Premier Fahie Statement On Social Protection and Economic Stimulation in COVID-19

Statement by

Premier and Minister of Finance,

Honourable Andrew A. Fahie

28th  May, 2020

Phase II of the Economic Response Plan

“Social Protection and Economic Stimulation in COVID-19”

My dear Virgin Islanders, Belongers and residents, I wish all of you God’s blessings.

In my address of 19 May, 2020, I promised to provide an update on your Government’s ongoing economic response as we continue to live and work in the face of COVID-19—the New Regular.

This evening, I am here to deliver on that promise, bearing in mind that a ‘moving eagled-eye plan’ in these times of uncertainty is preferred over a ‘set-in-stone pigeon-holed’ plan.

For there is a reality, as COVID-19 moves, we must be able to move.

Let me first begin by thanking God for keeping his steady hand on this Territory. For, together, we were able to abort the projection that we would have had more than 3,700 confirm cases of coronavirus in the BVI.

Together, the Government on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands made sure that the $12M went into proactive measures. We also know that private sector businesses also did their part by putting preventative measures in place before and following the curfew periods.

So far we have had eight confirmed cases of COVID-19. Out of this, seven persons successfully recovered and one person died. To date we have ‘no active cases’.

Please note, we are not out of the woods.

Persons who have flu-like symptoms are encouraged to call the hotline at 852-7650, that’s 852-7650.

We cannot let our guards down. We cannot become complacent.

Secondly, I want to reassure you—the people—that your Government, your Ministers, and your Premier are well aware of the difficult times you have been facing since the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt in the BVI.

We cannot begin to thank you enough for your understanding, patience, support and cooperation. We know it has been frustrating to ask you to close your businesses; to limit the number of customers you allow into your shops, restaurants and taxis; and for you to stay at homes instead of doing other things such as going to the beach and to church, things which may seem harmless enough, but which had the potential to bring regret.

The soft rebooting of our economy was the first phase of your Government’s economic strategy. This allowed for those businesses that could sustain some activity to do so and to put some persons back into employment.

We acknowledge that a number of businesses and individuals remain affected, and this especially includes businesses and persons that derive their income from different sectors of the economy.

Phase two of the Economic Response Plan is to the tune of $62.9M

Let me break it down for you.

$40M will be coming from a grant from the BVI Social Security Board

$17M from the BVI Social Security Board’s Affordable Home Construction Project

Another grant of $2M to assist with infrastructure

$3.9M from central Government to assist with other areas across the Territory.

This all adds up to a total of $62.9M for phase two of the Economic Response Plan.

This plan is informed by the work of the Coronavirus Economic and Fiscal Stability Task Force headed by the Financial Secretary. I wish to thank them for their hard work on this phase of the plan.

VI SSB Grant

Your Government has been trying to avoid touching our taxpayers’ piggy bank, because we understand that the hurricane season is upon us, seismic activity in the area is continuing, and COVID-19 has not been eliminated, hence, we have to leave room in case, God forbid, the BVI is struck by a disaster.

Left with no alternative, your Government reached out to the Virgin Islands Social Security Board, which has agreed to provide the people of the BVI with a special COVID-19 grant in the sum of $40 million towards our efforts at providing social and economic relief, and stimulating economic activity.

The SSB is committed to strong leadership and prudent investment of funds. They have been able to accumulate funds to help out the Territory in its time of need.

Tonight I will inform you of how the $40 million grant from the Social Security Board will be applied, among other economic boost to our economy.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Unemployment Relief Support

Your Government recognises that workers have been laid off or placed on reduced hours or days from their jobs due to COVID-19.

These persons need some immediate relief.

That is why your Government through the Social Security Board has set up a $10M COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund for persons whose livelihood were affected by this pandemic.

I know that there may be some persons asking whether Social Security Board have sufficient funds to accommodate this grant and to continue to take care of their commitments now and in the future.

To this I say, thank you to Mr. Derrick Osborne, a certified actuary from the firm of Morneau Shepell, for conducting an actuarial study. It is important to highlight that the study found that Social Security Board has the financial strength to support a well-designed targeted income support programme to workers.

Your Government is aware of your needs and your concerns, and therefore, we are pleased to announce that through the BVI Social Security Board, eligible workers affected by COVID-19 will receive unemployment income support for a period not exceeding three months.

Compensation is on a case-by-case basis. Individuals will be required to furnish the relevant information to the Social Security Board to show how they were affected by COVID-19 based on criterion that will be published.

