We Need The Money Now—Premier Says Loans Not Bondage

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March 13, 2018 7:03 am AST
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While many in his party are against the United Kingdom’s (UK) framework for the BVI’s recovery, Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith says it’s time to stop the fussing and get on with the recovery of the Territory.

He said that this includes moving ahead swiftly with the establishment of the BVI Recovery and Development Agency, as required by the UK in order to access the millions in loan guarantees and grants.

Premier Smith, who appeared to be sending a strong message to his critics, said that the BVI simply cannot do it alone. He said that they need the loans, denouncing the notion that this means that they are mortgaging the future of the younger generation.

“…We must not for a moment see this as a yoke around our neck because the UK will provide a guarantee for our borrowing, so that we will be able to borrow on much more favourable terms. For instance, we can borrow at an interest rate of just under 1%, compared to 3.5% that we would have to pay without the UK guarantee,” he said in a statement on Monday, March 12.

The Finance Minister said that whether the BVI borrows $100 million per annum or less will be determined by its ability to effectively spend that money, or invest that money in the Territory’s future.

“This is a key point; we are not just spending money here, we are investing in our future. The $400 million dollars that the UK has agreed to guarantee is a maximum figure.”

He said, “We might find ourselves requiring less and indeed with your help in identifying priority projects we are still working out what that figure will be annually. The bottom line is that as a Territory we are in a position to access the monies needed to rebuild.”

Premier Smith, who is the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), is facing strong opposition from within his own party, where younger members are emerging and reportedly working towards having an internal election, with the hope of having him removed as leader of the party. The division also stems from concerns over his alleged weak leadership and the belief by some that he should not have agreed to the UK’s framework.

“I also emphasised that we need much more and that we need it now. The UK understands this and as part of the guarantee of up to 300 million pounds, any further loans for BVI recovery must be within the framework of the Agency I just described,” Premier Smith said in his Monday statement.

He is against the view that the BVI should build back slowly without loans.

“Their (some persons) view is that loans mean we are mortgaging our children’s future.”

He said, “To take a ‘wait and see’ stance would be irresponsible and failing the people of this Territory. To say no to these arrangements we are essentially turning our backs on the redevelopment of our country. Today, we must move forward expeditiously as time is not on our side.”

Framework Assures Transparency

The Finance Minister said that setting up the Recovery Facility as a body with an independent board will allow for greater efficiency.

“And it’s being established through legislation and responsible to the House of Assembly will make for delivery of activities in a transparent and accountable manner, as well as at the same time instill donor confidence.”

The funds will be disbursed for the implementation of activities included in the Recovery and Development Plan, based on approval of the Board of the Agency.

He explained that the multi-stakeholder nature of the Board allows decisions to be taken in an impartial and transparent manner, while preserving the integrity of the Recovery and Development Plan.

“I cannot emphasize enough the fact that we cannot rebuild on our own. We need financial support from beyond the BVI in the form of loans, grants and just plain donations. Those who will provide loan funding as well as those who will give grants in virtually all cases require a level of assurance that is best achieved through this Agency.”

Premier Smith said that an Agency will by no means result in BVIslanders being overlooked for involvement.

“Our people will be given preference in the redevelopment of our country, whether as architects, planners, environmentalists, engineers, contractors, builders, truckers and the like. Indeed the legislation setting up the Agency must and will ensure that this is the case, as well as the fact that the Agency will be headed by an experienced and well respected BVIslander chosen by us.”

The Premier said that the Chief Executive, who will be equally carefully selected, will give further assurance.

“I spoke earlier about the willingness of the Governor to negotiate with us for what is in the best interest of the Territory. We could not be comfortable with an Agency that was not headed by one of our own and I am pleased that that has been agreed.”

He further outlined that in terms of the composition of the Board, it will be comprised of no more than nine persons including one person appointed by the Leader of the Opposition, one person appointed by the Government, another appointed by the UK and persons representing civil society and commerce.

“I have to say in closing that we have been deliberating the Recovery Plan, the sources of funding and the policies to facilitate the recovery for too long, so much so that I feel at times that we have lost sight of the prize.”

Premier Smith emphasized, “We need help! We need external funding.”
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