“If all we are is a conduit for other people to make money then I’m failing my people as a leader.” – Hon. Charles Washington Misick
Invest Turks and Caicos held its third annual economic conference under the theme “Strengthening Our Domestic Investment Landscape.” This conference provided a lot of hope for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands as the right things were said by the Premier and the Deputy Premier. The Premier said, “If all we are is a conduit for other people to make money then I’m failing my people as a leader.” There were also breakout sessions and the issues and challenges that the residents particularly Turks and Caicos Islanders faced were discussed with recommended solutions. If an action plan is implemented because of what was said and discussed, we should see a radical transformation on the landscape of the locals participating in the domestic investment.
I know many people are fed up and tired of all the “talks” by this Government and successive Governments but given that Invest TCI has brought many people together to review and upgrade the National Investment Policy speaks volume. Therefore, we must hold the Government and Invest TCI accountable to ensure that business environment is enabled so that more Turks and Caicos Islanders can participate effectively in this booming economy.
Access to Financing
Access to Financing was the biggest challenge that locals faced. The locals have great ideas, but they are struggling getting the financing they need to make their dreams become reality. The Deputy Premier, Hon. E. J Saunders stated that the Government is in discussions with the banks and other lending institutions to be more friendly to the local businesses. The Premier, Hon. C. Washington Misick also talked about implementing a financial institution so that locals can have access to financing like what was done in the past with the former TCI Invest.
Too much government bureaucracy and red tape
Everyone including the Government acknowledged that there is too much government bureaucracy and red tape. As a result, residents either delay their plans to start a business or don’t even start at all as this is a deterrent to businesses and potential business owners. We need to simplify doing business in the Turks and Caicos. Of course, this leads to the next point.
Limited ICT Infrastructure
Limited ICT Infrastructure was the third challenge that most people faced in the Turks and Caicos. The Government said they intend to address this issue by building a local fibre network It was also stated that it was unfair that the residents of the North Caicos and South Caicos have to travel to Providenciales to do their banking. The Deputy Premier assured the people that the banks are working on a solution for the other islands.
Linkages for domestic businesses
The guest speaker for the event was Carolyn McDonald Riley who shared with us how in Jamaica their hoteliers and the local suppliers are working together and helping each other. Based on what read and hear from some of the local businesses, they find it challenging linking with many of the hoteliers to use their products. In Jamaica, they have several events throughout the year where the local businesses can display and sell their products and services. I think this is something that we should consider doing in the Turks and Caicos Islands. During this discussion, the Premier recommended that we focused on providing attractions and activities for the tourists. Of course, this does not solve the issue of linking with the hoteliers but if you are able to develop attractions for guests and market your business properly, you may just be able to attract more visitors to your business without even linking with the hoteliers as guests want things to do while they are in the country.
Look at other industries other than tourism
While tourism will perhaps be the mainstay of our economy for many years, many of us were encouraged to look beyond tourism. Focused on other industries such as agribusiness, financial services, and energy.
The Turks and Caicos Islands have millions of dollars flowing in the economy and so we must ensure that the locals are able to benefit significantly from the foreign direct investment. We can do so by ensuring access to financing is available and removing the government bureaucracy and red tape. As the Premier said, he does not want the Turks and Caicos to continue to be a shoe box economy. I will end again with his quote “If all we are is a conduit for other people to make money then I’m failing my people as a leader.”