Statement by Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE
Remarks on the Occassion of the Swearing in Ceremony for His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert
22 August 2017
Virgin Islands Supreme Court
Your Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert, Mrs. Jaspert, Oscar and Tobias; Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly, Deputy Governor, Ladies and Gentleman, good morning:
Your Excellency, it is my distinct privilege to officially welcome you and your family to the British Virgin Islands. It is indeed good to see you again after our initial meeting in London last month.
When we met expressed our mutual desires and interest in ensuring that a number of key areas including our economy, crime and security, governance and transparency are advanced, developed and managed in the best interest of the Territory and the people of the Virgin Islands. I very much welcome your and the UK’s support in that regard.
If I recall correctly, this is your first time to the Territory. I hope the transition has gone relatively well thus far.
I am sure you appreciate that the BVI is not in peak condition, given the impact of the recent heavy rains and flash flood, but despite any remaining debris or mud, the natural beauty of these islands cannot be denied. I can assure you there will be many sunny days ahead to enjoy in more favourable conditions.
Your arrival comes in the early months of the hurricane season. This is a particularly active year and we will likely see more storms and rains ahead. I hope neither will be as severe as the Tropical Wave of August 7th, but we must be prepared.
I am aware that you toured the Island today with the Deputy Governor, as well as the Permanent Secretaries from my Ministry, the Ministry of Communication and the DG’s Office.
I trust that amidst what you saw, you were able to see the resilience of this Territory and the effectiveness of our efforts.
So as you figuratively and literally get your feet wet, I look forward to working with you in our respective capacities to keep the Territory in a high state of preparedness for the remainder of the hurricane season.
The BVI has demonstrated great resilience over the last two weeks. The recovery has progressed successfully with the combined efforts of our government agencies, the participation of our citizens in the clean-up of their communities, and humanitarian work of the churches and non-profit organisations in the relief effort.
Your Excellency, I also wish to thank Her Majesty’s Government for their offers of support and I look forward to discussing with you how the UK can best assist the Territory moving forward.
We are in the process of completing a damage assessment to ascertain the full extent of the damage caused by the wave, the value of the losses and the extent of support that will be needed over the near and long-term to fully rehabilitate the Territory.
I thank God that there was no loss of life and I thank everyone who stepped up to assist in the clean-up and relief efforts.
The Government and private sector will have to move quickly to put the economy back on track, as there is no doubt that the damage caused by flooding and mudslides has caused disruption to business. Affected businesses will take time to recover but we will work together as a people to ensure that we revert quickly to a state of normalcy and prosperity.
Road rehabilitation and other infrastructural repairs will be essential to enable people, goods and services to move efficiently across the Territory. This will come at a significant cost, but is necessary to restore commerce and facilitate our daily business activities.
Rapid progress will be needed ahead of the tourism season upon which many businesses depend for their livelihood.
In the meantime, we are also poised to resume receiving cruise ships on our expanded cruise pier, for the upcoming season which is now starting in earnest. This will get the economic engine of tourism turning again and help to support economic recovery.
On another note, positive news is coming in from the financial services industry. Although overall numbers have dropped some, recent reports indicate that company incorporations are up in the first two quarters of 2017. I hope this trend holds for the remainder of the year. It would be a strong indication that our continued efforts to defend and promote the industry are paying off.
My Government is not just committed to restoring the economy, but expanding it. We want to see businesses grow and create more jobs and to welcome more entrepreneurs in the economy.
Your Excellency, of course, as we do all of these things, we must ensure the security of all of our residents and citizens so that they have a safe environment in which to live . I therefore look forward to working closely with you on the National Security Council.
Accountability and Transparency
While the Territory’s recovery is at the top of the Government’s agenda, we will not neglect our other priorities. We remain committed to accountability and transparency.
Last week I was pleased to receive the new Auditor General, Mr. Phil Sharman with whom I look forward to working with in my capacity as Minister of Finance. The Government’s accounts have been prepared and are awaiting his audit so that they can be laid before the House of Assembly.
Our common goal is to ensure that tax payers get value for money as we pursue the social and economic development of the Territory.
Your Excellency, we are indeed happy to receive you. I sincerely hope your posting here will be a wonderful experience for you and your family.
The BVI has much to offer and I am confident that you will make a valuable contribution to the Territory’s growth and development. I encourage you to explore our beautiful islands and become intimately acquainted with the people of these islands in whose interest we must work.
On behalf of the elected Government, the Members of the House of Assembly and the people of the British Virgin Islands, I welcome you and look forward to working with you to support this Territory’s recovery and its continued prosperity for generations to come.