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Please explain how the Virgin Islands Recovery & Development Agency Act of 2018 passed?

Members of government in the House of Assembly (HoA) during the debated of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act 2018. Photo: VINO/File
Anonymous opinion

Somehow after days of acrimonious testimony in the House of Assembly that revealed a shocking absence of transparency regarding this legislation, deep divisions within the National Democratic Party, and a general lack of understanding about public finance, the House of Assembly found it prudent to pass this legislation without any further public commentary.

Never mind the fact that the majority in the House of Assembly were vehemently against it only a few days ago. In the final analysis, the legislation was accepted by the overwhelming majority without any significant amendments.

Somehow the Leader of the Opposition’s [Honourable Andrew A. Fahie] primary concern regarding consistency with already agreed to financial protocols was satisfied by a simple email that it will be addressed after the fact.

Never mind the fact that the financial protocols were put in place specifically to ensure fiscal responsibility. Now it is somehow appropriate to borrow as much as $425 million or more than 140 percent of our recurrent budget.

It reminds me of when banks in the Virgin Islands (VI) lend people money they know they will not be able to repay, secured by land the bank obviously plans to seize. This is how many VIslanders lost their land, and how many foreigners obtained their land, because a land holding license is not required when banks sell land. Now the House of Assembly is potentially risking the entire Territory to similar predatory loan practices.

And whenever the size of the loan guarantee is challenged, the response is that we are not going to borrow all this money at once. However, if the current public indebtedness is $120 million or approximately 40 percent of our recurrent budget and the agreed to financial protocols allow us to borrow up to 80 percent of our recurrent budget or approximately $240 million, one has to ask the question exactly how much debt does this government plan to burden our children with?

The current administration does not exactly have a very good record with financial management. Can we really expect a government that gave away $7 million to BVI Airways, mismanaged over $80 million at Tortola Pier Park (TPP), and has essentially squandered our financial resources for years, to now be trusted to responsibly administer $425 million in recovery loans? Obviously, the United Kingdom (UK) doesn’t think so and maybe we should be just as concerned.

We should consider the biblical lessons in “parable of the talents”. The Lord took from his servant who did not invest wisely. And truth be told this servant was only actually guilty of hoarding resources. One shudders to think what the Lord would have done with a servant who blatantly squandered resources. However, the important lesson is that those “who are faithful over a little, will be set overmuch”.

Furthermore, somehow even the concerns of several National Democratic Party backbenchers and one Minister about the need for transparency were satisfied without sharing a single additional document or fact with the people.

Somehow the 10 members of our House of Assembly (both NDP and VIP) found it prudent to essentially give away financial control of recovery and development finances for absolutely nothing.

Why do they think the UK put financial protocols in place in the first place, if not for the fact that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) full well understands that “British” Virgin Islands debt is already implicitly guaranteed by the UK?

How do they figure that VI public debt which already has to be approved by the UK pursuant to the previously established financial protocols is not already thereby explicitly guaranteed by the UK?

Somehow the House of Assembly doesn’t seem to understand that the whole reason that FCO forced the VI to accept these financial protocols was to limit the UK’s liability because they already both implicitly and explicitly guarantee VI debt.

And how does one Minister figure that the VI will be able to borrow money even cheaper than the US or UK who actually print currency? Neither the US or UK government can borrow at 1 percent for 25 years but he insists the VI can.

Somehow a government that is so opposed to rationalising government expenses that they took the extraordinary step of actually proposing a budget with a huge fiscal deficit, is now willing to agree to the “High Level Framework for UK Support to BVI Hurricane Recovery” which explicitly requires “implementing public sector reforms”, “proposals for recurrent expenditure controls” and “a more efficient public service”. What do our representatives really think this means?

Everyone understands that if projected government revenues are down then government expenses will have to be reduced. However, our so-called “leaders” are so unwilling to make difficult decisions they are willing to give up our sovereignty instead. This is a political impotence we simply can’t afford during these difficult times.

