Ministry's Work Highlighted At Press Conference

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(PLTM) - Press Conference Opening Statement By Minister For Financial Services, Labour And Trade

GIS - Good morning. Thank you for joining us at the Ministry of Financial Services, Labour and Trade's first press conference. We're excited to engage with you today and provide updates on our ongoing work, as well as address any questions you may have.

This Ministry strives to create a strong business environment that fosters economic growth while ensuring fair treatment for all workers. We achieve this by strengthening policies, introducing innovative services, and improving departmental operations.

Let's start with the crucial Minimum Wage Review. Since its inception in November 2023, the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee has been diligently evaluating our current minimum wage structure.

We value diverse perspectives in this process, and therefore we want to get the widest cross-section of input from the different types of stakeholders. Everyone is invited to participate and to send us their submissions by 15 April, 2024, through the online survey on the Government’s website (bvi.gov.vg) or by sending written feedback to MFSLT@gov.vg. The public’s voice matters in shaping a better minimum wage policy!

I anticipate receiving the Committee’s report by the end of this month.

We are modernizing the Department of Labour and Workforce Development with a new Labour Management System (LMS) to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and enable online applications and payments starting in June 2024.

The LMS goes beyond streamlining work permit processing. It provides valuable data to identify skill gaps and develop targeted workforce development strategies. This data will empower us to forge stronger partnerships with educational institutions and employers. Together, we can also optimize opportunities for Virgin Islanders and Belongers to actively participate in the workforce.

Furthermore, we will in fact be among the first paperless offices in government.

I want to publicly thank Acting Labour Commissioner, Mr. Mervin Hastings, for his leadership during this transition.

We anticipate the appointment of a permanent Labour Commissioner by the end of May 2024.

Looking towards businesses, we are creating a new era of support through the revitalization of the National Business Bureau. The imminent appointment of a Business Development Manager in the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion, and Consumer Affairs further strengthens this commitment.

The National Business Bureau will foster a supportive ecosystem through mentorship, training, co-working spaces, technical advice, and networking opportunities. We are ramping up our partnerships with educational institutions, the private sector, non-profit organizations, and regional organisations, to further develop these programs.

I am also pleased to announce a draft policy for the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Grant Programme. This programme will provide financial assistance for locally-owned MSMEs and foster an environment conducive to their growth. Stakeholder consultations are ongoing to ensure our business development initiatives are inclusive, transparent, and effective, laying the groundwork for sustainable economic expansion.

We are also working with the banking sector to promote the financial inclusion of SMEs, which often face significant hurdles in obtaining financing from traditional sources.

The BVI Business Banking Expo slated for 6th June, 2024, will bring together financial institutions, the regulator, business owners, and entrepreneurs from throughout the territory to discuss the latest trends and innovations in banking, and offer advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs on navigating the banking industry.

Residents of the Sister Islands are especially encouraged to attend this expo and take advantage of this great opportunity to connect with banks and other financial institutions.

By investing in our MSMEs and working with them, we are not just supporting individual businesses; we are laying the foundation for a thriving and resilient economic landscape.

We are continuing to diversify our financial services industry, with a focus on digital assets. The Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) Act, which came into effect in February 2023, regulates Virtual Asset Service Providers operating in and from the BVI. Our VASP regime enhances the integrity and stability of the virtual assets market while fostering innovation and compliance. The Financial Services Commission (FSC) received a significant number of applications, demonstrating the BVI's importance in this sector. While the FSC prioritizes a rigorous review process, I am pleased that they've already approved several licenses and continue to see strong interest.

We are confident these initiatives will act as a catalyst for innovation, job creation, and a more diversified and resilient Virgin Islands economy. I'm excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we continue to collaborate, innovate, and prioritize the interests of our community. Together, we can build a future where prosperity is shared, businesses flourish, and our workforce thrives.

I'm also delighted to announce the opening of a new constituency office on Anegada next week Friday, April 12th. In addition, I am planning to open a similar office in Jost Van Dyke, hopefully in June. These offices will allow me to be more present and better serve those communities by providing a dedicated space to connect with constituents and represent your interests effectively.

Thank you all for your attention. I'm eager to hear your questions and delve deeper into any specific areas of interest you may have regarding the Ministry's initiatives.

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