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VI must reflect on financial independence achieved 40 years ago

December 3rd, 2018 | Tags: E. Benito Wheatley Ministry of Finance
E. Benito Wheatley. Photo: VINO/File
Through prudence and determination, the coalition Governments led by the late Chief Minister Dr the Honourable Willard Wheatley, MBE, LLB up to 1979, steered the territory out of recession and into a robust economic recovery from 1974 onward. Photo: Provided
Through prudence and determination, the coalition Governments led by the late Chief Minister Dr the Honourable Willard Wheatley, MBE, LLB up to 1979, steered the territory out of recession and into a robust economic recovery from 1974 onward. Photo: Provided
By E. Benito Wheatley

It should not be taken for granted that the Virgin Islands (BVI) is today financially self-sufficient or that the Government’s finances are managed by a Minister of Finance, appointed from among the elected representatives of the Legislature (i.e. House of Assembly).

This was not always the case.

At the introduction of ministerial government in 1967, Finance was not a portfolio devolved to the elected Government.

It remained under the United Kingdom (UK) appointed Governor, who also oversaw Britain’s financial assistance to the Territory, referred to as ‘grant-in-aid.’

Deep Recession

By 1971, the VI was in a deep recession and the Government remained dependent upon Britain to fund its large budget deficit.

However, through prudence and determination, the coalition Governments led by the late Chief Minister Dr the Honourable Willard Wheatley, MBE, LLB between 1971 to 1975 (i.e. Wheatley/Virgin Islands Democratic Party/United Party) and 1975 to 1979 (i.e. Wheatley/Virgin Islands Party), steered the territory out of recession and into a robust economic recovery from 1974 onward.

The exceptional public management of this period encouraged Britain to follow through on turning over responsibility for the Finance portfolio, from the Governor to the elected Government under the stewardship of the Chief Minister.

On June 1, 1977, Dr Wheatley became the VI’s first Minister of Finance.

Budget Deficit 

By 1978, the Government independently closed the budget deficit and ended the year with a budget surplus of $1.3 million.

This eliminated the need for further financial assistance from Britain and officially brought an end to ‘grant-in-aid,’ in the Territory, more than two decades after the VI became a British colony in its own right.

At the end of the subsequent budget year (1979), the surplus grew to $2.7 million on the continued growth of revenue from tourism and a rebound in construction.

The Territory has since remained financially self-sufficient, as successive Governments have generally ran budget surpluses or balanced budgets.

Steadfast Leadership

Financial autonomy was the next critical step in the VI’s march toward greater self-determination, which was preceded by the introduction of ministerial government in 1967 and the restoration of the legislature (i.e. Legislative Council) in 1950.

The new Finance portfolio endowed the elected Government with the fiscal and regulatory authority that positioned the VI to later reinvent the financial services industry, after the termination of the VI-US double taxation treaty in 1981.

The Chief Minister, Dr Wheatley, and his various ministers (i.e. Oliver Cills, Conrad Maduro/Dr. Q. William Osborne, OBE, Alban U. Anthony and H. Lavity Stoutt) deserve much credit for their steadfast leadership that ensured the Territory became financially self-sufficient and gained its financial autonomy.

This of course could not have been achieved without the dedication of the numerous public servants who worked tirelessly in the national interest.

The 40th anniversary of the end of ‘grant-in-aid’ is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the VI’s financial independence which remains a key pillar of the self-determination of the Territory.

4 Responses to “VI must reflect on financial independence achieved 40 years ago”

  • ABC (03/12/2018, 20:47) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read
  • Thinking (04/12/2018, 07:21) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    just saying with your wealth of knowledge along with vibrance of youth I do believe with some other like minded persons might be just what we need to move this coountry forward this is no time to go backwards .
  • E. Leonard (04/12/2018, 11:00) Like (10) Dislike (2) Reply
    Undoubtedly, the late Dr. Hon Chief Minister Williard Wheatley is owed a debt of gratitude and should be recognized for advanving the territory out of a deep recession and putting it on a path of financial self sufficiency, reducing/eliminating the need for grant-in-aid. As a result of his effective stewardship, the territory, a little sleepy hollow, emerged having one of the highest standard of living, quality and per capita income ($38K) in the region. Nonetheless, though the BVI should celebrate and appreciate the great start provided by Wheatley Admin on economic attainment and positioning, there is still much work to do on economic growth and development.

    Monster Cat 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria exposed some fragility and weaknesses with the economic structure. The VI has a service-based economy (tourism and financial services); the economy is highly fragile and sector stumbling can result in the whole economy tumbling. As such, atop the new government’s bucket list must be diversifying the economy. On another note, economic independence must be a precursor for political independence. The BVI people has the right to self-determination, ie, independence........etc but whatever path it chooses must entail economic independence. Benito, good read.
  • ??? (04/12/2018, 13:16) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Sometimes I wonder if Lavity is the only leader that we had. Very little is taught in our schools about Mr Wheatley or even Mr Romney. And if you ask me, Lavity almost created the greatest blunder in the history of the Virgin Islands (The Bates-Hill Agreement).


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