Following their productive discussion in Road Town in June, the recent high-level meeting between the Virgin Islands Minister of Communications and Works and the FCDO Director General on 14th September 2023 confirmed the support of the United Kingdom for the Virgin Islands in their pursuit of investment for crucial infrastructural projects. The meeting emphasized collaboration, progress, and a shared vision for the development of the Virgin Islands.
During the meeting, the discussions primarily focused on infrastructural development, with a particular emphasis on the urgent need for airport expansion in the Virgin Islands. The UK reiterated its commitment to supporting the Virgin Islands’ infrastructural projects and stressed the importance of a collaborative approach. Key points that underscored the UK’s support for the Virgin Islands’ infrastructural endeavours included:
The Minister of Communications and Works highlighted the urgent need for airport expansion in the Virgin Islands and explored strategies to overcome previous challenges. The success of the project is contingent upon the Virgin Islands’ effective handling of debt and recovery plans, as well as the support from the United Kingdom. The UK encouraged the Virgin Islands to incorporate social elements into the project, drawing inspiration from successful regional airport models. This exemplifies the UK’s commitment to maximizing the benefits of the project and ensuring its long-term success.
Furthermore, the UK commended the Minister’s commitment to actively engage the public in the airport expansion process, aiming to garner community support. This inclusive approach aligns with the recently held visioning meeting for the airport expansion, which involved a cross-section of stakeholders and industry partners. The Virgin Islands is expected to begin drafting the business case for the expansion by late 2023 or early 2024, demonstrating their strong commitment to advancing the project. The Minister also toured London City Airport and engaged in discussions with UKG infrastructure experts and the Inverness Airport Authority to learn valuable lessons for the future airport development in the Virgin Islands.
The meeting between Minister Rymer and Director General Rangarajan, along with associated meetings, builds upon previous discussions and emphasizes the United Kingdom’s support for sustainable infrastructural project investments in the Virgin Islands. By prioritizing collaboration, progress, and shared goals, this meeting has laid a solid foundation for the future of the Virgin Islands. It also highlights the UK’s unwavering commitment to supporting the Virgin Islands in their pursuit of sustainable development and growth.
Protocols for Effective Financial Management (PEFM):
Discussions in London addressed the potential impact of new large infrastructure borrowing on the VI’s compliance with borrowing ratios outlined in the Protocols for Effective Financial Management (PEFM). All parties acknowledged that the Protocols allow for temporary deviations from fiscal ratios when there is a clear plan for returning to compliance, and when the proposed projects adhere to the PEFM procedures. The UK recognized that these infrastructural projects are investments in the territory’s sustainability. The PEFM includes best-practice processes such as a thorough business case and appraisal of funding arrangements. The UK reiterated its willingness to consider detailed proposals positively and the Minister also engaged with the UK Local Partnerships agency to follow up on an FCDO offer of technical assistance on infrastructure planning, utilizing Local Partnership’s experience in supporting projects of a similar scale across the UK.
The commendable debt management efforts of the Virgin Islands were acknowledged during the meeting. These proposed investments into the territory will demonstrate the UK’s confidence in the continuing ability of the Virgin Islands debt management capabilities and commitment to supporting the financial stability of the territory. The UK confirmed its readiness to consider detailed proposals positively, further reinforcing the strong partnership between the United Kingdom and the Virgin Islands.