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PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos Islands
A $417 million rescue package from the U.K. will allow the ailing Caribbean dependency of Turks and Caicos to refinance its high level of debt and fund monthly deficits for two more years, the London-appointed governor announced Tuesday.
Gov. Gordon Wetherell said the bailout approved in Britain last month will not fund significant new expenditures or reverse spending cuts. It will only allow the financially struggling islands of roughly 23,000 people to bring spending and revenue in line, he said.
Wetherell said it "buys us the time we need to tackle the dire fiscal legacy" his interim administration inherited on the islands some 500 miles (800 kilometers) southeast of Florida.
Britain imposed direct rule on Turks and Caicos in August 2009 after a government probe into allegations that local leaders misused public money and profited from the sale of government-owned land. The local government and legislature were suspended.
A British corruption-inquiry panel found a need for "urgent and wide-ranging systemic change" in the former colony.
Public hearings revealed that former Premier Michael Misick spent lavishly after taking office in 2003. His estranged wife described using private jets to commute from Los Angeles and other luxuries including a leased Rolls-Royce. Misick has denied any wrongdoing.
In recent months, islanders' frustrations with the interim government have increased amid the political uncertainty and a struggling economy. British officials say economic problems have been exacerbated by the Misick administration's unpaid bills and failure to build up reserves.