Dellis Cay Groundbreaking in June 2008.
Please click on the link and watch the video.
Date: 18 February 2013
By: Floyd Hall
Subject: Duty Concessions
It was a fascinating read for me going through the Development Order entered into by the Government of the Turks & Caicos Islands and West Caicos Development Company. This was particularly so given that at the Commission of Inquiry of 2009 and the past Interim Administration no effort was speared by the Commissioner and the British big wigs in branding these types of concessions offered by the then PNP Administration as being corrupt and damaging to the people of the Turks & Caicos Islands. In fact, I can still hear the constant refrains from the British folks that included: “because of the concessions offered by the former PNP Administration the country is broke; because of the former PNP Administration the country has lost millions of dollars in revenue; or because of the concessions offered by the previous administration we have to cut cost.”
Those refrains became so monotonous that I think some people begun to tune them out. However, those statements served their purpose well for they cultivated a diabolical and malicious narrative that fed into the notion that the PNP Administration was corrupt and that those investors who were associated with that administration or benefitted in any way from duty concessions offered by that government were likewise corrupt and ought to be held to account. Others harped on the chorus to draw erroneous conclusions that as ministers in government, we stole from the Government’s Treasury or sold the country out.
Needless to say that to jump to such a conclusion was a huge leap especially given that all Development Orders had to be processed through the Attorney General’s Office and ultimately approved by the Cabinet where the British Attorney General set as legal counsel and the Governor set as President. It would appear to me now that for the British, the only thing that mattered was for the elected government of the day to be destroyed and if it were necessary to brand the activities of that government as being corrupt in spite of the vast level of prosperity that it brought to our shores then so be it.
As far as the British representatives were concerned, they had the “support” of the people of the Turks & Caicos Islands to go after us and that they did. They obliterated our Constitution and cast us all as a group of misfits, saved for the few that they picked out to sit on their appointed bodies. Consequently by their actions or, in some cases inaction, they brought our economy to a screeching halt.
A different tale of sorts is now evolving in the Turks & Caicos Islands today. The sinister plot of the British representatives is gradually being exposed. Even those who were in the minority calling out for the British suspension of our Constitution and to take control over our country are beginning to see that this was a monumental mistake. The gross incompetence of some of these British representatives is wreaking havoc on our country daily. We now have a Governor who thinks he is the law; an Attorney General who is absent more often than he is present (both physically and mentally) and law suits that appear to have no end. One has to ask the question these days, was it worth it? Or, are we any better off for what we have had to endure?
Getting back to the issue of duty concessions, I must say that I support the West Caicos Development Group getting its concession. Likewise, I support the concessions that we gave during our time in office to the Seven Stars, Grace Bay Club, The Regent Group of Companies, Third Turtle Club, the Salt Cay Group, Dellis Cay, Beaches, The Veranda and many other foreign investment entities that came to our shores during that period. These concessions are a necessity in small island economies such as ours.
As a small developing country, we have to remain cognizant that we operate in a competitive environment both regionally and internationally. Within the fifty states of the U.S. there is fiscal competitiveness constantly. Texas competes with California for corporate business, New York with New Jersey and there are countless other areas of competiveness. China competes with the U.S with Trade and technology, Hong Kong competes with New York and the City of London. We operate in a competitive universe and elected governments need control of their fiscal policy to make their countries’ economies competitive.
We offer tourism as our main product. Unless we are attractive to foreign investment, it will go elsewhere for certain. Investors everywhere look at the rate of return on their dollars invested and to help them in selecting the TCI for their investment the cost of doing business on our shores is a huge factor in the calculation. That is why we need to remain nimble to adjust to variations in the market place to maintain our competitive edge.
But in meeting the foreign investor’s need for concessions, we cannot forget our indigenous Turks & Caicos Islanders. That is why I am particularly proud of the concessions that our government gave to our local Turks & Caicos Islanders. These included generous concessions to the taxi drivers, the tour boat operators, the owners of apartments, on the fixed assets for commercial businesses, the local car rental agencies, the cargo brokers dealing with bulk material and the list goes on and on. The only criterion that was necessary by my office was that you had to be a Turks & Caicos Islander who was engaged in a business endeavor in our country. The benefits that were given went equally to persons of all walks of life, regardless of political persuasion or color of one’s skin.
Some will quickly say that as a small country we cannot afford these concessions. In fact that is exactly what some of the British pundits said. However, they failed to take into account that had it not been for those concessions many of the properties that we now call development and are contributing heavily to our revenues in the form of accommodation tax, departure tax and import duties would not be here today. Likewise, had we not given concessions to our local businessmen, they would not be the owners of businesses in our country either. Therefore, it would be a huge mistake to look at the concessions in isolation. While concessions must be tempered with reason and balance, they do serve an important function to stimulate or maintain both local and foreign investment.
