STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DURING THE NINTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, June 11, 2020
RDA Recovery Contract Signings in COVID-19 Era
Mr. Speaker, we are moving forward with recovery in the middle of the COVID-19 and an active hurricane season.
In this ‘new regular’ era of reopening, as a Government we have taken a phased approach where businesses that would be allowed to operate was determined from solely an economic standpoint.
One of such business is the construction industry, which apart from the reawakening the Private Sector, also paved the way for the Recovery and Development Agency, a public sector agency under the Premier’s Office to continue its work to drive the BVI Recovery.
Since the week of May 7, we have been signing construction contracts through the Recovery and Development Agency as we reboot and reawaken our economy following a pause that was driven by the COVID-19.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my team at the Recovery and Development Agency, led by Virgin Islander Anthony McMaster, for pushing the projects forward and not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the greater good.
I am very pleased to see that the schedule of projects in the revised Recovery and Development Plan have commenced.
Projects are now coming out the “talking” phase into the “action” phase.
Mr. Speaker, through the RDA, since the rebooting of the economy following the 14-day 24-hour curfew, the Government has signed contracts to rehabilitate and reconstruct public buildings like the Bregado Flax School in Virgin Gorda, the Flax Administration Building in Virgin Gorda and the North Sound Administration Building Virgin Gorda. Virgin Gorda you could see is getting some TLC and we will continue to ensure that this TLC is shared and felt throughout each district in the Virgin Islands. We have also signed contracts for the start works to get water to the reservoir and meter system at Carrot Bay and Cappoons Bay.
All of the contracts issued are with local contractors.
I truly appreciate that since our new Acting CEO has taken charge of the RDA, the organisation is successfully crossing hurdles, progressing with timelines, and delivering on your Government’s recovery priorities. And this is being done in close partnership with each Ministry, Department, and Statutory Body, delivering for the people of this Territory.
When this present Administration took office, we were faced with a compromised situation where the Government was paying a hefty interest on a loan that was not being used, nor was it designed to ensure that Virgin Islanders held a stake in the development of their own economy. To describe this as less-than-satisfactory would be an understatement.
The CDB loan is the people of the BVI’s loan.
It is money they borrowed from the bank, and it is money that they have to repay. How could it be just or fair for this money to pass through the BVI’s economy, and the BVI businesses and workers are pushed to the side and disadvantaged from being able to access the benefits of this cashflow?
That could never be right.
So, your new Government immediately sought to renegotiate some of the terms in the Caribbean Development Bank’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan to make sure the people have a stake in the development of this economy.
And, may I say that time and Faith has proven that this was more of a blessing that we even envisaged from the start. This could not have been timelier!
Our God is a loving God, and He truly watches out for his BVI people.
Because it has to be divine intervention that prompted us to renegotiate these terms, that here we are in COVID-19, with the local economy needing a lifeline that will allow for our skilled and semi-skilled workers to get some opportunities to make an income to care for their families, and for businesses to get some activity.
By successfully renegotiating the terms with the CDB, our BVI workers and businesses can get a vitamin boost from this money.
Then, in the latter part of 2019, the revised Recovery to Development Plan was laid on the table of the House of Assembly without any objections. The new Revised Plan separates recovery projects from development projects. The recovery matters were assigned to the RDA in order to allow more focus to take place.
I continue to be 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, you have to have faith in your people. You have to give them the chance and the opportunity to develop and to grow. You have to create the climate and the opportunity that gives them the chance to meet you in the middle.
And that is why under our watch, your Government will always fight the good fight to make sure the people of the Virgin Islands are not pushed aside. Our people can do the work. Our people can build this economy. Our fore-parents did it before, and we can do it again.
Every major project that is done in the Territory, when it is done, regardless of the amount of local content, when it is finished, technical skills must be transferred to the people of the Virgin Islands.
We are conscious that there are times when international companies as tenderers would win bids, and even in those cases, your Government will push to ensure the transfer of technical skills to the people of the Virgin Islands because we are the ones who must ensure our continuity, as a Territory advancing forward.
So, here we are today with two contracts signed with local contractors. Under our watch, this will bring the Territory to a total of seven contracts signed with the CDB Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan by the RDA at an approximate value of $10M.
One of the local contractor that signed to with the RDA under the Premier’s Office is with Autland Heavy Equipment for Rehabilitation and Restoration works of the reservoir in Long Bush.
This project will get water to the reservoir and facilitate the meter system at Long Bush. When we enable the Water and Sewerage Department to improve the service delivery to the public, we are putting an end to water woes and improving the quality of life of our Virgin Islands people.
The second contract was signed with the RDA under the Premier’s Office with Trojan Design and Development Ltd. This company will complete the design of the Magistrate’s Court Halls of Justice. This is a 21-month engagement in the sum of $324,840, and it covers providing architectural, engineering and contract management services from the planning phase to the handover for operation by the end-users of this facility.
And may I say that important buildings like these are opportunities for our people to express themselves.
That is why we must always strive to have these buildings designed to reflect who we are as Virgin Islanders.
Also, need I remind you that this project has been in the “talk” phase for well over 20 years?
Can I tell you, so was our Consumer Protection a talk for well over 30 years?
You may asked, Mr. Speaker, why are these things moving now?
The answer is, the only new factor is the confidence the people of the Virgin Islands has placed in this Government to make the tough decisions on the things that are important and in the best interest of the Virgin Islands.
Simply put, these actions are about improving the quality of life of every citizen of the Virgin Islands.
