25 June 2012

Turks & Caicos to return to 'elected dependency status' in November


Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague

By Hayden Boyce
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Turks and Caicos Sun

General elections, which will return the Turks and Caicos Islands to self-rule, will be held on November 9, 2012. This was announced by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague in London on Tuesday June 12th.

“I am pleased to inform the House that the interim government in TCI, led by the Governor and supported by TCI and UK public servants and specialist advisers, has made significant progress with an ambitious reform programme. We now judge there has been sufficient progress, on the milestones and on putting in place robust financial controls, to set 9 November as the date for elections,” Hague said. The election announcement came two years and ten months after British imposed direct rule in this British Overseas Territory.

The calling of the elections was contingent on the Turks and Caicos Islands achieving eight milestones, seven of which Hague said “have been clearly met”. 

He said: “The fiscal milestone has not yet been met but the PFM and CFO ordinances increase our confidence that the budgeted surplus will be achieved. Over the next few months, in the run up to elections, the Interim Government will continue with the implementation and consolidation of reforms, in particular to strengthen the public sector and public finances, develop the economy, modernise legislation and make practical preparations to enable the elections to take place.” 

Regarding the implementation of budget measures to put the Turks and Caicos Islands Government on track to achieve a fiscal surplus in the financial year ending March 2013, Hague said this milestone has not yet been met as it is too early in the financial year to determine whether TCIG is on track to achieve a fiscal surplus. 

“Significant progress has however been made in helping to put the TCI Government on track,” he said. “While the US$26 million deficit in 2011/12 was considerably worse than the US$3 million originally budgeted, nevertheless this still represented a significant turnaround from a deficit in excess of US$70 million in 2010/11. 

The Governor has now enacted a Budget for 2012/13 that projects a surplus of US$20 million. Not only does this contain both prudent estimates of revenue and provision for contingencies, but these figures are the result of careful risk analysis led by the CFO and Permanent Secretary of Finance. Achieving the surplus will be challenging. The UK Government’s continued control over public finances means that we can, through the CFO, take steps during the year to correct the budget trajectory if it starts to go off course. This greatly adds to our confidence that the surplus can be achieved. We intend to keep progress on this milestone under close scrutiny.” 

Hague said the UK believes that democracy, whether in an independent country or in an Overseas Territory, provides a solid foundation on which to build an accountable and responsive state. 

“This belief underpins our work to advance democracy worldwide. We will support TCI to develop its democracy in line with our responsibility for security and good governance and our positive vision for our Overseas Territories,” he added.

On August 14, 2009, the British Government issued an Order in Council suspending ministerial government and the House of Assembly in the Turks and Caicos Islands, meaning that Cabinet will no longer exist and the House of Assembly is dissolved and Members’ seats are vacated. The constitutional right to trial by jury was also suspended.

Two main political parties, the Progressive National Party (PNP) and the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) will be contesting the elections, vying for ten constituency seats and five At-Large.

Meantime, Under Secretary Henry Bellingham, who last visited the TCI in 2011, hosted meetings with members of the Consultative Forum, Advisory Council and Permanent Secretaries before the Press Conference. 

U.K. To Hold Purse Strings For Years After Elections

FP Turks and Caicos

Written by Richard Green/richard@fptci.com   

Regardless of when the U.K. allows elections, it intends to hold onto the purse strings of the Turks and Caicos Islands at least until 2016 to ensure that no one interferes with its $260 million loan guarantee that bailed the country out of certain bankruptcy.

The requirement is nothing new. The U.K.’s Department for International Development installed a chief financial officer (CFO) in September 2010 to oversee the country’s finances in order to protect the U.K. loan guarantee, but a draft bill unveiled May 8 sets out the conditions of the CFO’s powers and responsibilities after elections are held.

The draft bill has been approved by U.K. ministers and will be considered by the governor’s Advisory Council and Consultative Forum, but the U.K. government will make the final decision on what is enacted.

“U.K. ministers will welcome comments on the bill if members of the Advisory Council and Consultative Forum wish to provide them, though requests to dilute the intent of the bill are unlikely to be accepted,” His Excellency the Gov. Ric Todd said in a statement announcing the bill.

“The provisions of the bill are wide-ranging and necessary to continue to reinforce financial control standards after elections, and to ensure government reduces its debt and builds a track record of surpluses that should allow access to commercial finance by the time the loan guarantee expires in 2016,” the governor said.

The bill would give the CFO basically the same powers as he or she has had since the position was created, including having to approve every government expenditure over a certain amount.

In addition to providing support to ministers, permanent secretaries and others, the CFO is required “to protect the Ministry of Finance and wider civil servants with finance responsibilities against any intentional or unintentional ministerial interference that may undermine TCI public finance,” according to a government statement on the bill.

“The CFO will work with a new locally elected ministerial team in their work and to continue to help the TCI on its path of financial and economic recovery. The minister of finance will retain the responsibility for the preparation of the appropriation bill, subject to CFO approval and within the financial envelope set by the CFO, and will be in a position, subject to sustainable public finances, to allocate available resources in pursuit of government policies.”

The CFO will report to the governor, hold a position equivalent to permanent secretaries, attend cabinet meetings, and have “line management responsibility” for the permanent secretary of finance and all U.K.-funded finance advisers.

The CFO also will have the power to stop any action by any government employee or body that violates part IX of the Constitution, new financial management laws or governance principals, or which jeopardizes any components of the loan guarantee.