Angela Musgrove has been with Invest Turks and Caicos since 2016, first as a senior vice president and now as acting CEO. Passionate about boosting investment in her country, she has a deep understanding of what investors want and the mutually beneficial projects that Turks and Caicos can offer. Here, she explains the diverse investment opportunities on the island-nation, what Brexit could mean for investment, and how Invest Turks and Caicos can serve those interested in helping the unique Caribbean country fulfil its economic potential
What have been your biggest challenges and achievements since taking up this role?
At Invest Turks and Caicos, the experience has been quite different from my background, and it has been a wonderful opportunity for me to promote Turks and Caicos Islands from an investment perspective. Over the past two years, we have faced several challenges after our CEO transitioned out, and it has been a challenge for me to assume the role in the interim.
One of the biggest rewards has been working with a team of individuals who are really passionate about Turks and Caicos and about investment promotion. We have been able to see the increasing growth in our domestic strategy, the promotion of domestic investment, and we have been able to also witness a growth in our investment promotion. We have also seen increased numbers of people who are interested in Turks and Caicos. It has been exceptionally encouraging to see that we are getting the word out and that people are responding. Those responses don’t always translate to a tangible proposal or a tangible investment, but the fact that we are creating interest and in some cases renewed interest is definitely rewarding.
What can you tell us about Invest Turks and Caicos’ shovel-ready initiative, and how will it attract more local and foreign investment into the economy?
The shovel-ready investment programme is geared towards getting our locals involved in the investment market. We found that a lot of local people are employees rather than employers, not because they don’t want to be employers, but because international investors have the edge as they have access to capital that the local potential investors don’t have. In some cases, our local population may have access to resources, they may have the expertise, they may have the land in some cases, but they don’t have the capital to develop it. What the shovel-ready initiative looks to do is bring those people to the table, and marry them together with investors.
People come with their business plans, their ideas, and we list and promote them. If there are people who are genuinely interested in investing in the country, then they can view a list of pre-approved projects that are ready to go. The term “shovel-ready” refers to the fact that we have already done the preapprovals. We have already ensured that the land is properly zoned, we have already completed a business plan and looked at the financials and ensured that this plan is the right model. Things are already in place. We have seen a lot of interest in this, which is very encouraging, and we have people who are preparing projects because they now understand what is expected of them to get a project ready for us to be able to actually list it as shovel-ready.
Are there any success stories to share from the initiative?
It was launched late last year, so we are still moving. We are getting a lot of interest, a lot of inquiries, and we actually have one or two projects that have already been preapproved in terms of the permissions that they have already secured.
This initiative is not something that is unique to Turks and Caicos because it was born out of our partnership with the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies. They actually request these types of projects from all of the investment promotion agencies in order to promote Caribbean investment projects to their wider international audience. This is part of a whole scheme of promoting investment throughout the Caribbean.
What is Invest Turks and Caicos doing to diversify the economy?
We recognise that diversification is definitely needed in order to be sustainable as an economy. To that end, we have been tasked with the implementation of our revised national investment policy, and that policy speaks to the diversification of the various sectors of the economy. Primarily, it speaks to our tourism sector and diversifying tourism into various niche market products, such as expanding cultural tourism, even retiree development, and we have spoken about ecotourism and health tourism. We have the market and the resources to tap into those niche market tourism products.
There are also lots of linkages that can be developed from our tourism sector that still have the potential to expand. For example, our agricultural sector, which is completely untapped, could form a great linkage for the tourism sector in itself while also forming a stand-alone industry, creating sustainability in terms of food provisions for the domestic economy. Within that, there is always potential for export as well.
The smaller islands have resources in terms of land, and given the idea of vertical farming, for example, where not much land is needed, this could be an opportunity. There is also scope and room for the information technology sector to be further developed. The Turks and Caicos Islands are one of the few Caribbean islands that have exceptional connectivity, with telecommunication services that are stable and reliable. We saw through the passage of the storm how quickly we were able to get them back, and in some cases, the services were sustained. While the storm exposed where the weak areas are, it also exposed where our strengths are. We recognise that there is potential for us to develop our telecommunication sector and attract larger FDI into that sector, giving TCI a niche market product within the Caribbean.
Of course, there are also areas like our light manufacturing sector that haven’t been tapped into at all or areas like renewable energies where we are seeing interest. Those are sectors that we are looking at when we talk about diversification. Invest TCI is in the process of developing our strategies for promoting those individual sectors and getting them ready for investment.
What is the typical investor profile?
While we understand that every investor needs a high ROI in order to substantiate their investment in any country, we want to see investors that are interested in the growth and development of TCI as well. When we talk about corporate social responsibility, we talk about the investor who understands the importance of that, and therefore contributes to TCI’s whole list of development. Our typical investor is not someone who simply comes in to set up shop, collect the bottom line and move on.
