PNP united on former premier’s talking points
Published on March 28, 2013 ,TCI News Now.

The Progressive National Party (PNP) is apparently now unified behind specific “talking points” that are being spoken to by the party and its supporters and are seemingly being orchestrated by its former leader Michael Misick.

The principal point being made was the primary platform of the PNP during their 2012 general election campaign and that is the issue of independence and preparing the TCI to separate itself from Britain.

This was addressed in each and every letter received from Misick and was spoken to by Premier Rufus Ewing on his return from last month’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meeting in Haiti. In Ewing’s view, all the Caribbean nations, including those who are currently one of the 14 British overseas territories, must not only achieve independence but must also form republics and not be associated with the Commonwealth of Nations.

The second talking point spoken to by Misick and Ewing is the forthcoming prosecutions of former PNP cabinet ministers and others. Both Misick and Ewing have said that the prosecutions are a farce. Misick said this is because he claims that laws were changed and he personally cannot receive a fair trial and will fight returning home until that is resolved, while at the same time proclaiming his willingness to return to the TCI by private plane instead of waiting for his extradition from Brazil to be completed.

Ewing has not explained why he feels the imminent trials are a “farce”, as he called them in a recent letter to Britain’s Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds.

The third talking point that is being spoken to widely by PNP members and supporters is their view of the overstepping of authority by Britain. This is being described by Ewing as an abuse of power and corruption on the part of William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Secretary. The tone of this talking point echoes similar comments made by Misick in each and every letter he has written.

One of the principal points aired by Ewing was the looming imposition of value added tax (VAT). On this issue, both political parties and the business community were united in asking for VAT to be abandoned.

Both Hague and Simmonds responded to Ewing’s speech to CARICOM heads by accusing him of failing to address the reasons why VAT and other measures were necessary.

In particular, Ewing failed to explain that the TCI is bankrupt and became bankrupt due to the actions of the PNP administration from late 2003 through August 2009, when Britain imposed direct rule.

Further, Hague said that Ewing not only failed to speak to this problem that brought British direct rule but also ignored the consolidated loan of $260 million guaranteed by Britain and the support of numerous British advisers who, in three years of direct rule, have been able to raise government revenue and cut expenses to a break-even position.

Britain imposed certain milestones that had to be achieved before direct rule could be withdrawn and an elected government returned. However, the final milestone yet to be reached was the pay down of the loan, which must be refinanced by 2016 when the British guarantee is lifted. Britain requires the TCI government to submit an acceptable financial plan, which has not yet been achieved by the PNP government in its almost five months in power.

Hague pointed out in a letter to Ewing that there needs to be not only additional taxes but further cuts in spending. Ewing and finance minister Washington Misick and several other PNP ministers have seemingly turned their backs on this requirement and are promising the territory new infrastructure, more government jobs and a growing public sector.






Turks and Caicos Premier’s Response to UK Minister Mark Simmonds

Hon. Premier’s Response to Mr. Mark Simmonds Re: VAT

Minister Mark Simmonds MP
Minister for the Overseas Territories
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Dear Minister Simmonds,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 25th instant. As your letter does much more than convey the decision of Her Majesty’s Government not to implement VAT come April 1st, my sentiments were that it required more than a mere acknowledgment of receipt.
The Turks and Caicos Island Government does not doubt your commitment to the development of the TCI and so to the extent that we disagree it must necessarily be on our respective paths to that end. In turn I hope that Her Majesty’s Government recognizes that the commitment of the TCI Government to the economic, social and indeed political development of the TCI must be greater, not least because that development benefits Turks and Caicos Islanders and all those who call these Islands home.
In that context and in the true spirit of partnership I trust that HMG will allow the TCI Government the discretion to implement those policies which in our view, will result in our economic recovery and social development. We cannot bear the responsibility of ensuring sound finances without a commensurate degree of autonomy with respect to revenue generation and spending initiatives.
I can say without fear of contradiction that our Government has always been open to frank debate and compromise with HMG and all its representatives. We will not, however, allow our desire for compromise to cause us to abdicate our responsibility to the people of the TCI. I turn now to the several issues in your letter that require specific comment.
Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
You have invited the members of the Assembly to condemn what you describe as “vitriolic public attacks” on members of the judiciary and public servants. I do not know what it is you describe as vitriolic public attacks as you have provided no example. In any event I am sure that like me, my colleagues in the House would be slow to take any position that would leave any person in this country feeling that they are unable to comment on matters of public importance or to be critical of any institution or public officer.
The concept of free speech is a bastion of democracy. It is a check and balance against tyranny. The essential ideal of self government by the people is undermined if those in power are able to manipulate the electorate by either withholding information or stifling criticism. It was the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton who wrote: “Beneath the rule of men entirely great. The pen is mightier than the sword”. It is therefore no wonder that the right of free speech has been described as “a safety valve to let off steam when people might otherwise be bent on revolution”. Those who abuse the right of free speech open themselves to criminal prosecution or civil suit. The courts in my view are best suited to determine whether laws have been breached or whether unabashed but otherwise lawful criticism, is being characterized as vitriolic public attack.
You have also denounced the Assembly’s decision to bring the VAT Repeal by way of Private Members Motion as being unacceptable. The Bill was neither conceived nor presented as a Government Bill with the result that both Cabinet and the Attorney General’s Chambers were properly excluded. The purpose of the Bill was to repeal legislation passed by the Interim Administration. The Interim Administration was headed by the same Governor who continues to be the President of the Cabinet and who together with the FCO had much vested in the VAT Ordinance. It would in the circumstances, be foolhardy for a Parliament that was united in its resolve to see the Ordinance repealed, to seek to have the Repeal Bill originate in a Cabinet where the Opposition does not have a voice and where the Governor wields disproportionate power and influence to the extent that he may refuse to have the question of the Repeal Ordinance placed on the Cabinet Agenda.
The fact that the Governor has refused to assent to the Repeal Bill and that you have failed to instruct him to assent to it and his comments immediately following the passage of the Bill through the Assembly, is justification enough for our decision. The members of the Assembly are bound by the Constitution and the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands generally and we each have a duty to represent the best interest of the Turks and Caicos Islands. In acting as we did we have been true to both law and duty and in the circumstances we need neither the blessing nor approval of the FCO. That you have ascribed a sinister motive to our action is indeed regrettable. Your castigation of the Assembly’s actions in the way that you have could leave one with the clear impression that you see the Assembly as no more than an extension of the Executive and that is likewise most unfortunate.
Finally we remain concerned that you have decided against instructing the Governor to assent the Repeal Bill. Unless the Bill is assented to, the people of these Islands will continue to question Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment to the ideals of democracy in the Turks and Caicos Islands and that will not augur well for the partnership that we are desirous of building.
The Government will likewise have legitimate reason to believe that there is not a genuine intention on the part of Her Majesty’s Government to allow the TCI Government to move forward unimpeded. There will always be the real threat that the VAT can be implemented by the stroke of a pen without the need for further debate. I am firm in my conviction that on the question of VAT the only fair solution is for the Ordinance to be repealed thus removing once and for all the possibility of taxation without representation. I hope that you will give this course further consideration.
For the reasons you indicate I am likewise copying this letter to the Leader of the Opposition.
Dr. The Hon. Rufus W. Ewing
Premier, Turks and Caicos Islands




