2019: The Year in Review

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January

Leader of the Opposition Blasts Government Over SAPs

Recently appointed Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Ronnie Skelton blasted the government for only bringing Supplementary Appropriation bills (SAPs) that spanned from 2007 to present to the House on 28 December for approval. Speaking strongly on the matter following presentations by Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith Hon. Skelton criticized the move stating: “That is totally unacceptable 11 years after…that is totally unacceptable.”

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Premier Says Corruption Claim Hurting BVI Reputation

The constant harping of government corruption is being heard far and wide and Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith pleaded with persons in the Territory to desist from unnecessarily claiming there is corruption in the BVI. The Premier who made the request as one of the things he would like to see changed in 2019 told the House of Assembly on 28 December that people outside of the Territory are taking the corruption announcements seriously and this is affecting the reputation of the BVI.

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Hon. Vanterpool Said He Doesn’t Own a Yacht

Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool took to facebook on 29 December to refute claims that he has purchased a luxury yacht. The Minister’s response came as photo of a beautiful yacht with the name Mark Vanterpool written on it was circulated via social media. The photo fueled a rumor that has been quietly circulating for close to three years. Using the same circulated photo in his post Hon. Vanterpool in an attempt to set the record straight denied owning the vessel. He said, “You know, I’ve seen this photo circulating over the past couple of days and really thought it was a joke. This is a beautiful yacht. I’d love to have it, but truth is, it is NOT mine.”

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NDP Presents All But 2 Candidates

Except for Districts one and two, the National Democratic Party (NDP) presented all of the candidates that would be contesting this year’s general elections under its banner. The grand reveal of the 11 NDP candidates took place on 5 January at the Marias by the Sea conference room.

The slate of candidates included Party Chairman and incumbent At Large representative Hon. Myron Walwyn, Party Vice Chair and incumbent Eight District representative Hon. Marlon Penn, District Three candidate Aaron Parillon, incumbent Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool, District Five candidate Elvis “Juggy” Harrigan, incumbent Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines, Seventh District candidate Hipolito Diego, and incumbent Ninth District Representative Dr Hubert O’Neal.  Additionally the team includes the three At Large candidates Trefor Grant, Sandy Underhill, and Henry Creque.

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Hon. Vanterpool Says He is Bombarded With Sewerage Issues

Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool has admitted that he has been challenged and bombarded by the issues of sewerage and water throughout his tenure and said that he is hopeful that the matter will come to some solution soon. In stressing how much the situation has challenged him the Minister referred to the two issues as if he was referring to a major foe. “My biggest nemesis that I have faced for the term that I’ve been there is the issue of water and the issue of sewerage,” he said.

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NDP Not Dead

“The NDP is not dead,” Chairman of the National Democratic Party Hon. Myron Walwyn declared at the NDP Pep rally that was held on 12 January in the vicinity of the Road Town Market. During the event that began with a large motorcade Hon. Walwyn addressed various rumors and allegations that have been laid against the political organization. He especially addressed his opponents in the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) and the Progressives Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM).

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Budget And Election Date Too Close – Hon. Skelton Worried

Leader of the Opposition Hon. Ronnie Skelton announced that he is very concerned that the upcoming elections are close to the date by which the next Territorial budget is to be passed; and this he said can result in constitutional issues.  The concerns about the budget were mentioned by Hon. Skelton during his contribution to the debate of the Bill entitled, “Elections (Amendment) Act, 2019” the Leader of the Opposition told his colleagues that he worried about the constitutional situation that can arise. In  stressing the seriousness of the matter Hon. Skelton told the House of Assembly “Madame Speaker I see us heading head long into a constitutional crisis.”

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PUP Launched

After a long wait the Progressives United Party which is being led by former Virgin Islands Party Chairman Hon. Julian Fraser was launched on 11 January.  The launch comes after months of speculation – especially since the Party teased earlier with a billboard and ignited numerous questions and speculations. In addition to the Party Chairman Hon. Fraser who was seeking reelection for the Third District, three other candidates were presented. The other candidates include former Fourth District Representative, Vincent Scatliffe, as well as renowned musician Dirk Walters who would be vying for the Fifth District seat.

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I’ve Been Faithful – Hon. Turnbull Tells Constituents

Second District Representative, Hon. Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull told his constituents that he has faithfully worked for them over the last three years and therefore deserves another opportunity to serve them. At an event on 13 January, during his speech which was titled the State of the Second District Address Hon. Turnbull outlined how he has worked for the residents of the District. “You did not put me in there to sit and twiddle my fingers, nor did you put me in there to sit quietly. You put me in there to represent your needs your concerns,” he said as he outlined how he has worked for the District.

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HOA Debate Election Act

The majority of the members of the House of Assembly announced during the debate of the of the Bill entitled, “Elections (Amendment) Act, 2019” that they do not think all of the changes that are advocated in the legislation should come into force during this elections. In fact, most members were only in favor of electronic counting. The debate was started by Opposition Member and At Large Representative, Hon. Archibald Christian who said that he is in favor of the changes as the system to be introduced would eliminate the extensive wait for elections result.

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Dr. Smith Speaks at HOA For the Last Time

On 23 January Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith spoke for the last time in the House of Assembly as a legislator as his tenure as a member of the House of Assembly came to an end with the dissolution of the House being announced the same day. However, the moment was bitter sweet for the Premier who during that sitting was honoured with the renaming of the Hospital after him and an opportunity to hear endearing words from his fellow legislators. During the Private Members section of the House Hon. Smith was able to respond to some of the congratulatory and farewell statements that were made.

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February

NDP Leaders Debate Critics on Facebook

In one of the most cringe worthy moments of the 2019 general elections Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Hon. Myron Walwyn and Deputy Chairman Hon. Marlon Penn sat in a face-to-face debate with social media commentator Kaream Pickering popularly known as “Picko Moff,” a self-proclaimed NDP critic to “set the record straight on certain matters”. Pickering’s one man “Drain the Swamp” social media campaign, which harshly criticizes actions of government and members of the House of Assembly gained a following and many in the community regularly tune into his Facebook page to hear his views on political matters. Therefore, the announcement that Pickering was going to be facing Hon. Walwyn, a legislator he has spoken publicly about garnered a lot of attention.

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Dancia Penn Launches Her Campaign

Declaring that she is here to bring solutions, Dancia Penn, QC officially threw her hat into the ring to contest for one of the four At Large seats that are to be filled in the 25 February general elections. During her campaign kickoff on 2 February the Queen’s Counsel told the gathering that the campaign of 2019 is about the future of the BVI and its people and she said that she is seeking to bring change, to restore good governance to the Territory, to restore transparency, openness, inclusion, progress, experience and solution. “Mine is a solution oriented campaign. My mantra is solutions, solutions, solutions. That is what we need at this time that is what we the people deserve and solutions are what we the people should get,” Penn stated.

