The Government of the Virgin Islands has put forward its strategy to achieve excellence in economic and social development.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE outlined the roadmap on this course in his 2017 Budget Address at the Fourth Sitting of the Second Session of the Third House of Assembly on January 16 under the theme ‘Charting the Course: Positioning the Virgin Islands for the Future’.
Premier Smith stated that towards the ends of economic development, his Government has deemed it necessary to reposition the financial services sector while remaining a significant player in the industry.
The Premier said in order to remain one of the world’s largest company incorporation jurisdictions and continue to maintain a fine reputation among the standard setting bodies, BVI Finance Limited (BVIFL) was created to promote the sector in keeping with best practice.
The Premier outlined other factors in support of the financial services industry including the creation of an investment promotion agency that will be established to diversify and expand the local economy. He said there will be changes to the BVI Labour Code and Immigration and Passport Act that support efficient processes; and advanced plans to strengthen the aptitude of BVIslanders for greater entrepreneurial and employment opportunities within the financial services sector.
Training and certification by way of the Financial Services Institute will also be offered; and the public education campaign will continue to build greater awareness and engage the community.
Premier Smith, who is also Minister of Tourism, acknowledged the singular importance of tourism to the Territory, and said that it plays a critical role for the future as it accounts for greater than 50 percent of the goods and services of our local economy.
Premier Smith added that its significance has caused the Government to have tourism remain an area of great focus in the coming year. The principal areas of customer service, destination training and unique and authentic product development will all serve to enhance the visitor experience.
The Premier went on to state that, “The airport expansion project will be central to the economic future of the Territory and is an economic necessity that will bring both immediate and long term benefits to the Territory and its economy.”
He said all the significant plans for the development of the economy are fundamentally dependent on the ease of access to the Territory for visitors and citizens alike. He also added that the timely and efficient access to the BVI that will result from the airport expansion is a necessary precursor to advance the twin pillars of the financial services and tourism.
Premier Smith further stated that Government sees financial transparency and accountability as key aspects of the road map to economic development. He said an agreement has been signed with the firm BDO to assist the Treasury in preparing reports for submission to the Auditor General at the end of the budget cycle. This, he said, is in an effort to enable more accurate reporting and greater transparency of the finances. Improvements have also been made to procedures that allow for more expeditious payment to creditors.
The Government also intends to hold to the rule of law to ensure that citizens and visitors alike are protected. The aim is to decrease the crime rate.
Government has provided the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force with additional funding for equipment and recruits. Experienced criminal investigators have been recruited and there will be greater police visibility throughout the community. Training provisions in policing technology are expected to contribute to the reduction in crime.
The Government of the Virgin Islands will continue with its comprehensive approach to solidifying a strong economic and social future for the Territory with a focus on an improved quality of life for residents and visitors alike.