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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Full Name: Turks and Caicos Islands
Status: British Overseas Territory
Area: 430 sq km (193 sq miles)
Population: 36,605 (2008 estimate)
Capital City: Grand Turk
Languages: English, some French, Spanish and Creole spoken
Religion(s): Many Christian churches are represented
Currency: US Dollar
Major political parties: Progressive National Party (PNP) and People's Democratic Movement (PDM)
Governor: His Excellency Gordon Wetherell
Premier: Vacant – following the suspension of parts of the TCI constitution, the Governor is responsible for the government of TCI

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ECONOMY

Basic economic facts

GDP: recent figures not available
GDP per head:
Annual Growth:
Inflation:
Major Industries: Tourism, property development, real estate, international finance and fishing
Major trading partners: US
Exchange rate: UK£1 = US $1.64

Additional information

Total Merchandise Imports: recent figures not available
Total Merchandise Exports:
Traditional Domestic Exports:
In September 2008, the Turks and Caicos Islands were hit in quick succession by Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike (a category 4 hurricane). Tropical Storm Hanna caused widespread flooding, and Hurricane Ike caused severe damage to the islands of Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay.

In 2010 Hurricane Tomas hit North Caicos but caused little damage.

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HISTORY

Juan Ponce De Leon first discovered these uninhabited islands in 1512. Locals claim that the islands were the first landfall of Christopher Columbus in 1492. For several centuries the islands changed hands between the French, Spanish and British. They remained virtually uninhabited until 1678 when they were settled by a group of Bermudians who started to extract salt and timber. Loyalists established cotton plantations after the American Revolution. But this was short lived. By 1820 the cotton crop had failed and the majority of planters moved on.

The islands became a formal part of the Bahamas in 1799. In 1848 the islanders petitioned for and were granted separate colonial status with an elected Legislative Board and an administrative President. In 1872 the islands were annexed to and became part of Jamaica and remained tied to them until Jamaica became independent in 1962. In 1959 TCI got its own Administrator, but was still under the authority of the Governor of Jamaica until 1962. In 1965 the Governor of the Bahamas also became the Governor of TCI. When the Bahamas became independent in 1973 TCI got their own Governor.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Historically TCI has had strong links with Jamaica, to which they remained constitutionally tied until well into the twentieth century. There are also strong links with the Bahamas. Foreign investors, mainly from Canada, the UK and the USA play a significant role in the islands’ economic life. More than half of the tourists to TCI come from the US. TCI is an associate member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

Relations with the UK

The United Kingdom, through the Governor, is responsible for TCI’s external relations, defence and internal security. Since parts of the Constitution were suspended on 14 August 2009, the Governor is responsible for the government of TCI. The principal point of contact is Overseas Territories Directorate, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (+44 207 008 3596) and Governor’s Office, Government House, Grand Turk (+1 649 946 2308/9).

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GEOGRAPHY

The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) form the south-eastern extremity of the Bahamas chain and lie 90 miles north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and 575 miles south-east of Miami (a 75 minute flight from Miami). The territory comprises some 40 islands and cays (pronounced keys) split into two groups by a deep-water channel, with a total land area of 193 square miles. Only six of the islands are permanently inhabited: Grand Turk (where the capital Cockburn Town is situated); Salt Cay; South Caicos; Middle Caicos; North Caicos and Providenciales (known as Provo, where the majority of the tourism and commercial development is). There are a number of exclusive hotel developments and holiday homes on smaller cays.

The climate is warm throughout the year but tempered by constant trade winds. The average annual temperature is 27C and the rainfall ranges from 21 inches in the eastern islands to 40 inches in the west. The islands are rocky, semi-barren and covered with cacti and thorny acacia trees. Limited rainfall plus poor soil and a limestone base restrict the possibilities for agricultural development.

Over 30 protected areas have been designated to conserve the delicate ecosystems and wildlife habitats of the creeks, sand flats, lagoons, and marshy wetlands. There are 200 miles of white beaches.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports: no recent figures available
UK imports:

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POLITICS

Constitutional Status

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory and until 2009 enjoyed a large measure of self-government. The Governor retained responsibility for the civil service, defence, external affairs and internal security. However, on 14 August 2009, the UK Government instructed the Governor to bring into force an Order in Council (S.I. 2009/701) suspending certain provisions of the 2006 TCI Constitution, in particular the provisions relating to the Cabinet, which ceased to exist, and the House of Assembly, which was dissolved and its members’ seats vacated. These bodies were replaced by an Advisory Council and a Consultative Forum respectively, the members of which are appointed by the Governor.

