House of Assembly
Release Date:
Thursday, 13 May 2021 - 5:10pm




THURSDAY, 13th MAY, 2021


Mr Speaker, let me first begin by thanking God for keeping His steady hand on this Territory.

You would recall that shortly after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020, we in the BVI were presented with a grim projection – based on the scientific data - that unless decisive preventative steps were taken, the Territory was looking at getting 3,700 coronavirus cases in our small population.

As a people and as a community, we worked together to avert this forecast.

Your Government made the tough decisions to protect lives, to protect our healthcare system from collapse, and to protect our economy.

Together, the Government on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands made sure that we invested in proactive measures, and we reported to the people every step of the way – at one time almost daily.

The private sector businesses also did their part to complement the work of the Public Sector by putting preventative measures in place as well, so that businesses could reopen under the New Regular of living and working with COVID-19.

Residents, Belongers and Virgin Islanders did their part as well – cooperating with and supporting the various measures that were asked of them; making the sacrifices and compromises when called upon.

The Virgin Islands’ survival of the COVID-19 global pandemic thus far has been a team effort.

It has been a team effort with all of us living in these God-fearing islands doing our part - working together to balance lives with livelihoods.

By working together, the BVI’s response to COVID-19 has been presented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a model for the Eastern Caribbean.

But more valuable than any accolades, is that together, we have managed – with the exception of one unfortunate loss – to keep everyone alive.  To this we say to GOD be ALL the Glory.

And, Mr Speaker, as in any society that is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the support and cooperation has not been to the fullest 100 percent.

There have been a small number of persons who for various reasons – some reasons and motives valid, reasonable and justified, and others not so noble – decided that they would not work with the rest of us to keep everyone safe and to protect the economy.

These are persons who, in the height of the pandemic – when the death tolls in large and small economies were skyrocketing; when healthcare systems were crashing and when those countries were rushing into lockdowns after it was too late – they were trying to spread chaos in our ‘Virgin Islands’ community by demanding that we throw open the borders and open up for tourism now.

Needless to say that in hindsight, this would have been irresponsible governance putting the lives of our people in jeopardy.

Mr Speaker, if you would just pause for a second and reflect on that fact. They wanted us to throw open our borders so that persons could come in from countries where there were present and active COVID-19 explosions and roam freely among our population.  These voices were strong advocates to try to bully this Government to move in a direction that would have caused us to lose many lives here in the Virgin Islands as well as destabilise our country.  Mr Speaker, most of these voices continue to be the loudest today.

With the cooperation of everyone, we began the phased and managed reopening of our economy and our international borders, those same individuals were out there trying to stir up resentment against the Government because of the protocols for entering the country.

However, Mr Speaker it is a fact that these are the same protocols that have kept us all safe to date.

But, you see, Mr Speaker, while your Government has been deliberate not to make COVID-19 a subject for politics, there are those who are using COVID-19 to create a platform for themselves for the next General Elections, but contrary to their selfish push for power, this Government will remain laser focused on helping the people.

Thankfully, our Virgin Islands people are a people of BVILOVE.

Mr Speaker, there seems to be a strategy to try to destabilise the Government of the Virgin Islands.  First attempt was over the protocols, and now a political campaign has been ignited on the ground concerning stimulus grants.

Mr Speaker, individuals who failed to diversify the economy; individuals who failed to even make an effort to revive the tourism industry and infrastructure after Irma; individuals who failed to prudently manage the Territory’s finances, and who therefore left the taxpayers with limited resources to rebuild and to face the pandemic – they were all over the place, playing on the emotions of a weary and frustrated public with stimulus talk.

At first, they were demanding the Government pay the stimulus now – as if the Virgin Islands Government prints money. Then, when we successfully sourced the grant from the BVI Social Security Board (SSB), their new problem was that the funds should not come from the SSB. And on and on, at every turn, they have some new issue that they invent to play on the frustrations of the public.

You see, lies, half-truths and innuendos repeated often enough take on the authority of truth especially when most persons are financially vulnerable. When the seeds from the weeds fall on fertile soil, they send down their roots and they sprout up.

