Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Fostering development where it matters: the Turks and Caicos Islands
In reading the article from Mr. Ron Crocombe, I'm inclined to believe that he has experienced life here in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, as our problems are so similar.
We too suffer from much of the same kind of “Who does the development benefit?” theory here, where our beaches have become congested with million dollar condominiums, built for rich foreigners by overseas workers (since we don't have enough people here to provide the necessary labour force). Meanwhile, our schools have become over-populated with the kids of those overseas workers, brought in to build these so-called major developments, and it becomes the local Government, obviously the poor locals, who have to bear the cost of maintaining these schools.
These developers are given duty free concessions, when our roads and other infrastructure are in a deplorable state and our Government is forced to borrow money at market rates to repair and replace the dilapidated infrastructure.
For me it has become much too much of the old cliché of “biting off your nose to see your face”. We want to brag about having the fastest growing economy and being the most developed country in the Caribbean, without having to answer the critical question of who is benefiting from the so-called progress. How is it justified that those wealthy few, who could afford to pay the import duties, land taxes, etc., nevertheless get exempted from these taxes while the locals have to face constant increases.
Here in the Turks and Caicos Islands, land prices have gone from around US$7,000 for a lot of land to US$20,000 a lot in most areas; of course, forget beachfront properties at an average price of a million US dollars an acre. Prices in the food stores have grown astronomically in the last five years. At the same time, salaries (forget minimum wages which have never made sense at US$4.50 per hour) have increased by less than 10%. How is the average local single mother of two to take care of her children when she has to pay rent and shop at the foreign-owned supermarket at these ridiculous prices?
I'm truly of the belief that we as a country should revisit these development plans, mindful that there a couple of hundred million dollars worth of development projects under construction and others in the planning stage. There should be a clear policy of having these developers set aside funds for the maintenance of our schools, infrastructure and of course the burdens these immigrants place on our social services. We should discontinue the granting of duty free exemptions and concessions, as we have already reached the point of diminishing returns. Business opportunities for locals should be promoted and funds made available to assist in establishing these businesses. There should be a limited number of work permits that would be granted to any one employer and in any category. There should be a clear policy for locals to be given equal opportunities to compete for “white collar” job opportunities in the country.
Then and only then should we be boasting of the success and growth of our country as we would be able to identify locals who are products of a system designed to foster development where it truly matters.
I thank you for this forum as I think it gives a great insight into the concerns and grief of us all in Small Island Territories.
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