Our party is indeed very proud of our initiative with duty concessions as well as the others we made in tertiary education, health and Crown land. Before our administration, these areas were beyond the reach of our people on this scale. Many Turks & Caicos Islanders were able to get their businesses started and have remained successfully engaged in their companies to this very day. Some, however, are holding on by a “wing and a prayer” hoping for the construction industry to rebound. Nevertheless they are grateful for the opportunity from our government and expressions of gratitude are given by some to us regularly.
Unfortunately for some of the foreign developers who benefitted from duty concessions during this period, the British Interim Administration rewarded them by assessing heavy penalties simply because they supported our political party with campaign contributions. They have been criminalized or at the very least had their once impeccable reputations besmirched. This is patently unfair to these developers as they were properly entitled to support the political party of their choosing with whatever amount they wished under the prevailing laws of our country at the time. These developers were responsible in part for the exponential growth that our country enjoyed during this period. Many of these developments today are beacons of success for the Turks & Caicos Islands like the Seven Stars. Companies like these are a source of pride for Turks & Caicos Islanders who enjoy employment there. Regrettably, developments like the Salt Cay Group that could have been the gem for Salt Cay residents or Dellis Cay which could have provided invaluable opportunities for the people of North and Middle Caicos had to perish in this ill-conceived exercise by the British.
It is my understanding that some of these developers decided to settle their issues with the SIPT even though they felt that they could win legally but rather than being dragged through an arduous and litigious fight in the courts, they chose to exit this way. For some they settled even if it meant falsely admitting to being culpable to some form of impropriety with the government. For others I understand that no admission was necessary with their settlement.
Regardless of the situation, it seems to me that good governance is only dispensed when duty concessions or other governmental activities are undertaken by the British representatives to our shores. The question now for all indigenous Turks & Caicos Islanders is, are we back to those days when only those who come to our shores could receive a benefit from the government?
You be the judge!
House of Assembly votes to repeal VAT, final decision rest with Governor Todd the Dictator
Published in TCI POST on 01st February
The House of Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to repeal the VAT law…………
The Governor put himself in a very awkward position regarding the VAT Bill. It was unprofessional, undiplomatic and dictatorial for him to publicly announced before the elections that an elected government cannot repeal VAT.
Now the governor has his his ego to protect and no doubt would use his considerable offensive colonial powers under the TCI British imposed constitution to veto the bill repealing VAT.
Nevertheless the government and the opposition did the right thing in voting for the repeal of VAT. The only voice in the House of Assembly that argued against repealing the bill was the governor’s appointed member Lillian Misick.
Should the Governor veto this bill whether with the advice of the Secretary of state or or his own accord, it is likely to trigger a series of events which could see civil disobedience on one hand or a spirited diplomatic effort to ensure that the bill is repealed.
The Minister of Finance stated that if the bill is not repealed that he would refused to enforce the law as it relates to VAT. I have no confidence in this approach although I wholeheartedly admire the tenacity of the Minister of Finance.
The trio of the Governor, the AG and the CFO will just do what they do best. They will intimidate and threaten civil servants to enforce VAT. The Governor made it clear in a recent press release that the TCI is jointly governed by him and the PNP. This is a clear admission by the governor that there are two governments performing at the same time in the TCI.
So folks the fight is far from over, in fact it has just began. John Glasgow
Statement on VAT by Hon. Lillian Misick
I served as Chair of the Consultative Forum during the public consultation process and legislative enactment phase for the implementation VAT in the TCI. Therefore I am very familiar with the procedural and substantive issues involved.
This gives me standing to assert the following without fear of any (fact-based) contradiction:
· VAT was the subject of thorough study and vigorous public debate for almost two years (beginning March 2011).
· With the UK publication of a Green Paper in April 2012 and a White Paper in July 2012, local political and business leaders, as well as ordinary residents, were given more than enough opportunity and time to express their views and concerns.
· Between 11 May and 7 June 2012 British officials conducted “a series of public meetings for people to learn more about value-added taxes expected to begin April 1, 2013” (Free Press, Thursday 10 May 2012).
· Business leaders (predominantly expatriate) expressed visceral opposition to VAT from the outset and executed a vigilant anti-VAT campaign throughout.
· The PNP are on record opposing VAT as early as July 2012. British authorities have been exhorting them since then to produce a viable alternative. PNP leaders have yet to do so….
