Premier's Office
Release Date:
Wednesday, 10 March 2021 - 6:14pm



Wednesday, 10th March, 2021



Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to address this Honourable House.

Mr. Speaker, on 25 February, 2019, the people of the Virgin Islands went to the polls in peaceful, free and fair elections and elected a new Government.

Their decision in that democratic process afforded me the honour of serving as the Premier of these beautiful Virgin Islands, and for the members of my team to be appointed as Ministers and Junior Ministers in the Government of the Virgin Islands.

It goes without saying that the people’s expectations of their Government includes efficient, effective and proactive Governance, the prudent management of the resources of the Virgin Islands, and responsible decision-making that safeguards and promotes the welfare of the people of the Virgin Islands.

Mr. Speaker, there is also an expectation, as well as a commitment from your Government, to be transparent in public affairs and accountable for our stewardship.

Twenty-four months is a short time, considering the amount of work that needed to be done – and which needs to be done – to bring us to the point where we should be at this stage in the life of the Virgin Islands.

And the time has been made even shorter given the challenges of COVID-19, which challenges have affected not only us in the Virgin Islands, but people and economies around the world.

In the 2020 and 2021 Budget Addresses, I detailed the work done by your Government in the respective preceding years and how the prevailing issues would have affected your Government’s agenda – both on the legislative side and the fiscal side.

The Budget Address and other Ministerial statements are just one avenue through which your Government has been accounting to the people.

Mr. Speaker, glossing over the past 24 months, you would recall, briefly, that in 2019, your Government invested our efforts in getting the overdue 2019 and 2020 Budgets passed and re-engaging with our international cruise partners, among other things. We were, of course, constrained by having to work with the 2019 Budget that was framed by our predecessors.

All said, the Virgin Islands was poised to have a favourable 2020. The 1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days Programme in partnership with local businesses was in place.

We rolled out a number of training programmes in collaboration with the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, such as the marine training programme and the more recent solar training programme, to equip our people to take advantage of lucrative opportunities, both present and emerging. Tourist arrivals were returning to pre-Irma levels, and business was picking up. Our recovery was well on the way.

But then, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared in March 2020 and the public health restrictions required to keep everyone safe from the novel Coronavirus put a damper on some of the progress we had made.

Mr. Speaker, you would recall that your Government had to focus on managing the public health, economic and social implications of COVID-19.

We had to upgrade our healthcare infrastructure, commission a certified lab to improve the efficiency of conducting COVID-19 tests, provide food and other necessities to the needy and the vulnerable, implement measures to further strengthen our border security, prepare and execute economic stimulus programmes, and put measures in place to begin the reopening of our Tourism industry in a managed way.

The soundness of the decisions taken by your Government, the work done with respect to managing COVID-19, and our collective sacrifices, are evident in the number of lives saved and the fact that the economy has been spared critical damage. Had we not acted decisively – had we not taken the difficult decisions, the damage to the economy would have been much worse and would have jeopardised any hope of recovery when the COVID-19 threat subsides.

This is your Government working for the people of the Virgin Islands.

The fact that COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available brings optimism that the wheels of the global economy will begin turning once again.

So we must hold on to hope and to our Faith in our GOD that brighter days are ahead.

Mr. Speaker, this does not mean that we must stop being vigilant.

We still have to operate with caution until the COVID-19 threat is abated to the point where the restrictions on international travel can be sufficiently relaxed.

In the meantime, we must keep our focus on the vision of transforming the Virgin Islands into a leading regional economy through entrepreneurship, innovation and local and foreign investment, strengthening our resilience to economic shocks and catastrophic events, and continuing our advancement towards self-determination.

It is in this regard that I wish to remind this Honourable House and the Virgin Islands public of some of the targets that your Government has set for the period ahead.

Honourable Members will recall from the Speech from the Throne that your Government indicated our intentions to bring forward a number of pieces of legislation to further strengthen Good Governance in the Virgin Islands.

These are commitments that we made in our Manifesto. This is not anything that we are being made to do by anyone. It is something that we have been constantly committed to doing because it is a part of our belief and values as Virgin Islanders.

Your Government has caused to be drafted an Integrity in Public Life Act and Ministerial Code of Conduct will soon be before Cabinet, and which we expect to bring to this Honourable House once it has gone through Cabinet.

