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Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
THINK ABOUT IT
LIES! LIES AND DECEIT
They have told us so many lies, that to chronicle them all would take me into next year. Remember sometime ago I wrote a piece detailing that the Emperor had no clothes. These days it is even worst!
They have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar with respect to the payment of money to SIPT. No amount of spin can get “Ric” out of this one! Lord Nigel Jones was one of the first advocates for getting the British Government to pay for the cost of the investigation as he rightly pointed out.
It was their responsibility as they were the administering power and were culpable and negligent! It was only fair then, that they foot the bill for the investigations of the alleged wrongdoings that went on under their noses.
It was after a lot of “humming and hauling” that they eventually agreed to take on the payment for SIPT’s operation and that of the civil recovery team. All of the expenses that were initially incurred and paid for by TCIG were supposed to be reimbursed to TCIG, and going forward, all bills were to be for the account of the UK Government. Come now, as the saying goes “you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”!
I know that my friend Mrs. Lillian Missick, Chairman of the Consultative Forum was totally irate to find out that having stuck her neck out for the Interim Regime, they were cutting the rug from under her feet.
You might not agree with my friend a lot of times, and we too have our disagreements, but when you deliberately put egg on her face, you can be asking for that other side to surface. Even though she tried to smooth it over a bit for public consumption, her choice of words left no one in doubt as to how embarrassed she was for being taken for a ride by these deceivers. It became abundantly clear to her as to why the budget had to be passed in secret. But you can only hide information for a certain time “T”. As the saying goes, “moon runs all night, but day catches it”! Ric, my boy, the sun is shining on you now more than ever. When you have persons that have been squarely in your corner questioning your truthfulness, you are in big trouble and your time is surely being fast spent.
My people, we, from the beginning had no control of what milestones were going to be required of us to meet prior to elections being had.
We have no control as to the time frame of those milestones, but even more critically, when and if they are b being met. However, it is plain for all of us to see that the one that is hardest to be met if ever, is the one concerning a balanced budget. These so-called experts, have been from their very first time that they arrived in our country manipulating and cooking the books. This is the greatest smoke and mirrors exercise that I have ever seen!
These guys are hell-bent on robbing us blind in broad daylight! There is definitely no reason to get the numbers so wrong, if it is one of your primary objective in taking over this country, is to provide, produce and put us on a path of financially sound management. But alas! These guys have not a clue in hell as to what should be done except to be non-transparent and produce straw men that can be shot down when exposed to the light of day.
The other farce and lie that is being perpetrated on us is the one with regards to the money and land supposedly recovered and reclaimed by the Civil Recovery Unit. I have seen some things in my lifetime, but this simply must be the best.
First of all, the $150M that the Governor speaks of is a figment of his fertile imagination! I have said before and it bears repeating here, because these guys continue to try to mislead us. Persons would have a commercial lease that is discounted by between 50 and 75%. Lack of access to the property, the original prospect of a deal having fallen through, are two of the main reasons why that person does not continue to pay the annual rents. These put the property into an arrears of rent situation and lead to the lease being cancelled.
Once the lease is cancelled, the property returns to the TCIG Crown land inventory. These transactions are now being used by the Civil Recovery unit as being acts of recovery, as if someone did something illegal and there were actual repossession! It is these types of operation that this unit is engaged in, and to make matters worse, they are using this to pad the numbers.
But what is the most atrocious part is that they are billing us for 25% of the valuation of the property. There is no money in the Treasury as a result of this farce, but we have to pay them 25%! No wonder why they have the Treasury on lock. We need not know we are paying for no gain whatsoever. There will be no realization of any money unless and until there is a new arrangement for sale. This would end up as a net loss to TCIG and would be one of the added reasons why the Budget would never be balanced!
