Photo Credit: saildivebvi.com
Premier Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith shared some of the BVI's green initiatives to show his Government's approach to green growth in the context of a services-based economy. One of those is the call for protection of 20 percent of marine and coastal resources by 2020.
Speaking at the recent Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) Ministerial Conference in Ilulissat, Greenland, the Premier said his Government is not only involved in greening their own economy, but they are also actively engaged in regional greening efforts related to the protection of the environment.
Premier Smith said in 2013, the BVI and Grenadian Governments will co-host the Summit of Caribbean Political and Business Leaders on Necker Island, which will officially launch the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. According to the Premier, the challenge entails a series of commitments made by Caribbean countries to, among other things, improve the management of their marine and coastal resources, mobilise funds for conservation and establish a sustainable funding mechanism.
"My Government has actually pledged to exceed the Challenge's commitment calling for the protection of 20% of marine and coastal resources by 2020 under our own BVI Protected Areas System Plan," he stated.
Premier Smith, who was speaking at a panel discussion on Financial Services and Tourism, said his Government is actively taking steps to green its economy in their drive towards sustainability.
"Turning to tourism, my Government is also doing a number of exciting things related to green growth. One of our main goals is to rebrand the Territory as a sustainable tourism destination. In the hotel and accommodations sector, we are piloting the Sustainable Tourism Environmental Programme (STEP) with a small group of properties. The programme is aimed at helping local hotels manage their dwellings in an environmentally friendly way. Once completed, participating properties will be Green Globe certified," he stated.
The Premier explained that the pilot's success will provide them with a template for expanding the programme to hotels and properties across the Territory.
"Additionally, a number of our local retail businesses and Government agencies have taken a green pledge that commits them to engaging in more environmentally sustainable practices. These and other related initiatives will help the BVI to meet both our environmental goals and rebranding of the Territory as a sustainable tourism destination," he said.
Premier Smith also mentioned that from an educational perspective, they have re-launched the Technical and Vocational School to train students in areas that help support the maintenance of the yachting industry.
"The linkage between this institution and the marine side of our tourism industry will lead to sustained employment for our young people in the sector," he said.
Meanwhile, in relation to financial services, the Premier said Government has also begun taking steps to diversify the sector's offerings in a bid to move up the value chain from company incorporation business to added value services related to banking and back office services such as accounting.
He said diversification of the sector will require innovation and they have begun incubating ideas following the formation earlier this year of a Financial Services Business Development Committee (FSBDC), composed of public and private sector representatives.
"Maintaining our competitive edge in the global marketplace is also a top priority, but one that we understand requires more than attractive legislation. The quality of our workforce is a key feature of our jurisdiction and we are taking steps to boost the calibre of professionals working in the industry. Already, we have begun offering courses, trainings and certifications at our local community college to support this goal," he explained.
The Premier also mentioned one of the long term strategies, which is the introduction of financial services and tourism subjects into the curriculum of schools, "in order to begin positioning our young people at an earlier age for success in these industries."