A new Procurement Act is being worked on to further strengthen accountability and transparency in public procurement. You would be aware that the Contractor General Legislation and Whistle Blower Legislation already had their First Reading in this Honourable House, and will be followed by public consultation.

The Police Act already had its First Reading in this Honourable House, and this too will go through the public consultation process.

Your Government is fully in favour of Good Governance legislation. It is clear from our actions that this Government is not wavering when it comes to further strengthening good governance.

We fully support transparency and accountability.

Resilient and effective institutions and Governance systems are very important for advancing the Virgin Islands in our journey to self-determination, as well as for further strengthening the confidence of local and foreign investors, but more so for strengthening the confidence in each other.

They are also important for protecting the rights of our people and ensuring that taxpayers’ money and trust are not abused.

In our continued commitment to climate change and taking climate resilient actions, your Government is also preparing to bring forward amendments to the Customs Act to revise the framework for export tax so that we can generate revenues from exports and to extend the zero tax on renewable energy equipment for a specific period of time.

We have to continue pushing the transition to green energy in the Virgin Islands.

This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

We will also continue to further strengthen our disaster management structures, so that they are on par with that of the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) which continues to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, with excellence. That is why your Government has funded the construction of the new National Emergency Operations Centre. We have already broken ground for construction of a new, more fit-for-purpose and resilient building for the Department for Disaster Management (DDM) and the NEOC.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to ownership, our Virgin Islands people must be able to own their own homes.

The young people of the Territory have expressed that home ownership is something they are very interested in.

Due to this expressed demand, your Government will be extending the stamp duty waiver for the purchase of property by Belongers. This amendment has already received its First Reading in the House of Assembly.

This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

During the upcoming year, it is our aim to bring legislation to merge the BVI Airports Authority and the BVI Ports Authority into a single entity. This will reduce the operations cost for these two bodies, thereby improving efficiency and effectiveness, which will lead to an increase in revenue.

This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

We also plan to bring forward the legislation for the Water and Sewerage Department and Virgin Islands Shipping Registry to become Statutory Bodies. This will help these departments to become more profitable and efficient, marketable and competitive.

This is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

Mr. Speaker you will recall that your Government has also slated the e-Government suite of legislation for consideration by this House. This suite of e-Government Legislation include, but are not limited to, Data Protection Act, Electronic Transfers of Funds Act, Electronic Filing Act, and Electronic Transactions Act. These different Acts

will make it more convenient for residents, from Districts One to District Nine and abroad, to conduct business with the Government of the Virgin Islands. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that all of these pieces of legislation had their First Reading in this Honourable House, and now they are passed by this Honourable House.

The Virgin Islands Investment Act and the Business Licensing Act 2020 have already been introduced in this Honourable House for their First Reading. These pieces of legislation will further strengthen the already-passed Virgin Islands Trade Commission Legislation, and significantly improve the ease of doing business in the Virgin Islands.

Mr. Speaker, your Government has two very capable Junior Ministers who are passionate about service to their country and to the people of the Virgin Islands.

They continue to work hard in their respective roles and they have the confidence and support of their Ministerial colleagues.

Junior Minister for Trade, Honourable Shereen Flax-Charles, will be spearheading the work with regard to the Virgin Islands Investment Act and the Business Licensing Act 2020. This includes holding a series of public meetings, accompanied by the requisite Government authorities; to garner the public’s input into these historic pieces of legislation that will revolutionalise the way trade and investment are done in this Territory.

Additionally, the Junior Minister for Tourism, Honourable Sharie de Castro is leading the Special Tourism Committee, to complete the National Tourism Plan and have it ready for the next Budget cycle. This Committee has representatives from all the stakeholder groups and all the Sister Islands.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard one or two persons asking, “Why? Why give these responsibilities to these female Junior Ministers?”

And my answer is, “In this modern 21st century, why not?”

Mr. Speaker, International Women’s Day was on the 8th of March, where we, locally, celebrated the self-determination of women and their continued positive impact and contribution towards the development of the Virgin Islands.

Since the inception of the Junior Ministers’ position, persons functioning in that role spearheaded several Government initiatives and projects, on behalf of the Premier.

Hence assigning the two capable female Junior Ministers the task previously mentioned, is quite appropriate and expected, and I salute them and pledge my full support as they execute projects on behalf of the Premier in the area of tourism, trade and economic development.