Let us for one moment be real. The current CFO has come up with a new and revised deficit projection after there was a hue and cry about the last one. But in light of everyday there being a set of new taxes, their numbers still are not adding up and never will! These guys should be sent to the back of the class. Then good old Allan comes in with this old tried and discounted notion that there are still bill in drawers. That is the lamest excuse that he could come up with for the incompetence of his people on the ground! We are not buying that nonsense anymore! The jig is up! Come clean and roll out. Your most ardent previous supporters are running for cover from your policies and pronouncements!Posted Dec 19 2011 IN TURKS AND CAICOS SUN,the leading newspaper in Turks and Caicos Islands.
They are a lot of discussions regarding recovery of Joe Grant through SIPT in Turks and Caicos Islands.
Nobody would like to wait the court decisions.
Is it possible to cover the SIPT costs and fundings through recovery of Joe Grant?Is it true or is it only a story to get the people of TCI calm about the costs and fundings of SIPT?
Or is it an international Scandal?
This Cay is one of the less known cays, and its story came up to the attention of the TCIlanders because of bribe allegations in Turks and Caicos. Dr Kinay, What is Joe Grant Cay?
Joe Grant’s Cay is a beautiful but remote, uninhabited 712 acres cay located in a remote section of the archipelago between Middle Caicos and Easy Caicos. It is accessible only by sea. The last time I took a boat to visit it, it took me 2 hours from Providenciales to get there. This Cay has no dock, no road, no electricity, no water neither any form of other infrastructure. It is inhabited like East Caicos. The cay is composed mainly of consolidated rock with the ocean frontages consisting of either sand or “iron shore”. The elevation is low and the shallow water depths at some parts of the island for do not allow visitors to access other areas. These difficulties do not discourage us, as at the end, when properly developed, this Cay is a beauty.
We have bought 200 Acres of this island on June 20, 2008 from the Crown through a transfer of title executed by the former Governor., Hon Richard Tauwaree and 5 months later on November 7, 2008, the former Governor, Hon. Whetherell has executed a Development Agreement with us for the development of the whole island.
What was the role of you in this project?
When I first came to Turks and Caicos Islands in 2005, I had already my development company O Property Collection in Austria. This company is where I, and my partner Oguz Serim offer our development advice to projects. O Property Collection has, from the first days of this project, ,is acting as “developer” bringing its expertise, in construction, sales, marketing. The center of any development is people. Community is very important. My company’s vision is to create design driven projects. God has already placed a beautiful design for Dellis Cay and Joe Grant Cay, it is now up to us, with respect, to treat these beauties with the best architecture and standards there is.
What do you want to develop on this island Joe Grant?
We wanted to develop the island with an environmentally friendly small Hotel and then Homes in the natural surroundings. We have retained top environmental engineers from Florida, and we started immediately the process of Environment Impact Assessment. We designed our project with a high-class architect from italy, and have signed a brand and management Indent with a very famous brand. The most important consideration though is that this will be a low density and green development.
When you first heard of Joe Grant Cay? How did you get involved?
I first got interested in Joe Grant Cay In December 2006 when I was informed that negotiations with some developers for a proposed project on Joe Grant’s Cay had run into difficulties and I was asked whether I could be interested to take this development further. The Government already had a price for sale on the Cay, US$5 million according to a formal offer that the former Government had placed before the previous developers in November 2006. My initial views for the Cay was that it was a remote location, no infrastructure and it involved Crown Land, and that meant the need of a Belonger Partner. I was not familiar with this process as my first investment Dellis Cay, is a private transaction and does not involve any Crown Land.
Did you know any of the previous developers?
I understand from the discussions in the past years that there were a number of developers who wanted to take this Cay prior to my involvement in early 2007. I do not know and have never done any business with the gentleman named at the discussions at the Commission of Inquiry,. whether in relation to Joe Grant’s Cay or otherwise.
Who is you local/belonger partner by Joe Grant?
