TCI election - what's at stake?

By Craig Brewin,

The Turks and Caicos Islands general election will take place later this month, with two parties in the running to form the next Government. At the moment the opposition party, the Progressive National Party (PNP), has 5 of the 15 seats and needs to take three from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to take power.

Over the past few weeks Brenesha Cox who runs @OurTCI on Facebook has been running a series of interviews with the leaders of the parties and some of the independent candidates also vying for a seat. Here we look at what the party leaders said in their pitch for votes. We admit that we can’t do justice to two and a half hours of screen time, but hopefully we can give a flavour of what’s at stake.

The issues covered were largely the same for both leaders, but obviously, the sitting Government can claim progress, with more to do, and a need to shift priorities. But there was an ideological difference demonstrated too, particularly on the role of the state. “I don’t want to sound like a socialist” said PNP leader Charles Washington Misick, and he didn’t. But he did sound more of an interventionist and more of a preventionist, than sitting Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, and he had a greater emphasis on taxation and increased welfare for those struggling.

The PDP’s Citizens Contract was he said, focused in “the human capital development of our people”, and “the common capital”. When asked three thing we would do differently he answered the COVID response, helping people with their finances, including write offs, and creating jobs through public funded environmental improvements.

Both leaders talked abut a desire to scale up the fishing dusty, develop the blue economy and to develop a more diverse economy as a whole. Cartwright-Robinson talked of allowing people to stand on their own two feet, to take care of themselves, and be independent. She wanted to empower people to go into business and own a home. Misick talked about ensuring the education system gave young people what they needed to succeed.

This is linked to the PNP leader’s views on young people. Particularly the need to ensure that the economy worked from them. It was put to both that young people were disillusioned and saw their futures as being away from the islands. Cartwright-Robinson talked about peer mentoring, with young people who have succeeded locally, providing support to others. Also, of better publicizing the schemes to support young entrepreneurs that already existed. Both were concerned that the tourist economy was not creating the career paths that young people are looking for.

Crime was a big issue, with Cartwright-Robinson saying that her Government had focused strongly on their law enforcement strategy, and strengthening the police. They had delivered a twelve-point law enforcement plan, but needed to do more. The plan had focused less on crime prevention and she recognised the need for a broader approach focused on enforcement, rehabilitation, and prevention.

Misick spoke of the crime rate per capita being too high and of the need to begin work to tackle it in schools. Identifying children at risk of leaving school without good prospects of employment or training. The education system needs to work for them he said, as they can easily drift into crime, and quickly make it a lifestyle choice. He said that his Government would spare no cost in providing opportunities for young people.

The other big issue was the cost of living. Cartwright-Robinson spoke of the high cost of electricity and the cost of imports. She didn’t support calls for price controls as this is would not tackle the core problems. Misick said he would support regular inflation adjustments to the minimum wage and would also seek to control the causes of the rise in the cost of living. He would support grants to single parents and others those who cannot afford proper nutrition.

Both leaders focused on the issues, and their lifetime of public service. Both had something to say, and both avoided attacking each other. It was a fascinating political exercise. Cartwright-Robinson needs to avoid a swing against her of around 4% to keep in her job, but with no opinion polls to draw on it is difficult for an outsider to call the election. We’ll know the winner after 19th February.