STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DURING THE TENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Friday, June 19, 2020
Appreciation – Dr Robert Mathavious, LLD
Mr Speaker, I rise to pay tribute and say thanks to one of this Territory’s most brilliant professionals, who has dedicated his lifetime to public service, and who has held some of the highest offices in this country, performing with distinction.
Dr Robert Mathavious is recognized as a pioneer and innovator of the BVI’s Financial Services Sector. He has been one of the driving forces behind this industry, which is one our two main economic engines, and which has provided sustenance and opportunity for our people for almost four decades.
Dr Mathavious, a proud Virgin Islander in whom we are proud, has led our financial services sector for three of those four decades.
Now, after almost 20 years at the leadership of the Financial Service Commission, Dr. Mathavious has indicated his decision to retire from the Commission, effective December 31, 2020.
The holder of a BSc in Economics from The University of the West Indies and a MBA from Georgetown University, Dr Mathavious served as Financial Secretary for the Government of the Virgin Islands from 1985 to 1991. During his tenure, he chaired an ad-hoc committee that developed the draft legislation of the Banks and Trust Companies Act and the Company Management Act, both of which were enacted in 1990.
Dr Mathavious was appointed as Director of Financial Services in 1993 and was charged with the development and regulation of the Financial Services sector. Consequently, he played a critical role in the design of legislation to establish the Financial Services Commission, through the Financial Services Commission Act of 2001, and was subsequently appointed to his present post as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission in 2002, on the recommendation of the Board of Commissioners to the Government.
In 2013, Dr. Mathavious was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies Open Campus in recognition of his stellar contributions to Caribbean development in the field of Financial Services.
Financial Service Industry practitioners, locally and many abroad, and the Territory at large, owe Dr. Mathavious a profound debt of gratitude for his extraordinary service, leadership and mentorship. Not only did he help to cultivate and grow this industry, but he also moulded and trained many professionals.
While there are many prominent voices in the world of Financial Services in the BVI, Dr Mathavious is regarded as the father or the guru of the industry. And the Honourary Doctorate from UWI stands as undisputable testimony to this.
Over the years, Dr. Mathavious has also contributed significantly to a number of professional Boards. He has been a member of the Financial Investigation Agency Board, the FATCA Negotiating Team for the Virgin Islands and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement Negotiation Team for Government of Virgin Islands.
He is a Fellow of The Offshore Institute (1990) and received the Rotary Club of Road Town Citizen of the Year award for 1994-1995.
Mr Speaker, there is a Greek proverb that says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit”. Dr Mathavious is the embodiment of this wisdom and selflessness.
Dr. Mathavious was honoured by the New Life Baptist Church in 2014 as one of the BVI’ unsung heroes, for his outstanding work as the premier professional within the Financial Services Commission, and for securing the integrity of the industry from which the entire Territory largely benefits.
In his response, to this recognition he said: “I come from a small country where any persons not reaching his or her full potential is a big loss to us. My parents instilled that kind of attitude in all of us, but equally by faith I am a Christian and foolishly, I have this drive that maybe I can help everybody. My thing is to help anybody…try to see people move from where they are to becoming something better.”
Mr Speaker, I want these words to be recorded in our history books to show the level of effort that our BVI leaders have been making and the deep desire of our people to truly become self-determining.
You see, we have been told that we have self-determination. But as long as a foreigner holds a power that can be arbitrarily exercised to dictate how appointments to our most senior public office are made, we do not have self-determination; we have an illusion of self-determination.
As long as that foreign power has the final say over the composition of our institutions and service commissions, and the power to override the competent decisions of competent BVIslanders, we do not have self-determination.
As long as a foreign power is able to tell us what is good for us and what we are not good enough for, and we are unable to do anything about it; as long as our freedom is limited by virtue of being regarded as someone else’s contingent liability – as opposed to being their asset, we do not have self-determination.
The life-long effort, sacrifice, investment and dedication of our BVI heroes, sung and unsung, has been to develop our people and our country so that we can be the masters of our destiny, and so that our destiny would be secure.
A great part of Dr. Mathavious’ legacy will live on throughout the rest of time in those able professionals whom he has shaped through his leadership, tutelage and foresight, and those touched indirectly by the fruits of his work.
Many of our bright stars in the Financial Services Industry – and we have many who came in as juniors and today are Deputies and Directors – would have been able to develop and mature under his wings, or through his initiatives.
He has always been a key advocate and champion of the Financial Services Institute. He has always believed in shaping Virgin Islanders for the future, and to take charge of their destiny. He shaped them not to be loyal to himself; but to be loyal to the Territory and to be capable of running their financial industry competently when their time comes.
The Financial Services Industry is our industry, and we have many bright, shining stars, who are well qualified to carry the baton when Dr. Mathavious hands it off in December.
I hope that our BVI professionals will grasp this opportunity to apply for the post of Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Services Commission as it becomes vacant with Dr. Mathavious’ retirement.
Mr. Speaker, Dr. Mathavious is yet another undeniable example of what our Virgin Islands people are capable of achieving. He is living proof of our intellectual, academic and professional abilities. His achievements and his example are world class.
His achievements are beacons for all of us to believe in ourselves and our people, and for us to have faith in lifting up our people. The sky is the limit for Virgin Islands people; we just have to believe in ourselves and to dismiss the naysayers.
There are some among us, locals and guests, who believe that for something to be good it has to come from overseas; and that anything from here has some inherent defectiveness.
There are those who berate us while using eloquent words wrapped in a smile.
But we must not accept that, Mr Speaker. Our BVI people must keep pushing forward and they must continue to claim that which is rightfully theirs, by birth right. Dr. Mathavious and our other true BVI heroes are your inspiration.
I dream to see the day when every senior office in this Territory, without exception, is held by a Virgin Islander. I know that is the dream of our stalwarts and our people. In the financial services arena, Dr. Mathavious began preparing the bed and planting the seeds decades ago.
And I want to again thank him for his long and illustrious service. I want to thank him for everything he has done for this Territory, both in the past and in terms of the future impact that he and his work will continue to have for generations.
I want, on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands, to wish him a happy retirement. May God continue to order his steps
I thank you.