Mr Speaker, during the on-going pandemic, the people of the Virgin Islands has experienced significant hardship. That is a FACT!  But it is also a FACT that the economic shocks of COVID-19 have hit every single economy in the world.

The UK economy suffered a 9.9% slump in 2020 due to COVID-19. The UK is now once again trying to ease its lockdown protocols. The United States has already issued new instruments – what they call “printing money” – to the tune of approximately $5 trillion to fund COVID-19 stimulus. And this is a dangerous practice for maintaining the value of the US dollar.

Your Virgin Islands Government acknowledges that a number of businesses and individuals were and remain affected by COVID-19, and this especially includes businesses and persons who derive their income from the various sectors of the economy.

Like Governments everywhere, your Government did and continues to help to reduce the financial strain being experienced by our businesses and people.

And may I add that no Government can restore every dollar of lost potential revenue caused by the pandemic.

What Governments have sought to do is to provide some support to help reduce the burden - to help put a meal on the table, to help keep the lights on and the roof over the family, while we are still trying to ride out this storm called COVID-19.

It is a worldwide challenge of how to find a prudent system to adequately assist all persons who experience financial challenges during this on-going global pandemic.

And, although this is an impossible task for any Government, one must never let the perfect become the enemy of the greater good. 

And without a doubt, any system implemented, whether it be by any Government worldwide or the private institution that provide goods and services, should also be assessed by the citizenry.

Mr Speaker, this is an opportune time to update the Virgin Islands public on the break-down of the COVID-19 stimulus by District.

As a reminder, Mr Speaker, businesses are important for driving economic activity. Businesses also provide jobs, which enable employees to meet their social and financial needs.

We know that our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. That is why your Government moved to help our local businesses to keep their heads above water.

Your Government therefore secured $6.5 million from the Social Security Board to assist local businesses affected by COVID-19 in the form of a grant. Businesses that qualify for this grant were and are expected to put the funding to work, and make a genuine effort to keep their staff employed.

And may I say, that your Government has not been secretive about this aspect of the stimulus programme. Public cheque distribution ceremonies were held, and on 22nd September, 2020, as Minister of Finance I reported to this Honourable House how these funds were distributed District by District by date.

So, for the COVID-19 business stimulus by Districts, the figures provided to me by the technical team are as follows:


Total Amounts

One (1)


Two (2)


Three (3)


Four (4)


Five (5)


Six (6)


Seven (7)


Eight (8)


Nine (9)


Please note that District 4 experienced the highest total amount disbursed to businesses to date, followed by Districts 9, 6, 3, 8 and 2.

This stands to reason as both are districts where most businesses in the country operate.

But, Mr Speaker, I want to remind Honourable Members and the public that these figures still have to go through the full auditing process.  So the House and the public will continue to be updated as this process is ongoing.  I just want to remind Honourable Members and the public that the small business stimulus was structured and administered by a Committee established by Cabinet consisting of representatives from the Premier’s Office as Chair, the Ministry of Finance, and the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs as well as through other measures given that the deadline for the initiatives was extended.

The truth will prevail in the end.

Mr Speaker, this is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

From the time we took office in February 2019, we made agriculture and fisheries an intrinsic part of our strategy to ensure food production and to boost our food security. This reality can be seen in the renaming of the Ministry of Education and Culture, to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture.

COVID-19 brought into sharp focus the urgency to diversify the economy, to create new employment and business opportunities, and to develop industries that are very critical to our survival, but which also have not received the level of attention that they deserved, for many years.

No doubt, COVID-19 has thrown forward a number of problems such as unemployment, interruption of commerce, and threats to food security globally, as supply chains became affected.

I must say that your Government understands that food production, especially in the areas of agriculture and fisheries continue to present ideal solutions to this scenario.

Mister Speaker, can I tell you that a nation that cannot feed itself is a nation that is headed towards destruction?

That is why your Government secured $2 million from the Social Security Board in the first instance, to assist our farmers and fisherfolks to fulfill this role.

Your Government wants all citizens to be productively engaged and, in a position to earn their income. Through the grant, farmers were assisted with cutting of access roads to their farms and fencing for their properties, among other things, that will boost their food production capabilities.