I was already heavily engaged in our Dellis Cay project, and having regard to the Crown land policy (of which I was then aware), I thought it sensible to have a belonger partner in the development. In that respect, a company called Oceanic Development Ltd owned by Don Gardiner became my partner. I respected Don very much whom I already knew socially. As you may recall he was the President of the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourism Board. I understood that Don was involved in the development prospects of Joe Grant Cay with the previous developers so he was very familiar with it. We have executed a Joint Venture Agreement with Don’s company in January 2007, and became partners in a company called Caicos Platinum Ltd, a company that was the recipient of the first formal offer of US$5 million from the Government back in November 2006.
When did you buy Joe Grant Cay?
See, that has never happened. We did not buy Joe Grant Cay. We bought the freehold of the 200 acres of Joe Grant Cay, and the rest (512 acres) is provided to us by a Conditional Purchase Lease through a development Agreement. I am not sure whether you followed it, but this island was first offered at US$5 million to Caicos Platinum Ltd, when that company was owned by previous developers. Then, 200 Acres of it (approximately 30%) was offered to us at $2 million in early June 2008, by the decision of Cabinet, led by His Excellency the Governor Richard Tauwaree. At the specific instance of the Government (and with some reluctance on our part given the risk to which we were thus being exposed in advance of the conclusion of a development agreement), we were asked to close the purchase of the 200 acres hotel parcel on an urgent basis, apparently because of very low cash flow issues at Government level. Having agreed to do so, the Governor again changed its mind, obtained a new valuation by a third-party QS and informed us on June 19th, 2008 that the price of the hotel parcel had been increased to $3.2 million. We paid that price for 200 Acres and bought a portion of Joe Grant Cay on June 20th, 2008 on de day of Groundbreaking ceremonies of Dellis Cay.Governor Hon. Tauwaree came in the afternoon to this ceremonies,was very happy,that Joe Grant deal was finally closed after 1,5 years of negotiations.He congratulated me on the day,the funds of the transaction was in the account of government.
What about the Development Agreement?
You know, it took us almost 2 years from the first discussions, but 5 months after our acquisition of the 200 Acre parcel, in November 2008 to get a Development Agreement. I am not sure whether you re know but The Governor executes all major agreements on behalf of the Government. So, Governor HE Gordon Wetherell, and our CEO, Director, Michel Neutelings have met for the execution of the Development Agreement.
Dr, Is there anything special in the Agreement?
All development agreements in Turks and Caicos Islands, usually have more or less the same provisions. However, we have an additional obligation on our part to pay 15% on the gross amount on the sale of villa lots in the development to the Crown. I am not privy to all development agreements in TCI but I am not personally aware of any other development agreement which contains an obligation of that nature. From the standpoint of the public, it is clear that if my partners and I make a major investment on Joe Grant’s Cay such that the price which a buyer might pay for a villa lot is greatly enhanced, the Government receives a corresponding benefit without any of the business risks undertaken by the developer. Joe Grant Cay was going to be a new source of income for the TCI Government and TCI islanders. This remote and inhabited island was going to be the home for a new hospitality project providing new jobs and opportunities for everyone. I would imagine that most of the ex Middle Caicos residents would returned to their home from their present endeavors in Providenciales. In summary, this project had a very important social aspect. I have on many occasions discussed these aspects with both Honorable Governors Tauwahare and Whetherel.
There were discussions about the valuation? What you have to say on it?
Look, I am a developer, a businessmen. I got interested in this deal as the 712 Acres was available at US$5 million to a number of developers who apparently did not perform. I wanted to buy at this price. At the end, I have negotiated more than 18 months to get 30% of this cay at US$3.2 million. I took a significant risk by paying that price and closing that purchase without having a signed development agreement with TCIG, with no guarantee that we could carry out our development plan or acquire the rest of the Cay. I trusted to Governor Hon.Tauwahare and later on to Governor Hon.Whetherel.
Now coming to the valuations, I understand from the Inquiry that under the leadership of the HE Governor Tauwaree himself, the Cabinet has sought a number of conflicting valuations both from their own valuation department and from a private commercial appraiser on June 2008. They have as the Cabinet, together with HE the Governor, have decided to take the valuation of the commercial appraiser as it reflected the market value.
