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TCI House of Assembly Divided over Airport PPP

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, July 31, 2023 – An explosive back-and-forth in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, July 19th, has exposed a clear line of separation regarding the potential Public-Private Partnership to redevelop the Providenciales/Howard Hamilton International Airport.

Several senators on both sides of the House expressed concern over the Motion, while others defended it wholeheartedly.

Members of Parliament, including Akierra Missick, Member of Parliament for Leeward and Long Bay, Matthew Stubbs, Member of Parliament for The Bight, and Edwin Astwood, Opposition Leader, expressed serious concerns about the clarity of the motion and surrounding communication from the government.

The Opposition Leader continued to vocalise concerns about a partnership that could turn sour.

“Our people have been burned too many times by these big contracts,” he said.

The Leeward and Long Bay MP emphasised the confusion stemming from how the $400 million project was being presented to the people, expressing that the government was allowing it to fester because of their approach to communication about the massive deal.

“The issue is we did not communicate effectively, where we were seeking to get to today.  A press release here and there, an argument with Magnetic Media, a print release, [that] isn’t sufficient.  We allowed this mischief to fester on the streets, and then we [the members of the House] are just obligated to agree on what is being put in front of us when no one said, ‘Let’s have a meeting.’  We meet on smaller bills all the time, so I was shocked that for something this detailed, members of the House, didn’t really get a chance to vent, articulate, or ruminate on where we need to go.”

Missick, taking offence to the insinuation that some members of the House did not truly understand the processes necessary in the procurement, revealed that not only had it not been discussed in a meeting with PNP backbenchers, but said she was confused and she knew others were as well because the documents seemed to suggest a PPP was the only way to go.

Akierra Misick during her statement said, “It says Section 26 of the PPO has decided to utilise a public-private partnership procurement method.  Utilisation seems to be the result of a decision, not a consultation or a request for a genuine clear approach to support an option.  I don’t believe that there had been any malice, but I would like to, when I say yay or nay at the end of this debate, make sure that I have made the best decision possible with the information that has been given to me.”

She questioned why an international airport operator was potentially being hired when the local companies had proved competent, maintaining that she was struggling to see the benefit to the islanders.

“[People] don’t want jobs working for international operators, so let’s stop throwing this idea of employment around without understanding what that actually means [my people] ain’t sweeping no bathrooms– my people shall own and operate their own businesses from this airport, and they should be able to do so without worrying about being priced out.”

Citing the massive surplus enjoyed by the TCI Government each year, she rejected the reason for entering into the PPP to avoid debt.

Following her contributions, the MP to the Bight also stood up.

“I would like to get a little bit more time— to get a better explanation on how Turks and Caicos Islanders will be benefitting from the redevelopment of the airport.’  Stubbs said and then queried what programs would be implemented to train islanders to take up positions in the airport.

“I need more clarification– this feels like an exploration— I am a PNP member, this is my government, but I have people to represent– to represent my people, I need more details,” he maintained.

The supporters of the bill, including Washington Misick, TCI Premier, Jamell Robinson, Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development and Arlington Musgrove Minister of Immigration and Border Services, held fast to several points, including that residents would be able to invest and it was faster and more economical to do the PPP.

“The greater the amount of risk transferred from the government to a private investor, the greater the value for money for the project,” Musgrove said.  “If the project is not executed through a PPP and executed through traditional contracting, the project would be the lead for an additional two or more years.”

The minister explained that public financing would be less straightforward and would likely lead to taking on more debt.  He also said that public operators were less efficient than private operators, often only getting to 95% of what private operators achieved.

“Over the years, TCIG and the TCIAA simply have not maximized the income potential of the Providenciales International Airport,” he said.

Both Misick and Musgrove also seemed keen on emphasising that there was no sale of the airport, lashing out at social media chatter that they said was baseless.

Robinson, for his part, announced that residents would soon be able to buy shares in the airport, which was welcomed by both sides of the House.  He explained how the potential investment could work.