· “Acting Gov. Patrick Boyle signed value-added taxes into law July 19, accepting several suggestions from the Consultative Forum and pledging to make more changes before VAT is implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands on April 1.” (Free Press, 19 July 2012)
· The PDM are not on record opposing it until just weeks before the November elections.
To be fair and, more importantly, to keep our people properly informed, it is imperative to bear these facts in mind when discussing, and reporting on, VAT.
That said, let me assert for the record that I believe VAT is the best system of taxation for the TCI. Moreover, nobody can deny that that our current system – with its exemptions and loopholes that favor the rich – imposes an unfair and unsustainable burden on poor and middle-class TCIslanders.
But, like legislators of good faith in any Commonwealth country, I relied on the findings in thoroughly researched Green and White Papers in voting for VAT. I was also persuaded by the fact that several countries in our region, including Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua, established long ago that VAT is the most equitable, efficient and economically viable system of taxation for them.
By contrast, I remain stupefied by the failure of those opposing VAT to accept the UK government’s entreaty to come up with a fairer and more sustainable system of taxation. And since they will have had over two years to do so, their requests for a delay in the April 2013 implementation of VAT smacks of irresponsible contrivance not worthy of comment.
Nonetheless, I was bemused by the report in your lead article yesterday that “the fight against the imposition of value added tax (VAT) in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has now produced an unusual bipartisan unified front by the government and the opposition”.
After all, this is even more plainly futile than the UK and Denmark forming a unified front to fight against the implementation of the euro. Not to mention that this opposition against the implementation of VAT strikes me as just more of the same feckless defiance that characterized opposition to the suspension of our Constitution.
But surely our leaders should have learnt by now that merely hurling neo-colonial epithets at the British does not constitute effective local leadership. (Like President Obama said yesterday in his second inauguraladdress “we cannot … treat name calling as reasoned debate”.) More to the point, their antic disposition will do little to build the partnership with the UK that is so indispensable to our political viability and economic solvency.
As a case in point, I entreated local political leaders throughout the three-year interim period to work with us in the Consultative Forum to enhance our leverage in negotiations with the British. But instead of doing so they wallowed in some parallel universe where they felt it was more effective to dismiss the Forum as illegitimate and those serving in it as traitors.
This gave rise to their impudent pledges to repeal laws the Forum duly enacted. Indeed, the irony is that, where our Constitution granted the British the authority do everything they have done in the TCI, it does not grant our local leaders the authority to repeal or nullify anything. Alas, this irony seems completely lost on them.
Which brings me to my final, and perhaps most salient, comment:
As much as I sympathize with the frustrations and feelings of inefficacy amongst local leaders, I fear that they have not served our people well by continually vacillating between defiance and victimhood in their dealings with the British.
I note, for example, that finance minister Hon. Washington Misick has been quoted saying that VAT “is being forced down our throats” (CNN, 17 January 2013); whereas the uncontroverted facts delineated above make clear that nothing could be further from the truth.
By contrast I can cite numerous occasions when, in lobbying our British Governor and the head of all Overseas Territories to further the interests of TCIslanders, I had just cause to criticize the UK government. They never failed to accept my criticisms in a spirit of collegiality and, on more than a few occasions, made concessions pursuant to them.
Frankly, our local leaders are going to have to come to terms with the fact that we are still a UK Overseas Territory. Otherwise, their administrative impotence will be surpassed only by their political incompetence.
Apropos of this, I am acutely mindful that the PNP ran on a platform of independence. Therefore, it is stupefying that, instead of engaging the British to chart the course towards TCI independence, PNP leaders (often in concert with opposition PDM leaders) have done little more than complain about the way the British are exercising the authority duly vested in them by our Constitution.
Incidentally, like the enlightened people of Bermuda, I believe TCIslanders have far more to lose by becoming independent than we have to gain.
But it reeks of hypocrisy and cowardliness for local officials to continue mouthing rhetoric about independence without taking any steps towards it. Especially since they know full well that, far from standing in their way, the UK would be all too happy to cut the colonial chord of obligation that makes it, in effect, the parent of now notoriously unruly and ungrateful children.
In the meantime the only way our local leaders will earn the respect they clearly covet is if they begin showing more respect for the constitutional authority the British have to ensure good governance and sound management of our public finances.
They should beware, though, that if they push for independence, they might end up leading a parade with no one marching behind them.
New tax creates political unity in Turks and Caicos
Published on January 21, 2013
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — The fight against the imposition of value added tax (VAT) in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has now produced an unusual bipartisan unified front by the government and the opposition.
