A former minister of development and commerce, Ariel Misick founded Misick & Stanbrook Barristers and Attorneys in 1981. The most senior lawyer in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Misick has international experience, including appearances before the Privy Council in the UK. Here he discusses the firm’s role in Turks and Caicos’ development as a tourism and investment destination, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing the country
Tourism is the key economic sector in Turks and Caicos. What role does Misick & Stanbrook play in the industry?
We’ve been in forefront of tourism development in Turks and Caicos. Tourism development requires not only access by airlines and other modes of transport but also good accommodation. We’ve been involved in the development, construction and management of properties going back for the last 20 years or so, including most of the major developments on the islands. We are currently involved in the Ritz-Carlton Residences development, which will be a great boon to Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) because of the international reputation it brings with it.
Your firm is a member of two major international law networks, Lex Mundi and TerraLex. What guarantees and security can you offer to overseas investors, and what areas does the firm specialise in?
Clients based overseas can have confidence in us, knowing that we have joined those organisations after a considerable vetting process. This means we work together with our partners as part of a global network instead of us having to pay firms in every different country to have a presence there. I have always been involved in helping clients bring about their construction developments here, helping them gain the requisite permits from government. We are also involved in helping developers and private individuals in the context of condominium development, either to sell or to buy units. I am also very interested in the setting up of corporate vehicles, both domestically and internationally.
What would is your main piece of advice for investors looking to come to Turks and Caicos?
Take good legal advice – not necessarily mine – and have a good look at the nature of the development. This is a small country and it might take longer to recoup an investment of a billion euros than in other countries, so it’s very important to gauge the investment properly. The big challenge here is that there is no one place, no one-stop shop, for you to go to as a foreign investor to help you with things like land acquisition, getting tax exemptions, meeting work permit and business license requirements or environmental regulations. So one of the things we do as a law firm is to take clients through those different bodies and coordinate all of that paperwork.
What are the competitive advantages of Turks and Caicos as a destination?
Our proximity to the US, our biggest tourism market, is one key. The common-law legal system, which is UK-based, is another. Also, the absence of inheritance and corporate taxes make Turks and Caicos a good place to invest, plus our great international communications, with many direct services from the US and plenty of indirect ones from the UK via the Caribbean. We are a high-end and a competitive destination. We are able to attract discerning people to a place that is not overly developed and still has pristine areas to offer.
What does the country’s reaction to the 2017 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, show in terms of environmental security?
Obviously, hurricanes are a major challenge, and with climate change, we have to be aware that the frequency of such events may increase. In Turks and Caicos, we were able to weather those two storms very well. A major part of our recovery was down to the fact that our electricity services and utilities are in the hands of private investors, who tend to be able to react more quickly than government because, in the end, it’s their capital at stake. So our recovery in terms of electricity being restored was remarkable. Then the quality of construction here is very good, so the damage was less than it might have been had this not been the case. Our construction and planning codes meet the highest international standards. And the third factor, although perhaps not the most important in the case of these most recent storms, is that our status as a British Overseas Territory meant that we were able to benefit readily and rapidly from assistance from the UK. They sent ships here and personnel from the UK army came to help in the restoration of basic services. So, we have proved we are able to make a quick recovery even in the event of environmental disaster.
How much importance is attached to foreign investment by the government and politicians in Turks and Caicos?
It is important to note that there is no daylight between our two political parties when it comes to foreign investment. It is seen as something that is needed, it is encouraged and considered to be the main engine to achieve economic growth and to improve the livelihoods and prosperity for the people of the islands. The role of foreign investment is something that is not up for debate; it is not a political issue in Turks and Caicos.
Thinking of the way Turks and Caicos is perceived by global and UK audiences, what makes it distinct among the family of Caribbean nations?
It is curious; Turks and Caicos is obviously located within the Caribbean – but, historically, our links with the rest of the region – particularly in terms of the southern and eastern Caribbean – have been very limited merely due to a lack of contact. This is because our means of access to the outside world has largely been via the north and in particular via the United States. I think that is now changing and that we are becoming more Caribbean. We have a growing number of people from other Caribbean countries who are working here in the construction and tourism sectors, as well as in other supporting services. But apart from our Caribbean heritage, readers should know that we are a very cosmopolitan destination. Incredibly, and as small as we are, we probably have people from over 100 nationalities living here. Our population is extremely diverse, we are open for business and we encourage investment.