UK Gives BVI April 1 Deadline; Premier Submitted Recovery Plan Since November

Melissa Edwards, Senior Journalist | 0 Comment
March 14, 2018 9:04 am AST
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As members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) government remain deeply divided over the requirements to access $400M in loans for post-hurricane recovery, the United Kingdom (UK) has given the BVI a deadline of April 1, to get its house in order, including the passage of critical legislation.

Governor Gus Jaspert delivered the UK’s deadline at a closed-door meeting with legislators yesterday, March 13, in which he shockingly disclosed that the proposed recovery plan was submitted by Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith since last November while he was in London.

This means that as far as the UK is concerned, the plan was already approved by the BVI before public consultations were held.

The BVI must update the plan to include information from the public consultations, and pass legislation to implement a UK-driven framework to manage expenditure of the loan funds before the April 1 deadline.

If the BVI misses the deadline, then the UK Government has threatened to withhold its guarantee of the loan funds.

This means that the BVI would be missing out on much-needed financing to restore the Territory, following the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

According to sources, the meeting on Tuesday was called to convince legislators to support the Premier’s recovery plan for the Territory. Among the contentious issues is the framework, which will include the passing of legislation to allow for the establishment of the BVI Recovery and Development Agency.

However, after the meeting, members appeared to firmly hold their positions and the Government remains deeply divided.

According to information, the deadline was set to fit into the timelines for the passage of the UK’s 2018 budget, which must reflect the BVI loans as a liability.

During the meeting, members, including the two Opposition Members (Hon. Andrew Fahie and Hon. Julian Fraser) questioned why the rush to meet the deadline.

“What if the hurricanes had hit the BVI in mid-April, then the UK would not have assisted the Overseas Territory?” one member questioned.

They also raised other issues, including the fact that there is not enough information available to members of the Government and members of the Opposition.

“We are not quite sure what we are going into…We were not given (by Premier) enough of information…What are we really signing on to?” one Government member cited.

Members were also taken aback by the revelation that Premier Smith had already submitted a recovery plan prior to the public consultations, which kicked off in January.

With support for the plan dwindling, residents and the UK will wait to see whether the Premier will take the necessary legislation to the House of Assembly and let the chips fall where they may.

If he doesn’t get the support from most of his members and the Opposition, then the legislation will be defeated.

Opposition Leader, Hon. Fahie has publicly called for the members of the House of Assembly to work together on the recovery process and that all information be available so that they can make proper decisions in the best interest of the BVI. These calls were made shortly following the passage of the hurricanes.

PR War Within NDP

Meanwhile, there is a public relations war taking place, where Government now has its own banner encouraging persons to accept help from the UK and others. This is in contrast with the controversial billboard which was erected by members within the NDP some weeks ago, defying the Premier’s recovery plans.

According to the Government ad, “Join the Movement. Accept the UK Help and All Other Donations. Let us fix our Territory Now!”

The ad was released hours after Premier Smith made a statement on Monday evening, attempting to convince residents that the framework for loan funding is necessary to allow for transparency and that they need the funds now.

The opposing billboard, which was erected in Road Town and later taken down read, “We Virgin Islanders do not support the UK framework for the BVI recovery plan. Call your representative and let them know to vote no. Join the movement.”
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