ONE-ON-ONE PRESS STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
SEPTEMBER 4, 2018
Just last week when the first Disney Cruise ship returned after an absence of one year, I was greeted by enthusiastic visitors who expressed congratulations on the progress that the Territory had made in its recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Indeed, considerable effort has been put into the recovery and I would like to express my gratitude and that of the Territory to all those who have stood by our side.
The work of recovery is ongoing and will continue for some time, and is constrained by available finances, but has also been spurred by the hurricane season that we are now in.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to give an update on our progress and the state of readiness for this season.
Recognising the extent of the damage to homes and businesses; and the time taken to settle insurance claims and obtain supplies; government has extended the customs relief several times and I am pleased to see the progress on the rebuild of private homes and businesses.
To aid the recovery, government has also placed $15 million in a housing support project, a support that many are taking advantage of.
The repair of public structures has also been high on our agenda with a focus on hurricane readiness, support for education and support for the economy.
Community centres throughout the Territory have been identified as important in our state of preparedness. Emergency works have been completed in Anegada and are in progress on all other centres except for Cane Garden Bay and Brewers Bay for which contracts have been recently awarded. My Government has also made grants to the Catholic Community Centre in Virgin Gorda and the Church of God of Prophecy in Jost Van Dyke to assist with the readiness of those structures.
The education system has received attention from day one and as we go through the recovery process, my Government intends to provide and manage state of the art facilities and equipment. Nine schools were reopened after the storms while six were deemed unusable. Since then, my Government has been working tirelessly to carry out repairs and with the help of a number of donors to rebuild or repair affected schools.
With the assistance of Unite BVI, my Government is expected to complete works on the Bregado Flax Educational Centre by early next year. In fact, the portion of the work to be completed by the Ministry of Education, will be going out to tender shortly. Most of the buildings at the Elmore Stoutt High School were totally destroyed. Students were relocated to the old Clarence Thomas Limited Building at Pasea Estate where the school operates on a shift system. The rigorous ‘After School Programme’ for grades 7 through 9 students will also continue this academic year. The immediate goal is to refurbish the 4-storey L-shaped building at the ESHS campus in order to facilitate return to full day school. My Government is working diligently to get these works started through loan funding. The works will be put out to tender shortly in anticipation of completion in early 2019.
Thanks to the North Sound Foundation, the Robinson O’Neal Memorial Primary School is scheduled to be completed and reopened early in this academic year. The Richards Foundation completed a small 2-storey building to accommodate the students of the Jost Van Dyke School which will also have to be rebuilt. The Enis Adams Primary School is on target for opening for the 2019/2020 academic year while preliminary works for the rebuild of the Esyln Henley Richiez Learning Centre will begin shortly. The Social Security Board is working on the completion of the Enid Scatliffe Pre-Primary School and our students should be back in that school by the second term of this academic year.
Repairs at the Leonora Delville school are expected to be completed for the start of this school term while works at the Ivan Dawson School with the help of the All Hands and Hearts volunteers, are slated for completion in early October. Meanwhile, no works have begun on the Isabella Morris Primary School as my Government is still considering whether this school should be rebuilt as a Junior High School. I am particularly grateful to the teachers, parents and students of these three schools for their patience and understanding on these projects.
Full assessments of the other nine schools which have been in operation since the hurricanes have now been completed. My Government will be working on the priority areas for repair as a matter of urgency to ensure that these schools can continue to operate at their optimum.
Her Majesty’s Prison, Balsam Ghut has also been undergoing major repairs which are in the final stages. With funding from the United Kingdom, works were completed on the rooks, perimeter fence and internal zonal fences and gates. As a result, the 21 inmates who were housed in St. Lucia are now being returned to the Virgin Islands with the first 11 already back and the remaining 10 to do so shortly. We thank the Government and the people of St. Lucia for coming to our aid and assisting us in this area.
The court system which supports law and order also received early attention with repairs to the High Court and after refurbishment works, the Commercial Court is also back in operation. A fully equipped Magistrates Court was opened in July and my Government also increased funding to our security agencies including the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Immigration and Customs Departments.
The airports and seaports are receiving constant attention as well as the Tortola Pier Park – the repairs of which have supported the early return of Disney Cruise Lines.
My Government has also recently invited tenders for repairs to the Central Administration Complex which closed at 10:00 a.m. today.
There is much more to be done, and we are working steadily with our resources, the Caribbean Development Bank and with the promised UK Guarantee to make sure that our recovery continues and we build back better, stronger, smarter, greener.
And as when seek to rebuild our homes and public structures, we are also doing what is necessary to provide banking services to the entire community, and in this regard would like to thank Banco Popular for its continued commitment to the Territory and especially to the Virgin Gorda Community, for their efforts.