Billions In Losses--Premier Confirms; Exploring All Possible Financing Options

Melissa Edwards, Senior Journalist | October 12, 2017 3:39 pm MDT
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
The Territory's leader has confirmed that preliminary assessment has shown that Hurricane Irma has raked up billions in damage for the Territory, and government has began the search for financial assistance.

Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, while announcing that his government has approved a Disaster Recovery Plan, said that the losses across the Territory is in the area of $3.3B.

"Based on preliminary assessments, the estimated damages to the Territory is in the area of $3.3 billion across all sectors," Premier Smith said this evening, Thursday, October 12.

His comments come two days after Director of Tourism, Sharon Flax Brutus said that the preliminary assessment puts damage to the tourism sector at over $3 billion dollars.

Premier Smith said that for several weeks, members of the National Emergency Operations Centre, along with various regional and international agencies, have been assessing damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria to all of the islands.

"I am pleased to announce that Cabinet has approved a Disaster Recovery Plan and the establishment of a Disaster Recovery Coordinating Committee (DRCC)."

The Coordinating Committee is to be chaired by the Permanent Secretary in my office, Mr. Broderick Penn.

Premier Smith said that, damage sustained to the Territory has affected every area of business and life, and now requires a calculated strategy moving forward to restore and improve life for residents and significantly, the Territory’s economy.

He indicated that, a critical part of the task will be identifying and fostering relationships to support the financial resources and technical skills that are now required for our reconstruction.

Financing Rebuilding

Meanwhile, Premier Smith said that his administration has had several meetings to discuss the cost of the Territory’s rebuild and how it will be financed.

He explained that immediately following the passage of Irma and even now, it continues to be a priority for his office to ensure that local businesses continue so that goods and services can be provided to residents, and so that jobs remain in the economy.

Premier Smith further explained that government has decided the best way forward for the Territory is to utilise an appropriate mix of financing, including grants and affordable borrowing to fund the reconstruction.

"We continue to foster relationships with private investors and companies, donor agencies, countries, lending institutions, international investors and the United Kingdom government to facilitate the funding needed. In addition, we have already received some financial contributions and pledges from our regional and international friends."

Photo Credit: Provided
In light of the effects of the recent hurricanes around the Caribbean, the World Bank will be hosting a discussion this weekend as part of its annual meetings. In attendance will be the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

"I will be using this opportunity which is facilitated through the United Kingdom’s membership and participating in a round table discussion in Washington, DC on Friday, October 13, to highlight the Territory’s position. I will be making a case for the Virgin Islands to have greater access to financial support to fund our reconstruction."

Also, this weekend, Deputy Premier, Hon Dr. Kedrick Pickering will also be attending a Small States Engagement meeting in Washington, DC that will be chaired by Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Keith Mitchell, who will also be advocating for financial assistance to help the region rebuild.

Premier Smith said that simultaneously, they are also exploring options with international investors to look at reasonable and responsible opportunities for financing the rebuilding.

"While we are reminded daily of the importance to get our islands back to its pristine landscape, we also know that our financial actions will have a significant impact on our future development. To this end, we are seeking all possible options to fund our rebuilding responsibly," Premier Smith stated.
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