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Insurance Tribunal Address Underinsurance Claims

The Insurance Tribunal that Government convened following the 2017 disasters to address public concerns relating to insurance claims processing and settlements told the media that they are still deliberating and persons are still contacting the Tribunal for assistance. Even more, it was mentioned that the Tribunal has had to explain the issue of underinsurance which following the disasters became a traumatic subject for insured persons. During the press conference on 31 January the Tribunal noted that it has been addressing matters relating to the inconsistencies in relations to costs of damages and settlements.

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Skelton Promises to Explore Medical Tourism

Chair of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), Hon. Ronnie Skelton is keen on seeing the Territory reap possibilities from the medical tourism industry and he said that if his Party is elected this is one of the areas that will be fully explored. Hon. Skelton while speaking on the PVIM Solution Time radio programme that was aired on 5 February said that medical tourism is a quick fix option that can be used to improve the Territory’s revenue base.

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Gutter Politics and Mudslinging Mar Campaign

At least two political party leaders have come out in criticism of what was described as gutter politics and mudslinging during this campaign season. Both the PVIM Chair Ronnie Skelton, and the National Democratic Party Chair Myron Walwyn have spoken out about the manner in which Whatsapp and social media memes are being used to allegedly disparage candidates.

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Don’t Listen to Them Hon. Fraser Tells 3rd District

Chairman of the Progressive United Party (PUP), and incumbent Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser told his constituents to disregard both of his two opponents as he stated that neither the VIP or NDP candidate can adequately represent the District.

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Look At Glass Half Full – Walwyn Announce

Even as the campaigning continues the issue of the European Union’s (EU) economic substance move which calls for the near impossible task of the thousands of BVI registered international companies to set up headquarters and commence operations here in the Territory within a short time. However, Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) is bringing hope to the situation as he stressed during a campaign as he urged residents to look at the glass half full.

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No Territorial Election Debate

The excitement and anticipation of a political debate between the leaders of the four parties vying for leadership of the Territory was dashed after it was explained that some of the party chairpersons were not interested in the debate. However, there was still expectations for the faceoff between the NDP and VIP chairpersons; but this was also dashed with  announcement that the VIP Chairman Andrew Fahie was no longer participating.

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VIP Wins Election

The newly elected Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government has challenged itself to not only deliver 1000 jobs in 1000 days, but to also address more than 17 areas in short order. Following an intense campaign season and after hosting a motorcade that was described as one of the largest witnessed, the Virgin Islands Party ascended to power on 25 February claiming eight of the 13 seats of the House of Assembly including all of the four At Large.

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“Against All Odds” Premier Fahie Declares

“Against all odds” was the central theme of the statement newly sworn-in Premier of the British Virgin Islands Hon. Andrew Fahie gave to the media immediately after his Party was declared the winner of the 25 February general elections. Hon. Fahie who chronicled some of the challenges the Virgin Islands Party experienced thanked God for the victory: “The Virgin Islands Party came from nothing, I was the only elected official that was left and to come back now and have eight members especially from the At Large we have a lot to thank God for.”

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Elections Observers Make Recommendations

Some matters relating to the general elections were said to be in contravention of international best practices. This is according to the preliminary report that was released by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region (CPA BIMR) Election Observation Mission (EOM). The Observers noted some of the recommendations that were made following the 2011, and 2015 elections and noted that some of the recommendations that were not addressed remained an issue in 2019. “A number of crucial recommendations remain unaddressed. There are no party or campaign finance laws, the channels to seek redress pre-election day are not clearly outlined, conditions to suffrage rights are overly restrictive, and there are no legal provisions for domestic and international observers. The absence of a consolidated legal text raises concerns over accessibility and legislative clarity.”

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NDP Does Introspection After Election Loss

After losing the general elections Chairman of the National Democratic Party Hon. Myron Walwyn said that this will be a period of introspection for the National Democratic Party. Following an intense campaign period, the National Democratic Party which served for two consecutive terms only picked up three seats and even the Chairman and At Large Candidate Hon. Myron Walwyn was unsuccessful.

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PVIM Undaunted by Election Loss

Leader of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) Ronnie Skelton said that the Party is not daunted by the fact that the election results was not very favorable and that the Party only attained one seat.

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March

UK Threatens to Roll Back Beneficial Ownership Deadline

The aggressive move in the United Kingdom’s parliament to see public registers of beneficial ownership enacted in the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) and the Crown Dependencies (CDs) by 2020 made its return on 4 March. However, this time, the effort mainly targeted the Crown Dependencies in a similar manner as the May 2018 amendment forced the Overseas Territories.

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Hon. Fraser Advises the New Government

Hon. Julian Fraser, Third District Representative and Chairman of the Progressives United Party is warning the new Government of the dire consequences if it does not exercise due diligence and get adequate support before approaching the European Union to address the matter of economic substance. Hon. Fraser who made the comment during an interview with ZBVI radio announced that while the Territory was granted authority to speak on matters of financial services it should not use that as an excuse to carry out the discourse with the EU without the United Kingdom.

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Extended Power Outage on Anegada

Plans to establish a second backup power system and alternative energy options on Anegada will be moving forward faster than was anticipated as the District Representative, Hon. Vincent Wheatley announced that he would not like a repeat of the extended power outage that affected the sister island last week Friday. Hon. Wheatley and At Large Representative, Hon. Shereen Flax-Charles visited the island which was reportedly without power for more than 24 hours on 1 March the same day they were to be sworn into office as Ministers of Government.

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Be Mindful of What You Say – Premier Warns

Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie asked the community to be mindful of things said about the United Kingdom and its relationship with the Territory. He also asked for consideration of the fact that the issues of contention as it relates to the beneficial ownership public register is being championed by a small group of persons; and not a reflection of the wish of the entire government. The Premier’s comments were made on 12 March during the first sitting of the first session of the fourth House of Assembly. The comments came one week after an unsuccessful attempt was made in the United Kingdom’s parliament on 4 March by a faction to make registers of beneficial ownership in the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) and the Crown Dependencies (CDs) public by 2020.

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VG Banking Woes Addressed in HOA

The inconvenience of not have banking services on Virgin Gorda was addressed by newly elected Ninth District Representative and Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Hon. Vincent O’Neal on 12 March during in the swearing in ceremony for the new members of the House of Assembly. During the campaign season Hon. Wheatley promised that once elected he would tackle the situation; and signal  intent to address the matter now that he is in office during his contribution in the House of Assembly.

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Budget Challenge for New Government

Budget day is tentatively set for 2 April and the new Government which took office less than a month ago has announced that there were challenges in the preparation of the budget in such short time. The annual budget must be passed by 30 April and with days to keep the deadline newly appointed Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie has admitted that the challenges he referred to had to do with things that the United Kingdom Government needed to approve before the budget can be passed. Hon. Fahie was sworn in on 26 February, his Cabinet on 1 March; and despite having to deal with urgent Territorial matters he said that his new government has been attending to the matter of the budget which was started by the previous administration. He said upon taking office his government had to work to try to include some new initiatives.