The Advisory Council consists of the Governor, the Chief Executive, the Attorney General and the Permanent Secretary (Finance), together with seven members, currently all Belongers, appointed by the Governor. The Council gives advice to the Governor on formulating policy and carrying out his functions. It normally meets every two weeks.

The Consultative Forum consists of the Chief Executive, the Attorney General and the Permanent Secretary (Finance), together with twelve members, currently all Belongers, appointed by the Governor. The Forum meets when required to discuss legislative matters, policies, and proposals put to it by the Governor and other matters brought to it by its members, and may make recommendations on these to the Governor.


Recent Political Developments

The last general election was in February 2007 when the governing Progressive National Party (PNP) were returned with 60% of the vote and 13 of the 15 seats in the House of Assembly.

On 10 July 2008, the then Governor appointed a Commission of Inquiry to examine whether there was any information that corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the House of Assembly may have taken place since 1 January 2003. The Commissioner was Sir Robin Auld, a former Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal in England and Wales.

In a Written Ministerial Statement on 2 July 2009, the Minister for the Overseas Territories at the FCO informed the House of Commons that on 31 May, Sir Robin Auld had delivered his Final Report to the Governor. In that report, the Commissioner had confirmed that. the written information and evidence obtained during the Inquiry had provided information pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption or serious dishonesty. In Sir Robin Auld’s view this, together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the Constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms. The Commissioner’s interim report can be found at: www.tci-inquiry.org. The final report has not yet been published.

The Commissioner made recommendations covering: Partial Suspension of the Constitution and Interim Direct Rule; Criminal Sanctions and Civil Recovery; Integrity in Public Life; Crown Land Allocation, Sale and Management; and a New Constitution. Some recommendations focussed on deterring or preventing corruption and other serious dishonesty, while others looked at the broader constitutional and statutory framework of governance. He recommended the appointment of an independent expert on the management and allocation of Crown Land as well as strengthening the Governor’s Office and Attorney General’s chambers.

The Commissioner’s Final Report also recommended the institution of criminal investigations in relation to former Premier Michael Misick, and four of his former Cabinet ministers (Floyd Hall, McAllister Hanchell, Jeffrey Hall and Lillian Boyce). It confirmed the recommendation in the Interim Report for the establishment of a Civil and Criminal Recovery Unit and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.

On 14 August 2009 the Minister instructed the Governor to bring into force the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order 2009 ( www.fco.gov.uk/en/newsroom/latest-news/?view=News&id=20700728 (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/newsroom/latest-news/?view=News&id=20700728) ).

The Order in Council leaves in place important elements of the Constitution such as the fundamental rights chapter and provisions relating to the Governor, the courts and the public service, while removing the Cabinet, House of Assembly and references to Ministerial and related powers. Powers and functions previously exercised by Ministers are now exercised by the Governor acting in his discretion, including in relation to public finances, legislation and necessary regulatory reform.

Elections

The Minister for the Overseas Territories visited the Turks and Caicos Islands in September 2010 After consultation with leaders of both political parties, with members of the Advisory Council and Consultative Forum, the Haitian community and local businessmen he announced that the UK did not want to postpone elections any longer than necessary, but they could not be held in July 2011, as originally envisaged. Significant challenges still remained to be addressed, including embedding the reform process; setting public finances firmly on the path to a balanced budget within three years; stabilising the economy; preparations for elections in light of the outcome of the constitutional and electoral reform process; and further progress in the criminal investigations recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.

In a Written Ministerial Statement [add link] in December 2010 the Minister for the Overseas Territories set out milestones that would need to be met before elections could once again take place. These milestones focus on the restoration and embedding of the principles of good governance, sound financial management and sustainable development.

The milestones identified do not include everything that will have to be done before elections take place. In general the UK Government will have to be satisfied that the necessary reforms have been put in place to address the issues raised by the Commission of Inquiry, to prevent such maladministration being repeated, and to engender the confidence of the international community. The milestones listed in the Written Ministerial Statement are the minimum preconditions before the Turks and Caicos Islands can return to elected government.

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Last Updated: July 2011

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