Opposition Leader Hon. Edwin Astwood has described Government’s proposed Population Growth Strategy as ‘vote grab and kneejerk reaction.
The opposition leader, who stated also that the plan was not well thought out, made the comment in a statement in response to the government series of townhalls, which they used to tout the proposal.
The following is the Opposition’s statement on the issue:
In their recent town hall meetings, interviews, and on news channels abroad the Hon. Premier and his Government have been announcing their plan for their Population Growth Strategy which is to simply provide citizenship by right to third-generation and further descendants as Turks and Caicos Islanders living abroad, particularly targeting the TCI’s Diaspora of the Bahamas.
As a matter of public policy and first instinct, the Official Opposition supports any idea that would empower Turks & Caicos Islanders, but this plan needs to be properly thought out with the right implementation strategy to go along with it. Unfortunately, it seems that this idea comes across as a Vote Grab, a Knee jerk initiative, and not well thought out.
A careful look at the current PNP government’s election manifesto would show that this issue was not even listed. What about consultation? This requires a summit with our people and a serious round of talks to get their views on it. Let us hear from all stakeholders. The Opposition is willing to join this process as long as it is open and transparent, and has the full support of our people.
Any government democratically elected by the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands should first strongly focus on stopping the exodus of our citizens from the Turks and Caicos. Next focus on getting our students and other citizens who left the country to want to return.
Thereafter we can start the debate of second and third generations in the diaspora having Turks and Caicos Islands citizenship by right.
Our number one job as representatives of the people is to protect the rights of those same people who elected us. If we don’t stop the bleeding of our cherished citizens now, our country as we know might be in jeopardy of being completely shifted away from us.
We don’t have time to wait for a 10-year population plan to materialize. For now, we have to stop the bleeding and retain and return the people we have today.
The PDM Opposition is willing to work with any Government to achieve the following objectives:
1. Identify the reasons and motives for our people who are currently leaving the Turks and Caicos, and the reasons for those who left a few years ago.
2. Execute initiatives to properly address and eradicate those identified issues and restraints.
3. Ensure that there are policies, programs, and funding in place to empower our people and to stop the current brain drain of our Youth to other nations, especially the UK.
4. Identify and categorize the factors that would attract our people back to our shores.
5. The Turks & Caicos Islands need a period of stabilization where serious money, through which effective measures and initiatives could be designed to empower this generation of Turks and Caicos Islanders.
6. To halt and reverse the reality where this generation feels as if “there is nothing in this Country for them” but that this Country is open to all but our people.
TO ACHIEVE THESE ENDS:
1. We urge a tightening of the Reserve Category of Business Licensing
2. The establishment of a Development Facility that would Enable(a.) Low-interest finance for Turks & Caicos Islanders seeking to enter the area of owning businesses for themselves. (b.) Protectionist legislation would protect local businesses. (c.) Expansion opportunities in agriculture, fishing, and light manufacturing.
3. Elimination of work permits for any area that locals are experienced and skilled in. We have to stop playing Games with our People.
4. Remove Stamp Duty altogether in land and house investments for our people.
5. Give the Youth and the Turks & Caicos Islanders something to look forward to.
Let it not be confused that we oppose giving our people who are descendants the right to live and work here. In sum, we must choose who will outnumber us. The Government needs to do the following:
1. Consult with the public.
2. Publish a comprehensive Policy and
3. Realistic Legislative Proposals. Otherwise, this is nothing but a shot in the Dark and a Glorified Vote Grab.
Our country is hurting and we need strong leaders, leaders who will stand up for them, leaders who seek to improve their employment, business, life, and living conditions.
People who were doing great 4 years ago now find that their homes, prized belongings, and good standards of living are but distant memories now, and now lost in time.
A lot of these losses could have been prevented if this current Government knew how to stop the bleeding from our country.
A lot of people would have remained home if this current government was putting our people’s interests above their own.
A lot of people would return home if there was something for them to return to.
This current PNP administration is not really trying to deal with the problems we are facing, and it really shows the ineffectiveness of this administration to impact change.
The Peoples’ Democratic Movement is hard at work creating strategies that will allow the bleeding of human capital to stop. We are fully committed to stemming the tide of our people leaving the Turks and Caicos.
The PDM is committed to having strategies ready for implementation that would allow for effective measures, inducements, and incentives aimed not only to make our people want to return home but also to have them excited and enthusiastic about returning home.