Now, the question is why did they not picked the high value but the low value?
My answer is that the valuation of the land is obviously a matter for the Crown and for experts in that field. That is why I have hired some of the leading experts in this field to assist me. What they say is simple: the Valuation officer has attempted to value this property by direct comparison to couple at Ambergris Cay, and sale listings from marketing brochures (and not actual transactions) at North Caicos Marina and Middle Caicos. I am told that those comparable do not come near being appropriate for the purposes of valuing Joe Grant Cay.
At Ambergris Cay, for example, lot sizes of between 0.32 – 1.85 acres each are compared to our project of 700 acres. In addition, Ambergris Cay forms part of an established luxury brand, and considerable expenditure has been undertaken on the extensive infrastructure. I do not know if you know but Ambergis Cay has all its utilities underground, electricity and water, It is the only island in this country which has an underground sewer system. Everything is self-generated on the island, water making, the treatment of the sewer system. It has even an uncompleted marina that is not completed but obviously a port facility) including the inclusion of the biggest private runway (6,000 feet) in the Caribbean. Overall Ambergis Cay it is a self-sufficient island that has all of the amenities and can function, unlike North and Middle Caicos which has to have power on the sea cable from Providenciales. North Caicos Yacht Club is also a developed property, so no parallels to undeveloped land neither. We also understand that the value r has used “sales brochure prices” in 2008. The Middle Caicos comparative is based on a sales listing as well, which was withdrawn from the market after 22 months listing period and not sold.
Now, that is what experts say. These will all come out soon. Now if you ask me what I personally think. To me, the real valuation is what I paid. Our company paid US$18 million to Dellis Cay, a 500 acres island, of which 200 Acre is private land. Dellis Cay is only 20 minutes from Leeward Highway, it had PPC Electricity cable in it, for plenty of electricity, and it is next to world-renowned Parrot Cay. I think that we have paid for the 200 Acres at Joe Grant Cay reflects the fair market price at its present state and that is “undeveloped” land at a remote location for commercial use. That is what it is.
Later on, we have asked both local and international professional valuation firms to conduct a fgull analysis and report an official valuation of this island. All these reports have confirmed the value that we have paid to Joe Grant Cay’s 200 acres and the lease agreements that we have entered with the TCI Government. In any case, after the World Economical Crisis starting in November 2008 and onwards land values have significantly eroded all around the world and especially the Caribbean.
But Dr Kinay what is the benefit of this Project to the TCIslanders? What do they get?
Look,the government did not simply sell a piece of land, they entered into a development agreement for the development of that land. If I can not develop it on time, and spend the money that the Government wants me to spend on it, than they will get back. It is in the Agreement. It is ours as long as we spend money on it. You know how much? My Development Agreement says I need to spend US$120 million on this cay in a fixed period of time. We estimated that the construction will take 2 years and create at least 150 new local jobs. Once the island is fully operational it will require at least 70 locals to manage it. As I have already mentioned, in addition to the purchase price of the land of the hotel site, we will pay 15% of our Villa sales on the 300 Acre Villa Lots and this goes straight to the Government’s budget. Not to mention, the usual development agreement obligations such as the Annual Scholarship payments, duties, work permit fees, the rents paid under the leases, stamp duty benefits accruing to TCIG arising out of sales in the development and the boost to the tourism economy of TCI.
Dr Kinay, you lost a court case concerning Joe Grant Cay June 2011? What will happen now?