BVI Social Security Board and its Board will be administering and monitoring this initiative. Persons are asked to contact the BVI Social Security Board at 852-7800 for information I repeat 852, 7800 for information.

Application forms will be available from Tuesday, June 2, at the SSB office. Persons are advised to get their forms and complete them along with the supporting evidence, and to submit promptly to allow for a timely evaluation, and disbursement of funds, once approved.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Grants to Affected Businesses

Businesses are important for driving economic activity. Businesses also provide jobs which enable employees to meet their social and financial needs.

We know that our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges.

That is why your Government is moving to help our local businesses to keep their heads above the water.

Your Government therefore has secured $6.5M from the Social Security Board, which will be made available to local businesses that are affected by COVID-19 in the form of a grant.

Businesses that qualify for this grant will be expected to put this funding to work and make a genuine effort to keep their staff employed.

These special business grants to help our local businesses will be administered by a team comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Premier’s Office and the Department of Trade, Investment Promotions and Consumer Affairs.

Application forms will be available from June 15 either at the Department of Trade or from the Government’s website,

Persons are advised to get their forms and complete them along with the supporting evidence, and to submit promptly to allow for a timely evaluation, and disbursement of funds, once approved.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Remember that we are in this together. So as our businesses thrive so will our economy.

Hotel and Accommodation Quarantine Stimulus

Your Government is aware that hotels, guest houses, inns and villas had to close their doors due to urgent measures taken to keep all of us safe during this COVID-19 era.

As a matter of fact, all of our hotels, guest houses, inns and villas remain closed, and they too are an integral part of our economy.

That is why, your Government has secured a $1M grant from the Social Security Board to provide an opportunity for those hospitality businesses to experience some cash flow and to provide income opportunities for their employees, and also to stimulate opportunities for security services, food provisioning, and transport initiatives, just to name a few.

The rapid and decisive measures taken by your Government has put the Territory in the position where we are able to, shortly, reopen the borders in a controlled way and welcome home Virgin Islanders, Belongers, Permanent Residents, and naturalised citizens. The successes that were gained by the early measures taken by your Government must be maintained.

While persons with suitable accommodations who must be approved by Environmental Health and the Social Distancing Task Force are allowed to self-quarantine, there will be a need to provide quarantine facilities for some persons, especially for our people who will be returning home from June 15. This is being accomplished by entering into contracts with hotels, guest houses, inns, villas, and private accommodations, for the mandatory quarantine of all persons, returning home to the Territory.

By participating in this initiative, it puts these establishments ahead in terms of having the necessary protocols in place that allows the businesses to be in a state of readiness not only for staycations, but for when we start to invite visitors back to our Territory.

Our hotels, guest houses, villas and inns can now benefit from this $1M grant from Social Security Board negotiated by your Government.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Interested properties are asked to contact the BVI Tourist Board and the Ministry of Health and Social Development for further details and to register, as this is already ongoing.

Allow me to take this time to be one of the first to officially welcome our people back home.

Your Government cares.

Support to Day Cares etc

Speaking about caring, we cannot forget our youngest citizens who are really our future.

We cannot forget our churches, as our Kingdom Ambassadors, pastors,  prayer warriors and praise teams continue to petition God on behalf of these beautiful Virgin Islands.

I must pause here to say thank you.

Your Government recognises that our success in the fight against COVID-19 is not ours, but it is the Lord’s.

That is why your Government has allocated $1M from Social Security Board to provide support for Day care centres, private schools, churches and other Religious Organisations that have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

The details of how and where to apply for this assistance will be published on by June 15 so that qualifying persons and organisations affected by COVID-19 can apply.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Food Production – Agriculture and Fisheries

Can I tell you that a nation that cannot feed itself is a nation that is headed towards destruction?

COVID-19 has thrown forward a number of problems such as unemployment, interruption of commerce, and threats to food security globally, as supply chains become affected.

It has also brought into sharp focus the urgency to diversify the economy, to create new employment and business opportunities, and to develop industries that are very critical to our survival, but which also have not received the level of attention that they deserved, for many years.

Food production, especially in the areas of agriculture and fisheries, present ideal solutions to this scenario.

That is why, your Government has secured $2M  from the Social Security Board, to assist our farmers and fishermen to fulfil this role. This was mentioned in phased one, now the procedures, policy and funding are now available and ready to go.

Although, some persons may have previously applied, your Government wants to give to all those farmers and fisherfolk who are interested the opportunity to register.

Application forms will be available on on June 5, 2020.