What government incentives and concessions are available to investors in Turks and Caicos?
We have realised that while incentives are good and people want to know that we appreciate them, what investors really want to see is a business environment that is welcoming and enabling. Invest TCI works to ensure that the investor is facilitated throughout the process of investing. All services at Invest Turks and Caicos are free. We think one of the biggest incentives is holding the investor’s hand throughout the process as opposed to giving them an incentive to come and then leaving them on their own.
In terms of the financial incentives, we do offer stamp duty reduction for eligible projects. There is also the customs duty reduction on imports. We also assist with helping the investor to set out an immigration protocol document that speaks to the type of labour that he or she would need and allowing that document to more or less serve as an agreement.
What impact do you foresee Brexit having on investment, and what strategy does Invest Turks and Caicos have in place to deal with this?
We have direct flights into the UK twice a week with British Airways. We have not seen a huge increase in arrivals from the UK as a result of those flights, so there is still a lot of room for more arrivals from the UK market. I suspect that Brexit will probably provide a greater incentive for UK residents to want to relocate the Turks and Caicos Islands, given the benefits that they can achieve through investing in an overseas territory as opposed to investing in the UK. We also believe we will see this filtering through into the smaller businesses, whether it is the property management, the convenience store, the cleaning company, as people seek to buy second residences here. We think that this could only help to build the economy.
Turks and Caicos has an investment-based permanent residency scheme. What would be the benefits of gaining TCI residency?
Like other Caribbean countries, we have a permanent resident certificate. We recognise that people who invest here want the comfort of being able to travel to and from the island hassle-free, so the permanent resident certificate offers you the comfort of not having to pay for a work permit every year, and to more or less travel in and out of the country freely.
People who invest $1 million or more in a business or a home in Providenciales are eligible to apply for the permanent resident certificate. In the other islands, it is an investment of $300,000. It is a huge incentive for people who are looking to invest here, move their family here, and move their business here, as the certificate means they don’t have the hassle of immigration every time they enter the country.
What would you like British investors to understand about the islands?
I think there are misconceptions about the Caribbean. Many people refer to the Caribbean as if it were one landmass. There has to be the clarity that Turks and Caicos is, while very small, still its own separate set of islands with its own separate economy. The fact is that the Caribbean was impacted by the recent storms, but the impact across the Caribbean was of varying levels. It was devastating for our economy, but the Turks and Caicos Islands people are a resilient people, and we were able to bounce back much better than we or even the rest of the world thought.
I want people to understand that we are stand-alone. Turks and Caicos has not been squashed. We are still here. To say that everything is business as usual would be downplaying or understating the impact that the hurricane had on individuals. But, I think that for us as a collective body, we were able to stand strong, and it spoke volumes to see Turks and Caicos Islanders coming together after the hurricane to ensure that their neighbours were okay, and to work together on the understanding that we needed to get the islands together in order for our economy to be maintained and to be sustained. With that being said, I think it speaks also to the heart and the nature of the Turks and Caicos Islands people and our character, which shines out through the tourism product that we offer. It’s not just about the buildings, the hotels and hotel rooms; it’s about the people.
What makes you passionate about your work in encouraging and facilitating investment in your country?
Anything Turks and Caicos makes me passionate. I was born in Grand Turk and grew up there, then I moved to North Caicos for a number of years, and then moved to Providenciales, and then I spent a lot of time in Middle Caicos growing up. As a result, there is a piece of me in each of the islands. Turks and Caicos is home for me, so anything that allows me to contribute to nation-building, anything that allows me to contribute to seeing the growth of the people of the Turks and Caicos is what I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about the impact of investment on the Turks and Caicos Islands people because without foreign direct investment, we don’t have a sustainable or stable economy.
With strong competition within the Caribbean, what is your appraisal of Turks and Caicos’ competitive advantages as an investment destination?
I am very biased, but I think we have the competitive edge, not because of any one sole big factor; our competitive edge lies in a combination of factors that make us unique. We do have our sun, we have the sand and the sea and the award-winning beaches, but other Caribbean islands can also boast that. What we also have to complement that are aspects like our political stability, our economic stability, our BBB+ rating. We have an excellent education system, with very good British and American curriculums in our schools. Our crime rate is also very low compared to every other region be that North America, the Caribbean, the UK or South America. We can also boast our accessibility – we are right under the tip of Florida, and we have so many direct flights to various parts of North America and the UK. And of course, we use the US dollar, which is a huge plus. Whereas another Caribbean island may have one or other of these factors, we have a combination that allows us to be the high-end destination that people plan years in advance to come to.