Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

Basic Information

Status: British Overseas Territory
Area: 430 sq km (193 sq miles)
Population: 26,000 (2005 census estimate)
Capital City: Grand Turk
Languages: English, some 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 Richard Tauwhare (with effect from 11 July 2005)
Chief Minister: The Honourable Dr Michael Eugene Misick LLB, MLC

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 development is). There are a number of exclusive hotel developments and holiday homes on smaller cays. Limited rainfall plus poor soil and a limestone base restrict the possibilities for agricultural development.

The climate is warm throughout the year but tempered by constant trade winds. The average annual temperature is 27C and the rainfall ranges from 21inches in the eastern islands to 40 inches in the west. The islands are rocky, semi-barren and covered with cacti and thorny acacia trees. 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.

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 by Jamaica and remained tied to them until Jamaica became independent in 1962. The TCI then became a Crown colony with an Administrator rather than a Governor. In 1965 the Governor of the Bahamas also became the Governor of TCI. When the Bahamas became independent in 1973 TCI finally got their own Governor.

Politics

Constitutional Status

The Turks and Caicos Islands are an internal self-governing British Overseas Territory with a ministerial system of government. The 1988 Constitution provides for a Governor appointed by HM the Queen, an Executive Council (ExCo) and an elected Legislative Council (Legco). The Governor is responsible for external affairs, defence, internal security, offshore finance and certain other matters but is otherwise normally required to act on the advice of ExCo.

There is a ministerial system including the Chief Minister and five Ministers with the responsibility for the business of government exercised in accordance with policies decided by ExCo.

The Governor is President of ExCo, which comprises of nine members:

  • Six of which are appointed by the Governor from the elected members of LegCo.
  • The other three, The Governor, Chief Secretary and the Attorney General, are ex-officio members.

LegCo is comprised of 19 members, 13 elected members, 3 nominated members, 2 ex-officio (Chief Secretary and Attorney General) plus the Speaker.

Government

Governors Office:

Governor: His Excellency Richard Tauwhare
First Secretary: David Brett
Staff Officer: Ian Angus
PA: Michelle Ridley
The Governor’s Office
Waterloo
Grand Turk
Turks and Caicos Islands
Tel: 001 649 946 2308/9
Fax: 001 649 946 2903

Government Ministers:

Chief Minister and Minister of Planning, Tourism, Development and District Administration – The Hon Dr Michael Eugene Misick LLB, MLC
Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, National Insurance and Health – The Hon Floyd Hall
Minister of Natural Resources and Social Services – The Hon Galmo Williams
Minister of Housing, Immigration and Labour – The Hon Jeffrey Hall
Minister of Education, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture and Gender Affairs – The Hon Lillian Robinsonn
Minister of Communications, Works and Utilities – The Hon McAllister Hanchell
Attorney General – The Hon Kurt DeFreitis
Chief Secretary – The Hon Mahala Wynns MBE

Recent Political Developments

Parliamentary elections are held at intervals of not more than four years. In the 1999 elections PDM won 9 of the 13 seats.

Following General Elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on 24 April 2003, which saw the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDM) returned for a third term, the opposition Progressive National Party (PNP) filed election petitions against the results in two of the thirteen constituencies. On 19 June 2003, the Chief Justice declared the results in both districts void with the result that a fresh election was required in each one. This put the governing PDM in a minority in the Legislative Council. The Chief Minister, the Hon Derek Taylor, asked the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Council and to call a new General Election.

The Governor, acting in accordance with the Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands, told the leaders of both parties on 23 June 2003 that he was denying both the PDM’s request for a new General Election and the PNP’s request for the immediate appointment of their Leader as Chief Minister, and that he would issue writs for by-elections in the two constituencies affected to be held on 7 August 2003.

The PNP won both seats in the by-elections giving them a majority of 8-5 in the Legislative Council. Derek Taylor resigned as Chief Minister on 15 August 2003. Michael Misick was sworn in as Chief Minister on the same day.

Elections

May 2007.

Economy

Basic Economic Facts

GDP:US $297 million (2003 provisional estimate)
GDP per head:US $13,506 (2003 provisional estimate)
Annual Growth:6.1% (2003 provisional estimate)
Inflation:Less than 7% (2004 provisional estimate)
Major Industries:Tourism, property development, real estate, international finance and fishing
Major trading partners:US
Exchange rate:US $1.75

Additional information:

Total Merchandise Imports: US $220 million (2004 provisional estimate)
Total Merchandise Exports: US $11 million (2004 provisional estimate)
Traditional Domestic Exports: Lobster US $2.7 million, Conch US $2.2 million (2004 provisional estimate)

International Relations

Diplomatic Representation

HMG is responsible for TCI’s external relations, defence and internal security. The principal point of contact is Overseas Territories Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (+44 207 008 3596) and Governor’s Office, Government House, Grand Turk (+1 649 946 2308/9).

UK Representative for Turks and Caicos Islands

Tracy Knight
42 Westminster Palace Gardens
1-7 Artillery Row
London SW1P 1RR
Tel: 020 7222 9024
Fax: 020 7222 9025
Mobile: 07930 958903
Email: knight_tracyann@yahoo.co.uk

UK Development Assistance

None

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports: 1.51 million (2003)
UK imports: 0.34 million (2003)

Human Rights

Overseas Territories are expected to comply with their obligations under the international human rights instruments which have been extended to them. The following major Conventions apply in Turks and Caicos Islands:

  • European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT)
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

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