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Responsibility word made from colorful plastic letters on white background
Community Articles, Politics,

Who is holding who accountable?

We must take responsibility for our actions

Introduction

Holding individuals accountable for their actions is something that we really need to address in the Turks and Caicos. Many times, when we hear the word accountability, we think primarily about the parliamentarians. While it is true that that we must hold them accountable, we must also hold the workforce in both the private and public sectors accountable. I am convinced if we hold individuals accountable for their actions, governments and employees will perform better resulting in satisfied customers and a better workforce.

Who is holding who accountable?

Two weeks ago, I presented a medical certificate to the Labour Department for the processing of a work permit for a teacher. I did a follow up on the status of the application and to my surprise, I was told that the medical certificate is missing. I was puzzled because I knew I submitted the medical certificate. You know when I presented the medical certificate, I asked the officer can I get something as proof that I provided the certificate and the officer said I didn’t need anything. I found this to be unacceptable and I told the supervisor that. Who is holding individuals accountable for their actions? Why do customers have to spend time in the queue to obtain and resubmit the same documents? Until we start holding individuals accountable for their actions, these inefficiencies will continue to exist and corruption kicks in. Some people will accept this type of behaviour as the status quo. We must not accept this. I met a lady who had a similar situation like me, and she said she was told, she better be quiet because she is not from here. Now the example I gave is just one scenario as there are many more examples of the lack of accountability in our country. Why is this being allowed? Is it because everybody knows everybody, and no one wants to rock the boat? Is it because the leaders are doing the same thing and the employees are just following their leaders?

Speaking about leaders, who is holding our parliamentarians accountable? Are we so loyal to these political parties that we afraid to hold them accountable? One of the reasons, our country is in the state it is, is because we are not holding our parliamentarians accountable. We need to stop being afraid. We need to be loyal to our country and not stop being loyal to these political parties. Call out the politicians for their actions. Call them out for their non actions too. Remind them about the promises that were made. One way I hold the politicians accountable is through my weekly writings. If more of us write and speak out on a consistent basis, I believe politicians will do better and our country will be better.

In 2019, a police plane was bought for $2.7million but it was not the right kind of plane that was needed for the police. Apparently, the plane was sold for $1.9million and so the country encountered a loss of $800,000. Who was held accountable for this transaction? Was anyone held accountable?

A few years ago, the Government bought the school building that is located behind Abundant Life to house the technical school.  The Oseta Jolly Primary School was there on a temporary basis. However, the building is currently unoccupied and has been so for quite a while. We are spending a lot of money on rent when we have a building sitting there. We have classrooms in the public schools overcrowded when there is an unused government building. We have spent millions of dollars on this building, and it is just there. Somebody needs to be held accountable for this.

Conclusion

I know we change governments frequently, but it takes more than that to hold them accountable. Even if you are afraid to say something publicly, email or call your member of parliament. If you don’t say anything, they may think they are performing well. You see only a few people are holding the Government accountable at least on a public basis and so parliamentarians may think it is not a true representation of the people and that is why more people need to hold these parliamentarians accountable.

Now when it comes to the employees, employees must have smart objectives and must be appraised without any fear. There is too much slackness in the workplace and it is because there is a lack of accountability.

Portrait Of Male Owner Of Sustainable Plastic Free Grocery Store Behind Sales Desk
Community Articles, Employment Issues,

We have more local entrepreneurs than we think

We need to tap into the hotel industry and the grocery stores

Introduction

I know many of us are not where we want to be but there is a significant number of Turks and Caicos Islanders who are entrepreneurs. Some are doing very well, and some are not doing well. For those that are not doing well, we must find ways to make their businesses successful. I believe if we were to count the number of local entrepreneurs and compare it to the local population, the percentage would be high especially when compared to other Caribbean countries.

I think what we lack though, is more local entrepreneurship in the hotel industry Tourism is our main industry and while there are many locals who are now villa owners, we have very few locals who are hotel owners.

Another thing we lack is entrepreneurship in the grocery stores industry. We have many grocery stores, but I don’t even think we have two locals that own a grocery store on the island of Providenciales. However, on the islands of South Caicos and North Caicos, there are a few that are owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders. Everybody needs food to survive and so a grocery store is something that can be profitable and more should be owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders.

We may say we don’t have the money, but I believe if some of us can come together and put our resources together, we can establish these businesses. We don’t need Government to help us, we can do this so let us try and form partnerships among one another.

We have more entrepreneurs than we think

The Turks and Caicos is so blessed, and I admire individuals who took the risk to start a business. In 2001, my wife and I took the risk and started our office supplies store and then I took a risk again in 2013 to start an accounting firm and a property management company. There are other locals who are also owners of office supplies stores and accounting firms.

