First of all, as promised, apologies are extended to the Hon Minister of Finance and the Hon Premier for denying publicly, at the September sitting of the House of Assembly, that this government was not going to sell our people out.
Previously, on writing on this issue
, I stated that if it was announced that ministers were not with the EU on this point I would apologise. So here we are. If this was in the “situation room” and if I ran into the Hon Ewing, I would be saying, “You een no good -- cus you cause me to apologise.”
Be that as it may, I am pleased to see that this government will not sell our people out -- at least on this one issue. Our eyes are on them though because there are much wider issues that need to be addressed.
It is in keeping with the position of all previous heads of TCI Governments, from the Honourables McCartney, Saunders, Francis, Skippings, CW Misick, Taylor, Misick, to hold the line where they can on Belonger rights.
For me and all TCIslanders, this is not a political issue and that is why apologies are being extended. I called the government out and they held the line that the European Union can keep their money. This will not be a Jacob and Esau moment where the government sells us out for a mess of pottage -- at least this one time. $15 million is not enough to sell a people and no amount of money should ever be enough.
No TCIslander, expatriate, Caribbean, European, Jamaica, Bahamian, US, UK, etc. citizen should stand quiet while our rights are being whittled away. On this issue we must all stand tall and together.
The European Union wants “weaknesses” in the system to be fixed? Pray tell; what are these weaknesses? It is agreed that work permits and business licenses do take a while. Processing can be sped up with more staff, more training, more investment in the departments, more seminars on law, procedure and policy, more support. These steps can be taken internally by the government-elect with support and proposed legislation from the official opposition. But there is no need to sell the people out for $15 million.
Belonger protection clauses are common in most countries of the world, they form an effective part of public policy, they are respected and TCI has not reached the stage where these clauses can be easily removed. We do not yet have a significant amount of Belonger owned businesses. Major sectors of the economy from telephone companies, banks, insurance companies, resorts, hotels, electricity, etc. are still non Belonger owned and Belongers are without reach. Serious amounts of economic rents, in the $100s of millions are siphoned from these islands annually. There should be room for all.
What the Islands need is access to greater capital for all. A development bank, a credit union, low interest loans in the region of 3 to 5%; microfinance; FSC policy that would mandate commercial banks change their attitudes to Belonger businesses. This government will receive greater support from the public if they push policy and legislation in this area.
In the TCI, it seems, It is easier for a person to get a car loan, to crash and collect insurance, than for a local to get a loan to buy land, build a house or start a business. What about long term, sensible and sustainable lending practices? This is where European Union and government policy should be directed.
The words of the Hon Premier stand in sync with former TCI leaders and governments. It is PDM thinking -- so ministers, welcome aboard. So alas, this honeymoon continues but we long for the day when we can rip each other’s guts out in political debate, with all mutual respect intact. But because of this stance, telling the EU to keep their money and standing for Belonger rights, alas, this difficult task of agreeing with the Hon Ewing, on this one point alone, must stand.