Message from Premier Fahie On Moving Forward This Christmas Season

Message from the

Premier and Minister of Finance

Honourable Andrew A. Fahie

Moving Forward this Christmas Season

Thursday, 24 December, 2020

Season’s Greetings to all the people of the Virgin Islands.

I pray God’s richest Blessings on each and every one of us as we celebrate the Christmas Story in this Advent season.

I want to encourage us all to continue to remain laser-focused and positive as we keep moving forward.

Since the reopening of our borders to international arrivals on December 1, we have welcomed as of December 23, 2,315 persons to this Territory. This number consists of 1,081 tourist visitors, 121 work permit holders, and 466 residents.

The interest has been high for persons wanting to come to the BVI and the outlook remains for a positive trend in 2021 as long as we maintain our control over the Coronavirus situation on our shores.

What we have achieved over the past nine months and continuing is the direct result of our collective efforts – among all our Government agencies, our business operators and our citizens. This is so, whether it is through the development and implementation of health protocols or the simple acts of wearing face masks, washing and sanitising hands, maintaining physical distancing or managing the size of gatherings.

All Virgin Islands people deserve to feel proud.

At the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, we have put in place measures to ensure the health and safety of our people and our economy.

For example, through the BVI Airports Authority, your Government has commissioned our newly opened state-of-the-art Welcome Centre, which serves as an in transit lounge for persons entering the Virgin Islands.

As you know, we have a controlled process for persons arriving into the Territory, and there is continuous monitoring of the lounge to ensure that those patronising the facility have a wonderful experience and that people are moving swiftly through the lounge.

We have also put in place the online BVI Gateway portal (bvigateway.bviaa.com) and the use of tracking devices for persons who come into the Territory.

There have been a few minor bumps during the roll-out. This is not uncommon when you begin to transition theory into practice. We must remember COVID-19 did not come with a playbook and every country is writing its own playbook as they try to identify the protocols and processes that work in their unique situation.

But, may I say, we are in a process of continuous improvement. As new and unique scenarios present themselves in the real-world application of our COVID-19 management systems, we are making adjustments that further strengthen our protocols.

As a Territory, we must join in expressing thanks and congratulations to our businesses for completing the Gold Seal certification. We thank them for reinforcing the protocols so that we can have economic activity, and so that people can return to having jobs, while keeping customers and workers safe.

Your Government believes in the strength of our local businesses and the strength of the people of the Virgin Islands. We Virgin Islanders are the ones who must control our own destiny, as we have been doing for generations.

Once again, I say congratulations to all the businesses and individuals who have been able to meet the qualifying requirements for the many different business stimulus packages made possible by your Government.

I am pleased that many of our people have been able to benefit from the economic stimulus programme.

We did our best with the funding that was available to ease some of the financial strain on you our people and businesses during this challenging time. Indeed, these are challenging times for economies around the world – large, medium and small.

What we have been able to achieve with our limited resources is exemplary – and your Government has been told this by the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories in recent correspondence.

We are pleased that our people and businesses continue to put the stimulus funds to good use, abiding by the terms and conditions of these grants.

For example, we were pleased to make available the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Grant. These grants were issued in accordance with strict guidelines and conditions from the BVI Social Security Board to which your Government is being held accountable.

Recipients were informed in writing that the offer of the grant requires them to:

  1. Assist the Government in evaluating the programme by completing the required surveys, and participating in focus group discussions and interviews, which will be carried out periodically during the implementation and programme assessment periods, and;
  2. Attend training programmes organised by your Government. This training aims to equip Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with expertise in financial management, business plan development and other entrepreneurial skills, so that they can move forward as successful businesses.

Before receiving the funds, recipients had to agree to furnish the Premier’s Office with a full account of the expenditure of the funds being granted. This is so that we can assure that the funds are used properly, responsibly and effectively.

Accountability is important, and we are pleased to ensure a transparent process.

We reminded persons that this information is to ensure that the grant hits its target and that your Government is being prudent with the public’s purse.

Further, through acceptance of the grant, it is also expected that persons will settle outstanding payments with agencies such as Inland Revenue Department, Social Security Board and National Health Insurance.