I received the Turks and Caicos Islands Court’s judgment in June 2011 concerning Joe Grant Cay. I also received TCIG’s Press Release from July 2011. The judgement is grossly unfair and Joe Grant Cay development companies are currently appealing it. I could not afford lawyers as Turks and Caicos Islands Courts have frozen all my worldwide assets not allowing me to spend any funds towards my right to defend myself and my companies. Looking at the Judgment, in essence, His Hon. Justice G W Martin has concluded in connection with the political donation of $500,000 made by Dellis Cay’s parent company Turks Development LP (the Court states the donation was from ‘Dr Kinay’) to Michael Misick on 9 January 2007, the Judge found (paragraph 33) “there to be a very strong probability that the money was paid as a bribe in order to ensure that the Defendant companies obtained the benefit of the proposed development” disregarding the facts that the Defendant companies did not even exist at that time, and that the donation was made by Turks Development LP, a company developing Dellis Cay, not related in any way to Joe Grant Cay . His Hon Judge further observed (paragraph 41): “I emphasise that this judgment should not be treated as a conclusive finding that any individual has acted corruptly. Nobody should be declared corrupt if he has not had the opportunity to defend himself at trial, and that has not happened in this case.’ These statements did not make the Judgment just and fair, the basic principle of law.
On the matter of Joe Grant Cay’s valuation, His Hon Justice completely ignored the Government’s valuation report obtained from BCQS, an independent commercial appraiser who valued 200 acres of Joe Grant Cay, at USD 3.2 million for commercial use, exactly the amount of money asked by the Government in June 2008, which the development companies have paid in full. His Hon Judge ruled (Para 36, The Judgement) ‘When instructing BCQS to give an alternative valuation, McAllister Hanchell did not tell them of the proposed development, so that their valuation made no allowance for the intended use of the land.’. The Learned Chief Justice has failed to recognize that BCQS valuation report specifically stated on Page 7 Item 3.5 ‘It is assumed that planning permission is available for the subdivision of the land for residential plots or for a commercial use.’ By ignoring BCQS’s clear statement specifying that Joe Grant Cay valuation report is prepared for “commercial use”, The Hon. Chief Justice presented an unbalanced approach for the benefit of the Plaintiff. The Court’s omission of BCQS’s written representations in their valuation report is not something that I can live with and we will be pursuing the reasons for this material error.
First, the Commission of Inquiry’s publication of unredacted Final Report despite the TCI Supreme Court’s Order not to publish the unredacted Final Report cost Dellis Cay its business and caused the funders to pull their finances, now Joe Grant Cay Development companies are striped of their rightfully obtained assets.
It is clear to me that there is a set political agenda which is geared to restructure the political landscape at the Turks and Caicos Islands and we are chosen as the main victims.
I repeat categorically that I reject all accusations, and state that we are innocent
For those who doubt that the Development of Joe Grant Cay is not innocent, I have only one question:
Had the alleged privileges, favors or better conditions been present in the acquisition of 200 acres of this island, or in the Development Agreement, why both Hon. Governor Tauwhare, and the present Hon. Governor Whetherell would have executed these on behalf of the Crown?
Both Hon Governors are experienced public officials, with history of making land transactions, and executing Development Agreements on behalf of the Crown. Why did they approve these transactions if the preferential treatment was all over the documents that they have signed?
All these contracts, and 200 acres land sale were approved by the Attorney General, TCI Invest, Ministers, the Premier, and executed by 2 Hon. Governors. The Government and both Hon. Governors had 2 years to conduct due diligence. Do you really believe that they were all ‘deceived’? and did not know what they were selling? That is the real question the Turks and Caicos Public must ask.
I have faith in the law, and I will look for justice until I find it.
What are your long-term goals in Turks and Caicos Islands?
Now a new Governor is appointed as you know.His Excellency Hon.Todd is a very positive person and has a new approach for TCI.I will explain him following:
I did not come to Turks and Caicos Islands, to do few projects and go back to anywhere. I will stay and work here for many years. When Dellis Cay and Joe Grant Cay will one time open, my children, together with the young generation of Turks and Caicos Islands, will be proud of having these developments, in remote locations and will have fun.TCI er will be proud about it too.
It is also not right,to tell TCI Islander,the government recovered Joe Grant.It is not true.We have still our appeal open and when we will again lose because of the pressure of Attorney General,SIPT,TCI Government etc,we will go to the international courts for this injustice.
