Remarks by His Excellency the Governor, Augustus J. U. Jaspert
Catch Up with the Governor
December 17, 2019
Good morning all. A particular welcome to members of the media.
As we are nearing the end of the year, I wanted to take the opportunity to look back and reflect a little on the past year and also look forwards a little to 2020.
Firstly, when we look back at 2019, I think we would all agree that we’ve seen a lot of change in the Virgin Islands since Christmas 2018. Not least with the advent of a new Administration under the stewardship of Honourable Fahie and his Ministerial Team.
I was struck in February by how the machinery of Government kicked in so quickly to manage the election, pioneering electronic counting in the Territory for the first time to enable the results to come in so quickly. Also, I watched the debates closely which demonstrated to me what a vibrant democracy the Virgin Islands enjoys. I’d like to thank all the public officials involved, but more so the residents of the Territory who participated so readily and peacefully in the elections. I’d also like to thank the public service for working diligently on the policies of the previous and on the current administration – delivering in an impartial way the business of the Government of the day.
Since, then we have seen little by little, gradual developments within the Territory as we continue to work towards recovery. The Government has taken stock at the start of their tenure and has consolidated on the progress made by the previous administration.
And if we reflect back on the past year, we have made progress over the year. It was great that this year we have seen an end to the school shift system and many of our children out of temporary facilities and back into classrooms. I’d like to thank the private donors here who contributed across the Territory and who deserve special thanks in supporting work on schools like Enis Adams and Robinson O’Neal and others and providing significant sums to support music education at ESHS.
We have also seen progress in the recovery of the Territory more widely and I’m proud that the UK has been able to partner with the Virgin Islands Government on many of these initiatives. Initially this included repairs to the sewage, water and electrical infrastructure and more recently, repairs to police stations and barracks to have them re-open in Virgin Gorda and the West End, and with the co-funding the reconstruction of the Administration Complex in Jost Van Dyke (which will be formally re-opened on Friday - meaning coverage right across the Territory). I’m particularly pleased that the works on these facilities, which have been managed through the RDA, now fully staffed and operational and who have, through the fully operational RDA, benefited local contractors.
The foundations which have been laid are a solid stepping stone. And I look forward to renewed vigour for increased progress and increasing the pace towards recovery and development in 2020.
These are all visible signs of progress, but there has also been much work behind the scenes which I look forward to seeing come to fruition in 2020. I hope that this will have a real impact on the residents and citizens of the Territory. Many of you will know that the Government has been advancing ambitious public sector transformation plans aimed at providing a better service for the public – we have already had a snap-shot of what is on offer through the on-line work permit portal. 2020 will be a year where many improvements in the public service will come to fruition.
To underpin this work, the Deputy Governor’s Office has begun spear-heading work on advancing Public Services Management and Integrity Bills. Both will provide a clear basis for a modern 21st public service importantly working to the highest governance standards for the benefit of all in the Territory.
We have also seen improvements in our security over 2020, with extra police officers joining the ranks of the RVIPF, and better join up across our security agencies to keep us safe. This has included some recent significant operations to counter the trade in illicit drugs. I am pleased that 2020 will see work start on the Halls of Justice project – I am keen to drive this to ensure that we have modern and effective infrastructure for our justice system.
I am sure you will all join me in counting our blessings that 2019 was a relatively uneventful hurricane season for us in BVI. The Government, under the careful stewardship of the Department for Disaster Management, and supported by donors, has made good progress in areas such as repairs to warning systems, emergency shelters and ensuring that we all remain on alert for the unexpected. Hurricane Dorian was a stark reminder to us all that we are fragile and that more needs to be done to improve the Territory’s resilience, especially with respect to our public infrastructure.
I hope that the ambitious agenda set out by the Government in the Speech from the Throne and in the Budget Addresses will lead to an acceleration of the Territory’s recovery and development. As we go into this Christmas season, I am acutely aware that there are many amongst us who are still living and working in far from ideal conditions. This needs to be addressed and we must continue to prioritise. I hope that faster progress can be made to support those in need.
Looking ahead, I am also optimistic that 2020 will be a year of positive growth for us all - with development and recovery underpinned by tangible governance reforms.
Also, moving away from governance, recovery and development, to take a moment to recognise successes and congratulate those who have represented the Territory in international competitions throughout the year. Our athletes competing at the Pan-Am games where Chantal Malone won BVI’s first ever Pan-Am medal – and a gold medal at that. Our National Culinary Team who won a silver medal overall (and achieved a number of individual medals) at the Taste of the Caribbean competition, and more recently Miss BVI at the Miss World and Mrs. BVI at the Mrs. Globe competitions…to name just a few. They were a great reminder that BVI may be small, but it has the capacity for greatness.
Finally, can I just use this opportunity to thank all those in the public service, in voluntary organisation and in statutory organisations for what they have done over the year to serve the public. And also to thank businesses for their efforts in recovering, investing and supporting our economy. And finally, to wish every person in BVI a very happy holiday season.