1 January 2018 - 9:44am
Premier's 2018 New Year’s Message
Fellow Virgin Islanders, residents and friends, as we enter 2018, I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year. With the turn of this new year, let us all continue in our resolve to work together to support the rebuilding of our Territory.
The year 2017 will always be remembered as a year that our Territory faced its most significant challenge in modern history.
For those that doubted the effects of climate change on our small islands, the very personal and direct way, changing and aggressive weather patterns have affected all of our lives is irrefutable.
As I consider how we came together in the aftermath of the August floods and Hurricanes Irma and Maria, I am full of admiration for the many personal sacrifies and acts of generosity and kindness that you the people made – whether as our private sector, families and residents or as public servants.
We came together to clear roads, take in neighbours, family members and staff, feed the community, and sometimes merely provide a listening ear to help us all make sense of the changes in our lives.
I am equally grateful for the support and generosity of our friends abroad. It is this same sense of togetherness and support of each other that will be required to take us through 2018 and beyond.
Since the passing of those events, we have made substantial progress in restoring essential services to all of our communities.
On behalf of the Government and the people, I cannot thank enough the fine men and women across the public service and statutory bodies such as the BVI Electricity Corporation and Health Services Authority that continue to work diligently seven days a week in our recovery efforts.
We have made significant progress particular in restoration of our essential services. The work, however, is ongoing and we will continue to accomplish much as a Territory by working together.
By now you would be well aware of our proposed recovery plan that has been widely circulated and on which we ask for your further input. I urge you to get hold of a copy, review it, and be ready to discuss it further so that we can move swiftly to rebuilding our Territory.
Although we will not complete everything ‘in a day’ so to speak, we certainly must sufficiently rebuild to withstand any similar occurrence. And, we know that the hurricane season starts in June.
The restoration of the Territory will be the focus of efforts in 2018 and will shape all plans and programmes in all Government ministries, departments, units and statutory agencies.
It is my Government’s intention to utilise this restoration process to build a stronger, smarter, greener and better Virgin Islands over the next five years.
The restoration focuses on six priority areas. These are:
Human and Social Services
Infrastructure and Utilities
Business and the Economy
Natural Resources and Climate Change
Pride and Cultural Identity
I mention these areas yet again for your information yes, but because I want to speak to the matter of housing: we will never feel whole until we have a roof over our heads.
So many of us have lost these. I am happy therefore that Government is now in a position to provide some support for this purpose through an advance of $15 million that we hope to begin drawing down on without delay once certain criteria are agreed. I can assure you that we will not be held back by too much red tape on this matter.
We are also in discussion with a range of potential donors and lenders to secure sustainable financing. The United Kingdom has pledged a loan guarantee of up to £300M and will provide a grant of £10M. Much more funding will be needed however as we estimate that the cost of restoration of Government will be in the region of $750M.
I must commend our private sector for getting on with rebuilding our economy. Just on Friday, I saw a photo of the many boats surrounding Foxy’s to ring in the New Year -- that brought joy to my heart.
But it’s not just Foxy’s, but every single business large or small that courageously picked up the pieces, restocked and reopened for business. I salute each and every one of you.
On Saturday as I watched our ferries going back and forth from St Thomas to Tortola to Virgin Gorda my heart overflowed and I thought to myself ‘this is what resilience really means. I urge others to follow suit as we restore our beautiful country to its former glory.
I mentioned the recovery plan at the beginning of this message. I encourage you to read this in detail by visiting www.bvirecovery.vg.
I have instructed the Government Information Services to place copies of the consultation plan at local supermarkets and gas stations for easier access so more members of the public can provide their feedback.
Beginning January 8, you will have an opportunity to give input on the document during a series of consultation meetings to be hosted by the Government in each District.
Written feedback can also be submitted via email to email@example.com, and submissions can also be delivered to the Disaster Recovery Coordinating Committee’s office at Ritter House on Wickham’s Cay II.
We all have a part to play in the restoration of the Territory and I am encouraging residents on all of our islands to provide their feedback so that together we can develop and approve a restoration that we can all be part of, and that we all can be proud.
In 2018, each of us has a more significant role that we must play. For those in the private sector, I want to thank you and encourage you to continue to play your part in revitalising our economy, providing needed jobs and services to residents.
For Government’s role, we will use this opportunity to see how our systems can be modernised to support the growth of a thriving local economy and provide more opportunities for our citizens to be integrally part of shaping our economic future.
I want to encourage you to explore, just as Government is, how your businesses can also become stronger, smarter, greener and better.
Out of our shared experiences navigating life after Irma and Maria, I hope that entrepreneurs and our business community have identified viable opportunities to support and introduce ways that collectively as a Territory, we can become more climate resilient.
As we look towards the task of rebuilding our great Territory in 2018, I know that the road ahead will not be an easy one, but it is a worthwhile journey and a journey that we must take.
Through it all, I am confident that with God’s grace we will restore our Territory to the shining star of the Caribbean that it was before the recent catastrophic events.
I am confident because I know as Virgin Islanders, we are endowed with the tenacity, ingenuity and dedication to our islands to see the task ahead to its end.
I remain confident when I consider the many residents that have chosen to stay in the Virgin Islands and be part of our rebuilding efforts.
I remain confident when I think of the friends of the Virgin Islands near and far, whether they be individuals, organisations or countries that have shown in word and deed their commitment to seeing our Territory emerge stronger and better, because we recognise that we cannot do it all on our own.
I also remain hopeful because in the actions of you, the residents of these Virgin Islands, I have witnessed our collective compassion for one another, our willingness to give back to our Territory and our joint strength as a community.
Mostly, I remain confident because I have seen that the restoration has started by ourselves as a people!
I am hopeful and confident that if we continue to work together, we will rebuild a stronger, smarter, greener and better Virgin Islands.
Happy New Year everyone!
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