Hard copies can be collected from the Ministry of Education; the District Offices on Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke; the Sister Islands Coordinator; District Representatives and Territorial At Large Representatives; and the Premier’s Office.

Completed application forms must be submitted to the Permanent Secretary, Premier’s Office.

Your Government wants all citizens to be productively engaged and, in a position to earn their income.

Through this grant, farmers can get assistance such as cutting of access roads to their farms and fencing for their properties, among others, that will boost their food production.

Fisherfolk who need engines, nets and other equipment can get the help they need to spring forward from this initiative, thereby also boosting their production.

We need the food supply. We need to create the jobs. We need to boost fisheries, and we need to boost agriculture.

This is our opportunity to finally make farming and fishing another one of our economic pillars, while giving us the ability to feed ourselves, in case we are ever cut off from the rest of the world.

For this I thank the Minister in charge of Argiculture and Fisheries Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley and his team in the ministry and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for their assistance as well as those in the Premier’s Office.


This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.


Traffic Transformation and Transportation

Your Government promised to fix the traffic congestion in the Capital—Road Town, Tortola, Virgin Islands.

Now is the time to address this problem and we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the greater good.

Your Government through the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities, has used the curfew period productively to test our Traffic Transformation Strategy, which involves creating alternate routes and parking solutions.

There is follow-up simulation exercise scheduled for June 1.

You will recall that integral to this strategy is a ‘park and ride system’ to create a pedestrian friendly city.

Designated public parking will now be located at the Festival Grounds and the vicinity of the Dr D. Orlando Smith Hospital, with a shuttle service looping around the capital between Road Reef and Baugher’s Bay, when this initiative is officially launched.

We call it from roundabout to roundabout.

This is an excellent opportunity for our taxi operators who have been unable to work due to COVID-19 to get back on their feet, take care of themselves and their families.

Through the Social Security Grant, we have allocated $1M, towards, among other things, to engage local licensed taxi operators to provide the shuttle service, as well as to transport returning nationals and residents to Government quarantine facilities, as needed.

The Minister for Transportation Honourable Kye Rymer, is due to meet with the Taxi and Livery Commission to discuss and implement this programme that will assist our taxi operators, in many respects, during these challenging times, while offering an invaluable service.

It is important to note that we cannot forget our Sister Islands in this initiative. I am happy to report that a similar transportation initiative will also be launched on a few of our Sister Islands, namely Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. Please stay tuned for more details as this initiative will be launched in June.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Other social needs

A Government that care recognises that any assistance to be given during a disaster or pandemic must reach those who are most affected.

In local terms, we call this making sure we help the needy, and not the greedy.

That is why your Government has allocated $1M of the Social Security Grant to assist persons with social needs arising out of COVID-19. This will be monitored through the Social Development Department.

And this I must also thank the Minister for Health, Honourable Carvin Malone and his team.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

BVI Electricity Amnesty

We continue to recognise the financial strain and concerns of local businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19.

Your Government through the BVI Electricity Corporation and its Board are granting a three-month amnesty on payments to BVI Electricity Corporation for individuals and local businesses that qualify based on how you were affected by COVID-19.

The amnesty on payments to qualifying individuals and small businesses is for a period of three months—May, June and July 2020.

This initiative, which is being led and solely monitored by the BVI Electricity Corporation and its Board, will be on a case-by-case basis. So you can contact the BVI Electricity Cooperation for more details.

Local businesses and individuals will have to furnish the relevant information to BVIEC and its Board to show how they were affected by COVID-19 based on the criterion that will be published.

Your Government understands the hardship our people are facing during this time, and, as promised, we will continue to address the major essential needs of our people and local businesses, as much as possible and within the limits of our means as a Territory.

With this in mind, I want local businesses and persons who qualify for the amnesty programme to know that there will be a cap on electrical bills as we work together to manage, conserve, and stay within the boundaries that will be set by the BVIEC on this initiative.

All businesses and individuals who can pay are expected to pay monthly bills on time in order to avoid disconnection of service.

But for those who are in need, your Government and the BVIEC are here to help.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

National Health Insurance

While this is a harsh reality, I must inform you—my people—that from its inception, the National Health Insurance was never properly funded.

In an effort to support NHI to ensure that our people continue to get adequate healthcare, especially during this COVID-19 era, $7.5M from the Social Security Grant has been allocated to ensure the health and safety of our people.

It is important that all the medical providers, pharmacies and other entities, regardless of the size of their businesses benefit from this $7.5M.

