Premier's Office
Department of Trade, Investment, Promotion and Consumer Affairs
Release Date:
Monday, 14 September 2020 - 5:00pm





14th September, 2020

Good day and God’s Blessings to everyone.

Today is a long awaited occasion, and just like you, I am glad that it is finally here.

I am happy that we are able to deliver this support to our small businesses, which – and we cannot say it enough – is the backbone of our economy.

It was not an easy road, as some of you may have imagined. It took a lot of work to get the policies and the measures in place so that we can come to you as we are doing now.

This is why I would like to say the “thank yous” first today.

First and foremost we must thank God as without Him nothing is possible.

Special thanks and commendations must go to our Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development Honourable Shereen Flax-Charles for doing such a stellar job in pushing this small business initiative forward. She is very much excited about the sector and we continue to support her efforts and proactive actions in moving Government’s agenda forward.

We must also thank the committee of public officers, and there was so many of them, starting with the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Premier’s Office Dr. Carolyn O’Neal-Morton, and also officer in the Premier’s Office Ms. Lizette George, our Director of Trade Mrs. Karia Christopher, Ms. Patlian Johnson who has helped us tremendously and the list goes on.

All of them worked tirelessly to ensure that all the items we needed to be transparent and accountable, are in place with the Premier’s Office serving as Chair through the PS, and the Ministry of Finance, and the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion, and Consumer Affairs facilitating the design and implementation of this programme. We needed to be transparent and accountable of this programme along with the help Department of Information Technology to ensure the effective administration and management of the process.

I thank this hard working Committee because while others were talking, they reminded me of a book I read that said, “Never mistake the absence of noise for the lack of activity.”

So we thank this hard working Committee for pressing forward through the noise. There is a saying that, “It is always easy to be shouting from the sidelines. It is not the same thing as playing in the field.”

I also wish to thank the Members of my Government for supporting this important initiative as we now release the grants to allow qualifying businesses to move forward.

We thank the BVI Social Security Board for making the $6.5M grant available toward this initiative.

We also thank the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for contributing $40,000 grant toward stimulating our economy.

COVID-19 and Small Businesses

The COVID-19 global pandemic caused the premature closure of the local tourism sector as well as the shutdown of international travel and global tourism. Internationally, economies and economic activity has been affected by the preventative restrictions and the BVI is no exception.

Understandably, this has had a significant impact on the revenue streams and viability of businesses, and small businesses do not have big cushions to fall back on.

I thank the businesses for their patience as we worked diligently to keep this process as accountable and transparent, and as fair, and as objective as humanly possible.

The Small Business Sector Grant Programme was established for the purpose of assisting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in meeting operational expenditure, while stimulating economic activity by facilitating the circulation of money within the Territory.

We have 1,039 approved MSMEs businesses from the Phase II of the economic stimulus plan and 10 MSMEs from the UNDP grant that has been given in partnership with your Government.

The reality is, the length and depth of the impact of COVID-19 on small vulnerable states like the BVI is still unknown because COVID-19 remains fluid and no one has been able to set an end-date for the virus either through discovery of a cure or a vaccine.

You would recall that your Government presented our $62.9M Phase Two COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which contained several programmes to help support families and small businesses during these trying times.

Your Government recognises that COVID-19 has caused – and continues to cause - significant economic impact on workers and on businesses. That is why we put forward those initiatives to help our people to get through this pandemic.

I urge our businesses to ensure that these funds are used to create a lasting impact and lasting benefit on your operations.

I would like to talk a little about how the funds for this programme will be distributed.

Let me say here that for the purposes of this programme, “loss in business revenue” was used to evaluate the impact to the businesses, which resulted in a more targeted and equitable distribution of funds to the recipients.

Since the needs of the businesses will most definitely outstrip the value of the programme ($6.5 million), MSMEs will only be able to receive a certain percentage of losses in the form of a grant.

Grants are being processed and disbursed in accordance with Cabinet’s decision from the approved Small Business Sector Grant Programme via the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Package, in the amount of $6.5M from the Social Security Board.

Payments in support of the businesses’ overheads, purchases, or debt repayments will be made directly to the beneficiaries, where they would be required to sign a declaration that will ensure adherence to the terms and conditions as required for the use of the funds by providing evidence of same. This is important for accountability.

Let me say here that at the end of the application deadline on 21, August 2020, some 1,423 businesses applied and were reviewed in accordance with the set guidelines for distribution of the G rant. Of the 1,423 businesses that were reviewed, 1,039 businesses were successful and will be awarded grants ranging from $1,592 to $7,955

Given the current curfew and restricted movement of persons, regrettably, a formal face-to-face ceremony for an official handover of cheques is not possible.


With respect to the United Nations Development Grant Programme which is in partnership with the Government of the Virgin Islands, I thank the UNDP for partnering with us in providing economic stimulus.

As mentioned before, the Food Operators Grant is $40,000.

I am pleased to announce that 10 food operators will receive $4,000.

The breakdown are as follows:

  • Six (6) businesses on Tortola,
  • Two (2) businesses on Anegada and
  • One (1) business on Virgin Gorda
  • And, one (1) business on Jost Van Dyke 

To break it down even further, of the 10 businesses selected 50 percent were female owned.  

Additionally, the 10 businesses are inclusive of 5 restaurants, 3 food vans and 2 café/snackettes"

I am happy to announce that each will be awarded their cheques this week to support operational expenditure. 

These funds will assist them in addressing some of the financial difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will not call the names of the business, but the awardees will be contacted via email and telephone to provide them with additional information, including where and when the cheques can be collected. Special arrangements will be made to ensure that cheques can be collected if you are on the Sister Islands.

