Testing times, call for testing measures. Having consumed & digest our government’s stimulus plan, many have come to understand that its lacking in several key areas and has fallen well short of stimulating our economy or assisting the majority of local & vulnerable Turks Islanders and their businesses.
Make no mistake here, the result of a stimulus plan that fails to help the majority of Turks Islanders across all sectors, will result in the emergence of a much different Turks and Caicos post Covid-19 that will not include our local people.
Turks and Caicos run businesses and enterprises will cease to exist. Our government cannot afford to miss the opportunity to protect our people and encourage businesses to operate in order to keep locals on payroll and safeguard against a total collapse of our business sector.
Prior to the Government’s reveal of their stimulus plan, I laid out a road map of 19 suggestions for consideration. Suggestions that would ease the burden of Turks and Caicos Islanders, whether employers or employees, help to stimulate the economy and create new employment opportunities while helping to make us a more self-sufficient nation.
This is the direction we must move in now. The world is changing and we need to progress in order to not only survive but thrive in the midst of adversity.
Our people’s patience has been tested by the stimulus package, which is now being widely regarded as a stimu-lack package.
It’s a stimu-lack because:
- It outrageously lacks a people centered and business stimulating approach;
- ALL displaced employees are not allowed to collect the $1200.00 cheque; this is NOT all encompassing. This is selective.
- It refuses to recognize that almost every single business in this country is in fact tourism related
- For small business owners; this package lacks the waiver of business license fees for ALL businesses regardless of the categories; as well as it lacks the freezing of NIB, NHIP and crown land payments; Our gov’t has restricted our business owners ability to conduct proper business, however, has not restricted their collection of fees
- For business owners; it lacked the provision(s) for unsecured loans up to $30,000. TCI is only as strong as our local economy. business owners need access to these loans for their economic survival.
- For landlords; our gov’t’s current package lacks payment of affected employees rent to landlords but the threat issued to landlords have caused confusion for many tenants and landlord who are depending on rental income to feed themselves and their families;
- For the 3 farms of North Caicos, this disaster could prove a brilliant opportunity to rapidly expand on projects for food self-sufficiency, yet this package lacks any engagement with the three farms on North Caicos- Not only can this save our farms now, it can provide sustainability beyond for years to come…Yet…it is not even mentioned
- According to the Stimu-lack, car rental companies and restaurants receive no assistance at all.
- it lacks a wholesale review of all the industries and it failed to established proactive measures to minimize the economic fall out for all other stakeholders besides the hotel industry prior to declaring the ‘lockdown’ order.
It’s not too late to progress this stimu-lack into a stimulus – There is a solution. Given that Parliament is the week of the 20th April, Government should revise the stimulus package and address these 9 areas which were neglected.
LOCALS ARE SUFFERING
Many of our long-standing residents live in rural areas, and are unable to get transportation to the only open supermarkets. Many of them simply cannot obtain minimal grocery items for daily survival because of a lack of required public transportation and no money. We must remember that none of us caused this pandemic, yet the consequences are dire for many.
I invite the Government to give permission for the mom and pop shops to re-open . These stores serve their local communities and help sustain our economic system. They sell small quantity of everyday staples varying from $1 per portion on up that our people badly need to survive. These local stores are more likely to provide goods on credit to those in their neighborhoods. Loans and concessions of fees will help assist many in doing this and may even develop growth opportunities otherwise not possible.
Many are saying that HMP inmates are living better than most of us, because we on lockdown cannot afford three square meals per day, nor indulge in any recreational activity. It’s unconscionable to force another 3 weeks lockdown on us without ensuring that our people and communities have the ability and the financial means to restock groceries for an extended lock-down period in which our people have no say.
TESTING OF OUR ECONOMIC MODEL
Our economic model is currently being tested beyond its limits. The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned that it will take 10 months, minimum, for the Tourism industry to recover only after the covid19 outbreak has ended. No one knows when this will be. This is our cold reality of what lies ahead for our economic model. This must serve as a clarion call for our government to take proactive measures to start diversifying & progressing our economy along the lines I suggested nearly one month ago today. We have already lost an entire month of growth and prosperity for our islands.
Planning to re-open our economy must begin immediately. I suggest first engaging local business owners in this discussion as this is the only way to ensure meaningful collaborations. Unless the government takes decisive action to diversify our economy, poverty will increase and our economy will experience violent and disruptive times.
I am truly hopeful that the Government will answer my call and greet the nation with the NEW people’s stimulus plan!