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Fourth District Saga Heats Up

Questions were being asked whether Speaker of the House Hon. Julian Willock would swear in elected Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool in and bring an end to the talk of a by-election. The situation regarding the Fourth District seat arose when on 5 March days after being reelected Hon. Mark Vanterpool issued a statement and a video announcing that he was retiring from representational politics. Hon. Vanterpool said: “Today I have advised the Clerk of the House of Assembly that I wish to be excused from sitting in the next House of Assembly due to be convened on 12th March 2019. I am aware that this would be very surprising to the residents of District four and the Territory, having been duly elected in the February 25th 2019 General Elections.”

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Government Commence Discussion With Banco Popular

Government commenced discussion with Banco Popular aimed at securing banking services on the sister island of Virgin Gorda which for the first time in more than 20 years is without such services.

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Anguillan Hotelier Deported

Kirk McAllister Hughes, the Anguillan hotelier who was fined $56,000 and spent months at Her Majesty’s Prison after being convicted of Immigration and financial-related crimes in the territory was ordered deported from the Territory by the Governor.

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Governor Presents BVI Views to UK Committee

His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert announced during a media briefing on 15 March that he intends to communicate the views of the people of the BVI regarding the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report to the United Kingdom government soon. The report which was published on 21 February has caused concern among citizens of the Territory as it relates to matters such as same sex marriage and Belonger status.

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Bank of Asia Appoints New President

On 18 March it was announced that Bank of Asia (BVI) Limited, one of the world’s first fully digital global cross-border banks and the first digital bank in the British Virgin Islands (“BVI”), announced the appointment of Dr. Peter Reichenstein as President effective 15 March 2019. It was stated that Reichenstein replaced Wayne Yang, the Bank’s former Interim President as head of the Tortola based bank.

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Governor Intervenes In Fourth District Saga

In a response to a push for a By-election date from the Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock, His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert promptly ended the debate on the matter of whether Fourth District Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool should be sworn into the House of Assembly; by stating that the legislator’s resignation was invalid. For weeks the matter of representation for the Fourth District has been public debate. The situation regarding the Fourth District seat arose when on 5 March days after being reelected Hon. Mark Vanterpool issued a statement and a video announcing that he was retiring from representational politics.

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Premier Promises to Legalize Big Bikes

In the future large motorcycle might be legalized in the Territory with strict road use regulations. This is based on comments that were made on the matter by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie. It is currently illegal to have a motorbike above 125 CC in the Territory and over the years there has been discussions on allowing the use of larger bikes, but those currently unhappy with the current scooter use matters remain adamant that larger bikes should not be allowed. __________

Public Servants Get Another Increment Promise

While noting that it was not possible to keep the 15 March increment payment date that was announced by the previous government, recently elected Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that public officers will be paid their owed increments but not before the passing of the budget.

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April

Health and Education Get Lionshare of 2019 Budget

A large portion of the $426M budget that was presented by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie on 2 April will be going to areas of health and education as the BVI Leader stated that this was done to ensure that the government delivers on its empowerment promises.

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Fourth District Saga Head To Court

The ongoing saga between elected Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool and Speaker of the House of Assembly Julian Willock took a new turn when that the matter has landed before the High Court. The announcement that a judicial hearing will be made on the matter was announced on 2 April in statement by Hon. Vanterpool after the Speaker did not swear him in at a recent sitting of the House.

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Plans Unveiled for West End Ferry Dock

After a long wait the residents of the First District were finally able to hear of the plans for the West End ferry terminal which was in bad shape for years and finally pummelled by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.  At the well-attended meeting that was held on 2 April the preliminary plans in relations to the concept for the redevelopment of the West End Ferry terminal were shared. In his chairing role of the evening’s proceeding Broderick Penn of the Disaster Recovery Coordinating Committee stated that the main aim of the gathering was to get input from residents on how they felt that the plans should progress.

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Special Treatment for Opposition and District

After complaining for many years about the manner in which Districts represented by Opposition members were treated newly appointed Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie made additional allocation for district use in the 2019 budget.

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Poultry Farming Being Pushed

Poultry farming is expected to be the first agricultural product pushed by the government in its effort to revitalize that sector of the economy. Over the last few years there has been a cry in the community that agriculture was ignored with many farmers accusing the government of being deaf and blind in this area that is key to food security. The new government campaigned on the promise of reigniting interest in agriculture and newly appointed Minister with that portfolio Hon. Natalio Wheatley said that he is very eager to move agricultural initiatives forward.

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Former Festival Committee Responds to Overspending Accusation

The previous Festival and Fairs Committee heads did not take kindly to the announcement that was made by Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley at a press conference on 5 April when he said that the previous committee left a debt of $300,000. The comment was made by the Minister at a press conference that was held to announce plans for the Virgin Gorda Easter festival.  

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Police Station Burglar Deported

Courtney K. Meade who pleaded guilty to burglarising the Road Town Police Station, and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars was ordered deported from the Territory by His Excellency Augustus Jaspert. Meade was charged with aggravated burglary and carrying an unlicensed firearm. He pleaded guilty on 8 May, 2012. During the trial the Crown stated that Meade and co-accused entered the Road Town Police Station wearing masks, gloves, and armed with a glock, a crow bar and a knife.

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Draft Economic Substance Code Distributed

Financial service practitioners in the BVI are expected to receive the draft BVI Government guidance, termed the Economic Substance Code (the Code) before the end of April. This guidance document is expected to provide clarity on economic substance matters in the BVI’s quest to meet EU requirements. On March 12 the received a small breather when it was announced that the Territory was not among the European Union (EU) blacklisted countries. However, it was stated that he BVI was placed on an alternative list called Annex II and was now awaiting further EU instructions.

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BVI Fish Pillaging to Be Addressed

Steps are being taken to put an end to the decades old pillaging of BVI fish by international industrial fishing companies who mainly sweep BVI waters at nights. For years it has been stated that the approximately 200 nautical miles fishing zone of the Territory has been found to be fertile grounds for industrial fishers especially those originating from Asian countries who illegally fish in territorial waters.

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No Interest In Independence Premier Says

Talks about Territorial independence are of little interest to the new Premier who indirectly announced that going independent at this time might not be in the BVI’s interest. Although it was clear that he was responding to previous public calls for the Territory to reconsider its relationship with the mother country, Hon. Fahie never used the word “independence” in his 2019 Budget Address delivered on 2 April.

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Complaints About Immigration and Labour

Despite the various training for officers it was announced that complaints are still coming about the Immigration Department and Minister for Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley said the matter will be looked into. The Minister during a JTV interview on 11 April stated that reforms are being made to streamline the delivery of service between the Departments of Labour. He said that however, he is aware of concerns as it relates to other immigration matters.