We are moving forward with the construction phase of the new Magistrate Court, which represents Phase I of the Halls of Justice project.
The Magistrate Court sustained extensive damage during the passage of Hurricane Irma in 2017, and it has been inoperable since that time.
A temporary modular structure was constructed and commissioned by the United Kingdom Government in July 2018 to accommodate sittings of the court.
I know that the previous Government would have done it before, but I wish to do so again at this time and thank the United Kingdom Government for donating the temporary building to ensure continuity in providing court services in line with section 60 (1) (e) of the Virgin Islands Constitution which refers to the administration of the courts.
I also know that it would have been done before by the previous Government, but at this time, I wish to thank the building’s general contractor Caribbean Basin Enterprises (BVI) Limited, and NG Solutions; LLC supplied the building components; Cool Air Limited supplied the air conditioning works; Caribbean Security Limited provided the security systems; Elliott Hodge Precasts provided the brick works; and D&B Trucking provided crane services and please note the this was in 2018.
It is time to move now from temporary to permanent structure to ensure the continued stability of the judiciary.
For several years, there has been much assessment and much talk about moving the Halls of Justice project forward so that the scattered court system could all be in one location; on one block—the Law Block.
As your Government, we understand the importance of having good governance structures in place as we work towards our advancement in this stage of our development, strengthening our legal system.
I know that for years, committees have been searching for the ideal location for a Halls of Justice.
As a Cabinet, Ministers collectively agreed to do a land swap between the Magistrate’s Court and Eslyn Henley’s Richez Learning Centre current location in John’s Hole. We took the decision to move the Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre to where the Magistrate Court is in John’s Hole.
Both institutions have one thing in common; they were both destroyed by the hurricanes of 2017. Now what will happen is that the Eslyn Henley will now be closer to Althea Scatliffe and allow them to share resources, such as the school playground.
And the relocation of the Magistrate Court to the opposite side of the road will now become the new home of the Halls of Justice.
We did the land swap because it made practical sense.
And now we look forward to a soundproof Halls of Justice building, designed to withstand catastrophic events, equipped with the technology to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, while facilitating us in this New Regular as we live and work with COVID-19.
I know that the Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira would be quite happy that discussions on the project are no longer outstanding, and that work is now finally starting.
The “talk” phase is over.
In 2018, Dame Pereira gave a presentation during the 65th Meeting of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States Authority to Honourable Heads of Governments. She explained that the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria provided an opportunity for jurisdictions to construct proper purpose-built facilities as part and parcel of the overall post-hurricane reconstruction and development process.
Your Government takes the matter of justice and security very seriously.
That is why when we took office in 2019, we made the redevelopment of the Magistrate’s Court a priority and ensured that it received funding in the 2020 budget estimates. The courts play an essential part in our economy and our society.
I am pleased, therefore, that we can advance our plans for the construction of a proper Halls of Justice to allow the Court in the Virgin Islands to function effectively.
We want to ensure that the judicial and court teams are provided the ideal environment in which to provide services. Construction of the new court facility will provide the much-needed rooms and space to allow for a proper and functional court system.
Your Government is committed to developing a court facility that is resilient and SMART and meets the needs of the people of the Virgin Islands.
I wish to thank Director of Projects in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Drexel Glasgow and the Financial Secretary Mr. Glenroy Forbes and their team, for working along with the RDA to drive this initiative forward. I also wish to thank the Deputy Governor.
I thank the Cabinet, Members of my Government, Members of the House of Assembly, Deputy Governor’s Office, and all the public officers who played a role in advancing this process to make sure this gets done.
This project is about building with the future in mind. I look forward to seeing the completed designs. Please note that this is not, and will not be, a shelved project. I expect to see the construction of courts in short order.
Gone are the days when we design and ‘let sit’, instead it is design and ‘move forward’.
This Government prides itself on making conscious decisions to move things forward. Whether we started the process or not because I always say that a good idea is a good idea no matter who brings it.
So, now is the time. This is the place. And we now have the plans to move forward and make this long-awaited project become a reality.
Documented actions of this Government would show that it was our priority to ensure that the justice system operates in an exemplary way. We know that the laws and the physical structure are just as relevant.
I am asking our people to ready themselves academically and professionally for opportunities will come as a result of this ‘Halls of Justice’. For example, we would need court reporters, interpreters, magistrates, and so much more. My people let us get ready.
The public has put this Government in place to make decisions that are in their best interest. There are a lot of tough decisions that were not made in the past. This Government is not afraid to make them because taking care of the people is not about popularity. It is about the long-term prosperity of these islands and fulfilling purpose.
Government is a continuum. It is like a relay where generations are passing the baton. Some may drop it along the way for whatever reason. But, it is up to those coming after to pick up the baton, find the value, adjust it so that it is ‘fit-for-purpose’ and keep the race moving, not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the greater good.
We’re all in this together and we are indeed moving forward, in BVILOVE.
Once again, I congratulate the RDA. I thank my colleagues on both side of the aisle, Premier’s Office, Ministry of Finance, Deputy Governor’s Office, the Governor, Cabinet, the contractors, and most importantly the people of the Virgin Islands for their commitment.
I know that the RDA has a lot of work to do between now and the next 24 months, including many other construction works in this Territory. No district must be left behind.
So indeed, today with the signing of the contracts signalled yet another victory for the BVI as we steadily move forward with our hurricane recovery efforts with $40M worth of construction projects under the RDA.
May God bless these projects and may He continue to watch over the people of the Virgin Islands.
I thank you.