And let me sound a stern warning, I will be casting a vigilant eye on this to ensure that everyone benefits.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Housing repairs assistance

You would recall that the 2017 storms caused significant damage to the entire stock of homes in the Territory.

It was calculated that it would cost in excess of $45 million to help primary home owners and apartment dwellers to return to dry, covered, comfortable accommodation.

In addition to contributions of pledges to date, Government’s records reveal that over the years prior to COVID-19, $15M was secured and placed in the Housing Recovery Unit together with $5M for administration by the Recovery and Development Agency.

While a number of homes were able to be repaired and rebuilt with these funds, there is a requirement for a further $25 million to assist over 200 home owners with the construction of social homes, housing reconstruction, and major repairs to numerous other facilities.

Just like the other programmes mentioned, this provides an opportunity whereby funds can now be injected and it will provide social benefit as well as economic benefits through job creation and the stimulation of commercial activities.

Thus, I am happy to report that $9M from the grant provided by the Social Security Board will now assist our people with getting their homes water-tight ahead of the hurricane season, which is just on the horizon.

This will provide abundant opportunities for the local construction industry, while benefitting home owners.

Applications are available through the Housing Recovery Unit of the Ministry of Health and Social Development.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.


The housing repair and rebuilding initiative is just one way in which the construction sector is being leveraged to drive the economic stimulation.

You will recall that the House of Assembly approved a revised Recovery to Development Plan in the latter part of 2019. In that plan, we separated recovery from development and assigned the recovery matters to the RDA in order to allow a more focused RDA to complete the recovery in the allotted five years.

You will also recall that when we came into office, we were faced with a $65M loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. We were paying a hefty interest, yet the money was not being used.

Your Government immediately took the necessary steps to realign the CDB loan and thankfully we were able to renegotiate some portions of the CDB loan so that projects could have been undertaken with local contractors and workers, for the most part, being able to benefit.

We knew that we would be faced with rebooting and reawakening our economy amid COVID-19. But what we didn’t know is that we will be doing this recovery from the 2017 hurricanes, all at the same time?

It takes one thing: vision. Your Government’s vision for the Territory of the Virgin Islands is restoring hope and prosperity for all, one BVI, one people moving in one direction forward.

I continue to be happy to see that the CDB Loan Funding is actively being used to jumpstart the construction industry in our Territory.

The RDA, which is under the Premier’s Office, is poised to issue nearly 20 contracts to inject approximately $40M in projects over the next 18 to 24 months. We are pleased that the local contractors are doing their part to bid successfully for the projects, and contracts have already been signed. No district will be left behind and the RDA has given the assurance that this is well in hand.

The recovery projects are important, especially as we head into June, which signals the start of a predicted active Hurricane Season.

You would also have noticed that in the last two weeks alone, a number of major construction projects have been launched to stimulate economic activity, provide job opportunities for persons, to enhance the development of the Territory, and to improve public infrastructure.

These included the rehabilitation and reconstruction of public buildings like the Bregado Flax School in Virgin Gorda, the Flax Administration Building in Virgin Gorda and the North Sound Administration Building Virgin Gorda. Works to modernise the reservoir and meter system at Carrot Bay and Zion Hill.

So, when your Government was saying that measures were being rolled out, you can see we were telling you the truth.

But, more than that, earlier today your Government signed a $17M project to build affordable homes. This is also being done through the SSB, but is separate from the $40M grant. This is a project that had been in the works for some time and, together with the SSB, we have given it the push to bring it forward so that 43 affordable homes can be built at Joes Hill for people who qualify.

I must thank the chairman and managing Director of the Social Security Board including the personnel along with the Minister for the subject, Honourable Vincent Wheatley for his hard work in making sure that this project gets on the way and is signed now and is going to start with the construction of 43 affordable homes. And later on this year when the work is completed, the next district in terms of affordable homes project that will be worked on is Virgin Gorda.

Also, in the area of construction, a $2M grant has been sourced to commence work on the East End-Long Look Sewerage Project. The people of East End and Long Look have been clambering for an end to their sewerage problems. In the midst of COVID-19 your Government will begin to address this.

Again, this is an opportunity for local contractors, local workers and local businesses.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

Other initiatives

Your Government has been hearing the feedback from the ground. We have also heard the concerns of the Opposition. And let me assure you that COVID-19 is a time for unity and to have all hands on deck, where we put politics behind and the needs of the people and the Territory in front.

We agree that there are some urgent needs and there are persons who need to get help A-S-A-P.