We also have many local entrepreneurs of car rental companies, restaurants, dry cleaners, horseback riding, apartments, building materials, airline companies, gas stations, construction companies, architects’ firms, FBO, medical facilities, newspaper companies, taxi companies, real estate companies, plumbing and electrical supplies, watersports companies, private schools, villas, law firms, barber shops, salons, massage parlours, bakeries, liquor stores, water companies, mechanic shops, tire shops and the list goes on and on.  Therefore, many locals are entrepreneurs and are benefiting from the economy.

The challenges some local entrepreneurs face

Even though we have many local entrepreneurs, there are challenges. Too many of us are in the same line of business and so there is a price war going on among our businesses so that we can retain or get more customers. While this is good for the consumers, I personally believe that some businesses need to merge, and they will be able to get more profit. However, there is a lack of trust among us and furthermore, many of us do not really want to be in partnership with anyone. Many other businesses in TCI are thriving because of partnerships.

Another challenge we face is that some locals are fronting and some of these businesses are so big, it is a challenge for some of the local businesses to compete against them. Fronting is illegal but it is quite prevalent in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Another challenge is the lack of support. Many businesses are not getting the support from the community. Some people rather not support some local businesses as they feel they are making some locals rich. Some locals are also not getting the support from non-locals especially if a non-local has the same type of business as a local. Another thing is some individuals and businesses are supporting businesses overseas by purchasing from them rather than purchasing local.

A major issue that local entrepreneurs face is the Procurement Ordinance. The Procurement Ordinance allows anyone (even if you don’t have a business licence from TCIG) to bid on a government tender. I wrote about this several times and I will continue to write about until Procurement Ordinance is changed and is level playing field for local entrepreneurs. Imagine you put in a tender and your supplier put in a tender, who do you think will win the bid.

There are some individuals who are entrepreneurs and find it difficult to start either because they do not know how to start, or they don’t have any money. I encourage you who are in this category to talk to an entrepreneur who can guide you. You may discover that you can start your business with the little that you have.

Entrepreneurship in the hotel industry and grocery stores

I believe tourism will continue to grow in the Turks and Caicos Islands and while there may not be much land available on Grace Bay Beach, there is land in the vicinity of Grace Bay Beach, and there is land available on the other islands in the Turks and Caicos. I know most of the resorts in Turks and Caicos are condo but many of us do not even own a condo. Therefore, I throw a challenge out there for us to come together and put our resources together to own hotels and condos.  It is possible to do this. Maye some of us are trying to do this by ourselves rather than through partnership and it will be a challenge to build a hotel on your own unless you are very wealthy. The best thing is for us to develop a partnership.

The same applies to a grocery store. In the past, we had quite several local entrepreneurships in the grocery store, somehow, that is no longer the case. However, it can still be done. Let us leave a legacy for the future generation.

Conclusion

We should not become intimidated by the size of the local population nor the size of the competition or the number of the players in the market. We also need to overcome fear and the lack of trust. I believe there is enough of us who can come together and become entrepreneurs in the hotel industry and the grocery store. We need to blame ourselves for not coming together and for not supporting one another.  Let us not waste time talking about the problem, let us use our energy and put the solutions in place. I am ready. Are you?

Protest sign at a Black Lives Matter protest after the murder of George Floyd.
Community Articles, Crime,

Too many young men are dying

Don’t let their deaths become just statistics

Introduction

Too many families are grieving due to the deaths of young men. There are so many unanswered questions as the leading cause for the deaths among our young men is homicide. Perhaps some families would be more at peace if only justice would take place by capturing the murderers and putting them in prison. This is a big problem because many of these cases are simply cold cases. However, we need to get to the root cause of these deaths, otherwise the deaths of our young men will continue to take place and become just statistics. In 2021 there were 13 homicides, 22 in 2020, 13 in 2019, 8 in 2018 and 4 in 2017

Other leading cause of deaths among our young men are vehicular and motorcycle accidents and illness. Unfortunately, at that the time of this article, I do not have the statistics.

Homicides

While the number of homicides has reduced in 2021 compared to what took place in 2020, in my opinion, one homicide is too much for our country given that the size of our country.

I don’t why people think they have the right to take the life of someone. Murdering someone is not the answer to your issues. Whatever issues you are facing, you do not need to resort to violence. Some people are taken matters into their own hands by revenge killing. Obviously, the murderers do not care and do not fear the police. We need to find a way to get in the communities and counsel young people. The thing is if you are having thoughts about committing a murder, get help and talk to someone. I believe some young people have mental issues and need help. I know there are some individuals who are going to the schools to counsel the young men. I encourage you to continue to do so.

I cannot imagine what the family of the murdered victims are going through. I know this is a tragedy for families especially when no one is saying anything. However, someone other than the murderer knows who committed those heinous acts, but that person remains quiet. You can help the police to capture these individuals by providing tips to the police. You can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers.

Many people argued that there are inadequate programs in place to keep our young people occupied and hence they commit criminal activities. While this may be true to a certain extent, it still does not justify the murder of others.  Some of these young people have full time jobs and still commit these acts.