While government supporters, including former Progressive National Party (PNP) candidate Royal Robinson, have gone public with an appeal for unity against Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which promoted the VAT legislation in the first place and has since rejected requests for a delay in its imposition, resistance to VAT had not so far generated any political unity.
All this changed on Saturday, when Premier Rufus Ewing invited Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright Robinson to join in a press conference on the issue of VAT. While both parties both oppose VAT, this is where they begin and end on the matter, however.
VAT is the means implemented by the former interim government last year to raise taxes to pay down the $260 million loan guaranteed by Britain. In fact, this was restated in last Monday’s Appropriations Committee meeting by chief financial officer Hugh McGarel Groves. It was also repeated in a letter sent last Monday to Ewing from Mark Simmonds, Britain’s minister for the Overseas Territories, who rejected a request for a delay in the imposition of VAT in the TCI and confirmed that the new tax will take effect as planned on April 1, absent a credible alternative.
The PNP government feels that VAT is not enough and has complained strongly that it is not a democratically imposed tax. However, the government wants to impose other taxes, which will raise what it estimates to be 150 percent more tax revenue. In fact, finance minister Washington Misick has said his suggested taxes will “improve the economy of the Turks and Caicos Islands”. What it appears he meant was that such new taxes will improve the income of the government not the economy itself.
The opposition PDM, while against the imposition of VAT, has not suggested any new taxes. The party has issued a position paper on the issue, which states that the fundamental budget problem is failure to collect all the current taxes due and the extraordinarily high cost of health care.
PDM leader Cartwright Robinson said at an earlier press conference that there has been no work by the PNP government on reforming the NHIP health plan.
Cartwright Robinson said that her party was opposed to VAT primarily because it will raise the cost of living.
“When you change the basic tax structure of an entire country, the elected government representing the people needs to make that decision,” said Cartwright Robinson
Following the election of the PNP as the new government last November, Ewing and his finance minister Washington Misick have been seeking a delay of six months in the implementation of VAT.
However, according to overseas territories minister Simmonds, a delay in the implementation of VAT would present significant risks.
“A delay at this stage would risk undermining the credibility of the government’s commitment to VAT particularly with those businesses that have invested in preparation. And I am not convinced that delay would make it easier for you to find and commit to the introduction of a credible alternative. I fear that a property or income tax would be likely to attract opposition at least as strong as VAT,” he said.
Simmonds went on to say that any such delay would be unlikely to diminish the opposition of those businesses who will have to pay tax for the first time or open their books or lose some of the benefits of what he described as “excessive concessions” granted by previous administrations.
He also pointed out that delaying the implementation of VAT would require the government to cut public spending further than would otherwise be necessary.
“I think you have a choice between pressing ahead with the introduction of VAT from 1 April or making a clear commitment to introducing a credible alternative to VAT such as property or income tax. I should be clear that I believe that, at this stage, the best option for Turks and Caicos is to press ahead with implementation of VAT,” Simmonds said.
Tinkering with the current disparate and unsatisfactory mix of taxes would not address the underlying weakness and unfairness of these and would not offer a credible alternative to VAT, he added.
According to SImmonds, the previous elected PNP government had already decided that VAT had significant advantages over property and income taxes but, nevertheless, invited Ewing to submit a new fiscal and strategic policy statement by the end of January.
“While you are finalising this I expect preparations for VAT implementation to continue at full speed, including investment in planned new IT, so that it can take effect on 1 April,” Simmonds added.
However, Simmonds’ claim that the previous PNP government had endorsed VAT was disputed in a subsequent statement by then finance minister, Floyd Hall.
“That statement is completely false. While it is the case that the former PNP had agreed to explore the option of selecting one of four taxation models being imposed on us by advocates for the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), the European Union, IMF and the FCO to obtain compliance with international tax standards in our financial services industry and to achieve revenue sustainability, it was never the case where VAT was selected as a done deal for implementation in the Turks and Caicos Islands by our PNP administration,” Hall said.
The new tax was signed into law during the term of the previous interim administration run by Britain following the suspension of elected ministerial government in the TCI in 2009 as a result of widespread and systemic government corruption during the PNP’s previous term in office from 2003 to 2009.
Unrestrained government spending during those years brought the TCI to the verge of bankruptcy, necessitating a $260 million loan guaranteed by Britain and other measures to enable the territory to balance its budget.
PLEASE WATCH THE OUTCRY OF ILLEGAL POET FROM TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS.
Democracy is in danger in Turks and Caicos Islands and I am a victim of this.
