Turks and Caicos at Odds with Britain

flagCaribbean News Now reports that Turks and Caicos may repeal VAT) legislation, despite the fact that the Britain has rejected the islands’ requests to defer its implementation. Here is a section of the article.

In what is shaping up to be a replay of events in the sister overseas territory of the Cayman Islands, where then premier McKeeva Bush attempted to defy Britain’s insistence on an agreed financial framework but was ultimately forced to back down, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) House of Assembly is scheduled to meet on Wednesday when, according to sources, a repeal of the value added tax (VAT) legislation will be on the agenda. VAT was approved by the then Consultative Forum and signed into law last year and is due to take effect on April 1 this year.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has rejected all attempts by the recently elected Progressive National Party (PNP) government to defer its implementation for at least six months, unless or until a viable alternative to VAT is proposed.

In comments reminiscent of intemperate remarks made by former Cayman Islands premier Bush, TCI finance minister Washington Misick has stated that he will refuse to collect the tax. “The governor can cancel my ministry, they can use their prosecutorial powers against me, I do not care because this is what I came here for,” Misick said. In the Cayman Islands, Bush was subsequently arrested on charges of theft and corruption and removed from office. Some in the TCI have expressed concern that Misick could suffer a similar fate in that he may be one of those still under investigation by the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT).

Earlier reports indicated that a payment by the Sandals Group as a $1 million-plus campaign contribution to the PNP was routed through both the Prestigious Properties real estate firm run by Washington Misick and also through the law firm of Misick and Stanbrook (see earlier story). In the case of Prestigious Properties, an examination of the files reportedly revealed hand written notes redirecting the funds to the personal accounts of Washington’s brother, former premier Michael Misick, now under arrest in Brazil pending extradition to the TCI to answer questions concerning alleged malfeasance while in office.

Many in the Cayman Islands pointed to the imposition of direct rule in the TCI by Britain in 2009 in an attempt to persuade Bush to moderate his intransigence. Now the TCI could well be looking at the turn of events in the Cayman Islands following threats to defy the FCO.

VAT has been embraced by the FCO as the way out of the financial difficulties facing the TCI. Massive malfeasance in office and systemic corruption on the part of the former PNP government, coupled with debts and liabilities associated with the National Health Insurance Plan and two new hospital buildings, left the TCI some half billion dollars in debt, requiring Britain to guarantee a $260 million loan to prevent default and bankruptcy. Chief financial officer Hugh McGarel-Groves believes that VAT is the only way to bring the government from yearly deficits or break even to a surplus, which will not only cover the health costs but also service the remainder of the debts. However, McGarel-Groves has admitted VAT may raise the prices of taxable items by 3 to 4 percent. The politicians believe the costs to islanders will be much higher.

For full story, see http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Turks-and-Caicos-politicians-on-collision-course-with-Britain-14286.html and http://www.tcibc.org/

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