“If each Turks and Caicos Islander finds $1,000 to invest in this project, we could easily find $15 million and [say] this government finds $15 million to match that— and what if the NIB, through their Domestic Investment Fund, that’s the people’s money- invests 20 million dollars—right away were looking at 10 percent of whatever investment tied up in the duration of the contract– right then we would have some real ownership stake in our airport, ” he explained.

The contributions from Akierra Missick prompted a tirade from the Premier who lashed out at the MP for what he described as an ‘astonishing speech.’  He seemed to have taken issue with her comment that other Members of the House were ‘throwing shade.’

“I am not at all surprised about some of what has been said here today.  This doesn’t apply to everybody, but clearly, on behalf of one person, the argument became too personal.”

He went on to slam the motives he perceived from the speeches, appearing to single out the representative of Leeward and Long Bay in particular.

“It was an astonishing speech from one particular person so far, I interpret that as a mixture of cherry-picking facts without any figures that I find to be self-serving and selective, and to be honest with you, distortion, misrepresentation, and misquotations that’s what I saw.  This particular piece of infrastructure is just too important for us to allow ourselves to be distracted by people who are smarting over sour grapes, and that’s all. It is an intent to create confusion to the public.”  He said of Missick, who until January of this year, had been a member of his Cabinet and was dismissed without explanation.

The Premier still did not address the concerns regarding how the motion was communicated to the public or other legitimate concerns raised by both the MPs who spoke.

Amid the verbal melee, the bill was pushed through and has since passed.  But it passed without the input of the Opposition and several members who had to leave because of time constraints, including Akierra Missick.

Caribbean News

AN EASTERN CARIBBEAN GEM IS UNEARTHED  

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~SANDALS® RESORTS OPENS ITS 18TH RESORT IN SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES~

 

April 17, 2024, Montego Bay, Jamaica –  In an intimate ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating Sandals Resorts’ entry into the largely undiscovered destination of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the only Caribbean born superbrand welcomed its first guests to a nature-forward experience brimming with island inspiration and stirring ‘Sandals Firsts’.

Witnessed by government officials, Sandals executives, guests and resort team members, an emerald green ribbon, representative of the island’s flag and lush surroundings, was cut signaling the official opening of Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International Adam Stewart, spoke on what the opening of the hotel chain’s 18th resort meant for the brand, the island and the Caribbean at large. “This is a multi-generational act in the making that began with my extraordinary father Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and Prime Minister Gonsalves many years ago. They flirted heavily about flying the Vincy flag not only here but in all the other islands across the Caribbean that Sandals has its operations. Little did we know that 43 years later the Sandals brand would grow from one 99-room hotel in Montego Bay to a top 500 brand known on the world stage as a super brand. The only Caribbean born commercial super brand known across the United States, Europe and Canada with over 84% brand penetration and recognition,” he shared.

He expounded further on what he dubbed the Sandals Effect, a confluence of things that happen when Sandals comes to town.  “First and foremost, we market the destination, both St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The landscape that makes up this incredible archipelago will benefit. Directly and indirectly for linkages, tour operators, taxi operators, restaurateurs, musicians, farmers, fishers, entrepreneurs, hardware store operators, the entire ecosystem and connectivity we plan to make sure that the entire world knows.”

With Sandals’ expansion to the island, airlift has increased exponentially with more availability on the horizon.  According to Adam Stewart, numerous airlines have adjusted their schedules in anticipation for the demand. “American Airlines used to fly twice per week to and from the Argyle Airport, since April the airline has increase to four times per week and is expected to have daily flights by the end of 2024. Air Canada and Virgin have increased their airlift with JetBlue and United Airlines now flying to the island for the first time.  Nationals and visitors will have the opportunity to fly more conveniently and we will continue to grow. ,” expressed Stewart.

