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UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced that there has been sufficient progress in the Turks and Caicos Islands towards the implementation of stringent governance frameworks, and the establishment of sustainable finances, for the islands to be returned to local rule in elections set for November this year.
The announcement comes after the British government assumed control of the Turks and Caicos Islands' affairs on August 14, 2009, removing its elected premier, cabinet and assembly, and suspending much of its constitution. The intervention was taken after an enquiry reported that there was a high probability of systemic corruption being perpetrated, allegedly including the island's former Premier Michael Misick.
The UK government previously indicated that the territory would only be returned to domestic rule when it could demonstrate recurrent budgetary surpluses, and when the islands had implemented significant frameworks to protect against future maladministration.
Summarizing progress made since 2009, Hague noted the introduction of a new constitution to ensure good governance by future administrations and the establishment of robust and transparent public financial management processes, to ensure sustainable finances and responsible policies with regards to state assets. Hague said that the UK government had assessed that a total of seven, of eight, milestones have now been achieved, with the final one on fiscal policy set to be achieved in 2013 when a value-added tax regime is due to be implemented.
The UK government reported that although the territory failed to achieve budget targets last year, measures in the 2012/13 Budget are expected to lead to a surplus of USD20m in 2013.
Hague continued: "This is an impressive list of achievements. We judge seven of the eight milestones have been clearly met. Over the next few months, in the run up to elections, the Interim Government will continue with the implementation and consolidation of reforms, in particular to strengthen the public sector and public finances, develop the economy, modernize legislation and make practical preparations to enable the elections to take place."
"We now judge there has been sufficient progress, on the milestones and on putting in place robust financial controls, to set November 9, 2012, as the date for elections," Hague said.
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