REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE,
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
RDA Contract Signing for the North Sound Administration Building
May 5, 2020
Good day and God’s Blessings to all the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands.
I am happy to be here this morning as we signal yet another victory for the BVI as we steadily move forward with our hurricane recovery efforts, and in this ‘New Regular’ of living and working with COVID-19.
As you know, BVI, like other countries in the world has had to hit the pause button on the economy for a very important reason—that is to protect the health and safety of our people.
It was not an easy decision to make, but if I had to make it again I would, because you placed my Government in authority to look out for the wellbeing of all the people who live in this Territory and we continue to do so. For that I thank my Government members for their support.
Today is important because as I have said before in another forum, the BVI's internal economy went flat for the last month due to urgent measures that had to be implemented in order to attempt to avoid the community spreading of COVID-19 in the BVI.
In this ‘new regular’ era of reopening, as a Government, we have taken a phased approach where businesses that would be allowed to operate was determined from solely an economic standpoint.
One such business is the construction industry, which apart from the reawakening the Private Sector, also paves the way for the Recovery and Development Agency, a public sector agency under the Premier’s Office to continue its work to drive the BVI Recovery.
You will recall that the House of Assembly approved a revised Recovery to Development Plan in the latter part of 2019.
In that plan, we separated recovery from development and assigned the recovery matters to the Recovery and Development Agency in order to allow a more focused RDA to complete the recovery in the allotted five years.
Today’s contract signing means that we can still be on track, once the RDA continue to do what they are doing now.
We are happy to see that the CDB Loan Funding is able to assist us with getting work started by the RDA in the construction industry.
Government is pleased to see the Recovery and Development Agency pushing forward so that our infrastructure can be built and re-engineered with the appropriate technology, reliable procurement systems, operational capacity, inbound and outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and supporting services.
All these pieces are required, as we aim to continue our drive as a Government to accelerate transformation for resilience and sustainability, embracing SMART strategies and Green Development, while at the same time creating opportunities for empowerment of our people.
The signing of this contract today with RDA and Quality Construction is therefore an important one as we create a resilient BVI.
Looking ahead for the medium- to long-term, your Government’s objective is to make the BVI a financially and economically sustainable Territory; to make our people secure, physically, emotionally and economically, and to develop all-round resilience and competitiveness.
We said this during the 2020 Budget and with due respect, no COVID-19 will stop us as a Territory from achieving this as we live and work in the ‘New Regular’.
The fact is that COVID-19 is not going anywhere and we must be determined through our social distancing measures, that we also are not going anywhere right now. Neither should we succumb to any issues that may arise from COVID-19. Together we will get through this.
Your Government will be doing its part and, as far as is possible, will be open to entering into partnerships with the private sector to bring this vision to a reality.
I thank the entire team at the RDA for pushing forward the people’s agenda and making sure that the BVI, though in a catastrophic zone, can rebuild in a mark and special way.
It is good to see one of our own sitting in the head seat and driving this part of the recovery support by his team.
I was always and will always be convinced that one of our own could lead recovery. I said it privately, I said it publicly and I say it again.
We have already trained our people. We have already given them the experience. Now, we have to believe in them, just as we did to allow the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) to drive our Territory during the health pandemic.
Nothing is more important than having your own people Virgin Islands, Belongers, driving the prosperity of this Territory, for their heart must be in it, for this country is their country. And we will treat it like a home.
And, I will not join anyone else that says otherwise.
Especially now that the borders are closed, when I said that were are in this together, I literally meant it because the borders are closed, so we all see the value of our own people more than ever.
We often think that others got it together, but we have proven that as Territory, putting preventative measures in place to protect ourselves and now rebooting internally with our economy that God is in this place.
It is only now for us to reboot it and reawaken it together like our foreparents did in their time.
The future and prosperity of the Virgin Islands are in our hands.
Let’s face it; no one can come in so we have to do it ourselves. Again, that is not a cliché, it is a fact. This is not in any disrespect to anyone we live among us but, at the same time to we have to build this Virgin Islands together for our people, point blank.
Let us continue to lead our economy fearlessly, and along the way, we will not mistake listenership for leadership. We will lead!
For I know that you, Mr. McMaster will push these projects with your team, but you will remember that it is for the future of the BVI that you are doing this.
You understand that you are building the BVI for Kyron and all of them and for their generation, and for other generation of Virgin Islanders.
So your team at the RDA will push the work in the direction of BVI’s prosperity, focused on BVI’s resilience and you will do your part as a Virgin Islander and ensure that BVI’s recovers in the hands of those who understand that our ancestors branched out on their own, they used what they had in their hands, they joined forces together and they pushed in one direction which was forward.
That is why I want to thank the people of the Virgin Islands because RDA can only move forward because of the people of the Virgin Islands.
Let me break it down for you:
The CDB loan is the people of the BVI’s loan.
It is money you borrowed from the bank and it is money that you must repay.
