My people of the Virgin Islands Good day and God’s blessings to you.
You would recall that approximately two weeks ago I led a delegation to London to discuss with the United Kingdom Government, its offer of a Loan Guarantee for Recovery and Development projects in response to the damage arising from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Please note that the discussions were not about a loan, but rather about the conditions around the loan guarantee.
On my return, I reported via a live press conference on September 17, that the concerns about the conditions of the guarantee raised by your Government prior to, and at these meetings had fallen on fertile soil, once we were able to speak directly with the officials of Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The UK Government agreed that the People of the Virgin Islands, in a transparent and accountable manner, must benefit in a tangible way from any loans that are taken under this guarantee and the recovery agenda. After all, we the people of the Virgin Islands have to repay these loans.
Your Government was asked by the UK Government to prepare a plan of action for moving forward.
I am extremely pleased to report that despite having to deal with two approaching storms within that two-week period, your Government has met the September 27 deadline.
With the support of our talented public officers, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands has approved the revised Recovery to Development Plan of the Virgin Islands 2019-2023, which will serve as the framework to guide the Territory’s recovery to development with the benefit of the people of the Virgin Islands as a guiding objective.
This plan – the People’s plan – has already been submitted to the United Kingdom Government, the revised plan and it’s detailed listing of recovery and development projects will be laid in the House of Assembly for approval.
Then the information will be made available to the public, consistent with our policy to keep citizens informed on all matters that are likely to have a substantial impact on your present quality of life and that of our future generations of Virgin Islanders.
I must say here that the plan is one of the critical components of discussion with the United Kingdom Government which there will be a further update.
Through our own initiative, Cabinet has gone even further to strengthen the framework for ensuring value for money approving a Borrowing Committee as well as a Steering Committee which will also bring synergy to all stakeholders in the recovery process. Additionally, the Borrowing Committee and the Steering committee are in an effort to add value to what already exist so that the arms of transparency, accountability, good governance and being proactive can be strengthened with these new processes, structure and framework.
Might I add that the revised Recovery to Development Plan provides the road map for getting the job done timely, transparently and within budget?
We will inform the public very shortly on how the plan will be financed.
The plan will serve as an excellent foundation and launching pad for the longer term National Sustainable Development Planning process now being commenced with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Continuing along the vein of participatory Government, Virgin Islanders will also have an opportunity to contribute to this process for shaping the future vision and development of this Territory.
These interventions by your Government have been with the sole purpose of putting you, the people of the Virgin Islands at the front; protecting your interests. We are optimistic that the revised framework will significantly increase the opportunities for you to more actively participate in and benefit from the economic activity that will flow from the recovery to development programme.
We are still in negotiations with the United Kingdom as it relates to the actual guarantee.
Once the ‘People’s plan’ is accepted by the UK Government, BVI contractors and service providers will have better prospects in securing business opportunities. This will result in more jobs for you the people, which will allow you to provide for the needs of your families; to provide roofs over heads and food on tables.
It will increase citizens’ earning and spending power, which will benefit other local businesses such as supermarkets, clothing stores, food vendors, restaurants and bars, vehicle dealers, hardware, construction workers, commercial banks, and many more.
This commercial activity will benefit the Territory’s economy, aid in diversification, spur the development of new economic pillars, and contribute to making our people and our economy more resilient. There’s a saying, when the tide rises all boats will float, not just a few.
I am happy that as your new Premier and Leader of Government business, that your Government took this time to thoroughly review the status of recovery efforts and carefully examine the financial position of the Territory, as we plot the course for the best way forward.
The best way forward is for the people to fully recover so the BVI could recover. The best way forward is for the people to be resilient so that BVI could truly be resilient. And, the best way forward is for the people to actively participate in the development of the Territory, and to be true beneficiaries of this process.
I thank God that your Government has been able to redirect the focus of this Loan Guarantee matter back to you, the people of this Territory — for glaringly missing from the recovery agenda were you and your needs.
I thank the hard-working team at the Premier’s Office and Ministry for Finance for burning the midnight oil on behalf of you, our employers. They truly have a heart for the people and for the BVI.
I thank my administration for their commitment to shaping the revised plan and for doing our part to put the people first.
I thank you the people for your two-year patience and I crave your indulgence as we make decisions that bolster the BVI and its generations towards positive advantages.
The BVI belongs to God and with His guidance and as one people; we will continue to move forward with our recovery.
My Government’s heart is for the people and with the people and our actions will continue to reflect this commitment. It’s about you.
We will continue to demonstrate uncommon determination and resilience.
Resilience in the sense that we able to withstand and recover quickly from any challenge.
We will continue to rebuild and restore communities to create a resilient people, a resilient BVI, and a resilient economy.
We will continue to make admirable accomplishments together because we are a resourceful people as together we will always achieve more.