Some people who have not been paying attention to what we have been saying over the past several months, or persons who are up to mischief at all costs, are spreading the talk that this was free money just put into persons’ hands. But in most, cases, based on the nature of what assistance was required, the money was put into infrastructure to support expanding agriculture.

The same goes for the fishing grant as well.

Fisherfolk who needed engines, nets and other equipment received the help they needed to spring forward from this initiative, thereby also boosting their production.  Please note that some of these needs existed following the passage of the devastating 2017 category 5 hurricanes that destroyed most equipment necessary for food production.

We need the food supply. We need to create the jobs. We need to boost fisheries, and we need to boost agriculture.

This is our opportunity to finally make farming and fishing another one of our economic pillars, while giving us the ability to feed ourselves, in case we are ever cut off from the rest of the world.

Mr Speaker, do you remember when that was a real fear that was facing us in the early days of the pandemic last year? When cargo ships had to stop sailing? When goods got stuck at ports all over the place? When there was talk that certain countries were going to freeze the export of meat, produce and other foodstuff so that they could keep it for their own people?

Well, if I may break it down by districts, in terms of the COVID-19 Farming Stimulus to date:-  


Total Amounts

One (1)


Two (2)


Three (3)


Four (4)


Five (5)


Six (6)


Seven (7)


Eight (8)


Nine (9)


Please note that District 1, 2 and 9 experienced the highest total amounts disbursed to Farmers.  This stands to reason as all are Districts where Farmers are ‘most’ prevalent, not that they are not prevalent in other areas.

As regards to the COVID-19 Fishing Stimulus to date:-


Total Amounts

One (1)


Two (2)


Three (3)


Four (4)


Five (5)


Six (6)


Seven (7)


Eight (8)


Nine (9)


Please note that Districts 9, 1, 8 and 2 experienced the highest total amount disbursed to Fisherfolks.  This is due to the high number of Fisherfolks in each of these Districts.

Mr Speaker, the total of the COVID-19 Stimulus disbursed to our Churches and religious organisations in the Virgin Islands to date, according to the figures provided by the technical team of officers is $1,693,000.

The total of the COVID-19 Stimulus disbursed to our Private Schools and Day Care Centers in the Virgin Islands to date, as I am advised, is $907,818.

The total of the COVID-19 Stimulus disbursed to our Transportation / Taxi Operators in the Virgin Islands to date is $1,302,050.80.  This includes transportation service for quarantine passengers from T. B. Lettsome International Airport to quarantine sites.  The figure also includes the amount for the Park and Ride initiative on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke.

Mr Speaker, your Virgin Islands Government took a little and stretched it into a lot, in terms of our resources with the COVID-19 stimulus to assist as many of our people as possible.

This is a Government working for its people in the midst of a pandemic—a Government that cares.

As a reminder, during the early stages of the pandemic, your Government heard the feedback from the people on the ground. We have also listened to the concerns of the Opposition.  And, where possible, suggestions were taken on board and incorporated into plans.

And, may I say that the BVI’s COVID-19 management was not about rejecting or accepting a suggestion based on politics or personality. It was not about who makes the most noise or the grandest threats gets their way.

It was about doing what was best for the Territory in the circumstance and at the time in a pandemic that has been constantly changing and shifting.

It was about doing what was possible given the dynamics of the public health aspect, the economic aspect and the social aspect of the pandemic.

Your Government understood then, and we still understand now, that COVID-19 is a time for unity and to have all hands on deck, where we put politics in the back and the needs of the people and the country in front.

Mr Speaker, there will be a time for campaigning but not now when we as a people are at our most challenging time in the history of the Virgin Islands and throughout the world.

We can never win this war against COVID-19 until all our people are focused and committed towards the same goal, and working with a common vision and a common understanding.

Mr Speaker Sir, let me say here your Government saw that there were some urgent needs and there were persons who needed to get help A-S-A-P.

As a result, to make it quicker for these persons to get financial help, your Government made an additional $3.9 million available from the consolidated fund for each District and At-Large elected Member. These funds were accessed by contacting all nine District Representatives or the four At-Large Representatives, who were all assigned a special COVID-19 allocation of $300,000 per district, per representative.

