The Opposition Progressive National Party (PNP) in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has urged the Government there to hastily convene a high-level conference of stakeholders to craft a plan for speedy reopening of the economy, hopefully by the beginning of June.
Opposition Leader C Washington Misick, in a letter Sunday to Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, said the Opposition was concerned that there had been no update on plans to reopen the country’s borders.
“Marrying up the medical concerns with the economic concerns will be no easy task, but it is a task that must be faced. What we hope would emerge is a consensus as to how we get the TCI back to work and a realistic timetable,” he said.
Misick noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had already caused job losses and that more would come. He prodded the Government to provide “a road map” to the private sector “with the information to make informed decisions about staffing and the preparation needed for reopening their businesses”.
The PNP leader acknowledged that from a health and safety standpoint the TCI had fared relatively well from the early lockdown, but suggested it was time to reopen the borders in an organised and safe way.
Following is the full text of Misick’s letter to the premier:
“I am writing to you out of concern for the health and well-being of the residents, and for the survival of employment entities in the Turks and Caicos Islands for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact on livelihood thereafter.
I recognise that from a health and safety standpoint, the islands have fared relatively well, and that is in large part due to the wise decision to close the borders at the end of March and put in place lockdown measures and procedures. As well in recent weeks it appears that some progress is being made to beef up health care capacity for the care of COVID-19 patients.
However, there has not been an update on plans to reopen the border. It appears that provided there is not a major spike in infection TCI may emerge on the other side in fairly good shape from a health perspective.
This is, of course, all of our wish, and we in the Opposition remain optimistically cautious and will support any common sense decision-making action to protect front line workers and the general public, but also to restart the economy and open up our borders.
The issue with the economic effect of COVID-19 is that, unlike other recessions, this is not simply a case of the actions of the private sector. The steps that the private sector will take and is taking to protect their businesses are inextricably bound to the decisions that Government makes to protect the health of residents.
I believe that it is vitally important that a road map is available to the private sector and the country as to what is the Government’s intention in regards to the opening of the borders, the protocols, and safety measures that will be imposed. Such a road map will provide the private sector with the information to make informed decisions about staffing and the preparation needed for reopening their businesses.
Events move fast in a crisis and it was clear from the KPMG report that in the hospitality industry, without any clear direction as to when the business will return, their instinct/practical requirement is to reduce costs. This has already led to job losses and more will likely follow.
The preparation of a road map will not be easy, and especially as the time frame to produce such a map is incredibly short. The beginning of June is only two weeks away.
So, there is much work to be done and we must start now by convening a high-level virtual conference of major stakeholder groups, moderated by an independent world-class facilitator. The stakeholders are financially and emotionally invested in the economic future of these islands. They would bring ideas and shed light on the practical difficulties of the reopening of the borders.
Marrying up the medical concerns with the economic concerns will be no easy task, but it is a task that must be faced. What we hope would emerge is a consensus as to how we get the TCI back to work and a realistic timetable.
I cannot stress enough the need for speed in addressing these issues. I am aware from my time in office of the pace of most government initiatives. This stakeholder engagement cannot afford to be delayed; time is of the essence. I believe we should have the conference this week. I will promise you my party’s complete support and engagement of your effort to fashion a strategy to get this country back to work.
It is true that to some extent Government and Opposition have a habit of painting themselves into corners. But we are at a juncture where the ends justify the means and must now be sufficiently flexible to consider new ideas and suggestions as the emerging conditions mandate.
And since ‘politics is the art of compromise’, it is time for us to put the political sabre rattling aside and cooperate to do what is in the best interest of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
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