Turks and Caicos Weekly News
The National Newspaper of the Turks and Caicos Islands
December 20 – January 11, 2013 TURKS AND CAICOS WEEKLY NEWS NEWS 7 Development agreement to restart works on West Caicos signed THE Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG), last Friday, announced the completion of the development agreement enabling the recommencement of the Molasses Reef development, a luxury hotel and condominium resort on West Caicos, which has been stalled since 2008. The development agreement was completed on December 6, while the remaining arrangements necessary for recommencing the project will be completed this week. West Caicos measures nine square miles and is currently uninhabited. Development of the island began in 2001, but with the credit crisis in 2008 and the collapse of main creditor to the project, the development came to a standstill in the same year. A group of European investors advised by Kew Capital reached agreement with the previous developers, Logwood Development Company, to buy most of their interest in the project, and with the administrator of the original creditor to buy its interest in the land and other assets including the partially built hotel and associated infrastructure. The project will re-mobilise as soon as practicable and after the new development team has carried out a detailed review of the existing infrastructure and buildings. Subject to this review, the developer looks to start work in 2013 with a view to opening the hotel as soon as possible. The development agreement, initially signed by Governor Ric Todd, on behalf of TCIG , was under negotiation between TCIG, the owners of the development and the new investors for nearly 12 months, and will bring significant benefits to the government and people of the islands. The development is a multiphased development, which will be a source of construction activity and employment on the island for many years to come. Other benefits include enhanced government revenues through ongoing duties, licence and other fees, as well as a 25 per cent share of proceeds from the sale of leasehold interests of land located in the southern part of West Caicos. Also the agreement reached with the new investors yielded the government $7.6 million including stamp duty, through the completion An aerial view of the West Caicos Resort of land sales that had previously been agreed but not completed. The original project employed 500 people at its peak and was expected to create hundreds of jobs on an on-going basis once the hotel opened; the government expects similar levels of employment under the new development. The additional phases of the development include luxury villa and Premier Ewing reports tangible takeaways from JMC PREMIER, Dr. Rufus Ewing, maintained that there were tangible takeaways for the Turks and Caicos Islands following the United Kingdom’s Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), held earlier this month. At a press conference last Thursday, December 6, Ewing said the UK’s Caribbean Overseas Territories agreed to meet once a year. He added that one area identified as a common challenge was the major discrepancies in the Caribbean Overseas Territories. According to him, together the Caribbean Overseas Territories are looking to modernise the legislative framework so that it is more uniform. At the end of the JMC’s twoday session a joint communiqué, which sets out priority issues and a comprehensive action plan for joint work in the coming year, was issued. Ewing stated that the priorities Premier, Dr. Rufus Ewing, in the UK at the JMC are reflective of the goals of the Overseas Territories. He pointed out that for the TCI, the identification of capital works, in the interest of seeking public/private partnership was addressed, as well as the country’s goal of economic diversification. The Premier stated that collaboration was sought not only between the UK, but with other Overseas Territories to advance economic diversification, a development that would include agriculture, deep sea fishing and offshore financial services. Ewing said while there are useful policies which the other Overseas Territories have tried and tested that can be adopted by the TCI, the country will still seek out other regional partners, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for needs such as advancing agriculture. “Most helpful was the networking between other Overseas Territories,” he said. This month’s meeting was the first meeting as the new Joint Ministerial Council, which succeeds the Overseas Territories Consultative Councils. (VANESSA NARINE) UK has to keep an eye not two hands on the TCI, Leader of the Opposition PARLIAMENTARY UnderSecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) Affairs, Mark Simmonds, last Monday, updated the Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, and the United Kingdom House on developments in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And he made it clear that the UK will keep its attention turned on the TCI. However, Leader of the Opposition, Sharlene CartwrightRobinson, stressed that the UK has to keep “an eye, not two hands” on the affairs of the TCI. She said, “As much as they have had a part to play in what has happened. It is an embarrassing situation. We have more embarrassment to endure with the trials coming up. “It is understood that it is in their PDM Leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson best interest to not just watch the finances, but the whole image of the Turks and Caicos Islands. “At the end of the day, if we are unable to perform; first thing