REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A FAHIE
CONTRACT SIGNING RDA PROJECTS
16th February, 2021
God’s blessings to each and every one - whether present with us physically or joining in virtually.
The recovery of our Territory from the ravages of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 continues, and so does our mission of transformation and development.
On behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands, I am very pleased to see that the schedule of projects in the revised Recovery and Development Plan continues to move forward.
As stated before Irma and Maria were real because we continue to live with reality of their destruction.
Upon taking office, it was clear that many recovery projects had to be started. We made it a priority to get the ball moving to start the recovery projects, especially in a time where there are limited resources, but high demands.
Today, we continue to move forward with four of those recovery projects.
- We have the repairs to the Anegada Administration Building which will be a six-month project starting on March 1, 2021 to No Limit Construction in the amount of $209,653.86. This building was severely damaged in the hurricanes of 2017. There were some repairs and I am glad the major repairs will be done. Clearly our public officers deserve to be in a better working condition. Through this Government making this project a high priority, it shows our commitment to the wellbeing and safety of our public officers and the public who are customers of our facility. We thank the Deputy Governor’s Office for the work that they have done for joining in partnering with us to get things done. And for sure shows that this is a Government that cares.
- Then we have the Rubberised Resurfacing of the Multipurpose Court at the Jeffery A. Caines Sports Arena, Virgin Gorda, a three-month contract that is being awarded to Alternative Concrete Solutions Ltd with works to begin on 25th February 2021 in the amount of $72,308.00. This facility was also destroyed during the hurricanes of 2017. Our athletes, especially our young people, deserve proper sporting facilities. Since taking office this Government continue to improve the sporting facilities throughout the Virgin Islands in places such as Carrot Bay, Cappoon’s Bay, Belle Vue, Diamond Estate, West End, just to name a few. So it is clear that is a Government that cares.
- And, we have the Rubberised Resurfacing of the Anegada Recreation Ground also a three-month contract to Alternative Concrete Solutions Ltd in the amount of $94,423.00 to begin February 2021 very shortly. This court and grounds have also been in need of repairs since the passage of the 2017 hurricanes and I must say that it devastated all our islands, yes.
- But basketball overall on Virgin Gorda is immensely important especially to the economy of the Territory but mainly in Virgin Gorda. The basketball season in Virgin Gorda is also a great economic boost during the off season of tourism when the summer jam happens. Many persons come from the other islands stay in hotels, support the restaurants, and car rentals. But, here we are today with hope as works will now begin to fix the recreational areas so that families in Anegada and Virgin Gorda, especially our young people can enjoy. Clearly, this is a Government that cares.
- Additionally, we have a contract being awarded to ATEC BVI Ltd. in the amount of $53,380 for Ivan Dawson Primary School. This is important as Government has been stressing renewable energy. In short order in a few weeks, we will be carrying legislation to the House of Assembly in order to amend the Customs Act to allow all renewable energy materials and hybrid cars to be duty-free for a certain period so that we can encourage the transition of renewable energy in this Territory. Because it’s not just about talking the talk but about walking the walk so this continues to fall in line with the mandate that we have already placed as a Government on the need for renewable energy, so we welcome this.
And it is important to ensure that our children are learning in a quality environment, and that our teachers are sharing with our students and working in a quality environment. So, we really welcome this because projects like these do a lot for our teachers, students and the electricity bill. But it does a lot for the environment and that is key especially in this error of Climate Change.
So, let me pause here and say that I congratulate the contractors for being proactive in all of these ventures, even those that were not successful because it takes a lot to tender and a lot of funds, but they will continue to persevere and be successful.
I also know that the RDA, Mr. Macmaster and myself are planning a renewed sense of energy and purpose in making sure that we get to each and every single district so that each and every single contractor can have an opportunity to come and listen and join the workshops and also we have the online session that we are going to do with the RDA so that more contractors can come and register through the RDA and also register with the programme for central Government because it is important that we continue to point them in this direction to sharpen their skills.
