The Turks and Caicos Islands is ready for economic growth, but it needs to abandon or at least loosen up some of its current protectionist policies to seize upon business investment potential.
Those are the substance of the recommendations made in a draft report on a development strategy for the troubled eastern Caribbean Island group. They were released Tuesday by the interim government, which is led by UK-appointed Governor Ric Todd.
The ‘green paper’, submitted by the governor’s office for review and comments in the Turks and Caicos Islands, suggested that open and competitive environments would help the Islands take advantage of an attractive natural environment, proximity to North American markets, established tourism and a small financial services industry.
“This provides the economy with great potential for further commercial development and renewed economic and social growth,” the report noted.
However, overly protected business environments that depend on concessions can lead to lower levels of investment, the ‘green paper’ review opined.
“It appears that constraints and distortions stifle business investment and operations in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” the paper stated. “The environment for business could be better.”
The review cited a 2010 World Bank assessment that estimated Turks would score about a 2.5 out of 6 when rated for its business environment.
“This is due to the bans on and complex licensing of investment, procedures to enter business, operational licensing and permits and employment regulations,” the review stated. “It might be argued that the development priorities for Turks and Caicos today lie in stimulating balanced and diversified growth, eliminating monopolies and….substantially increasing employment opportunities for Islanders.”
The British Overseas Territory has been under UK direct rule since a 2009 commission of inquiry found evidence of “a high probability of systemic corruption” within the territory. Subsequent investigations have led to criminal charges against 13 people, some of whom held positions within the previous government of Premier Michael Misick.
However, the UK has made plans to return local rule of the territory back to Turks and Caicos Islanders later this year.
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Secretary of State William Hague has said that a 9 November date would be set for new elections in the Turks and Caicos.