The Turks and Caicos Islands are often described as the Caribbean's best kept secret: two groups of tropical islands with a land area of 170 square miles, known primarily for high-end tourism. Following the landslide victory of his party in February, Charles Washington Misick now serves as Premier - a position he held for the first time in the 1990s. Misick, who has been driving the development of the British Overseas Territory in different capacities for over 30 years, is set to transform the islands' economy in the wake of the pandemic.
How do you plan to turbo-charge the economy in the wake of the pandemic?
Fortunately, the Turks and Caicos Islands have built up healthy financial reserves and our credit rating is fantastic for a small economy. We have fared better than others in the region and we are aiming for a V-shaped recovery to rebound to and even exceed pre-COVID levels.
Creating an even more investor-friendly environment and improving the ease of doing business is crucial here. It is also vital to diversify the economy beyond tourism to soften the impact of any future pandemic.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are strategically located near our main tourism market, North America. Air links and broadband internet connectivity are among the best in the region.
We have an investment pipeline of close to half a billion US dollars and one of our priorities is to continue to attract foreign direct investment into the hospitality sector.
Economic growth must include social cohesion, sustainability, and environmental protection. We just approved a physical development master plan with stricter requirements for environmental and biodiversity protection because everyone who lives on Turks and Caicos depends on a thriving environment, directly or indirectly.
"Economic growth must include social cohesion, sustainability, and environmental protection. Everyone who lives on Turks and Caicos depends on a thriving environment, directly or indirectly."
How do you want to position Turks and Caicos as a tourism destination?
We have always strived to cater to the upper end of the market and that investment has paid off. We are a small destination with a fragile ecosystem, and our product is of top quality and so highly priced.
We favor the condominium-resort model, which consists of privately owned property overseen by professional hotel management companies. This eases the financing of projects because many condominium units are sold before they are built.
Property prices have risen significantly throughout the pandemic, as real estate transactions and construction activity kept the economy going. The pace of construction on the island is high and the key issue is managing it sustainably.
What other investment opportunities do the Turks and Caicos Islands offer?
The Turks and Caicos Islands used to be at the cutting edge of the global financial services industry but we have lost that status. Global finance has moved on from the days when people were looking for ways to evade taxes, and we have nothing to offer in that regard.
Based on our strategic location, political stability, and low crime rates, we offer excellent conditions to house the corporate headquarters of regional companies and their staff and families. Since there is no arbitration center in the Caribbean, we also see an opportunity to establish the first one here.
Improving the ease of doing business – particularly clean business – is part of our effort to diversify the economy. We want to attract digital nomads who can develop products out of Turks and Caicos. A low-impact destination is ideal for professionals working in tech or online and for people who can and want to work remotely in a safe and beautiful place. To that end, we are also reviewing our immigration policy to offer long-term residency to such professionals.
"A low-impact destination is ideal for people who can and want to work remotely in a safe and beautiful place, so we are reviewing our immigration policy to offer long-term residency to such professionals."
What is being done to reassure tourists that the Turks and Caicos Islands are a safe destination?
We created the 'TCI Assured' portal on which all visitors must register before they travel here. Extra features are being added to improve the arrival experience and make immigration and customs clearing completely seamless.
We are also partnering with the resort industry. Most of our larger properties offer lateral flow testing for their guests' convenience, which is critical especially before returning to the United States and a number of other countries.
Given the strong regional competition, what do you want Turks and Caicos to be known for internationally?
Most Caribbean tourism destinations have more or less similar offers. By contrast, our hospitality sector places first in a number of different hotel and resort rankings.
Our focus is to sustain that competitive edge as a leading five-star destination. We will lay increasing stress on the environment and the fact that we are clean and safe, and that the rule of law applies here. Furthermore, the US dollar is the official currency.
We are a family-friendly destination and most of our visitors are intergenerational families who stay for one or two weeks. The popularity of Turks and Caicos as a second-home destination is also growing because of the absence of restrictions on property ownership or the repatriation of profits.
All in all, Turks and Caicos Islands are ideal for second-home owners – especially North Americans, as it is so close – as well as generally being a great place to live, work and visit.
What best qualifies your leadership for the islands?
My experience, first and foremost. I see myself as an institution builder and I have made important contributions to institutions that empower people.
I believe in lifelong learning and growth. My focus has always been to look at global trends, at what has worked and what has not, adopting the good and eliminating the bad.
I believe in inclusive growth and that whether you are in work or not, wealthy or poor, there are minimum standards of living and quality of life below which people should never fall in any progressive and democratic country.
I want to ensure a broader safety net of social institutions by improving those that exist and building new ones. The Scandinavian model is a guide in terms of the direction of policy.
Also, just as tiny Singapore became a leader in terms of prosperity in East Asia, I hope that Turks and Caicos can emerge as the most admired and progressive small nation in the Caribbean.