first with the loan guarantee, it becomes their taxpayers’ bill; and they also have a responsibility for many other aspects of the TCI. “If there is anything negative then it shines a bad light on their governance and oversight of their Overseas Territories.” According to the Opposition Leader, she is in favour of the UK keeping an eye on the affairs of the Islands. “In fact if they had kept an eye on the TCI before, we would not be in the position we are in today,” Cartwright-Robinson said, “I encourage them to keep an eye on the TCI.” However, she reiterated that oversight for a nation that has a democratically elected government must be “an eye, not two hands.” Premier, Dr. Rufus Ewing, was unavailable for comment, according to head of his Secretariat. (VANESSA NARINE) condominium developments, which will create further construction work and hospitality industry employment. The investment group expects that hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested in the island over the lifetime of the project. The new development team has ambitious plans for making an environmentally sustainable development on West Caicos and will work closely with the various government agencies including the Planning Department and Department of the Environment and Costal Resources among others. A key part of the development agreement designates much of the island as a nature conservancy, which the project team has undertaken to maintain, preserve and protect. Governor Todd, commenting on the development, said, “I am glad that the government and the various parties involved in this transaction have reached a deal that will enable this project to re-start. “The project will add to the range of tourism and hospitality offerings, which already make these islands such a leading tourism destination. “This luxury resort development will deliver considerable economic and employment benefits to TCI, and has been very carefully structured so as to preserve the unique environmental and marine heritage of West Caicos. “The re-start of the development is a further vote of confidence in TCI and in the current investment policy of the TCIG.” A spokesman for the investment adviser, Kew Capital, said, “We are very pleased to have advised on this investment in TCI. “We have worked hard along with the government to bring it about, and we look forward to the project recommencing with the new development team. “The investment reflects our conviction that TCI has a great tourism base and has enormous further tourism potential. “We know this project comes with a great deal of responsibility; West Caicos is a beautiful island and we are determined to ensure that the new development is sensitive to its environment and to this end we will work closely with the various government agencies as well as the newly elected government.” Sandals Resorts responds to false assertions ASSERTIONS indicating that Sandals Resorts International (SRI) challenged statements made by Premier, Dr. Rufus Ewing, over the timing of his notification of the company’s acquisition of the Veranda Resort are false, according to the company. Reports recently posted on TCI News Now and other local portals, said the Premier recently travelled to Grand Turk aboard the Sandals Resorts International’s corporate airplane as a guest of SRI chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, and was aware of the deal. A release from the company said that Premier Ewing has never been a passenger on any of the company’s airplanes and Stewart has not been a visitor of Grand Turk for more than a year. Another contentious issue was the claim that Ewing had problems with the company’s employment of some 750 Jamaican workers who reside in Beaches-owned accommodation and do not rent from locals. In response, the company made it clear that this is “wholly inaccurate”. According to SRI, the accurate number is far less than 400 and only 67 reside within staff housing, while the vast majority of overseas staff choose to rent from the local market to the benefit of the local economy. The company in its release said, “Beaches Turks and Caicos currently operates one 208-room staff housing facility on Venetian Road, which was built following a request from the then TCI government, to ease their housing concerns and it is only partially occupied. “The other 26-room complex on South Dock Road has been closed for long-term refurbishment work. “We are happy to say that both the resort and its employees contribute fully to all aspects of economic activity in the Turks and Caicos Islands including housing.” Earlier this month, Premier Ewing said his government was pursuing the development of a MOU, which is expected to revisit the 2006 Beaches Development Agreement to: improve the immigration provisions and concessions in TCIG’s favour; and seek additional benefits to the TCI that will ensure greater employment protection, and development of a skills training unit at the TCI Community College. As it relates to the timing of his notification of the acquisition of the Veranda Resort, Ewing acknowledged that the transaction is a private matter between the owners of Beaches and Veranda and as such outside the business of government. He also gave his assurance to Turks and Caicos Islanders that the government will continue to monitor the situation, well after the sale has been completed, with a view to ensuring that those who are currently employed with Veranda will be afforded an opportunity to continue their employment with the new owners and that the people of the TCI will benefit from the opportunities presented by the acquisition.