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Opposition Accuses Gov’t Of Breaking ‘Citizens’ Contract’


Deputy Leader for the Opposition’s Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) Robert Been



Deputy Leader for the Opposition’s Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) Robert Been has accused the Washington Misick-led Progressive National Party (PNP) government of breaking the pledges made in its pre-election manifesto.


Been was responding to recent news conference by the government. The following is the PDM Deputy Leader response:


I felt compelled to share these thoughts as a result of the increasing number of social media posts and articles I have seen by concerned citizens across these Islands. As the Deputy Leader of the People’s Democratic Movement, I remain committed to being a voice and support for my people who continue to cry out for real change and for a real life changing impact.


As the PNP government approaches its 2-year mark next month, one question we all must ask ourselves is: Are our lives much better after those two years? My people - Have we felt any real change?


After reviewing the PNP Citizen’s Contract, the PNP Government has not completed 90% of what they committed to. We are in half quarter and a lot of pressing issues that could have been started or completed in the first two years have gone untouched.


“Economy and Job”, which is on page 10 of the Citizens’ Contract, continues to be an issue for Turks Islanders. Has the launch of the Public Works Program been delivered to create the promised rapid employment to benefit Turks and Caicos Islanders? Are our local citizens being paid fairly compared to work permit holders? Are they being considered first preference for management/executive level positions? We can all agree that the answer is no.


What we continue to hear from this government is “record breaking” this and that. But who are these record-breaking numbers really benefiting? The truth is this - Turks and Caicos is a brand that is currently selling itself, which has nothing to do with this government’s efforts and certainly they cannot take the credit for the deliberate steps taken during the pandemic to be able to bounce back as we have.


The only highlight most citizens would have felt was the quick fix number of stimulus packages that kept some quiet, but in reality, the majority that received the stimulus remain in the same position and many Turks and Caicos Islanders were not able to benefit and unfairly so.


My people don’t be blind-sided during next month’s 2-year address. The PNP’s “Citizens’ Contract” is currently in breach. We expect them to give a glowing report but look at the national issues that seem to continue and the financial position of our Turks Islanders, who in some cases, are left with no choice but to move aboard in hopes of a better way of life.


As for Immigration (page 23 of the Citizens’ Contract), what has really been accomplished in that area? Immigration continues to be a top national issue with the arrival of many illegal vessels breaching our borders. I call on this government to confirm the total paid from last year to present: the accommodation costs, the food costs, the security costs and the repatriation cost I am sure it is costing this country millions of dollars that can instead be invested in education and health care. There is no doubt that we have yet to see a serious approach taken to combat this issue.


The strategy to remain silent on this issue, as they do with other important issues, must change. The Government must realise that it cannot ignore or wish an important issue away. Today we woke up to more sloop landings and with the gang crisis in Haiti, we must demand more from our Government in terms of a strategic plan for our protections.


Page 19 of the Citizens’ Contract is about “Infrastructure”. I am prepared to go on record to say that the celebrated openings in this area have been PDM Projects (with more to come) and as I look around the Islands all I can count for them is a pink Gazebo next to the Iris Stubbs Primary School in South Caicos.


This government has not done any real upgrades to our health care system… have not modernized our government school system and the list goes on.


People of this country, we are in a serious state and it is worsened by the fact that the continued discouragement among the masses is forcing voices to become silent. This is why when I see persons speaking out, I feel compelled to help to elevate their voices.


We need a serious reigniting. The PNP Government must seek to honor their commitments as the demands are only growing for fair opportunities, like access to capital, access to better education, access to a world class local health care system, access to better government services, and access to more social programs that assist our single mothers, that offer more meaningful opportunities to our young people and to steer our at-risk youth in the right direction. The PNP’s strategy to ignore important issues and be silent on them cannot work.


The truth is this, the indigenous people have less than 8 years (if that) to really have a “piece of pie” in this country. I read with mixed emotions, the end of year Real Estate Report which showed another record breaking year in real estate transactions: happy for the interests in my beautiful country and the revenues gained by TCI Government but sad in that with most of these transactions, prime real estate moves further and further from the reach of our people.


This includes the opportunity to own quality real estate and sizable ownership of other profitable investments in this country. With the growth of the real estate industry, land is becoming even more difficult for Islanders to acquire due to lack of capital to invest.


“Housing” which is one page 18 of the Citizens’ Contract, continues to be a problem for Turks Islanders. The PDM Government secured the approval from the UK Government to establish the Housing Department and the PNP promised to take this forward. To date, there has been no real impactful progress in this area and no collaboration with developers to provide affordable housing and no assistance with banks/leaders to provide affordable mortgages.


The PNP also promised a “Digital Government” (on page 24 of the Citizens’ Contract). We know this is not an overnight process, but at this half mark, the only update we have had is the Premier throwing the civil servants responsible for this under the bus. He has not used the weight of his office to push this critical project.


I urge the Premier and the Governor to take a different approach which will allow Turks Islanders a chance to be a part of the growth and development of this country, and to make these opportunities well-known and easy for Islanders to partake in. We heard one of the young men showcased as a beneficiary of the Invest TC Small Business Grant lament about the misleading and disappointing Program. I call on the Government to review this Program as we must seek to make the process transparent, fair and less frustrating.


We are certainly looking forward to the new amendments to the Crown Land Ordinance. As we await this, I put forward a few recommendations to assist with leveling the playing field for our people - whether it is land obtained through the government or privately:


1. A three (3) year full wavier of stamp duties to Turks Islanders ONLY. This will allow those interested in purchasing property a more reasonable timeframe to get their finances in order.


2. The introduction of another financial institution to offer easier access to capital to assist Turks Islanders. The PDM Government began critical work that was advanced in creating a vehicle for access to capital to SME Sector. We have not heard of this since the PNP Government assumed Office.


3. Acceleration in the process with E Governance to allow all citizens to enjoy smoother and shorter processing times.


The people of this country are not asking for much: Just for fair opportunities to live and benefit from what this country has to offer.


I will also be submitting a response to the Government’s increase in the minimum wage and will then address this. Let it be known that I SUPPORT an increase in minimum wage. I also appreciate the direct correlation between this increase and the increase in the cost of living. I expected that the recent Press Conference would have addressed how we ensure that the minimum wage increase does not just pass through hands.


Honorable Premier let’s make 2023 about all Turks and Caicos Islanders, not just a few. The people deserve a better year than last year. No more of the sweet talks. The people of this country need to feel an overwhelming change that they can be proud of as Turks and Caicos Islanders.


I end by thanking both the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for their joint efforts in putting the unfortunate shootings of last year under control. I ask that you stay the course and remain committed because I am sure you know that criminal minds are still out there.


My prayer for this year is that we unite and uplift each other as we work towards one common goal, and that is to see each Islander in a more secured position and the dream of becoming an Independent Turks and Caicos.



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