THERE IS SO MUCH POTENTIAL FOR US.
WE JUST NEED TO BE EMPOWERED.
THE GOVERNMENT HAS ITS ROLE TO PLAY AND SO DO WE.
The Turks and Caicos Islands is now a brand name as a result of millions of dollars spent on marketing by Beaches, the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, the Tourist Board and past and present Governments. Consequently, many investors are coming here to our shores for a piece of this million-dollar pie. The uncertainty involving the 12 storey Ritz Carlton court case held up a number of investors from coming here in the past. Now that this case is resolved, more developers will be coming to these shores.
I have nothing against the physical development of our islands but our greatest resources which are our people are not being developed or empowered at a high rate. Consequently, we are left behind feeling frustrated, powerless, marginalized and like an outsider in our own country.
The Government gets blame for a lot of these mishaps but while they should get blame for some things, we also must blame ourselves as well for not taking advantage of some of the opportunities presented to us.
We must ensure that our people are empowered and that is when we can truly say we have power in our hands despite being outnumbered.
This article will attempt to address some ways in which we can become empowered.
Government needs to lead by example
Our Government must lead by example. The Government must find a way to ensure that there is a succession plan for the locals to head every department. However, it must be a realistic plan and the locals should be qualified and trained in that area. Do not set them up for failure by putting them in a position just because they are locals. Ensure that a local is understudying all top positions occupied by expatriates and the expatriates must be told up front that they are in position on a temporary basis with the intention of a local to assume the role even if means having an expatriate in a role for five years.
Ironically, politicians want the private sector to ensure that they are putting locals in key positions when they themselves are not doing it.
The Government needs to find those areas that few or no locals are working in and offer scholarships and training so that locals can study in those areas and return home to occupy the positions. Do not just talk about the issue, do something about it.
Concessions to Local Businesses for a Definite Period of Time
I know that the previous administration implemented a scheme with INVEST TCI whereby certain businesses can get up to $30,000 in concessions and grant. These businesses however are restricted. The idea is great and encourages innovation.
However, we continue to grant major concessions to Developers. Most of these developers are condo developers and the condos will be sold anyway at a significant profit. The government loses major revenue from customs duties because of these concessions.
The writer proposes that if the major developers can get these major concessions then certainly there should be an opportunity for all local businesses to get concessions on their services and businesses for a period of atleast one month for every year for the next 5 years or so. The concessions can be rotated throughout the year with different businesses. Yes, we will lose revenue but don’t we have significant surpluses and aren’t we giving away concessions to the Major developers who barely support the local businesses once they are operational.
Prohibit the Developers from building apartments for their employees and construction workers
I know this may be a hard one to control given that some of our past governments have given belongership status to some of the developers and apartments of a certain size may not be in the restricted category. However, incentives and encouragement should be given to residents to build apartments to house employees and construction workers for all these new projects.
Land – Lease a plot of Land to Every Localor Create a Department of Housing
While Land is precious commodity and is under the direct control of the Attorney General Chambers, it must be a priority to our government to have land under their control. The government should lease a reasonable plot of residential land to every Turks and Caicos Islander so they can build their home. Alternatively, the Government should develop a department of Housing and partner with contractors and build nice homes on crown land and sell them to locals. In addition, government should make available commercial land for all locals once they show proof that they can develop the land within a reasonable period of time. The land should be at a reasonable discount as many locals cannot afford to purchase private land.
Reserved Categories – Become a Real Partner, not a “Fronter”
There is a significant number of business licences reserved for Turks and Caicos Islanders only. Despite the European Union advocating the removal of the reserved category, the Government maintained the list and in fact expanded the list. Are we taking advantage of this opportunity? Some of us continue to “front” and get paid a monthly fronting fee. It is time we really consider the consequences of what we are doing. Find a business that you are passionate about and if you need a partner to assist with financing, then find a partner but not for fronting. Establish a Board for the Business and be equally involve in the business as your partner. Don’t become a “fronter”, become a real partner. There are so many other locals who truly want to have a business in some of these categories but because there is so much fronting, it is difficult for them to compete with those businesses that have a “fronting partner. Who do you think clients gravitate to most? The business with the fronting partner and the sad thing the fronting partner only gets a fraction of the business.
Tenders Should be awarded to Companies or Individuals that ARE in TCI
There are occasions in which certain government tenders are awarded to companies or individuals that are not present in TCI. There should only be two exceptions and that is if the tender involves specialized knowledge and not available in TCI or a local is residing outside TCI. However, they should have a business licence in TCI to operate.
No tender should be granted to an external company or individual unless a local company is a partner with them. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. There are local companies who are paying salaries, work permit fees, business licence fees and other operational costs and yet have to compete with companies that do not have these costs to bear.
We also see a trend of this happening in the private sector. Absolutely unfair to the market.
Limit the number of tenders any one company can get in a given year
I know we operate under a free market system but in order for in order for everyone to benefit, the writer proposes that the Government maximizes the number of tenders any one company can get in a given year. Each year, the Government has tenders for services and goods and some companies do not even bother to bid because they feel they are wasting their time. Give other companies an opportunity to win a contract. Share it around as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This will be a great way to empower our people.
Encourage the Promotion of Entrepreneurship
With the proposed concessions in the aforementioned and the reserved categories, these facts alone can encourage promotion of more entrepreneurs in TCI. I applaud the Government for the job registration drive but more effort should be on the promotion of entrepreneurship in TCI. More locals need to be entrepreneurs and they in turn can recruit work permit holders as employees. As I have mentioned over and over again, our focus should not be on the creation of jobs for locals but rather the promotion of entrepreneurship.
Key Management Roles in the Private Sector
Based on the National Audit Skills, only 13% of the management positions are Turks and Caicos Islanders. There are some of us who do not want to be entrepreneurs and so will continue to be employees. There are only few Turks and Caicos Islanders in the work force and so there should be an opportunity for advancement of the people in key Management Roles. This should be part of the plan of every business in TCI. However, our people must work hard and don’t come to the table with a sense of entitlement and arrogance.
While there are many other ways to empower our people, I believe the above can be achievable and realistic. I am not one of those persons that believe a local should be on every job or understudy every work permit holder as it is unrealistic given our numbers. However, I firmly believe that locals should be in the key leading positions in Government and the Private Sector. Do not spend all of your energy bragging about the physical development projects because the impact is not being felt by the average person on the street. Let us “build up” our people. Investing in human resources is one of the greatest rewards any Government or individual can do.