Mr. Speaker, our Junior Minister for Trade and our Junior Minister for Tourism are two dynamic, capable and hard-working women. They have the ability and they are willing to work.

In Government, Ministers are supported by teams of proficient and knowledgeable public officers and our Junior Ministers have the support and commitment of their respective teams.

So, to say that they should not be allowed to roll up their sleeves and work for the people simply because they are not in the Cabinet is absurd.

Mr. Speaker, our development and indeed the modern world of globalisation have outgrown many of the restrictions contained in our Constitution, and therefore the Constitutional Review exercise is as urgent as it is necessary.

I continue to urge Members of the public to prepare themselves for this exercise. Read and discuss the Constitution among yourselves and with your families. Be critical in your reflections. Look at what works for the Virgin Islands and what does not work for the Virgin Islands.

Our new Constitution must be informed by the vision that our people hold for themselves, so we need the people of the Virgin Islands to tell us what they want in the Constitution and what they do not want.

And we must bear in mind that the Constitution will be our guiding document for at least the next 10 years, and that this exercise transcends political parties and personalities.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that Cabinet recently approved the framework for which will guide the structure of the Constitutional Review.

Mr. Speaker, recently your Government has also approved the framework to guide the National Development Sustainable Plan initiative. This will be the roadmap for our Territory’s development. Everything we do, in terms of development, whether it is infrastructure or the economy, will be linked back to this master plan.

Mr. Speaker, this is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

Your Government will be holding many public meetings from District One to Nine so that the people of the Virgin Islands will have the opportunity to give their input on how they want their BVI to look and perform within this next 10, 15, 20 years under this National Sustainable Development Plan.

Your Government has established a number of Committees to advise on how to improve the efficiency of the public service operations and chart our economic development including diversification.

On the advice of the new Acting Financial Secretary, Mr. Jeremiah Frett, we have established a special in-house Finance Advisory Committee, which is comprised of officers from across the Ministries and Statutory Bodies.

The Committee’s mandate is to identify ways to save the Territory money by cutting unnecessary expenditure, and to find new ways to generate revenues including new industries.

We have also assembled a Special Committee consisting of retired senior public officers to review the recurrent expenditure and to make recommendations for how we can lower Government expenses.

We have a wealth of experience among our people. We have people who have BVILOVE for our country and who want to see us progress as a people. This is one of our most valuable and often unrecognised strengths in the Virgin Islands.

Mr. Speaker, this is innovation. This is progress. This is your Government working for you.

Mr. Speaker, your Government has also established a Committee from the private sector to examine what new industries are a good fit for the BVI.

BVI Financial Services is also being very proactive in recognising the changes in the global finance markets, and is pursuing innovation to harness the opportunities that are emerging.

Your Government is also pressing forward with a number of projects that will create jobs and other economic opportunities, and development opportunities, while improving the quality of life for all residents and stimulating economic activity.

For instance, we will be moving forward with the Palm Grove Complex in partnership with private entities. We will also be prioritising the redevelopment of Prospect Reef.

This is progress. This is your Government working for you.


Your Government will continue the rehabilitation of the Ralph T. O’Neal Central Administration Complex. We will continue repairs to Government-owned Satellite Offices which will make services more accessible to residents of outer-lying communities and enhance the work environment of various public offices and ensure increased services offered.

Other projects will include construction of the Halls of Justice, repairs to the Police Stations at Anegada and Road Town, rehabilitative works to the Police Marine Base, construction of a new facility to house the Police Headquarters and Road Town Police Station, completion of on-going outfitting works to Custom Headquarters and other related facilities, continuing renovation works at the Road Town Fire Station.

Mr. Speaker, this is progress. This is your Government working for you.

Your Government aims to further Tourism Infrastructure Development. This includes pursuing the Cane Garden Bay Revitalisation project, rehabilitating visitor centres across the Territory, and enhancing the tourism product at the Copper Mine Point Ruins on Virgin Gorda.

This is your Government working for you.

We will continue work on restoring our ferry terminals and jetties.

This includes continuing work on the West End/Sopher’s Hole Ferry Terminal to develop a modern, technologically driven entry port facility to accommodate over 200,000 passengers per year and to provide an entry port that is resilient and which follows international safety and smart standards while providing opportunities for the people of the Territory.

Mr. Speaker, this is your Government working for you.

Development of the Anegada Setting Point Jetty will continue to ensure international port standards and enhance the opportunities for residents of Anegada.