God bless TCI.
16 December 2011
Statement from Chairman Lillian Misick on SIPT costs and funding
Pursuant to my statement during Tuesday’s session of the Consultative Forum I met with the Governor and CFO late yesterday afternoon (15 December) to discuss the costs of and funding for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme.
Some of you will have already read the statement His Excellency Governor Ric Todd issued on Wednesday addressing these matters.
In short, he stated that:
1. Combined costs of the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme will be approximately $11 million each year;
2. Both are expected to run for three years;
3. The total costs (of approximately $33 million) have been abated by a $10 million payment by the UK government; and
4. The remaining costs (of approximately $23 million) will be paid out of proceeds from the Civil Recovery Programme.
Yet I was constrained to explain to the Governor that, although he adequately laid out the costs and identified what he believes is a potential source of funding, he did not address the cause of the confusion that prevailed in the Forum on Tuesday, or cite what I believe should be the actual source of funding for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme.
In short, the cause of this confusion stems from the fact that:
1. Sir Robin Auld, who headed the Commission of Inquiry that lead to the creation of the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme, and Helen Garlick, who heads the SIPT, both expressed grave concern that, if the TCIG were made responsible, the budgeted costs of SIPT would amount to more than 10% of the TCIG’s budget.
Specifically, Ms Garlick warned in November 2009 that this raised the:
“…real prospect that there will be months when the SIPT’s expenses and salaries will be met, whilst [those of] TCIG government servants […] will not. [I]n my view this is wrong in principle [and] it is hardly likely to help us to win and maintain essential public support “;
2. Ms Garlick persisted in March 2010, even after the UK abatement the Governor referenced in his statement, that:
“I continue to register my extreme concern at the financial position and at the consequences of the fact that, against our wishes, the SIPT is now a major burden upon the budget of the TCIG”;
3. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) echoed Garlick’s concern in its March 2010 report as follow:
“We share the Special Prosecutor’s concern that there is an important principle at stake as to who should fund the work of the SIPT. The UK Government, having intervened in the Turks and Caicos Islands, has a responsibility to follow through with the required financial commitment. Not to do so would be to risk the UK Government’s credibility in its use of reserved powers… It is unreasonable to expect the small population of the TCI to bear the financial burden, through debt or taxation, for funding the investigation and prosecution of corruption for which they were not responsible. We recommend that the UK Government fully fund the work of the SIPT or risk severely undermining its own credibility in its use of reserved powers, both in the TCI and in all the Overseas Territories”; and
4. Foreign Secretary William Hague proffered in his March 2011 Ministerial statement that all Overseas Territories should fund their own investigations and prosecutions. But he demurred, instructively, by adding that “this is an exceptional case”, and then echoed the FAC’s concern as follows:
“Most importantly, and mindful of the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have approved a discretionary grant of £6.6m to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to reimburse the costs incurred in the past year pursuing corruption and violent crime. This is for the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team; related civil recovery work; and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police. My officials have coordinated this carefully with DFID’s work to underpin the Territory’s public finances… Territories should not look to the UK to fund criminal investigations or prosecutions that they are reluctant to pursue themselves. But the burden in this case has been exceptional”.
I explained to the Governor that a fair reading of this Ministerial statement alone could (and did) lead our people to infer that Mr Hague was in fact making an exception for UK funding in our case. Moreover, that, recognizing the UK’s own responsibility for creating the need for the SIPT and Civil Recovery Programme, he intended this exception to last for the full term of their work, not just for one year as the Governor seems to have inferred.
That said, I believe it is incumbent upon UK government officials to reconcile what appears to be confusion within their ranks in this regard. And in so doing, I urge them to heed the admonition of the FAC; i.e., “that the UK Government [must as a matter of generally accepted principle] fully fund the work of the SIPT”.
