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‘Public Registers’ danger demand greater focus & investment in VI Tourism—Wheatley

Former VI Ambassador to the UK and European Union, Mr E. Benito Wheatley, in an address to those gathered for the BVI-TB Stakeholders' Meeting, has called for the urgent “rebalancing (of) the economy to reduce the Territory’s vulnerability to the external pressures on the financial services industry.” Photo: Team of Reporters
“Tourism is the primary industry that can ensure the VI has a soft landing and return to strong economic growth in the years ahead…If the VI is going to have a successful recovery, it must be a tourism-led recovery,” said Mr E. Benito Wheatley. Photo: Internet Source
“Tourism is the primary industry that can ensure the VI has a soft landing and return to strong economic growth in the years ahead…If the VI is going to have a successful recovery, it must be a tourism-led recovery,” said Mr E. Benito Wheatley. Photo: Internet Source
Mr E. Benito Wheatley said, if leveraged strategically, the industry can become a powerful driver of economic diversification, through stronger commercial linkages to other local sectors. Photo: VINO/File
Mr E. Benito Wheatley said, if leveraged strategically, the industry can become a powerful driver of economic diversification, through stronger commercial linkages to other local sectors. Photo: VINO/File
NEW YORK, NY, USA – There are serious economic and financial implications for the Virgin Islands (VI), as a consequence of the United Kingdom's (UK) decision, to impose public registers of beneficial ownership on the Overseas Territories (OTs), and in order to compensate, Tourism will have to take on a much more prominent role as a driver of economic growth in the medium and longer term.

This, according to former VI Ambassador to the UK and European Union, Mr E. Benito Wheatley, who in a recent address to those gathered for the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board’s (BVI-TB) Stakeholders' Meeting, held on July 31, 2018, in New York, United States of America (USA) called for the urgent “rebalancing (of) the economy to reduce the Territory’s vulnerability to the external pressures on the financial services industry.”

Soft Landing

According to Mr Wheatley, “rebalancing the economy calls for channelling greater resources toward the expansion of other sectors of the economy that have the potential to drive economic growth.”

Mr Wheatley—a Policy Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge—noted, that Tourism’s multi-sectoral potential, makes it ideally placed to rebalance and reshape the economy over the long-term.

“Tourism is the primary industry that can ensure the VI has a soft landing and return to strong economic growth in the years ahead…If the VI is going to have a successful recovery, it must be a tourism-led recovery.”

He said, if leveraged strategically, the industry can become a powerful driver of economic diversification, through stronger commercial linkages to agriculture, fisheries, sports, health, culture and other local sectors.

“The multiplier effect in the economy would be powerful and generate jobs and business opportunities.”

He cautions however, “…rebalancing the economy toward tourism and construction will not happen magically on its own.”

Private Sector Investment

According to the former VI Ambassador to the EU and UK, “these sectors will have to be supported by the Government and private sector…This includes investment in infrastructure that supports the growth and development of the tourism industry.”

Government, he said can begin its infrastructure programme with rebuilding and upgrading the essential economic infrastructure of the islands, such as the highways and main roads, air and sea ports and ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) networks.

This, he posits, will provide an economic lift to the Territory.

“Their completion at international standard and efficient operation would fully re-establish the smooth flow of commerce across the islands and make the VI attractive for private investment, where needed…World class ICT has the potential to unlock the productivity and efficiency of the private and public sectors.”

Investment Framework

He said too, “a genuine effort is also needed to make the VI more business friendly with respect to administrative processes and approvals,” and noted that E-government for example, can help to make completing applications much easier and quicker for the private sector.

“This would be more cost effective and cut processing times…Citizens would also tremendously benefit.”

He supposes, “Government’s financial constraints mean private investment will have to play an important role in achieving the results desired, but a proper investment framework is needed for this.”

Mr Wheatley used the occasion to reiterate that the VI financial services sector is facing serious external pressure and said “the economy must be quickly rebalanced toward tourism and construction to compensate for any negative impacts.”