Press Release from the Governor of Turks and Caicos Islands about VAT

Press Release From the Governor’s Office Re-Decision Not To Implement VAT

The UK Government has agreed that VAT will not be implemented in the TCI at this time. The TCI Government and opposition have clearly stated their opposition to the implementation of VAT.
It remains Her Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) view that VAT would provide a more stable, fairer and broader based system of revenue for TCI than that which is currently in place.
The Government of TCI has a responsibility to ensure sound finances in the Territory. This includes constraining expenditure within the legally binding fiscal framework which is now in place and being able to refinance its debts in 2016 without a further UK Government loan guarantee.
The TCI Government will face more difficult choices to ensure stable and sustainable revenues and expenditures in the absence of VAT.
HMG is clear that we will not accept a return to the dire financial situation in TCI which prevailed before the Interim Administration.
FCO Minister, Mark Simmonds, issued a letter to TCI Premier the Hon Dr Rufus Ewing yesterday evening, Mon, 25 Feb 2013. This was also sent to the Leader of the Official Opposition in the TCI simultaneously. This was issued in response a letter from the TCI Premier dated 29 January 2013 which raised a number of concerns about the proposed implementation of VAT in the TCI from 1 April 2013.





British insists on imposition of VAT in Turks and Caicos Islands

Britain insists on imposition of VAT in Turks and Caicos
Published on January 17, 2013

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — In a letter on Monday to Dr Rufus Ewing, premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Mark Simmonds, Britain’s minister for the Overseas Territories rejected a request for a delay in the imposition of value added tax (VAT) in the TCI and confirmed that the new tax will take effect as planned on April 1, absent a credible alternative.

Following the election of the Progressive National Party (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 the tax.

However, according to Simmonds, a delay in the implementation of VAT would present significant risks.

Britain’s minister for the Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds
“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.

According to the former chief financial officer Hugh McGarel Groves, VAT will be necessary for as long as Britain’s loan guarantee remains in force.

At a press conference on Tuesday, finance minister Washington Misick spoke out again against VAT.

“This is being forced down our throats,” he said. “They are committed to VAT having bought a half-million dollar software program to deal with VAT… this shows that the VAT tax is a issue of their egos making them act.”

While saying initially that he could not reveal the alternative methods of taxation to VAT that his government is considering, Misick then proceeded to reveal them on Tuesday, namely, taxes to be assessed on condominium owners who rent their properties to non owners; a 1 percent increase in the hospitality tax from 11 to 12 percent; a restoration of the higher rate of stamp duty; and a tax on water sports activity by tourists in the TCI, both in Provo and Grand Turk.

Misick estimates this will raise between $15 and $16 million per year and grow the economy of the country.

However, according to some local observers, such measures may increase government revenue but is more likely to be counterproductive to the economy.

Opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright Robinson said in a Tuesday afternoon television appearance that the opposition Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) continues its position that it also does not favour VAT.

Robinson was not in favour of alternate taxes, however.

“We simply need to police the collection of existing taxes,” she said.



New Minister is Mark Simmonds


By Caribbean News Now contributor

LONDON, England — Member of Parliament Mark Simmonds has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for Britain’s Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle.

According to an announcement by the Foreign Office, Simmonds’ responsibilities will include:

• Africa 
• Overseas Territories (not Falklands, Sovereign Base Areas or Gibraltar) 
• Conflict Issues 
• Climate Change 
• International Energy 
• Consular 
• Protocol 
• Ministerial Oversight for FCO Services 
• The Caribbean (not including Dominican Republic, Haiti or Cuba) 

Simmonds had been a member of the shadow health team when the Conservative Party was in opposition but missed out on a role in the coalition government after the 2010 General Election.

Simmonds replaces Henry Bellingham who held the job since 2010.