And also, in central Government with the Ministry of Finance, we have through the Acting Financial Secretary, Mr. Frett and Dr. Drexel Glasgow who are working feverishly on getting the new procurement legislation to be brought forward so that we can continue to further strengthen our areas of accountability and strengthen our resolve to do even more as a people of the Territory.
So I want to congratulate them all and congratulate the contractors, especially Mr. Smith who has hired Anegadians on his project without being prompted; that is very important that when we as the people of the Virgin Islands get an opportunity that we bring our people along because it would not be right to be working in an environment especially where they have suffered so much with COVID-19 and the economy and see people come and work among them and not participate and benefit from the economic spin off. So, let’s give the contractor a round of applause.
I am pleased that the Recovery and Development Agency, which is an extension of the Premier’s Office continues to play its role in the execution of projects under the loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); projects which will contribute to supporting and simulating the Territory’s economy in these crucial times of COVID-19. Sometimes when we look at our success through COVID-19 we take for granted that we are still in the middle of COVID-19. But the challenges are real, and every Territory is facing them.
Since the week of 7th May 2020, following a mandatory curfew for the Territory, your Government has signed several construction contracts through the Recovery and Development Agency and the Ministry of Finance to boost the economy. So, the construction industry in the BVI is doing extremely well because of the conscious decision made by this Government to ensure that we focused on that area and get it going and I know because I heard that from both of the main concrete plant suppliers and they have concluded that it is indeed going pretty well with both of them and this is a testament to show that your Government cares.
We saw this as a way to reboot and reawaken our economy following a pause that was precipitated by the COVID-19.
For example, contracts were signed by the RDA for work to rehabilitate and reconstruct public buildings like the Bregado Flax School in Virgin Gorda, the Flax Building in Virgin Gorda, the Vanterpool Administration Building in Virgin Gorda, and the North Sound Administration Building now officially renamed the John E. George Senior, MBE Administration Building.
As you can clearly see, Virgin Gorda is getting some T-L-C, and your Government will continue to ensure that this T-L-C is shared and felt throughout each district in the Virgin Islands.
We have also signed contracts for the start of works to get water to different reservoirs and to repair them in order to solve the some of the many long outstanding water woes. This truly is a Government that cares.
I must say to my team at the Recovery and Development Agency, led by Virgin Islander Mr. Anthony McMaster congratulations for pushing the projects forward and not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the greater good.
Today continues more TLC for Virgin Gorda and Anegada, and Ivan Dawson Primary School in Cane Garden Bay so that the entire BVI can move forward together.
I want to remind all of us about something important.
When your Government took office in 2019, we were faced with a compromised situation where the people of the Virgin Islands were paying a hefty interest on a CDB loan that was not being used.
That loan, based on how its mechanisms were designed, could not ensure that Virgin Islanders would meaningfully access opportunities to hold a stake in the development of their own economy, nor could they fully benefit from the economic activity this funding would create on our shores.
This meant that the vast majority of this money would not have passed through the BVI’s economy, and the BVI businesses and workers would have been pushed to the side and disadvantaged from being able to access the benefits of this cash flow.
Your Government felt that this was unfair and a disservice to the people of the Virgin Islands, especially given that these were loan funds that the BVI taxpayers would be obligated to pay back.
Your Government felt that there were ways to be explored that would allow the BVI and the BVI people to gain a greater benefit from these loans.
You see, development is not just about building infrastructure. Development is also about people, and developing their skills and their capabilities. It is about building the human capital of the Virgin Islands. It is about giving local sectors the opportunity to grow and develop when this is possible.
Your Government also saw this as an opportunity to allow for more persons to participate in this economic spin off than usual than was accustom to. Your Government saw the recovery and development agenda as an opportunity for of the people of the Virgin Islands, the local economy and local sectors, to develop and to grow.
