By Caribbean News Global contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI – General elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands will now be held in 2021 and not 2020 as previously speculated. The prospects for a 2020 election faded as the dates for an election would have already been announced if the polls were to be held in November or early December.
December elections have been frowned upon by the TCI electorate as most persons prepare for the Christmas holidays. The People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) government has until March 2021 to conduct the polls. Voters who are overseas are grumbling that elections during the COVID-19 pandemic disenfranchise them especially students who must quarantine up to 14 days in different countries if they travel home to participate in the polls. The PDM has been in power since December 15, 2016, with a nine to six advantage in the parliament.
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) has been grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 on the tourism industry. The finances of the country have taken a big hit since the onset of the pandemic. Finance minister Charlene Robinson confirmed the financial catastrophe Caribbean News Global (CNG) previously reported, on Tuesday at a press conference held in Providenciales.
The finance minister failed to borrow in the early days of the pandemic and is now dependent on a British government guarantee for major borrowings.
On Tuesday, October 27, she handed opposition leader Washington Misick a political victory by delaying major borrowings until after elections. Misick has been calling for a delay in borrowing claiming that it should be left to the government who is elected with a fresh mandate.
The TCIG is expected to borrow only $80 million to get it through to elections before turning to the British government for financial support in a new package.
The minister of finance on detailing her strategy said:
“The TCI government has adopted a debt strategy to secure its financial position through the winter to the election and beyond, in the face of headwinds such as the delayed opening of major resorts. Importantly, the strategy will not create long term funding commitments or other potentially onerous obligations.
“The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands will shortly issue a Request for Proposals to borrow up to $80 million to secure its financial position through to summer 2021. It will not be seeking a UK government guarantee. This new loan will form the first stage of a two-stage debt strategy. This approach was taken by my government and will rightly leave the decision over Stage 2, or the long-term debt strategy, and issues such as whether to pursue a UK government guarantee, to be dealt with after the election”.
The tourism-dependent territory has not accomplished the task of opening three of its major resorts, Beaches, Club Med and Turks and Caicos Collection, thus crippling government finances.
As previously reported, TCIG’s finances have collapsed and the cash which the minister of finance says is on hand is encumbered and cannot be touched to comply with UK-TCIG financial guidelines.