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Health Minister Warns About Measles

After being kept at bay for decades there is a return of measles and Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Carvin Malone is using Vacination Week 2019 to educate on the matter which was reportedly triggered by an anti-vaccination movement.

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More People Turning to Cancer Society

Despite the implementation of the National Insurance (NHI), which came on stream in 2016 the BVI Cancer Society (BVICS) continues to experience a marked increase in persons accessing its services. In a report that was tabled in the House of Assembly on 2 April the BVI Cancer Society stated that even though NHI is paying for 80 percent of the medical bill, the Territory’s National Health Insurance programme does not cover a number of fees associated with diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating disease.

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Jury Unable to Reach Verdict in Interdicted Officers Case

After hearing evidence for three months, and deliberating for some eight hours the jury in the trial involving the interdicted Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) officers who were at the center of a major corruption case was unable to reach a verdict. When the trial commenced on 22 January three officers stood before Justice Rajiv Persad to answer charges associated with taking money from criminals they apprehended between the years 2012 and 2014.

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Assassination Threats Force Premier to Get Bodyguard

Assassinations threats have prompted Premier of the Virgin Islands Hon Andrew A. Fahie to be escorted by a security officer when making public appearances. Hon. Fahie made the announcement that his life was threatened during the Budget debate in the House of Assembly on 25 April.  During his contribution to the debate the Premier announced that persons have mockingly referred to the fact that he has security accompanying him. However, he announced that this is no laughing matter since there has been three threats on his life.

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Prospect Reef Staff Unpaid for Months

Third District Representative and Opposition Member Hon. Julian Fraser announced during his budget debate contribution on 26 April that staff at Prospect Reef, which is a government owned entity have not been paid since last year [2018]. The gpvernment owned Prospect Reef resort has been limping along for years and was promised a resuscitation thanks to an agreement the former government made with investors. However, the property was forced into unavailability by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

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Pre-election Roadworks Were Unbudgeted

It has been revealed that the roadworks that were carried out during the weeks leading up to the 25 February general elections by the previous government were unbudgeted and had a cost of $5M. The disclosure was made on 25 April during the budget debate by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie. The Premier commented about the works and the cost as he declared that the previous government had a problem prioritizing.

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May

Court Erred in 4th District Saga

“The court erred”, this is the basis Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock is using to appeal the 2 May High Court decision to have Fourth District Elected Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool sworn into the House of Assembly. The matter was taken before the court after Hon. Vanterpool wrote to the Clerk of the House informing of his resignation from political office days after the general elections; and then changed his mind deciding that he wanted to keep his seat.

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Regularization Initiative Under Fire

Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie defended the government’s decision to implement a regularization initiative aimed at conferring Residency and Belonger statuses on persons who have been living and contributing to the Territory for 15 years and more. While launching the initiative on 7 May the Premier explained that the program seeks to do right by all loyal residents of the Territory. “We firmly believe in the policy we are about to execute because we are of the view that a nation without a conscience, soon loses its soul,” he stated.

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NHI in Debt

The National Health Insurance (NHI) is in debt Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie disclosed during the budget debate in the House of Assembly on 25 April. In making the disclosure the Premier stated this was one of the revealed disheartening information he had to hear during Standing Finance Committee sitting.

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Huge Backlash From Regularization Initiative

Pressure is mounting on Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie as he seeks to regularize residents who have been living in the Virgin Islands for 15 years or more. The pressure which allegedly is mainly coming from Virgin Islanders commenced with threats that the Premier will not be reelected and climaxed with a petition against plans to temporarily amend the Passport and Immigration Act.

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Tax For Airbnb Operators

Properties in the Territory operating as accommodations on popular online booking platform AirBnB are now required to pay Hotel Accommodation tax. The decision to ensure that tax is collected from these properties was made by Cabinet. Airbnb is an online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties, with the cost of such accommodation set by the property owner; but previously accommodation tax revenue is not collected from such bookings.

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2023 Beneficial Ownership Deadline

The 2023 deadline extension that was offered to Overseas Territories (OT) after the UK Parliament’s mandated public register of beneficial ownership still holds. The announcement was made this week by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its (FCO) response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s (FAC) report titled ‘Global Britain and The British Overseas Territories: Resetting The Relationship.’

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Scholarship Programme Being Reinstated

Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie stated that Government is keen on reinstating the scholarship program that was halted last year because of financial difficulties.

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Fear of Losing Belonger Status

The fear that the United Kingdom government will seek to get rid of the Belonger status has been quelled by a document that was released on 14 May by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert. There was concern about the eradication of the Belonger status based on statements in the FAC’s report which was published on 21 February. The document called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to lay out a timetable for the consultation process and set a deadline for phasing out discriminatory elements of Belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents.

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Public School Mold Returns

The issue of mold in a public school has resurfaced again and Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that Government is taking action on the matter. The Premier zoomed on the issue while speaking on a matter during the Questions and Answer segment of the House of Assembly. In mentioning the most recent report of mold infestation Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly that number of high school students are suffering from mold related illnesses and the parents of these students have brought the situation to his attention.

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Dr. Smith Responds to BVI Airways Claims

Former Premier Dr. Orlando Smith has fired back at comments that were made by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew claiming that files relating to BVI Airways were missing or deleted. During the 17 May questions and answers segment of the House of Assembly Premier Fahie announced in response to a series of questions about BVI Airways that his staff were being stonewalled as they attempted to retrieve answers about BVI Airways and the $7.2M invested in the project.

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Two Protest Same Day at HOA

Two protests simultaneously took place at the House of Assembly on 17 May. One of the protests involved residents of the Fourth District; and was aimed at pleading with Speaker of the House of Assembly Julian Willock to swear in Fourth District Representative, Mark Vanterpool. The other was being done by concerned Virgin Islanders and was aimed at dissuading the House from amending and passing the Passport and Immigration Act by having all three readings that day. The two groups occupied opposing ends of the compound, with the concerned citizens adopting more of a lobbyist approach while the Fourth District residents with placards in hand peacefully encouraged legislators to help their cause.

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Public Meeting Held Over Regularization Initiative

Following days of lobbying by a small group, all Virgin Islanders were able to attend a meeting and given the opportunity to lay-bare their concerns regarding the Clear Path to Regulation initiative. This initiative aims to confer Residence and Belonger status to persons living in the Territory for 15 years or more. The big meeting took place on 20 May at the College Auditorium and before inviting the citizens to speak their mind Premier, Hon. Andrew Fahie told the audience that the gathering was democracy at work.

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Premier Vows to Fix Internet Issues

The slow and sometimes unreliable features of internet service in the Territory has been lamented for many years; however Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie is vowing that his government will bring an end to the situation once and for all. In fact, the Premier has promised to make a statement in the House of Assembly on 3 June on the matter.