Redevelopment of the Dog Hole facilities and the dock at Jost Van Dyke will also continue. We will be moving forward with the East End/Fat Hog's Bay Harbour project and dredging of the Sea Cow's Bay Harbour to facilitate moorings for ferries and yachts.

Mr. Speaker, this is progress. This is your Government working for you.

The BVI Ports Authority is working on putting the measures in place for reopening our sea borders to international tourism traffic. The targeted opening date is 15 April, 2021, and the Authority is providing weekly updates.

The Anegada Hybrid Renewable Energy and Battery Energy Storage System Project are scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of this year.

It will improve the electricity supply and quality of service on that Sister Island and help in the transition away from fossil fuel to green, renewable, sustainable energy. Other sustainable energy projects are under consideration.

Mr. Speaker, renovations to the Water and Sewerage Department (WSD) Buildings and the Public Works Department (PWD) Buildings at Baugher’s Bay will continue.

We will also be reconfiguring the compound to expand the facilities and improve service delivery. We will also be rehabilitating the facilities at Water Depot in Virgin Gorda.

Mr. Speaker, targeted improvements to the water network infrastructure include upgrades to reservoirs at Long Bush, Zion Hill and Carrot Bay, and installation of new water meters to improve efficiency.

This is your Government working for you.

The long-awaited and long-overdue East End/Long Look Sewerage Project has commenced and will continue. We will also be pressing forward with the Cane Garden Bay Sewerage Project and the Road Town Sewerage Project, in a phased manner,

Through the Territory-wide Ghut Rehabilitation and Development programme, ghuts throughout the Territory will be cleared of debris so they can function effectively.

We are also working on major road repair projects including repairs to Nail Bay Road, Johnson’s Ghut Road, Long Bay Road, Ballast Bay Road, and Cane Garden Bay Road, just to name a few.

Road stabilisation and retaining walls construction projects include Great Mountain, Long Trench, Hope Hill, Little Dix Hill and Fort Hill. Work in some of these areas is already underway.

Sea defense projects for the northern side of Tortola will commence this year. These include areas such as Carrot Bay, Little Apple Bay, just to name a few.

This is your Government working for you.

The BVI Airports Authority is preparing to put forward a plan for the expansion of the airport at Beef Island so that we can improve our positioning as an air transportation hub, accommodate larger aircraft and direct flights from major cities, and expand our tourism sector. This project is projected to span three to five years.

Your Government is prioritising the needs of our children as we allocate funding for the construction and development of the Jost Van Dyke Primary School and the Isabella Morris Primary School with assistance from donors. The architect is already hard at work.

Mr. Speaker, rehabilitation and reconstruction works are ongoing at the Bregado Flax Educational Centre, restoring the functionality of that Secondary School and providing access to public education on Virgin Gorda.

The renovation work to the John E. George Administration Building has been already completed and has been turned over to Government to provide services to the public.

The Vanterpool and Flax Building in the Valley Virgin Gorda are all currently under renovation.

The Jeffery Caines Basketball Arena and surrounding areas are currently undergoing repairs.

The Anegada Administration Building is currently being repaired.

This is progress, Mr. Speaker. This is your Government working for you.

Your Government will undertake this year development of a modern Centre for the Performing Arts theatre to assist with developing, preserving and promoting BVI's heritage of dance, music and all other forms of artistic expression, while fostering the growth of cultural tourism.

We will continue upgrading the basketball courts and other sporting and recreational facilities throughout the Territory, as well at the Multi-purpose Sports Complex and the Virgin Gorda Sports Complex.

Repairs and remedial works at the Cane Garden Bay Community Centre and the East End/Long Look Community Centre are also carded to take place.

Mr. Speaker, your Government is working.

Our technocrats and public officers across all our Ministries, Departments and Statutory Bodies are working. The Attorney General’s Office is working.

There is a lot that is happening and more that will be unfolding in the upcoming months to create additional economic opportunities for our Virgin Islands people.

Your Government has launched the BVILOVE e-Magazine to help our people to stay informed of what is happening in the Territory and so that they can be aware of upcoming opportunities for them to participate in and benefit from.

Two magazines have already been published: one on January 25, the second on February 25, with the next one to follow on March 25.

As we further strengthen our Governance systems, our economy and our people, we are preparing the BVI for a new, brighter and more resilient future.