We also saw these projects as having opportunities that could benefit the local private sector. As you have heard also that it allows for great partnerships to be forged especially with Unite BVI, and I single them out because there have been many projects that they have partnered with the Government of the Virgin Islands that we are immensely grateful to Unite BVI. So, your Government sat down with CDB upon taking office and we renegotiated some of the terms of the loan in the best interest of the people and the Virgin Islands, and we agreed on a clear plan forward with the help of Dr. Drexel Glasgow and the Ministry of Finance that will allow for priority areas to now be addressed in a transparent and accountable manner.
Your Government is happy to see that the CDB Loan Funding is actively being used to assist with jumpstarting the construction industry at this time.
As a leader, and as a Government, we have to have faith in our Virgin Islands people, especially as we mature in our journey towards self-determination.
We maintain - our people can do the work.
Our people can build this economy.
Our fore-parents did it before, and we can do it again.
We just have to make sure that we prepare our people, because the future belongs to the prepared. Nothing is more important than having your own Virgin Islands people, Belongers, driving the prosperity of this Territory, for their heart must be in it. And we welcome the help of others because as rightfully said, we need help as we move forward, because we have to move forward together. But every country that moves forward that is worth their salt moves forward in a way they build their people up and they give them a hand up and not a handout.
I thank the RDA for implementing the projects on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands and our team at the RDA. When I look at this Territory and I see what our people are doing with the assistance of others of course with those who continue to help us. When I look and I see how our people have handled COVID-19. I’m indeed proud. When I look and see how our people continue to handle disasters through Disaster Management I am indeed proud. When I look and I see the increased ratio of our people that continue to better themselves through technical fields, Master’s, Bachelor’s, Associates and even Doctorates, I’m indeed proud and it shows that the Territory is continuing to mature. And I’m indeed proud if anytime such as now I am proud to be a Virgin Islander.
And I thank the RDA again for implementing the projects on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands.
I cannot underscore enough how pleased your Government is to see the RDA pushing forward so that our infrastructure can be built and re-engineered with the appropriate technology, reliable procurement systems, operational capacity, inbound and outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and supporting services.
Your Government’s objective is to make the BVI a financially and economically sustainable Territory; to make our people secure physically, emotionally and economically; and to develop all-round resilience and competitiveness.
We aim to transform the Virgin Islands into a leading regional economy through entrepreneurship, innovation and local and foreign investment. And as we see our contractors continue to develop to the point where they will soon be able to bid on projects abroad and be successful. We can now export talent rather than just importing talent.
Our people must be equipped for this task so that they can actively participate in the process. We must give them a fair chance to participate, to demonstrate their abilities, and to acquire experience and grow.
Your Government prides itself on making conscious decisions to move things forward. I did not say popular but conscious decisions, and wise and calculated decisions, to move things forward so that all can benefit whether they support the Government or not. Once they’re people of the Virgin Islands the opportunity must be given to them.
We are all in this together and we are indeed moving forward in BVILOVE; because this is not about supporting a Government but this is about supporting a BVI that we all love.
I know that the RDA has a lot of work still to do with no district to be left behind. And this Government will continue with its pledge not to make sure that we can dictate who get the contract but that we can ensure that a Virgin Islander gets the contract through the policies that we have implemented; and through the policies that we have agreed; and through the policies that we will continue to agree.
I want to thank my Government members because I cannot do this alone. So today, indeed with the signing of the contracts, it has signaled yet another victory for the BVI as we steadily move forward with our hurricane recovery efforts as we continue to move forward doing more with less. It is also an indication that Anegada and Virgin Gorda will have their basketball facilities up and running, their administration buildings up and running and the DG’s Office and all of us who are working together to make sure that those public structures where the public has to do their business, like the administration buildings, will be up to par.
May God bless these projects and bless as our Virgin Islands and all those who have come to support in the effort of our building of these Virgin Islands. We can build our Territory; we have built our Territory; and we continue to do so even with the help that we receive whether it be from United BVI, the FCO, private partners, we welcome it. And our Territory will continue to move from strength to strength because our best days as Virgin Islands are not our yesterdays but rather our tomorrows.
I thank you and God’s blessings