The Government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) plans to develop an investment policy that will help to attract value-added services to the local economy.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE made the disclosure as he presented an update on the occasion of the first anniversary of BVI Forward, Government’s action plan to strengthen and reposition the financial services industry.
Reporting on achievements during the first year of BVI Forward and plans for year two, the Premier, in his speech to industry officials said the investment policy is intended to expand and diversify the economy and make the BVI more attractive to investors.
He said, “A full Investment Policy will be developed by the Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) and the Premier’s Office. The IPA and Investment Managers will be set up to facilitate targeted investments and investment promotion activities will be initiated in key product areas and in key markets.”
The Premier noted that the policy will facilitate attracting the new areas the BVI is seeking to develop, those that generate economic activity within the Territory or what the industry calls “substance”.
It is hoped that through the creation of more substance-based businesses, the policy will help to address substance and transparency issues arising from the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
BEPS as defined by the OECD refers to “tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.”
The planned investment policy will work in tandem with the investment legislation that the Government also has on its agenda, as revealed by His Excellency, Governor John S. Duncan during the 2016 Speech from the Throne.
Attracting investment to add value to the BVI economy is one of the priority initiatives that make up BVI Forward. Another closely aligned initiative is that of reforming immigration and labour to facilitate making the BVI a more attractive place for investors.
The Premier said, “Immigration and labour laws and policies were reviewed with the objective of facilitating the financial services sector in line with provisions offered in competing jurisdictions and to accommodate the provisions of the investment policy.”
He also made mention of changes to the immigration legislation to make provisions for the entry of a new category of persons, Business Visitors as well as the introduction of online application and fee processing as part of the e-government initiative.
Changes to immigration and labour will also include the introduction of an Enhanced Service Model (ESM) to facilitate parallel processing of work permit applications and the introduction of a single permit granting both immigration and labour clearance.
Another important announcement by the Premier addressed the improvement of customer service at the Financial Services Commission (FSC). Following improvements to the FSC’s proprietary application, VIRRGIN in year one, further enhancements are planned for year two with the launch VIRRGIN 3 to improve license interactions by automating the processing of regulatory forms, reports and processes.
In addition to the BVI Forward update provided by the Premier, the anniversary event also included two panel discussions featuring the Initiative Sponsors who sit at the helm of the Initiative Working Teams that have been mandated to create action plans for each initiative.
Additionally, the Financial Services Implementation Unit (FSIU) which is tasked with implementing the BVI Forward initiatives, launched a new brochure which will be a key tool in efforts to engage the population as well as a first anniversary booklet, providing a summary of achievements.