Which of course means that the UK should pay not with recovered funds it allowed to be ostentatiously misappropriated from our treasury, but with funds from its own treasury. And the members of the Forum and I shall be vigilant in entreating the UK Government to do just that.
Chairman TCI Consultative Forum
HERE THE STATEMENT OF CHAIRWOMAN LILLIAN MISICK WITHOUT ANY COMMENT
Fellow members and citizens of the TCI – as this is the last session of the Consultative Forum for the year, I feel obliged to offer some remarks in my capacity as Chair.
2011 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In short, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis.
Many of you will no doubt recognize my allusion here to Her Majesty’s famous Guildhall speech in 1992. In her case, though, she was merely referring to the personal woes that had befallen the House of Windsor – ranging from the breakdown of her children’s marriages to the burning down of Windsor Castle itself.
By contrast I’m referring to the national woes that have befallen our nation this year – ranging from the recent arrest of former government ministers on charges of corruption to the imposition onerous taxes and fees that have us feeling as though we are paying fines for the crimes those ministers allegedly committed.
But, as we are fast approaching the dawn of a new year, I think it is best to look forward and not dwell too much on the past.
This brings me to the parental role the British are playing by implementing structural reforms to help us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. But let me hasten to clarify that I use the term parental advisedly.
For, on the one hand, far too many of our people seem oblivious to the fact that, even though our country is known these days as a British Overseas Territory, we are still for all intents and purposes a British Dependent Territory. And nothing demonstrates this quite like our having to rely on the British government not just to prosecute our crooked politicians, but also to bail us out of the financial black hole we got ourselves into.
On the other hand, far too many of our British overseers seem oblivious to the fact that they are partially responsible for creating and, by current accounts, now deepening that black hole. And nothing demonstrates this quite like British officials not just ignoring for years the alarms some of us were sounding about the corruption they are now trying to clean up, but also reporting recently that our national debt has almost tripled from $71 million to $200 million all under their fiscal management.
This latter point is especially noteworthy because it also reinforces what I have been trying to impress upon the British for some time now: namely, that some of us may be able to offer far better advice on solving our economic problems than the British experts who have been retained to do so.
Apropos of this, I urge them to hire one of our certified public accountants to replace the expatriate Chief Auditor who I gather was summarily fired yesterday under what can only be described as dubious circumstances.
All the same, I am pleased to report that the UK minister for Overseas Territories, Mr Henry Bellingham, now seems committed to developing a relationship between the UK and TCI that is defined by mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual appreciation. He demonstrated this by inviting Advisory Council member Theo Durham and me to join Governor Todd as TCI delegates at a conference in London a few weeks ago, which was aimed at redefining the UK’s relationship with its Overseas Territories.
I must say it was both humbling and heartening that the heads of all of the other territories expressed abiding sympathy with our plight and shared their hope for our return to local rule as soon as practicable. But we need only reflect on how inured the British were to outside criticisms (constructive and otherwise) over the suspension of our constitution in the first place to appreciate the folly of looking to others to help us define our relationship with them.
In any case, it was with this profound awareness that I shared my views with Mr Bellingham and other UK officials on what is necessary to forge a more collaborative relationship going forward.
As a general proposition I admonished them that no number of structural reforms can ever compensate for the spirit of distrust and alienation of goodwill that are growing between us.
I informed them that this distrust and alienation will only grow as long as our people have just cause to regard transparency and consultation as nothing but empty words. And it does not help in this respect that every aspect of our lives is being governed these days from behind closed doors by a gaggle of UK advisers who now populate every nook and cranny of our local government.
I pointed out, for example, that mere token consultation with forum members would have spared the British the public spectacle that attended the announcement of their civil service voluntary redundancy scheme. Not least because even I, in my capacity as head of the Business Development Center, would have urged them to consult with local businesses throughout the islands to see how many affected civil servants could be placed in private jobs.
