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By Deandrea Hamilton and Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – With so many pages in a mammoth-sized document that captures all national spending for the coming fiscal year, it’s possible the Leader of the Opposition has missed some important allocations.
When Edwin Astwood, leader of the opposition PDM, rose to respond to the budget communication tabled on Tuesday May 3, he lambasted the government for a number of areas he said were underfunded.
Akierra Missick, who is the Leader of the Government in the House of Assembly, refuted his remarks and accusations as untrue and pointed to a lack of research and scrutiny of the budget by Astwood.
“Some amazing comments have been shared by my colleague opposite, the Leader of the Opposition…he knows there are some facts that need to be clarified,” said the Honorable Akierra Misick, Minister of Land and of Infrastructure Development and Member of Parliament for Long Bay. and the Leeward District of Providenciales.
During his presentation on the budget, there were harsh words about the insufficient funding of the TCI Royal Police, however, the minister said the statement was false.
“I heard the police commissioner himself say it during the appropriations committee, he presented a budget accepted and adopted by the executive, by the budget department, by the Ministry of Finance. Of course, there will always be an opportunity to increase funding in every budget, in every department, but there has to be a balance and national security is a priority of this administration and that’s reflected in our budget because you’ll notice , in budget Book the Police Force funding for the previous fiscal year was $27 million this year, it is increased to $31.5 million, an increase of $3.6 million.
So to say that we are not the ones putting our money where our mouth is is just plain wrong,” said the minister who defended national and border security spending.
She also pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition must have missed the announcement of at least three new ships.
“In the pages of the capital projects, he will note that there is a ship for national security, secretariat alone; in the police budget he notes that there is a ship for the police. In the DECR budget there is a ship for the DECR and maybe he missed it in the capital projects pages that show the British government’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office investing $1 million in DECR equipment and resources to help us protect our borders.
She assured there was an allowance for CCTV cameras and a whopping 229% increase in police training.
“Their increase in training alone shows that we are devoting our time and energy to the resources of the police force to help us achieve our national security objectives. In the aftermath, my colleague colleague must have missed that, as part of the Border Force initiative, again contained in our budget, we are installing two radar stations, one in the North West Point area, the other in the Leeward Long Bay area; again to help achieve our national security goals and needs.
Regarding Edwin Astwood’s strong remarks about infrastructure projects or lack thereof in the ridings, she said that contrary to her statement, work was going on in the ridings citing the Salt Cay Bridge and the Wheeland landfill and other projects in Blue Hills, Leeward and Long Bay.
An improvement identified by the minister, “public lighting”.
“I know it’s a big book. I know the appropriations committee did the best they could in the time they had, so I’m not going to say that my colleague would have intentionally overlooked those ships in the budget book when he presented, but as someone who believes in consensus and building bridges – like I did in Salt Cay, which I’ll talk about a bit later, because my brother doesn’t seem to have visited that part of his riding in the last few weeks to see the work going on in Salt Cay – I’m here to build bridges and let you know that we spend our money, energy and time on national security, police force training, upgrades.
She said her ministry was “co-sponsoring” the construction of a $2 million law enforcement recruiting and training center and she reminded the LOO of several moratoriums to prioritize job opportunities. employment of TCI Islanders.
“In the wake of genuine concerns we would have had that businesses in the Turks and Caicos Islands would have a genuine opportunity to bid for these larger scale construction works under the Large Contractors Business License, the Ministry of Finance took the position that we would freeze large building permits that were not majority owned by TC Islander.
It gives us, as islanders, another opportunity to get our house in order and be the movers, shakers and builders of the biggest projects on these islands.
Misick briefed the president on the $2.3 million investment in small contractors and the department is working to encourage more Turks and Caicosians to be hired in the construction industry.
Citing support for entrepreneurs, the upcoming review to support living wages and the cumulative millions going directly to TCI households through his government’s initiatives, Misick said it reflected the budget was “people-centric”.