ONE-ON-ONE WITH PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE, DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
October 8, 2015
Good Afternoon members of the media! I thank you for being here.
As you know, I always try to meet with you in this forum so we can dialogue about the work of my Government.
This afternoon I will share information about my recent trip to Hong Kong; I will then update you on where we are with BVI Forward. Then I will share with you plans for the upcoming BVI-USVI Friendship Day celebrations.
I will first focus on my trip to Hong Kong, which was successful.
This year, BVI House Asia celebrated its second anniversary.
In September 2013 we established a physical presence in Hong Kong because we saw Asia as a dynamic cosmopolitan city, offering superb connectivity, not just to Asia, but also to the globe.
I was able to meet and speak with over 100 industry experts and leaders about what measures BVI is taking to remain prepared and at the forefront of international corporate structuring for cross-border transactions and investing worldwide.
I explained to the gathering at the Business BVI Outlook Conference that we were excited and pleased to see an upward trend where Asian businesses and individuals were achieving economic success.
And as predicted by economic experts, this trend will continue as Asia makes its mark with vitality, financial success and innovation.
In November of this year, the BVI Financial Services Commission will launch a special external access to its proprietary VIRRGIN system.
The VIRRGIN system will provide the platform for filing transactions with the Commission.
This external access will allow BVI based registered agents to acquire a special add-on service that makes Name Reservations and Company Searches available to practitioners outside the BVI, starting with Hong Kong based practitioners.
The Commission will also expand the types of certificates that are available for delivery using BVI House Asia.
Just last month BVI House Asia launched its website to serve as a portal of information; and among the key features, is the "Find a practitioner function", which allows easy access to experts doing BVI business.
We continue to get and welcome queries from our industry partners in Asia continue to share with us your desires and aspirations of how the BVI must conduct its business in this part of the world. We will look at the proposed services to see what is feasible.
I will now focus on the Financial Services Implementation Unit.
On September 1, we were able to staff the Financial Services Implementation Unit with Implementation Specialists, Data Analyst, Communication Specialist, an administrator and Mr. Kedrick Malone leading as the director.
This team of professionals has been given a two year window to implement the ten priority initiatives as outlined in the Financial Services Consultancy Report produced by McKinsey and Company.
The plans that they implement will be first actioned by Initiative Sponsors working with Committees, recommended by a Steering Committee which I chair and as approved by Cabinet.
The first task was the launch of the BVI Forward campaign to engage the entire BVI population on plans for strengthening the industry and creating greater awareness of financial services and the significant role it plays in our daily lives.
This was successfully done during the week of September 15 through three activities:
One, a media breakfast to engage members of the local media as partners in the process of communicating with the wider public about BVI Forward and increasing awareness among the BVI population about financial services;
Two, a Cocktail Reception and Pinning Ceremony at which BVI Forward Champions were introduced, along with members of Team BVI who will jointly serve as spokespersons for the industry,
And three, the launch of the BVI Forward launch ceremony where the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance of Bermuda, Hon. Everard "Bob" Richards was our guest speaker.
The FSIU team has been busy meeting with the various Initiative Sponsors, the Steering Committee, Permanent Secretaries and Department Heads, Ministers and other key persons who will be instrumental in making the plans a reality.
This of course includes the wider public, media and others. The overarching objective of BVI Forward is to “Create positive recognition of and real interest in, a compelling future for financial services in the British Virgin Islands and the opportunities it represents for the local population.”
The launch of BVI Forward began our engagement of the population initiative
Also, we have already begun the process of implementing the recommendations. For example:
We have already re-branded the IFC to BVI Finance and in the process of establishing the public-private partnership that will lead the promotion and business development of the industry.
The Delivery Unit is fully established as the FSIU
As mentioned earlier, the FSC has recently released a number of service improvements to the VIRGIN system.
Also, we have embarked on a number of value-added services such as arbitration, intellectual property and will soon be announcing plans to boost the captive insurance and aircraft registry sectors.
Plans for the reform of Immigration and Labour are currently before the Steering Committee with a strong focus on creating a one-stop Work Visa facility that will offer speed, simplicity and better service.
A proposal will be placed before Cabinet shortly on the revamp of the Financial Services Institute. This is in addition to the introduction of the financial services curriculum in High School which has now been accepted as a CXC subject.
We are working to add Business Development to the BVI Finance function very soon.
We have implemented our FATCA system, achieved a compliant rating from OECD and have signed on to the Common Reporting Standards initiative.
So we are well on our way and with much more to come in the weeks and months ahead.
I will now speak about the upcoming BVI-USVI Friendship Day Celebrations.
Today I am pleased to announce that the Territory will host the annual celebrations to mark the 42nd Celebration of BVI-USVI Friendship Day on October 24 under the theme “The Greater Virgin Islands: the Identity and ingenuity of Our People”
As you know the people of the BVI and the USVI share a very special relationship.
Our Territories may be distinct sovereignties divided by bodies of water, but our social, cultural and economic ties are far greater and stronger than any barriers that separate us.
Every year we meet and join in candid discourse in our Inter Virgin Islands Council Meeting where we seek to improve cooperation for the betterment of all our people. The last meeting was held here in May 2014.
So far, we have been able to agree on a number of key areas.
For example, there is an Memorandum of Understanding between the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and the University of the Virgin Islands to allow for a smoother transfer of credits in a number of programme areas.
In law enforcement, we continue to collaborate in the areas of crime and security, immigration and customs particularly with matters related to fingerprinting, ballistic, intelligence sharing and monitoring of firearms trafficking.
We also continue to have discourse with each other to resolve issues being faced by local bands in getting clearance to perform in the USVI.
We continue to work together, building a close working relationship between our electricity corporations in the area of energy efficiency.
And, we continue to have candid discourse in the areas of pleasure boating and fishing where our natural resources teams are in discussions regarding the establishment of a fisheries advisory council.
The BVI Friendship Day celebration brings out the lighter side of our relationship. The first celebration was in 1972 and today we are pleased that this tradition continues.
This year’s celebration will take place in the Queen Elizabeth II Park on Saturday, October 24 where we will be celebrating the identity and ingenuity of Virgin Islanders.
The festive celebration will highlight the creativity and resourcefulness of our people, both historically and from a modern day perspective.
More information on the celebration will be shared with the public as the promotion gets on the way. I thank you listening and I now invite your questions.