Each awardee will be required to sign a declaration form upon receipt of the cheque, which outlines their commitment, for example:

  • to honour the intended purpose for the funds (meeting business operational expenditure);
  • to participate in any surveys on accessing the programme;
  • to participate in the financial management assistance/training being offered pro bono by two of the BVI's Accounting Firms - Deloitte and KPMG.

We were very pleased with the rigorous process of the UNDP and we applied the same requirements to our small business grant programme.

I must say that Mr. Ugo Blanco the interim UNDP Resident Representative said to my Government:

“The UNDP is honored to partner with the Government of the British Virgin Islands in their pioneer initiative which supports MSMEs that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.  Thanks to the leadership and proactiveness of the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Finance, food operators in the BVI are now better equipped with the tools and resources needed to jumpstart their operations. This work showcases the commitment of the Government and will provide assistance to the most affected groups and allow them to adapt as quickly as possible to the new economic context.”

My Government is devoted to building entrepreneurial skills therefore as part of the knowledge-based component of the programme awardees will be receiving business management guidance by accounting and business development professionals in the BVI. 

I would like again to thank Deloitte and KPMG for their involvement in this important initiative.

Indeed, we are in this together.


I am also pleased to announce the Small Businesses Grant Programme and the breakdown of the 1,039 businesses that qualified to receive the grant in various amounts ranging from $1,592 to $7,955,. This maximum range is to ensure that as many businesses as possible will be able to benefit, as a means to stimulate economic activity.

I will now give a breakdown of the distribution of funds by districts.

For security purposes we will not release the names of the businesses, but I will share information based on districts as follows:


































We are pleased to strengthen and stimulate this economy, with no district left behind.

At this time, I must continue to say that your Government is pleased that we have been able to ensure that several small businesses continue to benefit from Government’s funding in the areas of:

  1. Security Services for the quarantine requirements;
  2. Taxi Operators on Tortola who are part of the Park and Ride since the traffic turn around;
  3. Taxi Operators on Virgin Gorda;
  4. Boat Operators who were able to transport the health professionals to and from Anegada and Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke;
  5. We have been utilising our small businesses for Phase One of the Controlled Border Re-entry programme, with hoteliers providing a space as people quarantine before assimilating back into the society. 
  6. We looked to our small business community to provide the platforms to assist with the enhancement of Border Security. We also turned to our small businesses to assist us with securing our borders. For example, we saw the need to take further measures as a Government to further protect our borders with three platform station barges; and this is NOT at a cost of $17,000 per station, as has been wrongfully reported by others, but alternatively at a cost of $4,666.67 per station. As a Government, we took the decision to boost the local capabilities of our Joint Task Force comprising Her Majesty’s Customs; the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force; and the BVI Immigration Department. Assistance from the British Naval Forces will always be welcomed but to deploy such force between St. John and Little Thatch is asking a bit much at a cost that has to be carefully weighed. Together our Joint Task Force shall disrupt the illegal actions to the South and North of Jost Van Dyke as they are already doing based on reported detections!
  7. BVI Electricity Corporation would also have supported qualifying businesses with electricity bills.
  8. As a reminder, each District Representative was given $300,000 to assist those who need financial assistance. Those persons who are members of the Elected Government have created small projects to stimulate jobs in the districts and assist entrepreneurs. We ensured that we were fair across the board whether we were in the Government or the Opposition because in the fight against COVID-19 there are no sides. We recognised that people did not want Government just to give them a handout, they wanted to be engaged and to work for it and to continue building their entrepreneurial spirit as is in the DNA of the people of the Virgin Islands. 

So in many ways we are making sure that small businesses and entrepreneurs, who have applied under various arms of our stimulus programme are beneficiaries of what little we have to offer and to work with.

Your Government recognises that the Grants being awarded to 1,039 small businesses from Anegada to Jost Van Dyke will only assist to certain limit.

As the Junior Minister for Trade said in her statement, your Government is glad to report that negotiations are underway to partner with one of our locally registered financial institution to offer small businesses, new businesses, and new entrepreneurs loans with more than reasonable terms and conditions and affordable interest rates to further assist our small businesses during this challenging Covid-19 era.

The details of this initiative will be forthcoming shortly. Your Government will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to further strengthen our small businesses because they are the back bone of our economy.


As we continue to move forward, let us ensure the success of Phases Two and Three of our phased reopening of the British Virgin Islands.

I want to encourage the small businesses to continue to adhere to the health and safety measures so that we all can keep each other safe. We have to live and work with COVID-19.

The Social Distancing Task Force was the brainchild of your Government.  

In recognising this the depth and breadth of COVID-19, as a Government we made the decision through the Cabinet to approve the presence of a Social Distancing Task Force to supplement the efforts of the Environmental Health Division in monitoring and ensuring that businesses throughout the Territory operate and remain in a state of readiness as we live and work in “The New Regular.”

The Task force has been established under the Ministry of Health and Social Development. In fact, they are having their first meeting this morning.

The Task Force consists of re-assigned public officers or qualified persons outside of the Public Service as designated by the Health Minister, and we thank the Deputy Governor’s Office—and the Deputy Governor—for its and his support in this regard.

The Social Distancing Task Force will cooperate with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Environmental Health Division in enforcing the Public Health COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures Order, 2020.

What we are doing here is continuing our efforts in protecting public health and the prevention, control and suppression of the spread of COVID-19 virus.  

Let us all work together and manage how we deal with COVID-19.

COVID-19 has one strategy and that is to spread from human-to-human. We, therefore, must have one strategy—to work together to keep all of us safe person-by-person.

As we continue to launch out into the deep and into the unknown, on one hand working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep us all safe, we need everyone working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep us all safe.

I believe in the strength of our local businesses and the people of the Virgin Islands. We are the ones who must control our own destiny.

Once again, I say congratulations to all the businesses that have qualified for the different stimulus packages.

I thank you.