Turks and Caicos: Country and Foreign Investment
The Turks and Caicos were historically linked to Jamaica and the Bahamas. When Jamaica achieved independence in 1962 the islands shared a governor with the Bahamas. When the Bahamas became independent in 1973 the islands became a British crown colony with their own Governor. The islands are now a self-governing dependent territory of the United Kingdom. The Queen is the head of state and appoints and is represented by a Governor. The constitution of 1975 provided for a ministerial form of Government with substantial internal autonomy. The constitution of 1988 consolidated internal self-rule. Further changes to the constitution in 2006 assigned to Ministers of Government responsibility for the conduct of business in the House of Assembly in respect to: External Affairs; Defence and Internal Security, including the Police Force; and the Regulation of International Financial Services. The new Constitution also makes provision for the establishment of an Advisory National Security Council. This panel consists of: the Governor, the Premier, the Attorney General, the Deputy Premier, and the Minister of Immigration. The purpose of the Council is to make recommendations to the Governor on matters relating to defence, external affairs, the regulation of international financial services, internal security. The Council is also equipped to make recommendations on the exercise of the Governor's functions during a period of public emergency.
Legislative and executive powers are divided between the legislative council, the executive council and the Governor. The legislative council consists of 21 seats of which 15 are popularly elected; members serve four-year terms. The Chief Minister is selected by a majority of the elected members of the legislative council. The executive council functions as a cabinet. It consists of the Chief Minister, six ministers (who are appointed from among the elected members by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister) the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General, and the Governor who presides.
Elections in 2012 saw the PNP retain power, which they had taken from the People's Democratic Movement in 2003, after it had governed for the previous eight years. The next election is expected to take place in 2016.
The Turks and Caicos Islands have a sound legal system relevant to the needs of the jurisdiction. Laws comprise locally enacted statutes (known as Ordinances), English statutes specifically extended to the islands, and where applicable, English common law. The court system consists of a Magistrates Court and a Supreme Court. Practice and procedure are based on English law. Appeal lies to the Court of Appeal and ultimate appeal is to the Privy Council sitting in London.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are normally politically and economically stable and there does not appear to be any movement agitating for independence from Britain, although Chief Minister Michael Misick said in April 2006 that independence is a long-term goal of his Progressive National Party. However, allegations of corruption in the Government in 2009 led the UK to consider re-assuming direct control of the islands. An interim government is currently charged with the day-to-day running of the local administration, with strong input from London.
In August 2009, the ministerial government was suspended for an initial period of up to two years, with a Special Investigation and Prosecution team set up to investigate corruption allegations. In the financial crisis that unfolded, a support package with commercial lenders was brought in, and a short term loan was facilitated by the UK government to cover unavoidable public service commitments.
As part of a constitutional and electoral reform process announced in 2009, a draft constitution containing "measures to embed good governance and sound public financial management firmly in the Turks and Caicos Islands" was released on March 8, 2011. This draft takes as its base the text of the suspended 2006 constitution, and reflects the recommendations of both the Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate the situation, and those of the constitutional and electoral reform adviser Kate Sullivan, whose final report was also published.
The constitution aims to meet public demand for better public governance by establishing a binding system of governance principles to improve accountability. It will provide for new budget and audit arrangements, and contain a new section to provide more medium and long term information on the finances of the government and the territory. It also aims to allow more public and political engagement in the process of government budgeting, and ensure that government borrowing remains within prudent and transparent parameters.
In addition, the government would be required to make a six monthly report on the state of the public finances and economy, with taxation explicitly required to have prior approval from the Assembly, and all concessions from taxation to be published every six months.
A period of consultation on the draft constitution concluded on May 3, 2011. On July 13, 2011, following a 15-month consultation period a new Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order was approved by the Privvy Council. The Order is due to come into force once several milestones have been met.