Remarks By Premier Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE at The Launch of The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan- Hurricane Irma
Good morning to everyone and a special welcome is extended to Ms. Diana Wilson Patrick who is representing the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Board of Governors.
Ms. Patrick, your presence here this morning represents the continued relationship and partnership between the Government and people of this Territory and the Caribbean Development Bank. We are especially grateful that in the weeks following the devastation by the hurricanes you were one of the first to come forward offering help to the Territory
CDB is no stranger to the BVI. In fact, it has been a committed partner over the years for rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development projects in the Territory.
We would recall from 5th to 8th October 2010 that much damage was done to this Territory by sub-tropical storm Otto, where many of our low lying areas had severe flooding: retaining walls and roads were compromised; there were landslides and blockage of ghuts and roadways.
About six months after my Government came into office, we were able to secure, with the help of the CDB, the just under $16M injection, which was just the fillip that our economy needed at that point to carry out the much needed repair works across the Territory.
I am pleased to announce that the projects associated with this particular loan are nearing completion, after having experienced major setbacks as a result of the storms in 2017.
Now, here we are today, partnering with CDB again. Indeed, CDB has yet again, “put its money where its mouth is”. Relationships such as these are just one reason we are able to look ahead with the hope and promise of a brighter tomorrow.
This $65.2M, which will be disbursed over the next three years as the Financial Secretary has mentioned, comes primarily in the form of a loan. There is also a grant portion which does not have to be paid back, and for that CDB, we thank you.
Now, we all know the realities of 2017. It was repeated here this morning by speakers before where the unprecedented weather events — the August floods and the strongest storms on record to exist in the open Atlantic Region ravaged our shores and changed the landscape and seascape of the Territory.
But here’s a reality, it is now seven months after Irma and Maria and those of us who are still blessed to be alive, are financially and emotionally rebuilding our lives, taking it one day at a time.
However, we are still struggling with damaged and destroyed schools, public buildings and public infrastructure.
This loan fund is, therefore, timely, as it is specifically ‘carved out’ to assist us in the areas of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The impetus for this loan came through several weeks of strategic planning by departments, Ministries and my colleagues in addressing the immediate needs of the Territory focused solely on restoring the livelihood of the people of the Virgin Islands.
It is time to get our livelihoods back on track. It is time for us to get on with the several projects and initiatives that are identified for each ministry in the loan agreement. And, it is time to weather proof our infrastructure and rebuild it in a way that offers some resiliency to unprecedented weather patterns.
Today’s project launch signals that we are moving full steam ahead, and getting on with it, so that we can put this Territory in a much better place tomorrow than it was yesterday, and is today.
My government is now ready to begin injecting this money into the economy to rehabilitate and rebuild our schools, our roads, our ferry terminals, and other infrastructure, working hand-in-hand with CDB, as well as our local contractors and others to this end.
There are so many ‘wins’ in store for our people as a result of this project.
For example, our children are no longer sitting in the comfort of their classrooms. In fact, some of the school buildings were flattened, in other cases the buildings are just not conducive to learning.
Once the redevelopment or rehabilitation of those buildings happen, we will have SMART schools; more resilient infrastructure; schools that are greener, disability ready and programmes that are technologically savvy. This loan will help us in our ongoing investment in education and the future of our children.
Our drivers and pedestrians want safer roads and embankments. We all know that our roads have sustained major damages and there is no hiding that they are in dire need of repairs. With assistance from this CDB loan, we can now begin to construct and reconstruct sustainable roadways. Once completed, we will have safer and more flood resilient roads for all drivers and pedestrians.
Our ports of entry were affected in many ways, and I know that our residents and visitors are eager to enter and exit with greater comfort. Again, with the assistance of the funding provided by the rehabilitation and reconstruction loan, the BVI can now work towards delivering to its travelers improved terminals and a better customer service experience.
We can also look forward to improving our water supply and waste water facilities which were severely compromised during the hurricane. Our people can look forward to improved quality and efficiency of water supply with the rehabilitation of meters and reservoirs, and resolving our wastewater service especially in the East End / Long Look and Cane Garden Bay areas
Disaster Management for us is about having a SMART Foot Print, where we are resilient in safeguarding life and livelihoods. Our Disaster Management System showed its value to the world in giving us a framework to survive the early aftermath of the storm. But their building was completely destroyed. This CDB loan represents the marshaling of adequate financial resources to design, construct and outfit the new building. In the end, we will have a new DDM office that is not only fit-for-purpose, but equipped to successfully carry out its mandate.
While we will have public sector spending through this loan, at the same time we will also be developing policies to help rebuild and strengthen the private sector so that that the economy as a whole grows.
What I would like to see, however, is engagement with the community through visual aids to allow them to understand what these different projects are projected to look like once completed. For example, let people see and appreciate what the school will look like. Let the students see and get a better appreciation so that they can get excited about the new school.
Let people see what the new DDM building will look like, so that they can get excited about what is to come.
There is so much to be done, and this loan project is just what we need at this time to help foster that ripple effect we expect to see happening in this economy because of the local spending.
The CDB loan is about helping to put more money in the hands of the public through the creation of jobs. Our people will and must be involved in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of this Territory.
The project manager spoke about the procurement process, it is my Government’s intention to instill confidence through the transparency, objectivity and predictability of the outcome of our procurement processes.
In closing let me say that my Government’s objective is for the BVI to become a model of resilience in the region and a centre of excellence in infrastructure.
I firmly believe that this CDB loan project will not only help to make us more resilient, but will give us the ability to improve our infrastructure for the benefit of our citizens as well as make us a more attractive tourism destination and international finance centre.