No Democracy with Debt in Grand Turk

Regarding Caribbean News Now Minister for International Development Alan Duncan said Britain had been “firm but fair” by telling the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) it could have elections once it sorted out its budget deficit.

Minister for International Development Alan Duncan

In December 2010, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, announced a formal list of “milestones” to be passed before the TCI can return to internal self-government, following the imposition of direct rule by Britain in 2009.

The eight requirements include:

— Constitutional reform
— New legislation covering elections, integrity in office 
— Public financial management reform
— Balanced public budgets
— Reform of laws for granting belongership
— Progress with criminal prosecutions and civil recovery, plus support for continuing investigations beyond the next election
— Crown Land policy reform
— Civil service reform

“We’ve been firm but fair – the understanding we have is that if the islands can meet eight milestones, which include governance and reforming the public sector, but of course, crucially, getting the budget deficit into surplus, then they’ll be able to have elections again…” Duncan said.

“They’ve had to reform the public sector yes, they’ve had to sack some people… The governor – and I have to say the people of the Turks and Caicos — have been very good at facing great austerity, but if we get it back on course, then their politics will be back on course as well,” he added.

Duncan described how he had discovered the problem.

“George Osborne went into his office and there was a bit of paper saying ‘there isn’t any money’. Well, on my first day as Minister for International Development, I went into mine and there was a bit of paper saying ‘Minister, the Turks and Caicos Islands have got a budget deficit of £30m and it’s growing’,” he said.

The Department for International Development (DfID) is the department which, under the International Development Act, has the duty of care for the finances of Britain’s overseas territories and Duncan said he had “to leap into action and say you know, we’ve got to cut this deficit.” 

He acknowledged that the British government wants to have elections in the TCI in 2012 but he said, “We’ve got to get the money right first – otherwise we, DfID, the government here, are going to have a massive bill.”

“So we are really doing … is trying to turn around a massive mountain of debt and getting the money back on track,” he said.

posted in Caribbean News now 13.02.2012