We have a Territory to rebuild. We have limited resources. And difficult decisions need to be made, not passed on to non-elected foreign bureaucrats.

I am really not sure the House of Assembly even understands that the UK is not offering to lend any money. The UK is only willing to formalise a loan guarantee we already have for all intentions and purposes.

I am not even sure the House of Assembly understands that the Governor and FCO represent UK interest, not ours. The simple fact is if they looked at us as UK citizens they would offering humanitarian aid, not meaningless loan guarantees, and demanding control of our finances.

However, what I am sure of is that the House of Assembly is undermining the very policies that have allowed many VIslanders to be successful. Every single family name in the VI is associated with a locally owned business. This is what makes the VI special. We own things!!! We have to hold on to that at all cost, not only for the sake of current business owners but also to preserve opportunities for future generations.

The time for new leadership is NOW!!! I pray some charismatic, intelligent, patriotic, and most importantly more sensible persons step forward.


Concerned VIslander

14 Responses to “Please explain how the Virgin Islands Recovery & Development Agency Act of 2018 passed?”

  • wet (09/04/2018, 12:16) Like (16) Dislike (0) Reply
    very good points and questions but do not look for any answers from this government
  • Standing ovation! (09/04/2018, 12:28) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
    Well said. Encore!
  • Things to talk...... (09/04/2018, 13:07) Like (17) Dislike (0) Reply
    Elections need to come soon!!!
  • I am troubled (09/04/2018, 16:50) Like (5) Dislike (5) Reply
    I am troubled that our representatives do not understand the implications of borrowing this money. Britain desires us to be another Haiti - what we have is to-ooo good for us. Government needs to put whatever stringent measures they need to in place; let us live within our means, band our bellies and most of all, look to the God whom our ancestors served!
  • Fantasy island (09/04/2018, 17:27) Like (18) Dislike (5) Reply
    The article misses a really significant point; while it may be said the UK impliedly guarantees the BVI's debt because it is a UK Territory; the UK has taken steps to manage that exposure by having the financial protocols in place that limit the amount the BVI can borrow without express UK approval. The UK has done this because it understands that the BVI government, of both parties, has a poor track record of accountability and delivery of quality infrastructure; look at the roads and sewers, the costs over runs, the way the port has been managed and the lack of audited accounts. The Brits are saying if you want to borrow more than normal to deal with the devastation, and you want the UK to guarantee it, so the interest rate is, the large sums borrowed need to be dealt with in a transparent way with proper standard of deliverable as to how the money is spent. I don't see why this approach is controversial, given the inefficient way infrastructure investment has happened in the past and the poor quality of what has been delivered generally.
    • dog (09/04/2018, 23:10) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      I agree with your statement. BVI did it to ourselves with irresponsible practices. They could look at it like a line of credit. The max is 400 million. But if you draw down on it one project at a time, and only use half of it because of good practices, I would think you only have to pay back what you use. So it is up to Government to exhibit good governance and oversight not only to get the most for the money but to prove to UK that BVI can step up in crisis. Start by finishing the audits and budgets from past years to get current and to figure out what can be done better. We have no guide posts and are flying blind because of lack of professionalism.
  • trrefdrfds (09/04/2018, 19:17) Like (7) Dislike (3) Reply
    This is a good piece sounds like an inside job
  • Virgin Islander (09/04/2018, 20:51) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    I, myself did not understand after the bill was passed, what some of those who voted "yes" were taking credit for. If for those simple changes as noted, then they are all unworthy of serving in our Honourable house. They are simple. I applaud the writer of this article and only time will tell. On another note, I can see this administration self-destruct even before the next elections. Time will tell and God is time. As for an alternative... our hope is in Jesus Christ alone. May God bless these Virgin Islands for the sake of our innocent generations.
  • Changing Paradigms (10/04/2018, 06:32) Like (9) Dislike (4) Reply
    VINO- since we have all these private surveys going on, this should be headlined as a true and transparent feedback survey between all online bloggers as we view it happening on the grounds.