Instead, the British displayed the very kind of administrative incompetence they decried in the local leaders they are now prosecuting. Because, after insisting that all of the points in this scheme were duly assessed within the context of meeting the increasingly elusive milestone of a balanced budget, all it took was a little protest to force them to double the lump sum ear-marked for weekly paid workers.
By the way, I think it’s important to state here for the record that, despite the highly publicized strikes that a fraction of our civil servants mounted recently, the vast majority of us understand and fully support the ongoing effort to right size our civil service. We just regret the seemingly haphazard way the British are going about it.
Continuing on, I explained to Mr Bellingham and others that it sends an untenable neo-colonial message that not one TC Islander is amongst the many advisers the UK has retained for everything from drafting constitutional and electoral reforms to formulating our crown land policy. Moreover, that when this slight is coupled with the gratuitous insult of their refusal to re-appoint a TC Islander as deputy governor our people can be forgiven the prevailing suspicion that the British impute to all of us the corruption and incompetence that led to the arrest of so many of our government ministers. I submitted, with all due respect, that ascribing collective guilt in this fashion is as unfair as it is unsustainable.
On a more practical note I stressed, amongst other things, the need for public financing of elections, a greater nexus between education scholarships and the skills needed to grow our economy, and reform of our professional associations, suggesting in each case ways in which the UK can provide substantial support.
I concluded by lamenting that what the British are doing in the TCI these days seems geared more towards limiting their contingent liabilities than towards empowering us to govern ourselves. And, sure enough, Mr Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development, went out of his way to reinforce this point during his visit here last week.
But be that as it may, the prevailing point I made at that conference is the point I’ve been making to the British from day one of this interim administration, and it’s the point I wish to reiterate today, which is that their blueprint to ensure good governance and sound fiscal management will never be worth the paper it’s written on if they do not interact with us more as mentors and partners than as overseers and bankers.
Having said all that, I am confident we shall overcome all of the interpersonal and structural challenges we face. I am particularly encouraged in this regard by the commitment Governor Todd has undertaken to learn from past mistakes.
For there can be no denying that if the British had heeded my public pleas to empower this body to play a more meaningful role in drafting legislation, holding public officials to account, and making government decisions more transparent there would not be nearly as much apprehension and restiveness amongst our people towards them today. Not to mention that we would not be experiencing the gravity-defying distress of paying more and more in taxes only to see our national debt going up and up.
There is still confusion, suspicion and frustration hanging like dark clouds over the TCI Bank, Provo Stevedoring, the Shore Club, and Interhealth Canada. I am convinced however that these are just a few of the controversial matters we could have been instrumental in resolving some time ago.
But no matter our disaffection over the way the British are treating us, nor our disappointment over the way they are managing our affairs, there is simply no excuse for the epidemic of apathy and cynicism that is spreading amongst our people. It will not do, for example, for us to protest in the streets about constitutional reforms when virtually none of us can even be bothered to submit suggestions on what constitutes the best path to TCI citizenship.
Finally, my wish for the New Year is that this body will be duly empowered to fulfill its mandate to advise the governor on government affairs, to represent the interests and concerns of TC Islanders in the drafting of legislation and formulation of new policies, and to communicate to our people – in an informed manner – not just what this interim administration is doing but, more importantly, how what this interim administration is doing impacts our lives.
Hope springs eternal.
Forum Chair Statement on Funding of SIPT
Fellow members, it speaks volumes about the communication and transparency we are getting from this interim administration that an expenditure so fundamental as the funding of the SIPT could be shrouded in the type of confusion that was plainly manifest in this body this morning.
To say that we have been given mixed messages in this respect is to put as charitable a spin on this matter as I can muster.
Suffice it to know however that I shall seek a meeting with the governor and the FCO within the next 24 hours and so that I can issue a clarifying statement on the funding of the SIPT by the end of business on Thursday.
But members and the general public should be advised that we are referring in this instance only to the funding of the SIPT and civil recovery team, not to the UK advisers – all of whom the CEO and permanent secretary for finance confirmed just days ago are being funded by the UK government.