STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
URING THE ELEVENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON MONDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER, 2017
AT THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
ARBITRATION CENTRE, RITTER HOUSE
ROAD TOWN, TORTOLA AT 10:00 A.M.
BVI FINANCIAL SERVICES
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to provide you with an update on financial services in this post Irma period.
Just over 2 months following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, I am pleased to confirm that our financial services industry continues to perform well. Industry firms, the Financial Services Commission and BVI Finance should be commended for their sterling efforts to keep the industry functioning in the aftermath of the Hurricanes.
Immediately after Hurricane Irma passed, business continuity plans were engaged across the Territory. Leaders of firms pulled together, along with the Financial Services Commission, to ensure there was minimal negative impact experienced by our clients worldwide. In fact, companies were incorporated just days after Irma passed thanks to the fact that VIRRGIN, our online Registry platform was operational.
Financial Services Commission Staff worked around the clock to ensure that this important facility stayed intact and procedures were put in place to allow authorised persons from around the world to access the system I am grateful to Dr. Robert Mathavious and his staff for their hard work and diligence.
Working closely with the Chief Justice Dame Janice Periera, we quickly decided to temporarily relocate the sittings of the Commercial Court to St Lucia where over 100 cases have already been heard by the two BVI Commercial Court judges, ably assisted by BVI Registry staff who were relocated to St. Lucia.. Since the Hurricanes, locally based firms have also continued to be involved in major international transactions.
Many industry firms have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their staff by providing them with generators and hot lunches and sheltering staff families in their offices, All this has generated a sense of community and goodwill during these times of hardship. In addition, financial contributions to local schools and other areas of need by industry firms help to ease the burden and demonstrates the industry’s commitment to the overall reconstruction of the BVI.
Madam Speaker, communication, as we know, has been difficult at times but BVI Finance hosted a number of industry updates to keep all stakeholders informed. Stakeholders temporarily located overseas dialed in to hear about progress being made. Key speakers were invited to attend and they provided crucial updates on the situations regarding electricity, immigration and labour, the security and the Financial Services Commission. I was also able to attend and provide updates at one of these meetings.
Many people around the world have commented and praised the BVI for the effectiveness that we have demonstrated in keeping the doors open and continuing to do business during this period. Without doubt, the positive attitude and the willingness to work together and help each other by all staff and stakeholders in the financial services industry resulted in BVI’s financial services processes and reputation remaining intact.
In late October BVI Finance conducted a survey of all the firms in the financial services industry and this highlighted that 73% of employees were now back on island and working. The vast majority of the remaining 27% are hoping to be back and working in BVI by January, 2018. However this is heavily dependent on the quality of the housing stock. The Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance, Lorna Smith, recently visited the Cayman Islands and talked to many representatives of industry firms based there temporarily. She was also able to personally thank the Cayman Islands Government for their support of the Virgin Islands.
Madam Speaker we are also continuing to progress the Territory’s financial services legislative agenda to enable the Territory to remain competitive and promote expansion and diversification in this key sector. Today, this House is scheduled to consider the MicroBusiness Corporations and Limited Partnership Bills for their second and third readings, as well as legislation to make special provision for circumstances in the aftermath of the Hurricanes. In summary it is important to remember the value of the financial services industry to the Virgin Islands. 60 cents out of every dollar in revenue received by this government comes from this crucial sector. The resilience of the financial services industry is something we should all be proud of and I would like to personally thank all those involved for their efforts and contributions as we now begin the long process to rebuild our Territory.
Thank you Madam Speaker.