Your Government also introduced the COVID-19 Pre-Schools, Day-Cares, Private Schools, Churches and Religious Organisations Economic Stimulus.

We truly appreciated being able to assist your Day-Care/Pre-School/Private School/Churches with their continued efforts in educating our children and we remain thankful to them for their contribution to our community and the lives of the people and economy of the Virgin Islands on a whole.

We have also had the COVID-19 Farmers/Fisherman Economic Stimulus and we congratulate all the applicants who were approved and awarded.

Again, recipients were presented with a letter outlining their obligations for accepting the grant. This also included agreeing to furnish the Premier’s Office with a full account of the expenditure of the funds being granted, and the expectation that they would also move to settle outstanding payments with agencies such as Inland Revenue Department, Social Security Board and National Health Insurance, and of course, other expenses they may have had.

Again, this was done to ensure that the grants hit their target and that the Government is being prudent with the public’s purse.

Indeed, we appreciate being able to assist recipients with their efforts, and we are thankful to them for their contribution to the community and the economy of the Virgin Islands.

Once again, as Minister of Finance, I thank the BVI Social Security Board for making the grant available toward this economic initiative.

And may I add that some aspects of our economic recovery from COVID-19 and the 2017 Hurricanes involve some public infrastructure construction projects. To ensure that these funds stimulate the local economy, create more local jobs, build local businesses and benefit the people who call these islands home, your Government has been able to negotiate a more suitable procurement framework with the agencies that have supplied these funds.

The procurement framework ensures greater transparency and accountability but brings local companies to the centre where they can meaningfully participate in and benefit from these opportunities in ways that they were previously limited in doing.

As part of the COVID-19 response, your Government is also pleased that each District Representative was given an additional funding in the amount of $300,000 to assist persons who need COVID-19 financial assistance. We ensured that we were fair across the board – whether Members are in the Government or the Opposition, because in the fight against COVID-19 there are no sides and there can be no sides. COVID-19 does not discriminate and neither should we.

Of course, all elected officials will have to give an account for how funds were spent as well.

At this time, I want to thank all public officials, public officers, the private sector and the people of the Virgin Islands for their commitment moving forward.

As we know COVID-19 continues to be a challenge.

However, our Health and Emergency Operations Centre team, along with all our health officials, especially the team at the BVI Health Service Authority Laboratory at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital continue to work diligently as they play a vital role in how we respond to this pandemic. I say a special thank you to each of them as well.

Your Government knows that physically, things are inevitably different. But spiritually, nothing has changed.

COVID-19 cannot stop us from showing love for one another, as Jesus taught us to love. This virus cannot extinguish the Hope that is within our hearts and which comes from our Faith in our God.

The Spirit of Christmas resides in each of us and in these difficult times we can make the extra effort to let our lights shine brightly.

We can do this by showing compassion for the needy and giving charity.

As I keep reminding us, technology allows us to reach out and bring some measure of cheer to those who may be lonely and feeling forgotten.

These are very meaningful gifts that we can give to spread joy and hope, and to honour the Christ child.

This should come easily to us because we are a people of BVILOVE, where we love our Virgin Islands and everything in and about it every day.

The reopening of our industry is in progress, which gives us hope.

We are no stranger to tough times but we always overcome it by banding together and looking out for each other.

So, this Christmas, let us each resolve to make someone else’s Christmas even a little bit brighter and happier by sharing our BVILOVE and sharing whatever we can afford.

Now, more than ever, the world needs agents to spread peace on Earth, happiness and good will to all men, women and children.

Remember, we are in this together with BVILOVE.

On January 1, 2021 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., I am inviting you to join us at the Queen Elizabeth II Park for the Praise and Thanksgiving Service. This time for God is important and will be focused on offering up waves upon waves of thanksgiving and praise. We are going to celebrate God’s goodness and seal our faith and future in Him, from whom all blessings flow.

May GOD continue to bless and protect His Virgin Islands people, and may you have a happy, Holy, and safe Christmas.

I thank you.

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