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Skelton-Cline Vows to Appeal Port Dismissal

Former Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA), Claude Skelton-Cline announced on 28 May that he intends to appeal the dismissal of his case against the former Government of the Virgin Islands. Last week the matter which lingered in court for more than two years was dismissed with no cause, but the decision is not favored by Skelton-Cline who was mum on the matter for days. In finally breaking his silence on the court’s decision the former BVIPA managing director made a quick comment on his radio program.

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New Telephone Directory After 2 Years Absence

In September this year the Territory will have a new telephone directory after an almost two year absence. The decision to halt the printing of a telephone directory for the Territory since 2017 was made from regional company Yello.

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June

Immigration Legislation Passed

The Immigration and Passport (Amendment) Act 2019 has caused more contention in the Territory than any other legislation in recent history. However, the legislation’s contention did not subside with its passage on 3 June, but rather carried on into the following day with Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie and Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn making statements criticizing each other’s actions in the media.

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Immigration Minister Vows to Deport People

Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Hon. Vincent Wheatley reiterated that government has a no tolerance approach to crime and would make no hesitation to deport persons living in the Virgin Islands that carry out antisocial behavior. While speaking in the House of Assembly Hon. Wheatley commented that there are some hard working and community minded persons that have migrated to the Territory over the years that have worked to build the community.

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Premier Calls for Work Permit Limit

What was referred to as immigration reform was outlined by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie in an address to the Territory on 2 June. A big part of the reform deals with work permit holders and persons who wish to enter the Territory for work. As part of the reform Hon. Fahie said that there will be a limit on the number of new work permits that are issued in the Territory. In relating this point the Premier said: “The government also intends to cap the number of expatriates that are allowed into the Territory for work.”

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Fourth District Residents Deliver Petition to Governor

On 4 June the members of the Fourth District Grievance Committee handed over a petition with some 1000 signatures to His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert and in the process asked the Governor to use his office to intervene into the ongoing Fourth District saga involving elected Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool and Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock.

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Premier not impressed by Comments of Internet Providers

Comments by at least two telecommunications companies that the terrain of the Territory makes the cost infrastructure for telecommunications more expensive than other places and as a result the cost of internet is more expensive did not sit well with Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie.

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Statistics Office Complaint

Efforts to finally assess the standard of living and level of poverty in the Territory are proving difficult, and Director of the Central Statistics Office (DCSO) Raymond Phillips informed members of the House of Assembly during the Standing Finance Committee sittings held in April that the deadline for the  Survey of Living Conditions and Household Budget that commenced in latter 2018 might not be met.

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RFA Mounts Bay Posted For Hurricane Season

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship ‘RFA MOUNTS BAY’ which was essential in the early stage of recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria announced that it will be waiting to assist the Territory during this hurricane season.

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BVI Man Held in USVI For Firearm Possession

28-year-old Ashan Westcott who is from Tortola pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. The United States Attorney’s Office in the District of the Virgin Islands announced June 11 that. Westcott pleaded guilty before District Judge Curtis Gomez. It was explained that the issue with the firearm occurred when the BVI resident was involved in a motorcycle accident in the neighbouring US Territory two months ago.

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US Makes Request of BVI Post Office

Postmistress General (PG) Pascha Stoutt disclosed that a proposal made by the United States relating to postal fees can severely affect the BVI postal service which is already operating under a precarious situation due to damages caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Mention of the proposed issues was made by Postmistress General during her appearance before the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Assembly. Ms. Stoutt told legislators that the United States has requested self-declared rates which would severely affect the revenue of the post office.

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Government Cracking Down on Leaked Video Circulation

Government is moving swiftly to stamp out the practice of irresponsible circulating of leaked videos, especially those of an unsavory nature. This is being done by the strengthening of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Amendment) Act. Among other things the amending of the legislation will stem the circulating of certain ill-gotten photos and videos especially via social media. The decision to move forward with the amending of the Bill was made at the meeting of Cabinet on 30 May.

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Final Elections Observer Report Issued

A number of issues relating to elections day 2019 and the campaign process was outlined in the CPA BIMR Election Observer Mission’s Final report on the February general elections of the BVI. The report which was published on 6 June addressed many of the issues that were raised in the preliminary report such as suffrage and campaign finance recommendations. However, issues such poll day observation and the aggressive campaign season which the observers were initially mum on were finally mentioned.

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Speaker Agrees to Swear In Hon. Vanterpool

Following months of waiting, court appearances, a petition and a protest Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool will finally be sworn in as Fourth District Representative. The matter came to an impasse on 14 March when Hon. Vanterpool withdrew his decision to resign citing that his letter of resignation to the Clerk of the House of Assembly and not the Speaker of the House was invalid.

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Pier Park Documents Disappear

Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie suggested that documents related to the Tortola Pier Park have disappeared. The quick mention of the missing information was made by Premier Fahie in a statement on 16 June and has since left people pondering.

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97 Graduate From HLSCC

The effects that hurricanes Irma and Maria had on the student population of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College was once again reflected in the number of students that graduated from the institution as the class of 2019 consisted only of 97 students. The number of students in this year’s graduating class is a small increase from the 93 students who graduated from the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in 2018 and is a far departure from the 190 that made up the pre hurricane class of 2017.

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Premier Attends Joint Ministerial Meeting

Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie had the opportunity to discuss matters of interest to the Territory with other UK Overseas Territory Heads of Government at a pre-Joint Ministerial Council meeting that was held in the Cayman Islands. 

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Speakers Lawyer Issues Notice of Discontinuation

Veritas Law, the firm that represented Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock in the court cases against Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool issued a notice of discontinuance for the matter that before the court of appeal less than 24 hours after Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that he spoke with the Speaker regarding the swearing in of Hon. Vanterpool. 

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Big Brother Laid to Rest

A farewell service fittingly reflecting the life of well-known business man Alvin Robert Pickering who was familiar to many by his nickname “Big Brother” was held on 22 June at the St George’s Episcopal Anglican church.   Mr. Pickering was born on 30 September, 1937 and departed this life on 22 May, 2019. He was the youngest of eight children born to the late Ernest Conrad Pickering and Floresa Albertha Brewley.  

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July

Premier Flags FAC Report Tone At UKOT Meeting

While sitting in the company of other leaders of UK Overseas Territories Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that he did not approve of the tone that was used in the Foreign Affairs Committee’s (FAC) report that among other things called for the abolition of the Belonger status in the Overseas Territories. 

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Marine Mapping Survey Conducted

Some benefits, both environmental and economic, have been highlighted as spinoffs from the marine survey mapping exercise that is currently underway in territorial waters.  