This was in addition to each Representative’s regular Assistance Grants, commonly called the District Fund, which is processed through the House of Assembly and Ministry of Finance.

This special COVID-19 funding allowed each elected Member to respond to needy cases, directly and swiftly in their respective districts for their Constituencies regardless of political affiliation because COVID-19 is no respecter of politics.

This allocation was divided equally. No Member was advantaged and none were disadvantaged. All were enabled to help the people, especially when it came to some of the simpler, less complicated issues in their respective districts.

Members had been asking for resources to help constituents and here your Government made funds available in the midst of a global pandemic without favour – equal amounts to all Representatives from Districts 1 to 9.  Never before had this happened even during the challenging times of the aftermath of the two category five hurricanes in 2017.

Transparency and accountability still apply to these special funds. The funds continue to be audited monthly by the internal auditor.

And, just as these funds are allocated without favouritism, as Minister of Finance, I advised all Members that favouritism and political allegiances must be put aside. Your Government continues to believe that it matters not who you voted for. If persons have a need and can justify it during this COVID-19 era, they were to contact their district representative.  Mr Speaker, we recognise that the funds could only stretch thus far, but a little of something is better than plenty of nothing.

Looking ahead for the medium- to long-term, your Government’s objective is to continue to take the Virgin Islands into overdrive so that we are financially and economically sustainable. This is important to make our people secure, physically, emotionally and economically, and to develop all-round resilience and competitiveness.

This is where our national focus is.

Mr Speaker, the reality is this; the BVI has done exceptionally well so far – knock on wood.

We are in uncharted seas because it is not a disaster like the hurricanes we are familiar with, but a pandemic, and a pandemic that is ongoing and has posed unprecedented challenges for every country in the world.

With a disaster like a hurricane, when that occurs, the duration of the event is short. The hurricane hits and in a few hours or a day or two the rain and strong winds are over.

Immediately after the hurricane disaster event, you can assess the damages and have it fully quantified and determine the time period over which you will allocate funding to repair, reconstruct and rebuild.

In a pandemic, however, the duration is prolonged and you do not know when it will end.

How many countries have relaxed their vigilance only to experience second and third waves, surges in the death tolls, and return to lockdown?

With a pandemic like COVID-19, you never know when things will change and how it will change. Some of the damage cannot be seen with the naked eye, and may only be felt down the road.

But today I thank God that we have all been able to stem the tide. Regrettably, we have lost one life to COVID-19, but I must say with the many precautionary measures taken together we all have life and breath to continue to work together to move our country forward.

COVID-19 is far from over and it is sucking the resources out of every Government and economy in the world. No one knows the length or the breadth of the duration of this pandemic.

Those who do not learn from their own experiences and from the experiences of others repeat mistakes with the highest price tag – the price tag of death tolls.

The world now has vaccine for COVID-19 coupled with the other health and safety protocols like the washing of hands, wearing of masks and social distancing.

We have an opportunity now to continue to keep each other and ourselves safe, while keeping our economy moving.

We have a good road ahead, and we thank God for what He has done for us and will continue to do for us.

Mr Speaker, we have challenges as a result of COVID-19, but we also have several success stories and many of which are recognised internationally.  The many stimulus administered under this Government has significantly assisted the majority of our population.

The fact is COVID-19 has put all into one status quo where we all are facing challenges.  But your Government has helped and will continue to help the people of the Virgin Islands whether it is through the grants for farming, fishing, and small businesses. Taxi operators, boat operators, BVI Electricity customers, Water & Sewerage customers, each District and At-Large representative covering all nine districts, construction industry, bank customers, supermarkets during lock-downs, stamp duty exemption for lands and property purchases for belongers, repairs of homes and schools destroyed by Irma in 2017, Legislative changes to facilitate our Financial Services stakeholders, assistance for general needs of our people in the Virgin Islands.

Mr Speaker monies spent by this Government continues to hit its target, in different but meaningful ways to and for the People of the Virgin Islands.  So if this is going to be the way this Government is defined, let us be defined by what we said from day one….. WE PUT THE PEOPLE FIRST with GOD at the helm.

May God continue to watch over his Virgin Islands people and the Virgin Islands overall.

I thank you Mr Speaker.