The resort, in May 2024, is expected to host some 300 top travel advisors from around the world, the largest contingent of international travel professionals to ever visit Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dr. The Honourable, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in his main address added further credence to the impact Sandals has on his country and the CARICOM community. “During COVID, unemployment went up, there was a decline in economic activity in the region. At the time we also had volcanic eruptions, Sandals came to us with a proposal to recruit Vincentians and send them to their resorts across the Caribbean to be trained. We had to evacuate 20,000 persons with some in shelters for four to six months. Along came a friend in Sandals who said they could ease some of the pressure providing opportunities for 500 people and these little things talk to me about partnership. This might have been small for Sandals but it was a huge thing for us in the condition in which we found ourselves and I want to thank Sandals and Adam.”

“It is an understatement really to call Sandals a brand. It has become an existential part of our Caribbean civilization. This civilization is tailor-made for tourism and Butch Stewart has helped to shape this aspect of the material to help sustain us. I think that when the history of the 20th into the 21st century is written, there would be a towering place for this legend,” The Hon. Gonsalves continued.

In honour of the late Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Prime Gonsalves in opining that the relationship he enjoyed with the late founder made him “one of us” shared a remarkable plan to celebrate his memory and contributions to tourism and economic development in the region. “The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had indicated to Sandals that we will build the road coming to the entrance of the hotel. Having built it, we will call it the Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart Boulevard,” the Prime Minister announced proudly to stirring applause from the audience.

Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines offers 301 rooms and suites across 50 lush-laden acres, authentically embracing its Saint Vincent location with an experience that is as thoughtful as it is meticulously local.

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Sandals Foundation and Partners Install and Commission 750 Gallon Ultra-filtration Water Tank at Enid Capron Primary School

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PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos Islands, April 17, 2024 – “Thousands have lived without love, but no one has ever lived without water,” according to poet, W. H. Auden. More than 500 students and teachers at the Enid Capron Primary School in Providenciales stand to benefit from a 750 gallons filtration water tank system valued at almost US$15,000 courtesy of the Sandals Foundation, Beaches Turks and Caicos and SIP Water, distributers of ICON LifeSaver®. The system that was recently installed will be able to use harvested rain water along with its ultra-filtered system to provide potable water.

This project had SIP Water, which is the Caribbean Distributors for ICON LifeSaver®, install and commission the system which was handed over to the administrators of the Sandals Foundation adopted school. ICON LifeSaver® is a British company providing some of the safest, potable water purification solutions in the world through supporting organisations.

Paul Girling, Director of SIP Water says, “This system is able to change untreated, contaminated water into ultra-pure, micro-biologically clean drinking water.  Its multi-filtration system removes all micro plastics, bacteria, protozoan cysts and viruses to a minimum level of 99.99% without the need for any electricity or chemicals”.

Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Social Services and Member of Parliament for the Five Cays area, Hon. Rachel Taylor was present as the system was commissioned. “This is a landmark achievement for the school and the community of Five Cays. This location is an emergency shelter and with the Atlantic Hurricane season not far away, having this in place will serve our students well and by extension, the community. We are grateful for the continued partnership with Sandals Foundation and Beaches Turks and Caicos in giving back to the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Taylor shared.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Managing Director, James McAnally shared, “this project is a giant step towards ensuring the basic necessities in our community are safe and sustainable.  We continue to grow and look at new ways to serve in the areas of education, the community and the environment. This tank will go a long way in helping to improve the quality of life of the children and faculty in the Five Cays community especially during times of disaster.”

Principal at Enid Capron Primary School, Sophia Garland elatedly shared, “our students’ health will be improved as they consume more water daily. This system will provide for us a level of sustainability throughout the school and the community. As an educational institution, we continue to celebrate partnerships with corporate entities that seek to support key infrastructural needs of the students, staff and wider community.”

The ICON LifeSaver® product is environmentally friendly. As a leader in sustainability, this will help in the reduction of plastic bottles. The filters are reusable and typically have a 1-2 year span. This is a patented ultra-filtration technology which is independently tested to the highest portable water standards.

