REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCEHONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
Business Solutions Forum
November 26, 2019
President of the BVICCHA, directors and members
Members of the Public Service
Members of the Private Sector
Member of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
A pleasant Good day and God’s Blessings to each and every one of you.
It is time to wake up the slumbering giant and the elephant in the room for the BVI is on the move. Recovery has its place. Delivery has its place. And, we are moving forward towards greening the BVI in 2020.
The BVI is an economic powerhouse, but it has been held back.
It has been held back by external forces that have placed a glass ceiling above us.
And it has been held back because our people have been indoctrinated into believing that we should not dream big; that we are not capable of being much.
The BVI of today and the success stories we have seen over the years, is as a result of the fighting spirit of our forefathers, which is passed down to us through our blood and in our DNA.
Our forefathers, just a few generations ago, were innovators, entrepreneurs and builders. So, we have it within ourselves to transform this Territory.
We are all aware that the financial services industry, which has been one of the main contributors to our economy, is not performing like it used to as a result of international regulations.
The experience is the same in every jurisdiction. It is not unique to the BVI and it was not of our making.
All that we can do is what we should have been doing a long time now; diversifying the economy. Your Government’s ideas are as follows:
- Our Financial Services stakeholders will continue to do their utmost to stabilise our prospects for this sector. BVI Finance has identified strategies such as introduction of new products and areas for development such as asset recovery, Islamic Finance and family offices, and cryptocurrency. Our Financial Services players can expect Government’s fullest support in this regard.
- We must increase our earnings from tourism. As I mentioned in the Budget address, global tourism and Caribbean tourism are becoming increasingly competitive. The BVI has an excellent product, without doubt. But we have to do everything possible to attract and to bring more visitors to our shores. We have to give them rich, memorable experiences so they will return and bring their friends and family. While we increase the volume of visitors, we also have to create opportunities to increase visitor spend.
- Thirdly, we must develop and strengthen all elements of our value system. This includes having the supporting infrastructure in place, our systems must be efficient, we must have the means of getting people and goods in and out of the Territory without hassle, and, very important, we must have a trained and qualified cadre of people to perform at the highest levels in organisations – whether in the public or private sector. This is why your Government is pursuing initiatives such as on-island distance learning towards full Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees from highly recognised international universities; so, people do not have to leave their jobs and their families to get the skills needed to enhance their careers and their lives. This is why we are equipping persons with various other types of skills.
Our overall mission is to put all the necessary support systems in place to facilitate the growth of businesses – both existing and new businesses.
I want to bring our minds back to the Speech from the Throne which was titled: Going Green, Going Smart. This speech was written within the Premier’s Office in consultation with the Ministries who submitted proposed pieces of legislation for consideration. We looked at those pieces of legislation that, once passed, would lead to revenue generation. The Speech is then deliberated and approved by the elected Government of the Virgin Islands and provided to the Governor who read it on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.
We then made an intentional move and aligned the Legislative Agenda in the Speech from the Throne with the Budget Address. Each piece of legislation is linked to strategies of diversification in the budget.
For example, by amending the Customs Management and Duties Act, interested persons can invest in Green SMART product and the repositioning of the BVI as the sailing capital of the world.
The suite of Merchant Shipping legislation will lead to an increase in the registration in larger ships.
The introduction of the AirBnB Tax legislation will lead to more tourism dollars.
And, I can go on with the many positive linkages as 2020 is the year of vision where there will be transformation for resilience and sustainability: SMART Strategies, Empowered people, and Green Development.
Government is doing its part. We believe that by helping you to increase your efficiency and effectiveness, we are also helping you to increase your profits and your return on investment.
Additionally, we need the private sector to assist in diversifying the economy.
Therefore, we are encouraging private individuals and corporate entities to look carefully at the present and changing landscape, and identify those openings that you can turn into viable business opportunities.
This Solutions Forum is a ‘think tank’ strategy for the BVI and is one in a number of series. Today, we will focus on business. Other series will include a focus on environment, health, education, infrastructure, waste management, etc.
So what are your thoughts, ideas and recommendations about green business development in the BVI? What can we add to diversify this economy to ensure that it remains a lucrative economy? The key Government agencies are here and we are all in this room together to find solutions and resolutions.
It could be development of a new product, introduction of a product that is not in the local market, or providing a service that is presently unavailable.
Use your entrepreneurial eye – your creativity – look for those opportunities and capitalise on them.
I believe we have only scratched the surface of what we are capable of as Virgin Islanders.
I believe we can create a sustainable, top performing economy that will provide our people with resilience in every aspect of the word.
And, I believe we can get all of our people into meaningful, well-paying jobs and careers. This and more, is possible when we work together.
You, the business community that is looking to invest your money, must also tell us in the Government what we need to do to make it easier for you to conduct your trade. Tell us what doors we need to open, and once it is within our power to do so, we will open it.
I look forward to all contributions today in this Business Solutions forum, as we join forces to create a new Golden Age for the BVI.
Remember in 2020, we will use what is in our hand as people of the BVI? Our initiative and entrepreneurial spirit.
It is in our DNA. Our forefathers built this Territory forging ahead with what was in their hands, but the desire came from what was in their hearts which was BVI LOVE.
Your Government’s green agenda for 2020 all falls under the umbrella of one simple principle — BVILOVE.
I am excited about this BVILove because God speaks about love in his Word where we are to look out for each other, and in turn, the ‘self’ becomes secure.
This same love is what we must embrace to build the new BVI. Love for our economy. Love for innovation. Love for entrepreneurship. And, love for our Territory.
The mission and vision of your Government is to create a Green BVI where all residents love living in the Green BVI. Employees and employers love working in the Green BVI. Family and friends love visiting the Green BVI. And, local and foreign investors love investing in the Green BVI.
I will now launch the branding for our 2020 Vision you will see on all Government communications beginning January 1, 2020.
I am excited because in the end people will appreciate BVILOVE and I look forward to all of us moving as one hand, in BVILove living, working, visiting, and investing in the BVI.
I thank you.