To make it quicker for these persons to get financial help, your Government is making an additional $3.9M available. These funds can be accessed by contacting all nine District Representatives or the 4 At-Large Representatives, who will now been assigned a special COVID-19 allocation of $300,000 per district, per representative, in addition to their regular Assistance Grants, commonly called the District Fund. This will allow each elected Member to respond to needy cases, directly and swiftly.

So, if you live in District 1, then you contact me, Andrew Alturo Fahie, and I will be setting up a special contact number for this initiative.

If you live in District 2, then you contact Honourable Melvin “Mitch” Turnbull.

If you live in District 3, then you contact Honourable Julian Fraser.

If you live in District 4, then you contact Honourable Mark Vanterpool.

If you live in District 5, then you contact Honourable Kye Rymer.

If you live in District 6, then you contact Honourable Alvera Maduro-Caines.

If you live in District 7, then you contact Honourable Natalio Wheatley.

If you live in District 8, then you contact Honourable Marlon Penn.

If you live in District 9, then you contact Honourable Vincent Wheatley.

And then you have your 4 At-Large Representatives in the persons of Honourable Sharie DeCastro, Honourable Carvin Malone, Honourable Shereen Flax-Charles and Honourable Neville Smith.

This allocation has been divided equally. No Member is advantaged and none are disadvantaged. All are enabled to help you the people, especially when it comes to some of the simpler, less complicated issues.

And may I add that this assistance is in addition to other help that persons may qualify under any of the above initiatives and other initiatives that may be announced as we go forward.

Members have been asking for resources to help constituents and here your Government has made funds available without favour.

I look forward to seeing your elected representatives on the ground attending to those who need the help, seeing that each of them will now have access to $300,000 to assist their people in their districts during this ongoing COVID-19 era.

Also, please note that transparency and accountability still apply to these special funds. The funds will be audited monthly by the internal auditor.

And, just as these funds are allocated without favouritism, we expect that favouritism and political allegiances will be put aside.

It matters not who you voted for. If you have a need and can justify it during this COVID-19 era, please contact your district representative, and of course check out the other programmes that were announced this evening.

Looking ahead for the medium- to long-term, your Government’s objective is to make the BVI a financially and economically sustainable Territory; to make our people secure, physically, emotionally and economically, and to develop all-round resilience and competitiveness.

We are in uncharted seas because it is not a disaster, but a pandemic. Because with a disaster, when that occurs, immediately after the disaster event, you can assess the damages and have it fully quantified and determine the time period over which you will allocate funding to repair, reconstruct and rebuild.

In a pandemic, however, you never know when things will change and how it will change. Some of the damage cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Simply put, a disaster you can plan for; but a global pandemic, especially where we have not experienced one of a similar nature for over 100 years, makes it difficult to plan for.

Until the world gets a vaccine for COVID-19, we have to continue to manoeuvre through a balancing act of keeping our people safe, while keeping the economy and our people moving.

Your Government is sensitive to your needs, but we know we have to balance the calls that are being made and which may be made on our limited resources with keeping persons safe.

COVID-19 is far from over and is sucking the resources out of nearly every Government and economy in the world. No one knows the length nor the breadth of the duration of this pandemic. And one wrong move, any little spike, will cause us to go back to square one.

We are in the hurricane season at this time and while we pray that we do not experience any hurricanes at this time the reality is that the possibility lingers, which may be another call on our limited resources.

Just the other day we experienced two tremors. And these earthquakes, while we pray that God spares us from those also, the reality is that the possibility also exists. And just like COVDI-19, one wrong move with our precious resources, can cause us to put our future at serious risk.

Our precious jewels, our seniors, taught me something at a young age that I find applicable now more than ever. And while I do not know the origin of the statement, the content is so powerful, because it states that if you are persistent you get it, but if you are consistent you will keep it.

So we have to make sure we remain persistent to cherish the work our forefathers did in this Territory to bring these Virgin Islands into the jewels.

That is why we must be consistent in our efforts so that we can maintain that which we have been persistent to obtain.

This economic response is phase two and we will continue to update you periodically, but we will update you on some upcoming new revenue measure that this Territory will be pursuing.

Once again, let me remind you that phase two of the Economic Response Plan is to the tune of $62.9M from local resources.

We still have a long road ahead, we thank God for what He has done for us.

May God continue to watch over his Virgin Islands people. And the Virgin Islands overall.

May the pace of the Lord be with this Territory.

I thank you.

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