Although, Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith described the discourse about his new vehicle as ‘a non-issue’, he still announced that he is curious to learn why the purchase was publicized when he was about to deliver a budget and is calling for prudence.
The decision to purchase a new vehicle for the Premier in the region of $90,000 was mentioned during the 4 February sitting of the House of Assembly, and then in an article on an online news site where readers commented disapprovingly about the decision.
However, during a press conference on 10 February Premier Smith said that Government has been prudent in the area of vehicles, and he pointed out that his Ministers never bought Government vehicles. Instead, Hon. Smith said that the Ministers drive their own personal vehicles.
Premier Smith also pointed out that he is a simple person who does not favour extravagance, and described the reaction to the car announcement as ‘interesting’:
“It makes me question why did this issue come up just when I am giving the budget address…It is interesting that this, which is as far as I am concerned is a non-issue, has become an issue. As you know I live a very simple life. I drive my own car on weekends and at nights. I don’t have any high level of security and outriders like they do in other Caribbean countries,” he explained.
Hon. Smith explained that there was a need for a new vehicle, but one was not purchased until now. In disclosing the decision to make the purchase, Hon. Smith explained that during his 2003 administration an Escalade in the price range of $70,000 was purchased; and he announced that the administration that followed in 2007 also purchased a new vehicle.
In fact, the Premier explained that during the 2007 administration the Ministers of Government at the time also purchased vehicles that were priced in the region of $70,000.
On the other hand, Hon. Smith stated that when his government was elected in 2011 it was decided that he will not purchase another vehicle, but instead use the one that was purchased in the previous administration: “I did that for the entire term and when there were a new set of elections then it was decided that a new vehicle should be bought for the Premier,” Hon. Smith explained.
In relation to criticism that the price of the vehicle was too high, the BVI Leader announced that the price was comparable: “The cost of this vehicle is about $90,000 and when you compare $70,000 or $75,000 eight years ago, the cost is (reasonable),” Hon. Smith said.
In making a further point on the criticised vehicle, the Minister for Finance pointed out that a vehicle was purchased for the Governor and that the vehicle cost a little over $100,000. This, the Premier explained, is the going price of mid-range vehicles. He also stated that all of his Ministers drive private vehicles that cost around $100,000.
“If you speak to the car dealers they will tell you that that is the kind of value for those midrange vehicles. What I’m saying is that we are being prudent. We did not purchase a vehicle after we got elected the first time,” Hon. Smith added.