My Fellow Virgin Islanders:
I learnt today that the United Kingdom Parliament accepted the amendments for an Order in Council to impose public registers of beneficial ownership on the BVI and other Overseas Territories to take effect in 2020. This is a deeply flawed policy as the BVI already provides verified beneficial ownership information to the United Kingdom and other law enforcement authorities.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I noted in my statement last evening, we believe that in the absence of a global standard and a level playing field, the imposition of public registers of beneficial ownership on the Virgin Islands could have negative economic consequences. It is unfortunate that this development has taken place as we continue to recover from last years’ disasters.
Certainly, these are difficult times. But, I firmly believe that working together and with strong and collective commitment, our financial services industry will develop and adapt successfully as it has done in the past. Over the past few years, we have prepared the financial services sector for changes such as this. In the coming weeks, we will be taking action on those plans.
Now is also an opportune time for us to embrace new businesses to support not only our recovery and development, but a futuristic economy with modern and innovative ideas and technology.
Our current assessment is that any potential changes are at least two years away but we will not now rest on our laurels. My Government will remain focused on maintaining the economic viability of these islands and on rebuilding our community. We recognise the key role of our private sector partners that support the financial services sector and appreciate their continued commitment to this Territory. You can all be assured that my Government will do all in its power to ensure that all residents and citizens play their best and rightful roles in our economic future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, over the coming weeks, we must come together to assess the immediate and longer term implications of this morning’s events. Let us always be vigilant and grateful for the opportunities in adversity.