Remember, the Government got this loan on your behalf to rebuild this Territory following the hurricanes of 2017 so we will push together and make sure that we make BVI a place that reaps great returns so that generations can pay back this loan without struggling.
I am pleased to see that work is happening on the Sister Islands for my Government have always said that no island would be left behind.
We are pleased to see that contracts are signed to rehabilitate and reconstruct public buildings like the Bregado Flax School and the Flax Administration Building on Virgin Gorda and today we see another one being signed on Virgin Gorda with much more contracts to come on all the islands. We now have the North Sound Administration Building to be worked on and for the contract to be signed with the contractor being another local company, Quality Construction. It was important that when we took offie that we took the CDB loan from being in a state of limbo where only the interest was being paid and meet with the Ministry of Finance team, CDB team and the RDA team to ensure that we put this loan to the use that we got it for. And we were able now to do so. So this the reason we can say that projects will be pushing out one after the other. Because decisions had to be made and decisions were made in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands. Works would have been done on the Police Station on Virgin Gorda as well.
And if we look at the trend in which the Flax Administration building, the Bregado Flax Building, the police station was done and now we come to the Administration building, I know that there are those who are thinking that all the money is going to Virgin Gorda but be rest assured that there are plenty more projects coming for the people of the BVI on all the islands. But is about time Virgin Gorda get a little more attention.
So I look forward to the work of the RDA because it was by design that we planned to move ahead with these public buildings.
And I know that the RDA will make the Premier’s Office, its parent Ministry and the people of the Virgin Islands, very proud.
So Mr. McMaster, I’m back to you as the Minister of Finance I want to say thank you and I want to say to your team, please set strict conditions around these projects that you will ensure accountability at all times and transparency to show the world that we can police ourselves and that we don’t need to be policed by others.
I encourage you to ensure that this project represents value for money and transparency in every facet and as I said for your people of the Virgin Islands. The contractor has to finish the work on time so that he can move on swiftly to the other projects without delay like the West End Ferry Terminal.
The next phase of the reopening of our economy will be coming soon.
We will continue to open up operating house gradually more and more.
I am not stealing any thunder but just to reassure the public of how serious we are about the reopening, being mindful of course of the health pandemic that we are fighting.
Cabinet on May 4 in order to restore more confidence in our economy while the reopening and the rebooting is taking place has made the decision that the next phase of internal reopening for our economy will start on Sunday May 10 where a Curfew will be imposed from the hours of 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily.
But that means that Cabinet decided construction companies and all other Cabinet approved businesses will be able to operate between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily under the new Imposition of the Curfew Order which would also commence on Sunday May 10th for 14 days. And how fitting it is Mother’s Day.
Our decision as Cabinet Ministers and as a Government is hinged on the aggressive contact tracing of Public Health Officials to identify and address every possible risk because remember we are not out of the woods. But, I want to thank them for remaining committed to the task at hand to make sure that we have a safe BVI even in the midst of COVID-19.
I want to thank all of us for practicing social distancing and I want to implore the contractor to make sure that they also during these jobs and all the construction industry and all businesses to continue to practice social distancing. It is a simple thing to do and will save our economy and help us to live and eventually conquer COVID-19. So I want to make sure that those who have to be in quarantine will know that they are playing their part with our economy. Those who ensure they wash their hands whenever they enter the business places, you’re helping play an important role in keeping our economy going. For those persons who stand up 6 ft. in the lines when they go to every single business place as approved by Cabinet for opening you are playing a vital role in helping our economy to be reawaken.
Every single social measure that you practice, I want contractors and everyone to know, that you are playing an important role, even with the wearing of masks, you’re playing an important role in help rebooting our economy. So everyone is important.
And please while I am here I want to remind you that the Public Health Officials are continuing to work hard with you the people and we encourage you to call telephone 8527650 if you are experincing flu like symptoms.
We will continue to update you with the health aspect, but this is why I want the construction industry to understand its importance to the economy not just monetary wise but in doing their part to ensure that practicing safety and health safety on the job including the transportation of the construction workers, including the way you work and how you do the sanitization methods on the job.
So having said all of that, let us continue to work together as we protect each other and build the BVI Strong, and stronger and stronger and more resilient to withstand any disaster, any pandemic, any storm or hurricane.
We are all in this together and we are indeed moving forward in BVILOVE. I congratulate the contractor Mr. Roy Garraway and I want to say that it is very important that we understand that all these companies went through a very vigorous process before they were selected and it was not a hand out, they worked for it, they had to put up money with bonds and different things to get these things done, so I want the people of the Virgin Islands to know that you can do what Quality construction is doing, once you attend the seminars and once you are serious about your profession and your craft nothing will be given to you but if you get up and play your part God will bless your efforts and the rest will just be prosperity.
So congratulation’s to the contractor, RDA, Premier’s Office, Deputy Governor’s Office, the Governor, Cabinet and most importantly the people of the Virgin Islands.
May God bless these projects and may his continued blessings be with the Government and people of the Virgin Islands.