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BVI HSA Holds Successful Nursing Drive

From all accounts the employment drive targeting nurses that was held by the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) was successful. In fact, officials from the BVIHSA stated that some 100 persons applied for the advertised nursing posts online, while some persons from around the region travelled to the Territory to apply for the advertised nursing roles. However, it was announced that only one person among the many applicants was a BVI Belonger.  In an interview with the Island Sun newspaper on 29 June Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BVIHSA Dr. Ronald Georges stated that job fair was successful, however, he noted that he was a little disappointed that more young persons did not attend the event to learn more about nursing. 

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147 Graduate ESHS

Success and academic prowess was the lauding of the students that graduated from the Elmore Stoutt High School on 27 June, many with high honours and honours.  Chief among the celebratory moments at this year’s graduation exercise was the mentioned that all 10 of the 2019 territorial top students hailed from the Elmore Stoutt High School. It was disclosed that these exemplary students include the 2019 Elmore Stoutt High School valedictorian Kaylian Penn, and salutatorian Shaquille Christopher.  The other top students are Akeya Herbert, Tariq Fahie, Leah Smith, Leslyn Jno-Lewis, Aryana Barrett, Jade-Allison Straker, Brent Andrew and Keyvin Atime.   The success of the class of 2019 was also highlighted in the fact that 81 of the 147 students graduated with.  

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BVIEC Ready to Implement Alternative Energy

After years of hope and waiting the use of alternative energy is officially a mainstream initiative with both private and commercial undertakings in the pipeline that is poised to contribute to an electricity system that experts and stakeholders say will be resilient, reliable, low-cost, and is green. The announcement that the BVI is ready to implement green or alterative energy methods was made by the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC). A detailed disclosure of the Territory’s readiness is contained in the British Virgin Islands Resilient National Energy Transition Strategy (R-NETS) that was approved by Cabinet on 6 February, laid before the House of Assembly on 3 June; and published on 3 July by BVIEC.

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Worrying Details About BVIAA

Within minutes both the Government and the Opposition revealed worrying details about the management of the BVI Airport Authority (BVIAA) on 16 July. On the government’s end, Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie explained that mismanagement, and wastage of millions of tax payers dollars were unveiled by the new BVIAA Board.  While on the Opposition side, Fourth District Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool accused the Government of appointing a Chairman for the BVIAA that was imprisoned for matters involving the BVIAA.

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Fourth District Saga Ends

After three months standoff that included a protest, petition; and court appearances Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool was sworn in as a member of the House of Assembly on 16 July. The administering of the oath in the House of Assembly officially ended the Fourth District saga.

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Construction Workers Accused of Exorbitant Pricing

Pricing issues involving construction workers was addressed on 10 July during the consultation of the Consumer Protection legislation at the Auditorium of the HLSCC. The matter was raised by a resident who asked the panel that included Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie, Junior Minister of Trade and Economic Development Hon. Sharie de Castro, and other government Ministers.:

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Vanterpool Gives Big HOA Speech

 On 16 July after being denied the opportunity to speak in the House of Assembly Fourth District Representative and Opposition Member Hon. Mark Vanterpool gave a speech in the yard of the House of Assembly and among the topics he addressed was the decision of Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie to have a full security detail.  Hon. Vanterpool presented his concern in questions format; and said that he intended to ask questions about the security detail in the House of Assembly that day and still intends to ask questions on the matter another time. 

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Fast Track Programme Recommences

The Fast Track to Regularization initiative that aims to present Belonger and Residency status on qualified expatriates recommenced this week after being paused for a while. In an announcement by the Premier this week qualified persons were invited to make their application for the status from 24 July. The Premier noted that the initiative was also extended to  Third Generation Virgin Islanders.

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BVI Bus Service Plans Back on course

Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Kye Rymer traveled Bermuda to observe that sister Oversea Territory’s bus system; and is now announcement that efforts to have a public bus service in the BVI are moving swiftly forward.

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NHI Described as National Crisis

“It is going to be a national crisis,” Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone declared as he laid before the House of Assembly on 31 July a report which states that the BVI National Health Insurance System (NHI) is significantly strained and suffocating because of financial issues. 

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Opposition Leader Complains About Riteway Parent Company

North West Company Inc. (“North West”) the parent company of Roadtown Wholesale/Riteway was called out in the House of Assembly on 23 July by the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn for improper business practices.

The Leader of the Opposition made the comment during the debate of the Consumer Protection legislation as he noted that trade initiatives are necessary to deal with unfair business practices in the Territory. 

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Consumer Protection Bill Referred to Select Committee

Following an insightful debate on 23 July the long awaited Consumer Protection Bill had its second reading and was referred to a Select Committee of the House of Assembly to consider it clause by clause and make further amendments.

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Deputy Speaker’s Motion Draws Heated Debate

A heated debate ensued in the House of Assembly on 26 July in relations to a Motion that was moved by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie seeking permission for Deputy Speaker Hon. Neville Smith to enter into a contract with government. Following the debate of the Resolution a division was called and the Motion ended up passing with a final tally of six yes, one no, one abstained, and two absent. There was a total of eight votes.

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Government Ready Declare its Interest

Government is keen on disclosing the interests of its members via the Register of Interests. In fact, the Premier said that the declaration would be made even if it has to be done via a public billboard. This announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie in the House of Assembly on 25 July.

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Prospect Reef Staff Owed $171,834.78 In Salary

A total of $171,834.78. in wage is salary is said to be owed to employees of the government owned Prospect Reef Resort. This announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie during the 25 July sitting of the House of Assembly.

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August

Cruiselines Agree To Hire Virgin Islanders

Preliminary discussions and arrangements are being made with a number of renowned cruise lines to facilitate employment for qualified and interested Virgin Islands. The opportunity to work internationally within the cruise industry was mentioned by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie over the last two week during the continued House of Assembly sittings. However, Hon. Fahie was sparing in the details about the initiative.

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Government Being Sued for Millions

It was revealed in the House of Assembly sitting that the central government of the Virgin Islands is being sued for millions of dollars. The disclosure was made by the Premier in the House of Assembly during the debate of a financial services related Bill.

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Airport Needs Millions ASAP

Millions of dollars are needed as soon as possible to prevent the closure of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. This announcement came on the heels of revelations about mismanagement, and wastage at the facility that was discovered by the recently appointed Board of the BVI Airport Authority (BVIAA). In relating the quandary to the Members of the House of Assembly on  2 August Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie divulged that at a meeting the BVI government was asked to urgently find $5M to prevent the airport’s shutdown. Hon. Fahie told legislators that the need for money was revealed at a meeting that government was summoned to that very morning. 

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FIFA President Visits

FIFA is pleased with works that have been conducted on the Greenland Football stadium both FIFA President Gianni Infantino, and the FIFA Vice-president/CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said that they were impressed with the development of the project. Both FIFA officials arrived in the as part of a small delegation and were greeted by members of Government, the BVI Football Association and other sports enthusiasts in the Territory.

