the 2022/23 financial year.

A deadly cocktail of inflation over dependence on imports, almost no local food production, low exports, and a resource stifling war, has left the Turks and Caicos’ residents paying exorbitant prices on nearly every front, from food to gasoline to housing.

Despite several programs implemented in the financial year (2022/23), the Government has not quite managed to bring costs down significantly or even to cut the prices where they tend to balloon most significantly, at the ports.

Last year, the PNP Government stepped in with three programs to buffer residents from inflation: The Food and Fuel Tax Break (April 2022), the Bread Basket Duty Exemptions (August 2022), and the Fuel Factor Stabilization Credit (October 2022). Introduced alongside various stimulus payments, the credits were aimed at taming food, electricity, and gasoline costs.

Together, these were initially projected to cost the Government $ 21.5 million. That is $15 million for the Food and Fuel Tax Break, an initial 4 million for the Bead Basket exemptions and 2.5 million for the Fuel Factor.

It took some time, the measures suffered some technical setbacks but they eventually worked to lessen the strain and were given multiple extensions.

Still, Magnetic Media fielded residents’ questions, asking ‘whether this was the most the Government could do?’ The Government made it clear that the buffer was just that, a buffer, not a magic wand to eliminate the historic inflation rate entirely.

With the programs and inflation slowly decreasing globally, prices in the country eased a bit in all three areas. However, revealing public conversations with a leading shipper exposed that the Turks and Caicos uniquely pays more for goods brought in.  Having little exports, many learned, drives up the cost of imports which come largely from the USA.

Giving credence to the concerns that more could be done to reduce the cost of living in TCI, The Turks and Caicos Islands Government reported that revenue in 2022 took no significant hit from the three programs, which reduced or eliminated Government taxes on select commodities.

In fact, revenue earned on imports from January – September 2022 increased by 45.7 percent, or $497.5 Million, according to the Trade Report of April 2023.

The Budget Communication delivered by the Hon E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Investment & Trade, further revealed that TCIG underspent its initial $388 million Budget for 2022-2023 by a whopping $48 million. That contributed to an ‘operating surplus’ of $73 million.

It now brings to the surface, yet again, that the TCI Government with only $600,000 in debt, tens of millions in surplus, and the understanding that the country’s unique position which forces the costs of fuel, food, electricity, and housing to be unrelentingly high, can afford to do more.

For the 2023/24 financial year E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister, has promised that with record profits recorded, cost of living is one of the main items the Government is looking to address. On the way, is a trio of social programs and port upgrades to make importation cheaper.

Caribbean News

FINANCE MINISTER SAYS INFLATION TARGET WILL REMAIN AT FOUR TO SIX PER CENT

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KINGSTON, May 8 (JIS):

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.

 

CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON

 

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Finance

SCOTIABANK TURKS & CAICOS SECURES 4TH WIN AS BEST BANK   

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#TurksandCaicos, May 2, 2024 – For the fourth consecutive year, Scotiabank Turks & Caicos has secured the ‘Best Bank’ award from renowned North American finance magazine, Global Finance.

The award celebrates banks that demonstrate strength of strategy for attracting and servicing digital customers, success in onboarding clients to use digital offerings, growth of digital customers, breadth of product offerings, evidence of tangible benefits gained from digital initiatives, and website and mobile app design and functionality.

Dr. Suzan Snaggs-Wilson, Managing Director for Scotiabank Turks & Caicos said the bank continues to make significant investments in its digital infrastructure to satisfy its customers’ needs. She further lauded her team’s commitment to the bank’s digital transformation, noting that their encouragement among customers solidified the strong adaptation witnessed.

“At Scotiabank, we remain committed to proactively assessing and working to meet the needs of our customers through accessible and easy-to-use banking solutions that enhance their experience. This award underscores our strategic commitment to advancing accessibility and convenience across our services, and we take great pride in being honored with the esteemed Best Bank award for the fourth time running,” she said.

Dr. Snaggs-Wilson also highlighted the Bank’s convenient and customer-focused approach to banking positively impacted its client interactions and satisfaction.

The annual World’s Best Bank award selects the top performers among banks and other providers of financial services and has become a trusted standard of excellence for the global financial community. The magazine recognized 28 banks in Latin America and the Caribbean in this year’s 31st announcement.

Scotiabank Turks & Caicos joins its regional counterparts in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and The Bahamas, in receiving the award.

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Caribbean News

RBC appoints new Head of Caribbean Banking

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NASSAU, April 21, 2024 – RBC Financial (Caribbean) Limited, (“RBC”) has appointed Chris Duggan, a  native of the Cayman Islands, as Senior Vice President and Head of RBC Caribbean Banking, effective  April 1, 2024. He succeeds Chris Ronald, who has been leading the bank’s operations in the Caribbean  for the last 2.5 years and has recently returned to Canada as Regional President, Atlantic Provinces at  RBC.  

Duggan, who is based in Nassau, The Bahamas, is taking on responsibilities as Head of RBC Caribbean  Banking to carry out the bank’s strategic direction and manage the overall business strategy and vision across the Caribbean region. He has a career spanning more than two decades in the financial industry  across both the United States and the Caribbean. 

Most recently, he was the Cayman Islands Government Representative to North America, in Washington  DC, primarily focussed on financial services. Prior to his tenure for the Cayman Islands Government, he  served as a senior executive at DART Family Office and Butterfield Bank. 

RBC’s Executive Vice President, Personal Financing Products, Erica Nielsen said “We’re delighted to  welcome Chris to RBC. Born and raised in the Caribbean, Chris has a deep understanding of the  regional financial landscape and a passion for representing the culture. He is highly driven, outcome focused, and passionate about building trusted relationships with clients, communities, and employees.  His appointment demonstrates our continued commitment to the region. I am confident that under Chris’  leadership, Caribbean Banking will continue to grow and serve our clients and communities.” 

As an active member of the communities where he lives and works, he has held leadership roles on the  boards of numerous charitable organizations over the years. Duggan was awarded the Queen’s  Certificate and Badge of Honour in recognition of his outstanding service to the Cayman Islands  community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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