Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos seeing progress, says departing governor

 

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

Four years after its tourism-based economy collapsed by nearly 20 percent and Britain launched a multimillion-dollar-a-year investigation into allegations of land theft and widespread government corruption, the Turks and Caicos Islands is on the mend, the country’s British-appointed governor Ric Todd said.

“There are many reasons to be optimistic about TCI’s future,” Todd said.

Todd’s assessment comes as he prepares to leave the islands this weekend, ending a two-year stint as the highest British official in the United Kingdom’s overseas territory, 575 miles southeast of Miami. A member of the UK’s foreign service since 1980, Todd will soon serve as British High Commissioner to Cyprus. He will be succeeded as Turks and Caicos governor by Peter Beckingham, who arrives in October.

Todd’s tenure in the Turks and Caicos was marked by turbulent times and tough changes.

Following a report on widespread government corruption, Britain suspended the constitution in 2009, dismissed parliament and took over the day-to-day governance of the islands. It also launched an $11-million-a-year criminal investigation into wrongdoing by former Premier Michael Misick and members of his government.

Misick is currently in a Brazilian jail, where his request for political asylum is on appeal. British authorities, who have already charged several former government ministers, are seeking Misick’s extradition.

Todd said that while he’s enjoyed his time in the Turks and Caicos , where he was responsible for everything from the economy’s recovery to garbage collection, he’s “looking forward to the normal ambassadorial role” in Cyprus.

He is leaving, he said, with a sense of accomplishment, having headed up the interim government before last year’s general elections returned power to Turks islanders. In addition to successful elections, Todd said reforms include a public sector that is “increasingly becoming what we want it to be: an impartial, effective independent, public sector.”

“All the time I was interim administrator, it wasn’t my objective to change everything, but to make the necessary changes so we can have an elected government because there are a number of issues that can only be accomplished by an elected government,” he said.

Among the accomplishments, he said, the recovery of 3,000 acres of ill-gotten government-owned land worth $100 million, along with $20 million in cash. Also, the economy is slated to grow by about 3.5 percent this year; unemployment is at less than 10 percent, and several multimillion dollars’ worth of new investments are in the pipeline, including a new $10-million international airport terminal and a $16-million private jet terminal.

Todd credits several factors for the turnaround. While the U.S.’s improved economy has helped revive tourism and investors’ interests, reforms have also played a factor, Todd said.

“So long as TCI has honest government, it’s going to carry on prosperously,” Todd said. “I am very optimistic about its future.”

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