It appears that too many people have access to guns and using their guns to kill people. We need to stop the infiltration of guns in our society. The question is, how are the guns getting into this country. Obviously, they are coming through our ports of entry, but no one is finding them. We need to do a thorough search at our ports of entry.

Some of our young people are also under the influence of drugs and the drugs are controlling their minds and as a result they are committing murders. Again, drugs are entering our country, and this must end and be controlled. I encourage our young people who are not on drugs to do your best to avoid taking drugs. I know it is easier said than done but once you start taking drugs, it can become addictive, and this is something you do not want to happen.

Another thing is that too many of our young people are spending too much time out at all sorts of hours. I encourage the young people to stay home and be careful of the company you keep. You may become a target just simply by the company you keep.

Vehicular and motorcycle accidents can be prevented. Too many people are driving recklessly on the road. People are overtaking two and three vehicles at one time. People are driving without their seat belts. People are using their phones while driving. People are drinking and driving. It they don’t do the aforementioned activities; vehicular and motorcycle accidents can be prevented.

In addition, be alert on the road, don’t just look out for yourself, look out for the other drivers too.

Illness

Many males do not like to visit the doctors and as a result some men don’t even know if they have a medical issue and by the time they go to the doctor, it may be too late. I encourage men to get a medical check up at least twice a year. You need to know your status and prevention is better than cure.

Conclusion

Parents, please cover your children in prayer because there is a spiritual warfare taking place in our community. Try to get your children in church. Fathers, be a part of the lives of your children. Love you sons and show them that you love them through your actions. Our sons are being influence by too many persons outside of their family and in so doing, they are turning to drugs, alcohol and gangs and soon thereafter commit a murder. We need to save our young men and I believe they can be saved. We don’t need any more deaths.

Name Card Handover
Community Articles, Social Issues,

Too many unnecessary documentations to prove your identity and status.

Make things simple by being paperless and providing appropriate access

Introduction

Many people particularly the young people that have been living in the Turks and Caicos for more than a year were denied the $500 stimulus and the reason being they do not meet the residency requirement. There were also some young people with Turks and Caicos Islander Status who could not apply for an opportunity to get a grant or scholarship from the Government because they misplaced their status card, or their status card had to be notarized. These are just two examples and of course there are many examples in other Government Departments in which individuals must supply so much paperwork to prove their status.

I know this Government and successive governments have been talking about E Government for quite some time now and I know this will not happen overnight, but many opportunities are lost due to all the documentation that is required.  Some Government departments even lost your paperwork, and you must resubmit the documents.

In the private sector, the issue continues.  You can be an existing customer and applying for new services but that same company will ask you to supply the same documents such as your passport or drivers’ licence that they have already have on file. I can understand if the documents on file have expired but if the documents are still valid, why do you have to go through this same process.

When I was a student in the USA, I applied for and received a social security number. I lost my card, but I memorized my number and anytime I had to complete an application, that institution didn’t ask me for a copy of social security number, I simply wrote my number on the relevant forms. We need to make things simple in the Turks and Caicos.

Make things simple

I believe that every resident in the Turks and Caicos should be identified by a national identity number. The citizens can be identified by their Turks and Caicos Status number. The work permit holder can be identified by their work permit number. Better yet, everyone can be identified by their NHIB or NIB number.  The relevant individual in each government department or statutory body should be able to access information about an individual. Of course, we must have the relevant controls in place to ensure that no fraudulent activities take place.

When individuals apply for a stimulus, the Finance Department should be able to verify the status of that individual by simply typing in that number.  When an individual applies for a scholarship, the Scholarship Board should be easily be able to verify the status of that individual by typing in the identification number of that individual. When an individual is stopped on a road by an immigration officer or police office, if that individual does not have that national identity card on them, the police should be able to run a trace on them by simply typing in that number. When a work permit is up for renewal, that labour department should be able to determine if that individual NHIB or NIB is current by simply accessing their national identity number.

The private sector particularly those large companies should maintain a register of all their clients and that register should have all the pertinent information including documentation on their clients so when an existing customer applies for a new service, there is no need to provide documentation, and this will make the process simple.

Conclusion

I know having paperless information for everyone and being able to have all departments connect and communicate with each other can be costly. However, it is worth it and will expedite the provision of services.

It is very frustrating when you know you are entitled to certain services and benefits, but you are denied because you simply cannot prove who you are or by the time you are able to prove your status, the deadline has passed.

I am aware that the Government has mentioned about the introduction of a national identity that will replace all these different cards we have in our possession. I am unsure of the status of this project as this Government has already been in power for almost eighteen months and no updates have been communicated to the public about the status of this project. Therefore, I wrote this article to remind the Government of this promise that was made and to highlight the level of bureaucracy that so many of us encounter daily in this country.

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