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Court Intervenes in BVIEC Cabletv Matter

The court had to intervene in a pole sharing disagreement between BVI Cable TV and the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC). The issues between two was then brought before the public by BVI Cable TV and in its defence BVIEC followed up with a statement. However,  BVI Cable TV CEO, Romney Averad Penn announced that his company did not mean to accuse the BVI Electricity Corporation when it issued its statement last week, and was not pleased with certain aspects of the BVIEC response. 

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1000 Jobs in 1000 Days Launched

“It’s not a gimmick or a show Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie declared at the launch of the 1000 jobs in 1000 days initiative which seeks to provide employment for Virgin Islanders. The 1000 Jobs in 1000 Days initiative was one of the campaign promises that was made by the Government. The Initiative launched on 21 August attracted a large number of jobseekers and had some employers who were present. 

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Airport Director Resigns Suddenly

The Terrance B Lettsome International Airport underwent a swift management change this week that was prompted by the unexpected resignation of Acting Managing Director of the BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) Coy Levons on August 13.  The BVI Airports Authority has been in the news for the past weeks following disclosures by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie of mismanagement.  

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FATCA Reporting Causes Bank Pressure

Effects from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (or FATCA) which caused concern when it was first announced in 2012; and later implemented in 2015 are being announced that the reporting arrangement has placed pressure on banks such as the National Bank of the Virgin Islands. FATCA, which is an agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the British Virgin Islands to improve tax compliance was implemented was on 23 October 2014 under the Mutual Legal Assistance (Tax Matters) Order 2014, and took effect on 4 June 2015 via the Mutual Legal Assistance (Tax Matters) Order 2015 which provided for the identification of financial accounts, FATCA reporting obligations, and the appointment of third parties among other things.

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Hurricane Dorian Spares BVI

There was a sigh of relief when Hurricane Dorian moved away from the Territory without causing any major problem. This was the first hurricane to affect the BVI since the devastating Irma and Maria in 2017.

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Scammers Target NBVI

Scammers with apparent nefarious intentions targeted the National Bank of the Virgin Islands with a phishing email; and the bank was forced to issue a warning to its customers advising that the email was fake. The email was in the form of a bank alert that was informing the customer that their account had been debited. However, said email was in some instances sent more than once and also to  persons that are not customers of the Bank.

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Sprauve Appointed TB Chair

Kenisha Sprauve has been appointed the Chair of the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB), and based on a statement by Junior Minister for Tourism Hon. Shereen Flax-Charles the new Chair has already commenced work to improve the tourism sector. Sprauve’s confirmation was noted in the 26 July Cabinet meeting decision that was released on 22 August. According to the meeting notes the chair and other members of the BVI Tourist Board were appointed at that meeting.

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UK Responds To Premier’s Comment

Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie disclosed on 21 August that the United Kingdom has responded to the concerns that he raised in a public statement and public meetings on Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Hon. Fahie’s concerns relating to the loan guarantee that is being facilitated by the United Kingdom government were first in a statement to the Territory that was issued on 16 August. In that statement the Premier explained that his government was concerned that too much power has been vested in the Recovery Development Agency (RDA) and the Territory is being required to include funds that were not part of those sourced for recovery.

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Post Office Makes Agreement With Express Mail

A faster way to send and receiving mail at the BVI Post Office will be available soon thanks to the arrangements that are being made to have express mail service. It was mentioned that at a Cabinet Meeting that the BVI Post was permitted to enter into an agreement with EMS Cooperative, which is an international postal Express Mail Service for documents and merchandise. This arrangement will enable the BVI Post Office to provide express mail service worldwide.

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September

FCO Tells Premier to Include Governor

In a letter that was made public from the FCO Director of the Overseas Territories, Ben Merrick Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie was advised to include the Governor as part of his delegation to the United Kingdom next week.

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Premier Criticize Governor’s Actions

In two statements this week Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie criticized the action that was taken by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert in reshuffling, and appointing new permanent secretaries for Government Ministries.

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Dorian Traumatize Residents

Even though hurricane Dorian was described as not having adverse effects on the Territory, a number of residents who are reportedly traumatized by the events of 2017 went to shelters and as a result of these situations Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley has called for psychological support to be part of future territorial hurricane preparation.

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Telethon Nets $138K For Bahamas

The telethon that was hosted by the Rotary Clubs of the BVI on September 10 in support of the people of the Bahamas  was a huge success, and ended with the Clubs exceeding the minimum goal of $50,000 and raising a final figure of $138,000 in pledges. The island nation of The Bahamas recorded an unimaginable level of destruction and death when hurricane Dorian pounced earlier this month.

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Gov’t Leans Towards Signing UK Loan

The BVI Government is leaning towards signing the UK Loan Guarantee and maintaining the new line of communication that has been established with the United Kingdom Government. These were two of the announcements that were made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie at a press conference on 17 September when he reported that his recently concluded trip to the UK was a success.

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911 Upgrade Coming

The BVI will be entering the new year with a state of the art 911 system that allows persons distressed to signal for help via text message and video. The disclosure about the new upgrades to the current 911 system was made during an interview with Project Manager Russell Jones.

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VG Committee Resigns

On 23 September the members of the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival sub-Committee shocked the Territory when they all resigned from the Committee that is tasked with organizing the annual spring festivities. In the 18 September dated resignation letter that was leaked to the media it was noted that the decision to collectively resign was a unanimous one.

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Bus Service Plan Revived

The public bus service that was promised decades ago is closer now to becoming a reality as Minister for of Transportation, Works, and Utilities Hon. Kye Rymer disclosed that the routes, bus stops, and schedules are being worked on.

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October

Witness Protection Being Strengthened

More efforts are in the pipeline to strengthen the Territory’s Witness Protection programme and Commissioner of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) Michael Matthews has noted that these anonymity advancements are one of the reasons the BVI is a safe place to live.

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Crime Stopper Returning

Crime Stoppers which is a popular mechanism that encourages the public to give information that will assist officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) to solve crimes is back, thanks to a collaboration between the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association (BVICCHA) and the RVIPF. Crime Stoppers BVI was founded in 2003 as a non-profit organization.

The organization enabled the public to provide information to the police through community donations, education and using an anonymous, untraceable, confidential and free TIPS line 1-800-744-8477.

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Swim With the Dolphin Petition launched

As of 9 October, a petition that was created to stop the return of popular tourist activity “Swim With the Dolphin” had garnered 3,107 of its 5000 signature goal. The petition stemmed from the announcement that was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie that Dolphin Discovery the company that manages the ‘Swim With the Dolphin’ activity is returning after being disrupted by Hurricanes Irma in 2017.

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Cruise Representatives Visit BVI

Representatives from the major cruise lines that visit the Territory were in the Territory and participated in a town hall meeting on 2 October geared at sharing information on the current trends in the cruise industry and how the BVI’s cruise business can be improved.

