Deputy Leader of the opposition Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) Robert Been believes the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) is not in lock-step with the times. In a news release, Been, who unsuccessfully ran as an all island candidate, said the government first year report lacked substance.
The following is Been’s statement:
Let me start off by saying a genuine thank you for the report by the Progressive National Party over this first year in office.
However, this report fell short in some important ways because it did not highlight what the average citizen really needs, and there was no real progress. Please allow me a moment of your time so we can examine it together.
PNP, you took office knowing that the country was not only experiencing a health crisis, but an economic one, and yet there has been no tangible help to residents, specifically in their personal incomes and there has been no investment made in healthcare.
These were two of the important crises, but they remain inadequately addressed, and it appears that the PNP is out of touch and self-serving.
In a time when the cost of fuel, groceries, electricity, rent and other consumer items are soaring out of control and making it impossible for the average resident to make ends meet, it is concerning that the Premier is talking about giving us a break on customs duties to buy building supplies, but the reality is that Islanders don’t have the money to buy land, and then subsequently, to build.
The wealthy among us are the ones who will benefit from this massive concession which has no limits. The average person will not be able to take advantage of this, which means the average Turks and Caicos Islander is left out again with no slice of the pie.
Many of our people still owe this term’s school fee or are still trying to keep their electricity on or gas in their tanks. Mr. Premier, I ask, how will citizens and residents benefit from customs exemptions, stamp duties reduce fees if they don’t have access to capital to make the first purchase?
Let’s think about it… How many can afford to build right now? How many can afford to purchase land right now? Every dollar the average person is earning is going toward basic essentials.
So congratulations on leaving the small man out because that is what you did.
On another point, in order to try to satisfy public concern about salaries which remain the same despite inflation, the PNP Government now promises to set up a commission to review wages. This is a good step, but I’m not convinced this will happen. For one thing, who will make up this panel?
At present, the beach patrol that came from the beach and coastal vending bill, which was rushed through Parliament, has still not been staffed, so how do we intend to staff this one? Such a step needs to be one that can be accomplished, not just promised.
There are hundreds, probably thousands of employee gaps across the public and private sector, yet more and more institutions are being created which will need to be staffed. Where are we going to get the people to do this, especially when there is no drive to build the work force?
Maybe if there was some focus on building our work force, the NIB would not need the big increases, and maybe work environments would be more productive and less stressful.
And speaking of less stressful, if we are going to give the civil service a raise, let’s give them something they can feel please. A 4% percent salary increase to the civil service will be swallowed up by the increase in NIB and barely makes an impact when you consider inflation and the cost of living.
Let’s go to another announcement by the PNP Government. We don’t know if anything will come of this Crown Land consultation. However, I think it makes all the difference that the UK is finally on board with it.
But let us not forget that the issues related to Crown Land were articulated to the British several times in a bi-partisan effort for change to our constitution, which came from country-wide consultation.
So let’s keep in mind that this is not a PNP thing, it is a TCI thing, and we need to be represented well at the table. And as it relates to crime, we must ask, how do you not have a plan or some better report on what you will do to curb crime?
We recently had a child and a guest to our country admitted to hospital because of crime. We thank God they both came out of those attacks alive. It is clear that we need an active plan, so our tourism industry is not negatively impacted, and our citizens are safe.
We also heard the Premier brag about tourism numbers again, but please can we give credit where it is due? The reality is this - the Turks and Caicos was on a record setting trend in tourism long before this administration stepped into the office.
It’s expected to continue because our resorts and tourism sector is on top of marketing and promotions of these islands. It is because they are on top of training for high caliber service and our resorts and tourism sector work hard to maintain a luxury offering, without much or any assistance from Government.
It is each and everyone in the Tourism sector – from the top to the bottom who have made tourism what it is. They take care of the guests before, during and after their visits.
They keep the tourists coming and they should be the ones who are applauded for our record-setting tourism economy. That’s who gets the credit…not the PNP.
Let’s keep in mind that 2019 was better than 2018. In 2020, we had a pandemic, so 2021 was bound to be better. Couple that with the incentives of the PDM Government, on land purchasing and the pent-up demand, there is no question that we all expected 2021 to be better.
And finally, on a few other points:
The Premier talked about nurses and training and the shortages in medical professions, but this problem is not new, and the PNP has done nothing to fix it in a year. The oxygen generators at the hospital go to the credit of the PDM who got that ball rolling. PNP only needed to keep it rolling.
A year later, the PNP has not given the kind of cash stimulus promised while campaigning for votes. Even this latest stimulus was not part of the plan but thrown together - taking money from this area and that area to come up with a quick fix that does not adequately address a long-standing issue, which is the high cost of living that has gotten even higher.
A year later, the Premier is still trying to take credit for bringing the Technical and Vocational Education, but TVET was already here; all you had to do was expand it. The youth desperately need this. It doesn’t take a year; it takes a government that addresses the needs of our youth in this area more seriously and as a priority, not an afterthought.
So let’s take stock. The scope of the PNP’s help was limited to the affluent. There were a lot of promises with no tangible announcements for the average family to enjoy that best life. The PNP Government is out of touch, and not living in reality.
I close by asking…will there be any help on the cost we are paying for groceries? Will there be any lowered prices at the gas pump? Will there be any improvements in health care under this administration? Will we see a government led crime prevention plan?
Will we be getting that big stimulus promised? This one-year address was lackluster and has left me and many Turks and Caicos Islanders, residents and visitors bewildered.his release is not to tear down, but to shine a light on real concerns, and you can count on the PDM to speak up on behalf of our people who have an expectation.
We need a government who will do more than sing a song about people living their best lives. We need a government that will actually understand what that best life looks like, and what a best life needs to feel like for all Turks and Caicos Islanders, its residents and visitors.
So to the PNP Government... thanks for the one year update, but I hope you didn’t come to work to cushion yourselves and only for our wealthy Islanders. The average Islander still need you to clock in.