    To Concerned VIsander – Anonymous opinion. Thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution towards this critical issue of leadership and decision-making on behalf of the future of Our Beautiful Virgin Islands. We as well have contributed to this crucial dialogue, particularly in regard towards the long-term vision of our country, after witnessing/experiencing the downward spiral of the quality and way of life of our people; however, only contributing with the hope that our people will decide to change the debilitating mentalities that we have cultivated against each other over the years.

    Our hope is that we arrive at a critical mass of non-blaming, pull-out a blank page, and begin to sketch (The BluPrint) the next 20 years of Virgin Islands Prosperous Interdependent Existence.

    The song has long changed in our Virgin Islands, but the present government does not seem to realize that a different dance is needed to keep up with the tune being played.

    The upcoming election will be critical towards this vision and it will take all of us locally and abroad who are concerned to participate and contribute. We should never give up on our home.

    Our next Political Leaders must be Country-First Leaders; that means, embracing a servant-leadership approach to governance. It is more of a sacrifice-for-country role than self-interest. They must work together, understand each other perspectives and decide by consensus for the betterment of entire Virgin Islands.

    We really admire the commissioner of police and the new governor and what they have been able to achieve so far; however, we must keep in mind that their interest lies in the Queens/UK agenda. We must become mature enough in our politics to graduate beyond this tricycle stage of politics.

    Over the years we have scrutinized quite a number of potential candidates for these servant-leadership positions that should be considered and encourage to participate, although controversial, it is very necessary at this time:

    Presented in general. Online-Bloggers can add on as their democratic right:

    • Jerry Ferara (Gerard St. C. Farara)
    • Colin O’Neal
    • Angel Smith
    • Benito Wheatley
    • Joseph Smith
    • Meade Malone
    • Neil Smith
    • Nina O’Neal
    • Sonia Brewley
    • Sharie Decastro
    • Elise Donovan
    • Luce Hodge
    • Shaina Smith
    • Julian Willow
    • Vincent Wheatley
    • E. Leonard
    • Alred Frett
    • Eustace Freeman

    Necessary Political warriors if one understands what makes up a winning team. Crucial for a Balance Democracy, if self-interest can be put aside for holistic benefits:

    • Andrew Fahie
    • Myron Walwyn
    • Julian Fraser
    • Melvin Turnbull
    • Ronnie Skelton
    • Alvera Maduro-Caines
    • Marlon Penn
    • John Cline

    Thank You Virgin Islands News Online in Advance if this post is uploaded to the present dialogue online. Posted to make us think of our future direction together.
  • Boo (10/04/2018, 09:29) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    It's called grandstanding and BSing the electorate with all kinds of disengenious theatrics.

    While I think he should have voted for the Act, only Mitch was man enough and stood by his principles
  • laughing (10/04/2018, 12:44) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    you lost us when you suggested that Canadian banks wanted to have land or shoddily-built houses on Tortola. That's an insane statement to make. The land has next to no real value but if they can keep selling loans to people who will actually pay up, they make money. This is why these banks are scaling down in the Caribbean generally. Bad debts are 3x normal rates.

    This loan guarantee plus oversight is more because the Brits don't want to have responsibility in the future so to leave more, not less sovereignty with BVI and have it stand on its own two feet. Billions of dollars brought in and nothing to show for it as regards public infrastructure and amenities - that is why the oversight. We should have proper schools, proper roads, proper amenities and better health and transport facilities but the money is all gone: dodgy roads, airports, school walls. All seemed fun at the time for the persons getting the contracts but that came from our collective coffers.
  • um (11/04/2018, 15:04) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply

    Um - they all voted because it was political grandstanding for a bunch of people in this country who believe what these people say. It was always going to pass - if it didn’t none of them or their friends would make money from the contracts which will still be inflated and still go to those with affliation with the committee because as you so rightly pointed out most businesses are owned by the family names. I am glad you like the Gov and PC abut they are not here to do the UK - they are here for the betterment of the BVI - even if that means making unpopular choices that those with family names can’t make because of the BVI bull**** factor that has screwed these islands for the past 20 years.

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