the beachfront Turks and Caicos Islands House of Assembly at Cockburn Town The Turks and Caicos Islands House of Assembly, Cockburn Town, Grand Turk.

About the Turks and Caicos Government

Current Governor: HE Dr John Freeman
Current Premier: Hon Sharlene Linette Cartwright-Robinson

The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British Overseas Territory country in the tropical Atlantic, located 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Miami, Florida, USA, and 75 miles (120 km) north of the Dominican Republic. The country consists of two island groups, the Caicos islands, which includes West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos, and the Turks islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay. The population during the 2012 Census was stated to be 31,458.

the entrance to the N.J.S. Francis Building on Grand Turk
The Hon. N.J.S. Francis Building, Grand Turk, the Turks and Caicos House of Assembly.

Government

The Turks and Caicos is not a sovereign country, yet is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom (a colony). Our status as a British Overseas Territory means that we don’t have a seat in the United Nations, our own Olympic team, or the ability to issue our own passports. Defence and external affairs are the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government.

Queen Elizabeth is the head of state, and is represented locally by an appointed governor (usually for a four year term but it varies).

Head of government is the locally elected Premier (previously titled Prime Minister), who is elected for a four-year term. Two main political parties exist, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and the People’s National Party (PNP). A third party, the People Progressive Party (PPP) was formed to contest the November 2012 elections. The PPP did not win any seats and was disbanded.

Governmental System

The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British Overseas Territory, and its system of government would be classed as a constitutional monarchy.

The functioning of government is similar to that of the United Kingdom, with a major difference being that our parliament (House of Assembly) consists of only one chamber (unicameral), and not an upper and lower house as in the UK and US.

Parliament consists of 19 members, of which 15 are voted democratically. 10 of these are voted in a traditional constituency, and 5 are 'all-island' candidates, of which every voter has the option to elect. Of the remaining 4 members who are not elected, the Governor appoints two, and the Premier and Leader of the Opposition each appoint one.

The Government is divided into seven ministries:

  • Border Control and Employment
  • Education, Youth and Culture
  • Infrastructure and Planning
  • Finance and Trade
  • Home Affairs, Transportation and Communication
  • Health, Agriculture and Human Services
  • Tourism and Environment

In addition to the Government ministries, a number of independent and statutory bodies exist (such as the Financial Services Commission and Invest Turks and Caicos).

Independence

Both political parties have at some point stated independence to be a goal. Independence was previously agreed for 1982, but failure of the PDM to win the election caused a policy reversal, and a suspension of the constitution in 1986 because of government corruption caused the independence movement to fade. The independence movement has been revitalized following the British interim administration from 2009 to 2012.

The Turks and Caicos and the European Union

the soft limestone bluffs at Plandon Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Plandon Cay Cut.

Nearly all of the 42.5% voting population hold British Citizenship (or are able to claim British Citizenship under the British Overseas Territories Act of 2002) in addition to British Overseas Territory Citizenship and local Turks and Caicos Islander status. Thus, they are full European Union citizens, with the right to live and work anywhere in the 27 nation bloc. However, this is not a reciprocal right. Even British Citizens do not have the right to live and work in the Turks and Caicos, and must apply for residence and work permits like any other foreigner.

The Turks and Caicos is regarded as an Overseas Country or Territory (OCT), and enjoys a special status. Mostly, this is a one-way set of privileges concerning free trade and customs duties (parent countries can’t imposed duties or restrictions on trade from their OCTs). In addition, sections from Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community) and the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) apply, but none of the other policies, laws, and directives are applicable.

The European Union has provided funding for a variety of projects throughout the islands, such as visitor centres at Little Water Cay (Iguana Island) and Cheshire Hall Plantation, and the majority of the funding for the North and Middle Caicos Causeway.

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