In July 2008 The Governor of Turks and Caicos – representing the UK Government – appointed a Commission to conduct an Inquiry into “possible corruption or other dishonesty” in Government. Hearings were held – presided over by His Lordship, Mr. Justice Sir Robin Auld – in January of 2009, concluding in February of the same year. In August 2009, His Excellency, then the Governor of the Turks and Caicos islands, Gordon Wetherell brought into force an Order in Council suspending portions of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution. Under this move Ministerial Government, and the House of Assembly – which is the only means of representing the people – was dissolved and all representative seats were vacated, with the promise of elections in 24 months. Amongst the astounding changes was that the basic right in the European Declaration of Human Rights to a Trial by Jury was also suspended, and confirmed recently by law. The sole political power in the Turks and Caicos Islands is now the Governor, appointed by the British government. He has appointed an Advisory Council and a Consultative Forum. However, as the appointment documents make clear, the Governor has no obligation to follow or regard their recommendations. This undemocratic move, which is totally inconsistent with Article I of the United Nation’s Charter on the Right to Self-Determination, is still the case in Turks and Caicos, and still, now nearly 2 and a half years later.
And still there is no date for elections.
My involvement in the Turks and Caicos dates from early 2005. In June of that year we purchased a private island called Dellis Cay, to develop a USD$1 billion project with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and villas with world famous architects – including Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Piero Lissoni and Carl Ettenspenger. The development proceeded in an unremarkable fashion, with usual succession of planning permits, from the start construction date of June 2008 to October 2009. A mixture of funds from my own resources, sales of residential units and loans from the Trinidad & Tobago Unit Trust Corporation funded the development.
In June of 2008, we bought a second island, Joe Grant Cay, from the Crown (The government of Turks and Caicos), presented the deal structure to the British Governor of Turks and Caicos – who was then His Excellency Richard Tauwhare – with the development agreement signed in November of 2008 by the new Governor, His Excellency Gordon Wetherell, with the objective of developing a resort with Bulgari Hotel and Villas.
In January 2009, in the course of hearings by the Commission of Inquiry, the Premier of Turks and Caicos disclosed political contributions by several businessperson and companies toward his party’s elections, two years before, in 2007. He disclosed a political contribution made by our company as well; which is normal all over the world, including in Britain.
Neither the Inquiry, nor the Judge, nor the Governor made any request of me, or my representatives to provide answers about these contributions. Yet, our actions were remarked upon adversely in the Commission’s report.
In June 2009, we asked the High Court of Turks and Caicos Islands to undertake a Judicial Review of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, with the result that the Supreme Court called for the removal of any and all adverse references to my or our companies. In his ruling the Chief Justice agreed with us, that there was a “Clear and almost total failure by the Commission to follow its own procedures”. His Lordship stated further that I had not been given a fair hearing, and said that if any adverse statements were included in the Final Report, they should not be published.
It must be understood that even though this court is in Turks and Caicos, it is an English court, applying English law and procedures. Yet, four (4) weeks later, in July of 2009, the Final Report was published, with text unredacted, so that the adverse statements made about me and my companies, which were judged to have been unfair and unlawful, were made public; even after the Chief Justice ruled they should not be published.
Despite my attempts to cooperate and assist the lending bank for our projects to understand the issues relating to the Commission of Inquiry and their unlawful published reports, it was no longer possible to avoid the entrance into Receivership of the Dellis Cay project in favour of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation in October 2009.
This failure of the Commission to follow the law has therefore done me harm because I provided personal guarantee to the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation.
Since that time – January 2010 – the bank has obtained a worldwide freezing order against me. The Attorney General of Turks and Caicos issued a Writ and Statement of Claim regarding Joe Grant Cay in July 2010.
I have appealed both actions.
After three (3) years, in October 2011, I was finally able to explain my side of the allegations of bribery for the political contributions above. In the meantime, my assets in Dellis Cay and the assets of buyers in that development have been destroyed; even though I have never bribed anyone in Turks and Caicos, or anywhere else.
I have been made a victim of the politics of Turks and Caicos. In English law, the saying is that “justice must not only be done, but it must be…seen to be done”. I speak now to warn that this is not the case in Turks and Caicos and to say that human rights, and property rights, democracy and justice are under threat in Turks and Caicos
He delivered by this speech his vision 20/20 for the country.
He would very soon release the specifics of his 20/20 vision.
Very strong speech and vision.
He is talking about sign of victory,victory for the people of TCI.He wants restore democracy and he wants remove the people from the claws of the British.
He wants to lead the TCI people to a place of social,mental,economic and political independence.
Heritage and national pride
Harmony and Unity
Respecting of Human Rights and Dignity
are the main milestones of his 20/20 Vision.
Good luck,God bless