Minister discloses State of the Treasury
As at May 31st, 2003, there was approximately
$50 million in the treasury, but the majority of it is committed
for capital projects, leaving very little in the reserves, it
was reported here last Thursday.
"This begins to illustrate the difficult
nature of the path ahead," declared Chief Minister Dr.
the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, as he addressed the 1st sitting
of the 1st session of the 15th Legislative Council of the Virgin
The sitting, the first since the National Democratic Party (NDP)
was sworn in following victory at the polls on June 16th, was
held at the Sir Rupert Briercliffe Hall. It was attended by
hundreds of persons, including Senators from the US Virgin Islands,
local government and private sector officials and other residents.
The 2003 general elections brought a change
in the composition of the House, in that former Chief Minister
Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal now sits as Opposition Leader, along with
D-4 Rep. Hon Mark Vanterpool D-1 Rep. Hon Andrew Fahie, D-3
Rep. Hon. Julian Fraser and D-6 Rep. Hon. Omar Hodge.
Chief Minister Smith's new government includes At Large Representatives
Hon. Ronnie Skelton as Minister of Finance and Health and Hon.
Paul P. Wattley as Minister of Communications and Works, D-8
Rep. Hon. Lloyd Black as Minister of Education and Culture,
D-2 Rep. Hon. J. Alvin Christopher as Minister for Natural Resources
and Labour and backbenchers Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering of
D-7, Territorial Representative Hon. Eileene Parsons and Hon.
Delores Christopher of D-5.
In making his first statement in the House in
this capacity, Chief Minister Smith thanked the people for entrusting
the NDP to lead this territory. He also used the opportunity
to again congratulate all of his colleagues on their recent
elections victories and applaud the candidates who were not
successful, whose hard work and participation he said is the
bedrock of this territory's democratic process.
"Today we open the first page of a new
chapter in our country's history," he said, "the people
have spoken and in the best tradition of our democracy, their
voice has become our mandate...(and) this government will strive
tirelessly to meet all our responsibilities."
He said the doors of this government will always
be open to the people and he encourages everyone to become involved
in this partnership for progress. "We cannot promise to
always have the right answers.but we are confident that together,
no obstacle is too difficult to master," the Chief Minister
He said now the elections are over, the time
for partisan rancor should also be behind us.
"So, Madame Speaker, I would like to also
take this opportunity to extend my hand and the hands of all
the Members of this side to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition
and other Members of the Opposition," Hon. Dr. Smith stated.
With that, he paid special tribute to the former
Chief Minister, Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal, for his contribution to
the development of this country. "Your continued service
to our country and your loyalty to the cause of national unity
are needed now more than ever before."
The new Chief Minister said since the swearing
in of his government, they have been evaluating the current
state of the territory's finances. In reporting on the figures
in the treasury, he said he does not seek to assign blame or
offer excuses, but rather to be open about where things stand.
"A longstanding culture of insufficient care for the public
purse has left us a legacy of unmet needs (and) as a government,
we cannot afford to become complacent about demanding value
for money in our national investments," he added.
To that end, government has ordered a review
of all ongoing projects and tasked every accounting officer
with a careful examination of their budget, with a view to finding
areas where money can be saved, identify areas where additional
funds are needed and seek out new ways of doing things with
an eye to increased efficiency.
"We come to office with a host of ongoing
investigations into the actions of certain officials,"
the BVI leader pointed out. "These investigations will
be allowed to run their course. This government will not involve
itself in the unfolding judicial process."
Chief Minister Smith reiterated that the first
order of business for the people of this territory is to get
the economy moving again. He said government will ensure that
the financial services sector remains internationally competitive
and work with local business leaders to protect this interest;
formulate a comprehensive policy programme to address the needs
of the agricultural sector, fishermen and small business people;
re-energize the tourism sector and work with all other sectors
of the economy to encourage growth and promote programme.
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