He cautioned however, “rebalancing the economy, however, does not mean that the VI should give up on financial services…But the reality is that if current trends hold, the Territory will have to reinvent itself as a jurisdiction if it wishes to remain a relevant International Finance Centre.”

 

7 Responses to “‘Public Registers’ danger demand greater focus & investment in VI Tourism—Wheatley”

  • Splinter (15/08/2018, 10:24) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Boss TRC and by extension MCW are useless. For ICT and the recent touted FINNtech we need affordable and fast internet - both of which we are light years behind other islands. The tourism product has not gone far enough in the last decade plus. We have ample water and no water parks! Dolphin Discovery no matter how controversial was the only attraction here in recent memory. Government is too restrictive and only Hotel breaks are given out - other suooort services are given the red tape treatment! So until the mindset of the ole guard changes of they go the way of the dinosaur - change will not be drastic enough to keep pace with our competitors!!! We don’t even recycle!!! Fancy words and speech are entertaining for he attendees - but the fluff does nothing tangible and is regurgitated ever so often.
    • True (15/08/2018, 10:53) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
      Water parks use fresh water which we have very little
    • JVD (15/08/2018, 17:47) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      Ask what they give tourism to do what needs to be done. Only now they want to study tourism because their baby financial services fall out of the crib? So long we begging for tourism and continue to do so
  • weed (15/08/2018, 13:21) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    this man should run for office
  • E. Leonard (15/08/2018, 18:33) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    The impact of the UK’s amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act that requires Caribbean OTs to set up registers of beneficial ownership by December 2020 is uncertain. Financial services and tourism are the twin pillars of the economy; they are both fragile and two unsteady legs on a wobbly economic chair. Financial services contributes approximately 60% of government revenue. Undoubtedly, it is probable that the UK’s action can cause the economy to tumble. Nonetheless, even without the UK action, steps should have been in the offing to deepen and strengthen the financial services sector. Consequently, now there must be an all hands on deck effort to deepen, strengthen, improve and sustain financial services. The VI government in concert with other affected Caribbean OTs must negotiate as a team with the UK on the potential impact of registers of beneficial ownership. A better outcome can be attained as a team than each OT going it alone; the region must come together as a unit; unity is strength.

    Additionally, as Benito noted, with the potential faltering of financial services as a result of the UK’s action, urgent effort must be initiated to deepen, strengthen, improve and sustain the tourism sector. The tourism sector should have been on a continuous improvement and continuous reengineering timeline/process. Furthermore, the BVI must embark on an aggressive economic diversification project. One of the benefits of a diversified economy is insurance to counter the collapse of one sector from causing the whole economy to tumble. True, diversifying the economy is a heavy lift. Nevertheless, the BVI needs to get at it.
    • truthseeker (15/08/2018, 21:52) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Tourism (about $400m, pre-Irma) and construction (about $200m) already diversify our economy, while Financial Services contributes about $500m+ to our economy.

      The main question is how much they contribute to our Government budget of $300m. Financial services provide about 60% directly (corporate fees) and at least another 10% indirectly (payroll taxes, etc) to the Government.

      How do you increase the contribution to government from the other industrial sectors without increasing the burden on taxpayers?

      It would have been good to have some specific examples which would add to our economy and in turn add to the Government budget; such as
      - the re-development of Prospect Reef,
      - heritage tourism projects such as Kingstown Church of the Liberated Africans, Road Town's Main Street,
      - sports tourism projects such as the multi-purpose stadium in Greenland, re-development of AO Shirley Grounds
      - expansion of TL International Airport, moving and then expanding the Port Purcell cargo port,
      - realizing the potential of Anegada for all sorts of tourism, and new industries such as renewable energy, greenhouses etc.
      - modern agriculture at Paraquita Bay
      - re-developing our fishing complexes and capitalizing on our fishing industry, both commercial and sports fishing.
  • i said it (16/08/2018, 03:58) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    I hope bvi lander's get stripped of UK and bvi passport both the queen' Property.


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