The following is an excerpt from the statement given by Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie during the Press Conference on the Report to the People On the Official Visit to the UK.
I am happy to report that the issues that were flagged by your government – which we have been highlighting over the past several months – fell on fertile ground in London, once we were able to speak directly with the officials of HM Treasury and Lord Ahmad, who have assured us that it is their wish to see that the people of the BVI benefit in a tangible way from any loans that materialize from this guarantee arrangement.
In our letter to the UK Treasury officials outlining the purpose for which the visit was requested, your BVI Government stated that the borrowing ratios in the Debt Section of the Protocols for Effective Financial Management did not sufficiently consider the impact of natural disasters and catastrophic events which can place the Territory in an unforeseen vulnerable position.
The UK Government stated to us that it is prepared to consider including a reference to natural disasters and catastrophic events in the Debt Section of the Protocols for Effective Financial Management.
Your government had raised concerns over the treatment the BVI would receive if we exceeded the borrowing ratios contained in the Protocols for Effective Financial Management.
This is something all sides have long acknowledged as highly likely, given the current circumstances.
The UK Government stated that it is prepared to work with BVI Government on coming back into compliance with the debt ratio if borrowing on the loan guarantee would cause the BVI to exceed the ratios.
Your new BVI Government advocated that the Financial Secretary should be able to access the Recovery and Development Act Trust Fund for the expressed purpose of being able to return any funds borrowed directly by the BVI Government at the request of the relevant lending institution on account of the funds in question not being administered in accordance with that lending institution’s agreed rules and guidelines.
The UK Government has agreed to consider this condition, and the BVI Government has been asked to submit some additional information with respect to this issue.
Your BVI Government has been saying that not all funds received or funds allocated for all projects must be put into the Recovery and Development Agency Trust Fund.
Your BVI Government has been saying that recovery is one thing and development is another.
The UK Government agreed to consider the direct administration by the BVI Government of other sources of funds for investment in the recovery besides those borrowed on the loan guarantee to support building and rebuilding.
These agreements pave the way for deliberations to open up and continue on other items that were placed on the agenda by the BVI Government, some of which are inter-woven with the above-mentioned issues.
With this new development, your Government has been asked to prepare a plan of action to present to the UK Government by September 27 for moving forward.
To assist this process and later activities, the UK Government has opted for the setting up of a special steering committee to enable more direct communication between the Virgin Islands Government and HM Treasury.
I can also report that our concerns with respect to ambiguous language that was used in some of the documentation, such as the High Level Framework for UK Support for BVI Hurricane Recovery, will be revisited in the best interest of you the people of the Virgin Islands. This includes reference to the divestment of public assets.
As your Premier, I am relieved that, through these meetings, with God as our guide, 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 was you and your needs.
Your Government is a firm believer that the BVI will never fully recover, unless the people recover.
Your Government is a firm believer that the BVI will never be truly resilient, unless the people become resilient.
We were able to return the focus on you, the people, by convincing the UK officials that the people of the British Virgin Islands turned a new page on February 25, 2019; that your new government has a different philosophy from that of our predecessors; and that our vision genuinely puts the welfare of the present and future generations of Virgin Islanders first and foremost.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have crossed hurdles, and there are a few more ahead to be crossed. But there is now mutual understanding and a clear commitment from both the Virgin Islands Government and the UK Government to ensuring that the people of the BVI must be at the forefront, and that you must benefit from any loans accessed through this guarantee.
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