The Government of the British Virgin Islands has officially launched its BVI Forward campaign, a far-reaching set of initiatives aimed at further strengthening the financial services sector and building greater awareness about the benefits derived from it.
The BVI Forward campaign aims to build on the strength of the jurisdiction’s internationally renowned financial services sector by further improving the quality of the operating environment and developing a sustainable and exciting future for the industry by introducing new services.
BVI Forward evolved from an in-depth study of the Territory’s financial services sector which was commissioned by the Government in 2014. Facilitated by global consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company, the study involved detailed interaction with both the public and private sector in the BVI and internationally, and included benchmarking from other leading off-shore financial centres.
The BVI Forward campaign is the engine that will drive the continuing evolution and innovation of financial services in the BVI to maintain the industry’s competitive advantage in the context of changing international regulatory landscape and growing competition.
The campaign comprises 10 specific initiatives, which form part of a strategic plan to chart the future of the industry. Each initiative is assigned a sponsor who is either a senior government officials or prominent individual in the private sector.
The initiatives are as follows: Establish a dedicated Delivery Unit to coordinate and drive implementation; Revamp the International Finance Centre; Strengthen the Business Development Function; Engage the Population; Build BVIslander Capability; Pursue Tax Initiatives; Enhance Customer Service at the Financial Services Commission; Attract and Offer Value-Added Services; Reform Immigration and Labour and Invest in Infrastructure.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE described BVI Forward as the end of the beginning.
“Today we are at the end of the preparation and at the beginning of taking action: the end of the beginning, and we are moving the industry forward. BVI Forward represents a new
beginning of our drive to create a new financial services foundation to drive the future prosperity of the Virgin Islands,” Dr. Smith stated.
Engaging the population is one of the initiatives recommended to take the industry forward and Premier Smith underscored the need for public engagement saying, “The significant investment my Government has made in BVI Forward will return little, if you the people of this Territory do not support this initiative. Each person must, in their own way, embrace and participate in BVI Forward.”
Keynote Speaker at the launch, Bermuda’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Everard T. Richards, JP, MP noted that the challenges facing official financial centres have never been greater and made specific mention of the continuously shifting goal posts which make it difficult for countries unfairly labeled as tax havens to escape being named on blacklists of uncooperative countries.
“Since the late 1990s these requirements keep shifting. We comply with the changes they demand, then a few years later those are no longer enough and there appears, out of the ether, yet another set of requirements,” Minister Richards said.
Despite the current challenges, Minister Richards expressed optimism about the future noting that if we “cooperate with legitimate initiatives to improve transparency with the international community, and demonstrate the economic value proposition we provide the global economy, we can survive the current international tax onslaught and provide a viable means for our islands to earn the foreign exchange necessary for a good standard of living for our people.”
The overarching objective of the BVI Forward campaign is to create positive recognition of and real interest in, a compelling future for financial services and the opportunities it represents for the local population.