09 July 2013

CARICOM Ministers in fact-finding mission to Turks & Caicos Islands

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) A Ministerial Fact-Finding Mission from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ended a three-day visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Wednesday 26 June.

This Mission, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of The Bahamas, the Honourable Frederick A. Mitchell was mandated by CARICOM’s Community to review the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, following the return of Parliamentary democracy to the islands last year, after three years of direct rule from London. TCI is an Associate Member of CARICOM.

Members of the Mission included the Foreign Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Patrice Nisbett, and the Designated Special Envoy of the President of Haiti to CARICOM, Mr. Peterson Noel. Accompanying the delegation were, Ambassador Picewell Forbes, High Commissioner of The Bahamas to CARICOM and Assistant Secretary General Foreign and Community Relations at the CARICOM Secretariat Ambassador Colin Granderson.

Meetings were held in Grand Turk and Providenciales Islands with a wide spectrum of representatives including the Governor His Excellency Damian Todd, the Cabinet led by Premier the Honourable Dr Rufus Ewing, the Parliamentary Opposition, Speaker of the House, former Ministers, the Private Sector, Bar Association and legal-advocacy groups, the Religious community, Youth and Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGOs).

The delegation will present its findings and recommendations to the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting being held in Trinidad and Tobago on 4-6 July 2013.

OTR Note: The United Nations Decolonisation Committee, led by then-Committee Chair (and former President of the U.N. General Assembly) Dr. Julian R. Hunte sent a mission to the territory in 2006. The Report of the United Nations Special Mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, 2006 is available here. The territory is also seeking a greater United Nations role in the territory's decolonisation (see below).


Recommends Greater Involvement 
With Decolonisation Committee


PREMIER, Dr. Rufus Ewing, last month extended an invitation to the Deputy Leader of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Sean Astwood, to attend a three-day seminar hosted by the United Nations’ (UN) Decolonisation Committee.

The three-day event in Ecuador on May 28 addressed the work of the General Assembly’s special committee on implementation of the declaration to grant independence to colonial countries and peoples, also known as the Special Committee on Decolonisation.
The Deputy Leader has recommended that the Turks and Caicos Islands become more involved in with the work of the committee.

In an interview with the Weekly News, Astwood explained that the Overseas Territories as well as parent countries were involved in the session, which saw the exchange of views on the relationship between the two groups, the challenges and the success stories.
According to him the takeaway for the TCI was the importance of greater participation in the work of the committee, particularly since independence is the ultimate goal, as mentioned in the manifestos of both local major political parties.
"If we are serious about independence then the work of the forum is important,” he said.
Astwood added that there is much that can be learnt from both non-self-governing countries, as well as independent nations.
The PDM Deputy Leader pointed out that there are other opportunities such as scholarships that local students can take advantage of. 
"We can become a more meaningful player in this process,” he said.
Astwood noted that his report on the meeting has been sent to the party Leader, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, who is expected to forward it to the Premier, before it is made public, sometime next week.
In February, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted that with the world is undergoing a "great transition”.
It is time for a new kind of inclusive dialogue about decolonisation, he said and called for fresh approaches to resolve the situations of the remaining 16 non-self-governing territories in the Caribbean and elsewhere (OTR Note: With the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the U.N. list of Non self-governing territories in March 2013, there are now 17 such territories formally listed). 
Speaking at the Special Committee on Decolonisation’s annual programme at United Nations headquarters in New York, the Secretary General said: "The risk of movement, while sometimes frightening, is far more preferable to the stagnation of the status quo.
"The international community is more convinced than ever that colonialism has no place in the modern world.
"The eradication of colonialism, in keeping with the principles of the charter and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is our common endeavour.”
The UN chief said this requires the "constructive involvement of all concerned”, the special committee, the administering powers and the non-self-governing territories working on a case-by-case-basis.
"The special committee should be at the forefront in identifying possibilities for change and in promoting priorities in the decolonisation process for the benefit of all,” he said.

"As the intergovernmental body exclusively devoted to decolonisation, the special committee is expected to devise fresh and creative approaches to mobilise the political will to advance its agenda,” he added.

He noted that the world is "in a great transition, with many old structures breaking down and new arrangements taking shape.
"In the area of decolonisation, 16 non-self-governing territories require our attention. As we look ahead, the narrative cannot again be portrayed as decolonisation deferred.
"We no longer have the luxury of indulging in rhetoric and rituals. Concrete action and tangible results are essential,” the Secretary General added. 
The committee, known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, was set up two years after the adoption of the declaration by the UN General Assembly.
The declaration affirms the right of all people to self-determination and proclaims that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end.
It states that "the subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, contravenes the UN Charter and impedes the promotion of world peace and cooperation”.
More than 80 former colonies, comprising about 750 million people, have gained independence since the creation of the UN, the statement said, noting the 16 remaining non-self-governing territories are home to nearly two million people. 

"U.K. dependencies in the Caribbean are required to submit their budgets to London for approval by our colonial masters. This is but another manifestation that these colonies are anything but self-governing as the British continue to repeat before the international community at the United Nations and elsewhere. Unfortunately, some of my colleague dependency leaders have expressed insufficient interest in this inconsistency." - a  British dependency political leader.


TCI News Now

Budget submitted to London

The budget for the period April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014, has been completed and was sent to London for approval late last week. Reportedly, expected government income is $180 million, with expenditure of $170 million, leaving a surplus of $10 million. 

However, most if not all of this surplus, if realised, will go to pay down the debts of the former elected Progressive National Party (PNP) administration led by former premiers Michael Misick and Galmo Williams. It is Misick’s brother, finance minister Washington Misick, who is responsible for the latest budget.

It has been admitted that the single largest budget expense is the cost of health care. However, only primary care is provided for all islanders, with mandatory co-pays. Patients must pay for their own medications and, in most cases, these are only available on Providenciales and Grand Turk at private pharmacies. Secondary care is only available for those working and/or contributing to the National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP), which includes all foreign workers.

Premier Rufus Ewing attempted to address this issue, saying that the government is looking at ways to cover those not qualified under the NHIP. This is estimated to include about one-third of the present belonger population and all illegal residents, who nevertheless effectively pay a significant share of the health care costs as taxpayers, but without enjoying any benefits.

Last year, the territory collected about $45 million extra in penalties and fines from the efforts of the special investigation prosecution team (SIPT) and the civil recovery team (CRT). The largest contributor to this windfall was the Sandals/Beaches group, which paid a fine of $12 million. It is not known why the fine was so high.

The CRT has indicated it does not expect to recover anywhere near such a large amount this year.

Therefore, at this rate, the pay-down of the remaining debts of the last PNP administration will require at least ten more years. However, this does not include the pay-down of the hospitals and health care contract, which will continue to hamstring the government for the next 20 years.

Only new development, which has been missing for nearly ten years, could bring fresh money into the economy. However, with the new higher tax rates, licence fees and other associated fees, it appears that attracting such new economic activity may be a challenge for this and future governments.