Governor Ric Todd chaired the 18th meeting of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ (TCI) Cabinet on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at the House of Assembly Building on Grand Turk.
All ministers were present at the meeting, except the minister for health and human services, who was on leave.
At this meeting Cabinet:
• Concluded, in the light of papers from the Minister of Finance, and having taken account of input from the Blue Ribbon Commission, that it would not proceed with the planned introduction from 1 October 2013 of the proposed GST on Professional Services and the Temporary Licensing Fee (Visitors Driving Permit). It further decided that the revenue from these taxes thus forgone, which was in the budget and the FSPS, would be found by adapting the current tax system.
To this end it agreed to: increase the Stamp Duty on vehicle hire to 12%; increase the Communications Tax from 10% to 12%; to introduce a 10 cents per minute levy on incoming international phone calls; and to increase fuel duty by 10 cents from 75 cents to 85 cents per gallon. All these changes will take effect from 1 October 2013.
Cabinet further agreed to: advise the Governor to approve some amendments to the designation of restaurants for tax purposes in accordance with Hotel and Restaurant Taxation Ordinance CAP 19.09 (2009); and instruct the Commissioner of Revenues to make further and urgent efforts to recover unpaid arrears to the Scholarship Fund;
• Discussed appointments to the Audit Committee, which it has decided to create in accordance with section 16 (9) - (13) of the Public Financial Management Ordinance 2012. It agreed to the appoint the following persons to be members of the Committee: Mr Nigel Hearnden (Chairman); Mr Neville Adams; Ms Edith Cox; Mr Neil French; Mr Bennett Alexander Stubbs; and Mr Cecil Arnold;
• Agreed to the proposals from the Attorney General (AG) that the draft bill on the Human Rights Commission and the draft bill on Company Management(Licensing) (Amendment) be submitted to the House of Assembly at its next sitting;
• Considered a report by the AG on work carried out to deliver TCI’s international commitments on transparency and cooperation in the area of international financial services. It approved, and agreed to issue, a statement on the TCI Action Plan to Prevent the Misuse of Legal Persons and Legal Arrangements
• On the basis of a paper by the Premier, discussed road safety issues on the Leeward Highway on Providenciales. It decided, as an immediate step while work is done on the feasibility of roundabouts and traffic lights, to install three and four way STOP signs at specific intersections identified by the RTCIPF. The Road Safety Department and the RTCIPF will also prepare and disseminate appropriate information about correct uses of these STOP signs;
• Held a discussion on a paper by the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment about amendments to the National Parks Ordinance. It instructed AG’s Chambers to prepare draft legislation on: the addition of new Protected Areas and amendment to existing Protected Areas; the confirmation of existing navigation channels and provision for the creation new ones; permitting appropriate low/no impact use of Protected Areas, such as eco-tourism; and ticketing powers for Enforcement Officers in Protected Areas. The draft legislation, when agreed by Cabinet, will be subject to public consultation before a final Cabinet decision;
• Considered a paper from the Minister of Finance about work on transforming the business environment on TCI to encourage investment and economic growth in the context of funding from the EU under the 10th EDF. It underlined the importance it attached to this work, approved public consultation on the issues and decided that a further statement would be made by the Finance Minister. It further decided that it would agree a Reform Strategy by mid December in order to make a request for disbursal of the first tranche of EU money, 3 million euros, before the end of Financial Year 2013/14;
• Heard and welcomed a presentation by Mr John Costigan of IBC Airways about the company’s plan to begin a twice weekly direct flight from Grand Turk to Fort Lauderdale commencing in November 2013;
• Finalised and agreed the Policy Guidelines for Official Travel by Government Officers proposed by the Premier;
• Agreed that the Premier would submit to the House of Assembly a Government Motion proposing the establishment of a Select Committee of the House on Constitutional Reform;
• Discussed and agreed a proposal from the Minister of Finance to establish an Infrastructure Working Group, including representatives of the private sector and non-government experts, to consider TCI’s long term infrastructure needs and funding routes, both public and private. The Group’s initial report to Cabinet will be made before the end of November;
• Noted the need for TCI to have a strategy on debt refinancing to ensure that TCIG is able to refinance its debt from 2016 independently, effectively and sustainably. It therefore agreed a proposal from the Minister of Finance to set up a Debt Refinancing Delivery Team, chaired by the Premier, which would hold responsibility for the coordination of refinancing preparations and subsequent reporting to Cabinet and the UK Government. The Team would draw on expert advice as appropriate;
• Considered and agreed proposals from the Minister of Border Control and Labour to amend a number of fees and revise and amend a number of application forms;
• Heard a report from the Minster of Border Control and Labour about the visit to Haiti from 11-13 August which he had made with the Governor. Cabinet welcomed the visit and the report. It considered, and authorised as a basis for negotiation, the text of a draft Memorandum of Understanding submitted by the Minister on cooperation between TCI and Haiti in combating illegal migration and other related issues;
• Considered a proposal from the Minister for Border Control and Labour to amend the Immigration Regulations to permit a limited number of Permanent Residency Certificates to be made available on the basis of investments above a certain level in a home or a business. It requested further legal advice from the AG in order to consider the matter again at its next meeting.
Further information on the issues addressed by Cabinet will be provided by Ministers in due course.
Cabinet noted that 21 August was the 50th birthday of the wife of the Minister of Government Support Services, Mrs Ruthanne Lightbourne, and offered her their congratulations on the occasion.
Cabinet will hold its next meeting on 4 September 2013.