A pleasant good morning & God’s blessings.
There is a Greek proverb that says:
"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
After some 20 years as an elected representative, it will soon be time for me to consider myself an old man. All of us are the products of our past experiences, and inside of us reside the wisdom and the guidance of our elders who moulded and shaped us to create and support a generation that, like those before, would excel and achieve more than the one before.
Our ancestors, our teachers, our role models groomed us to do and to achieve things, the results of which they knew they might not live to see or to experience. But they knew that it is the generations to come that would benefit from their works.
This was the rationale that I had when, three months ago, I announced my unconventional approach to the appointment of a Deputy Premier, which is, that each Minister would be rotated in three-month tours of duty as Deputy Premier.
Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley, the Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries and 7th District Representative, you would recall, was the first Minister to be appointed Deputy Premier under this innovative, capacity building strategy three months ago.
I must say firstly, that I am very proud of the manner in which Dr. the Hon. Wheatley handled himself when circumstances called on him to hold the fort as Deputy Premier while I attended to other official business abroad. Dr. the Hon. Wheatley demonstrated great enthusiasm when it came to utilising the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the functions of the office of Deputy Premier as well as that of the office of Premier.
Dr. the Hon. Wheatley is unavoidably absent due to pressing public business on behalf of the Territory abroad. But if he were here, he would tell you that he is better prepared today to assume the Premiership than before, should he be called to fill that position in the future.
This initiative is about capacity building in the Government and preparing our Ministers to not only excel in their performance in this term but to serve in future terms of office and at higher levels.
Our history in the BVI has been one in which our senior leadership ranks have been occupied by persons who had very long tenures; and I thank those persons for their service.
However, it is best when their tenure involves sharing of knowledge and ensuring that capacity building is realised, because if not you will:
- Wake up one day and you realise that you have a leadership vacuum, or that all the people with the institutional knowledge are retiring out of the system at a very fast rate with no knowledge transfer. This leads to a deficit of capacity. All the people who know how to sail the boat are gone with their knowledge, leaving the boat to drift on the reef.
- You will find that most of the important positions become filled by persons who do not have the experience and the knowledge required to perform immediately. And this is because they were never given the chance to get the vital job experience they need. They have to feel their way around to learn how everything works to the detriment of the people.
- The result of this is that your development and economic activity can slow down – citizens’ lives and livelihoods are placed in jeopardy - while these young bloods learn the ropes.
- Have your country or the organization becoming stagnated. New ideas do not easily come to the forefront and we start going in circles over long-standing problems.
By allowing our Ministers to take turns in the office of the Deputy Premier we are giving them a wider, more comprehensive view of the functioning of the whole government system, while equipping them to take on bigger challenges in the future.
I like to say that we are not only outfitting them for success, but for succession.
My friends, it is my genuine wish that whenever circumstances or the will of the people dictate that it is time for me to give up my chair in the House of Assembly and exchange it for a rocking chair that this Territory is in sound, capable hands.
I must be satisfied that I have firsthand knowledge that the BVI has enough persons who are equipped with the knowledge, the skills and the tools to steer this ship to bright horizons. This approach allows us to accelerate the pace with which we develop the abilities of our Ministers.
The next Minister who will be taking up his stint as Deputy Premier today is Hon. Kye M. Rymer, Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities and 5th District Representative. Minister Rymer is a young man who has shown tremendous dedication and commitment to serving his country. If ever there was an individual who put his money where his mouth is, that person is Hon. Rymer. With many, many years on the clock to go before he reaches retirement age, Hon. Rymer resigned his job as Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, to enter representative politics.
As with all my new Ministers, I see a lot of hope for our Territory in Hon. Rymer. I am sure he will adapt to the role of Deputy Premier quite easily and, like Dr. the Hon. Wheatley, he is going to make the most of this learning opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to thank the rest of my Government team for having the confidence in me, for supporting me in this initiative, and for having the courage for us to be an innovative Administration. This government team is already showing fortitude by tackling some of the toughest, long-outstanding issues that have been holding back the BVI and our people from meeting our full potential. And more great things are in store, because we are just only getting this engine warmed up.
I must also thank the people of the British Virgin Islands for having the faith in me and my team to provide the leadership and governance that this Territory needs at this time. There is a lot of work to be done – a lot of tough decisions to be made - to restore the BVI to its rightful place and to bring it to where it should be in terms of sustainability, and regional and international competitiveness. We need all persons on board “SS BVI Unity” and we need all hands on deck, each one supporting the other. There is a lot to achieve and time is short, but I believe in my BVI people that we can and will come together and get the job done.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to once again thank Dr. the Hon. Natalio D. Wheatley for his services as Deputy Premier of the Virgin Islands over the last three months, and I would like to congratulate and welcome Hon. Kye Rymer as he now assumes the office of Deputy Premier.
I thank you.