 

Captions:

Header: Paul Girling (left), director of SIP Water, Sophia Garland (2nd left), principal of the Enid Capron Primary school, Hon. Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Social Services, and Joe Lovegrove, Operations and Technical Director of LifeSaver gave thumbs up sign to the completion of the project.

1st insert: Joe Lovegrove, Operations and Technical Director for LifeSaver takes his time to insert one of the six filters that the filtration system that was recently installed and commissioned at the Enid Capron Primary School.

2nd insert: Enid Capron Primary School teachers share a moment with the ICON team following the successful completion of the installation of the water filtration system with Paul Girling (left) director of SIP Water and Joe Lovegrove Operations and  Technical Director for LifeSaver.

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Foreign Minister Provides Update on Transitional Presidential Council for Haiti

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#Kingston, Jamaica, April 17, 2024 – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, says significant progress has been made with the publishing of names of the members of the Transitional Presidential Council for Haiti.

The names of the members were published on April 16 in the Le Moniteur. Haiti has been experiencing a humanitarian, security, socio-economic and political crisis.

Establishment of the Transitional Presidential Council for Haiti was the landmark outcome following a high-level meeting of regional Heads, international partners, and Haitian stakeholders on Haiti, on March 11, which paves the way for a peaceful transition of power and the road to free and fair elections.

The high-level meeting was hosted by Jamaica and chaired by Guyana.

“The landmark outcome was the document which sets out the agreement to establish a transitional presidential council, comprised of seven voting members and two non-voting members, and the agreement that, on the establishment of the Council and their naming of a Prime Minister, Prime Minister (Ariel) Henry and his Council of Ministers would resign, paving the way for a new political process towards new free and fair democratic elections,” the Minister said.

Senator Johnson Smith was speaking today (April 17), at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.

“I just wanted to update that the process made significant progress yesterday (April 16), when the official decree naming the members was published in Le Moniteur in Haiti, as required by their legal procedures,” she stated.

She noted that queries arose when the decree was previously published without naming the members of the Council.

“The Council members have now been named… which we believe will set a new path, or rather a new energy behind the process which is under way,” the Minister said.

“There are still some issues that are being sorted out in terms of the content of the decree, but it has included the criteria that had been agreed in the outcome declaration of March 11, and does set the way for the next procedural steps on the path back to democracy,” she added.

The Minister noted, too, that a political accord has been developed by the Transitional Council, which builds out their areas of responsibility and sets a framework for how they will function.

“So, that has built a lot of confidence, in the sense that there is clarity around how it is they plan to vote internally and operate the areas of focus, including, of course, the establishment of the Provisional Electoral Council and a National Security Council that will manage arrangements in respect of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) Mission, which has been authorised by the UN,” she said.

Senator Johnson Smith encouraged members of the international community to provide support for Haiti.

“The partners continue to meet; the US, of course, has been the primary proponent of funding for the MSS, but we continue to encourage all members of the international community to provide support, even as they are providing support to other conflicts across the world. We also continue to thank Kenya for their willingness to lead the initiative,” she said.

The Minister said training for the multinational mission that will provide support to  the Haitian National Police Force is also progressing.

“So again, I remind this is not an intervention. It is not a military intervention. It is not a takeover. It is a provision of necessary and practical support to  a national police force that is outgunned and outmanned in the face of criminal gangs,” Senator Johnson Smith said.

The Minister noted that training is going well.  “We have 59 members of the Royal Bahamian Defence Force, 50 members of the Belizian Defence Force here training at the JDF with support and engagement by members of the Canadian Defence Force, who again are all here in partnership, looking at how we can work towards restoring peace and stability in Haiti to set the stage for free and fair elections,” she said.

 

Contact: Chris Patterson

Release: JIS

 

CAPTIONS:

Photographer: Yhomo Hutchinson

Header: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, addresses today’s (April 17) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.

Insert: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, converses with Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Information, Hon. Robert Morgan, at today’s (April 17) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.

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