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Case Filed Against BVI Airways Director

During a press conference that was held on October 2, Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie confirmed that a case has been filed in a US court in relations to former BVI Government Attorney and BVI Airways Director Lester Hyman. The Premier’s disclosure to media was in response to a media report from Offshore Alerts.

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NHI Visits Health Care Providers

The National Health Insurance (NHI) will be dialoguing with health care providers in an outreach series of meetings titled ‘pop up visits.’ These meetings are geared at clearing up misconceptions, addressing matters related to the NHI three visit policy and also discuss noted trends. The announcement about the visits was made by Manager of Beneficiary Advisory Services Casandra Lewis in a video announcement that was released recently by NHI. Lewis explained that in addition to the discussion of trends and policies NHI is hoping that the visit will strengthen it’s relationship with the providers.

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Expats Wont Be Able to Get Certain Jobs Soon

In the near future it is highly unlikely that an expatriate would be able to get certain jobs in the Territory, especially within the marine sector as Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie; and Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Hon Vincent Wheatley declared that steps would be taken to ensure that work permits are not approved for such jobs once a trained Virgin Islander is available for the position.

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RFI For Ambulance Boat Out

A faster means to transport sick and injured persons from the sister islands is closer to becoming a reality now that the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) has put out a Request for Information (RFI) for the service of an ambulance boat. The need for the ambulance boat was stressed heavily during the VIP 2007-2011 administration. However, the need was almost insisted on 2011 when it was announced that sick and injured persons were made to wait in agony at the ferry dock on the sister island until the regularly scheduled ferry arrived.

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Haitian Captain Deported

Luc Eloi, a national of Haiti that was found guilty of smuggling related charges was ordered deported from the Territory.

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Admin Building Named After Hon. O’Neal

Many of the members of the House of Assembly (HOA) took a walk down memory lane during the 18 October continuation sitting as they shared stories of times and experiences with HOA Member Emeritus and former Ninth District Representative Hon. Ralph O’Neal as they debated a Motion to have the Central Administration Complex named after the former legislator. The Motion was passed unanimously.

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HLSCC President Resign

No reasons were given, Minister for Education and Culture, Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley announced on October 22 in response to a media question regarding the resignation of Acting President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Judith Vanterpool with immediate effect on October 18.

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Hong Kong Protests Does Not BVI

The protests that marred the Asian Territory of Hong Kong over months have had no effect on BVI’s financial services sector Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced during the House of Assembly on 17 October. 

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Premier Forging Stronger Relationship With CARICOM

Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie is desirous of fostering a strategic, mutually-beneficial partnership with CARICOM countries which he said would result in economic prosperity for both the BVI and the region. In a statement issued on 23 October Hon. Fahie announced that regional trade is a key part of the new BVI he envisions, and he announced that strides are being made to put Virgin Islanders in driving seat of emerging industry and the main beneficiaries of the anticipated rewards.

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Premier Mum on BVI Airways

No more official announcements will be made in relations to the BVI Airways court matter as Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie disclosed that he was cautioned about speaking or commenting on the matter. Of recent BVI Airways has been back in the headlines as it was revealed that the Attorney General filed a case in the US District court of Columbia in an effort to take discovery from former BVI Government Attorney and BVI Airways Director Lester Hyman who is based in Washington DC.

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Hospital Accreditation Moving Forward

After years of planning and preparations the Dr. D. Orlando Smith/Peebles Hospital is months away from the first round of accreditation and it was announced the process is expected to last three years and upon completion elevate the standards of healthcare in the BVI.

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Late Night Ferry Planned

The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board (BVITB) commenced efforts to secure a late night ferry service to bring tourist from St Thomas, USVI to the Territory this coming tourism season.

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FSN Turns 30

Judith Charles, the President of the Family Support Network (FSN) and Sasha Stoutt Executive Director announced that the FSN in its 30 years of existence has gained the community’s respect and has witnessed evolution in the service it offers. Both of the FSN leaders were speaking on the occasion of the 30th anniversary celebration. In her reflection,  the FSN President alluded to the fact that the organization still doesn’t own its own building and after years cannot provide longterm shelter for persons in the community who need to get out of an abusive situation.

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IWeek Launched

The technological realm of entrepreneurship was explored this week commencing from October 28 when Innovation Week/IWeek officially kicked off. The week’s activities were described as a springboard or gateway into the Territory’s technological industry and sought to use education, training and discussion to garner insight into the industry in the digital industries that are emerging globally.

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November

Banco Popular VG Branch Launched

The sun has risen again for banking services in Virgin Gorda, Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie declared as Banco Popular opened its branch on Virgin Gorda filling a great need and bringing an end for travel to Tortola for banking by residents. During the launch which took place on 6 November Oran C. Roebuck, the Senior Vice President and Region Manager for Popular announced that the culmination of this banking service on Virgin Gorda is the fruit of both the current and previous administrations; and she ventured to mention the commitment both the Premiers showed to the project.

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Governor Promise to Release BVI Airways Audit

At a media briefing on 1 November His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert announced that the report that Auditor General Sonia Webster commenced more than a year ago into the BVI Airways saga will soon be ready for release.

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Shipping Price to Increase

The high price of shipping is a sore point for the Territory as shipping cost is the explanation given 90 percent of the times the question of “why is this so expensive” is asked in the BVI. Now shoppers in the Territory can expect to breathe heavier this Christmas as shipping companies serving the BVI and those plying routes around the world commence compliance with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 sulfur emissions regulation that is slated to take effect 1 January, 2020. This regulation was put in place by the IMO as an environmental protection measure.

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Nursing Scholars Didn’t Return to BVI

Chief Operation Officer of the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) Pat Malone-Smith disclosed that a number of the students who were given scholarships for nursing programmes did not return to give service to the Territory.

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Opposition Accuses Government of Nepotism

Nepotism, Cronyism and victimization were some of the charges four members of the Opposition laid on the government during a press conference on 13 November. Announcing that they were concerned about various matters Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn, Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser, Fourth District Representative Hon. Mark Vanterpool and Sixth District Representative Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines informed the media that some persons were not faring well under this administration.

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Hand Foot And Mouth Disease in Daycares

The Environmental Health Division and the Ministry of Health Department are actively advocating preventative practice for Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease since cases of the disease was discovered in daycares in the Territory. The Territory has been on alert since cases of the disease were reported; and it was announced that there are approximately 76 cases of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease specifically involving children in the various daycares in the BVI. 

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Same-Day Marriage License Approved

On 2 October the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands made the decision to delegate to the Registrar General, the power to sign same-day Marriage Licence; which is expected to facilitate cruise ship weddings.

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$414M Budget Presented

In a close to two hours presentation, on 19 November Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie delivered the 2020 Budget Estimates. The highlight of the presentation was the announcement that Government has no intention to add any new tax and that the Territory’s projected revenue is $414M. 

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Governor Delivers Throne Speech

During this legislative session the majority of the bills heading to the House of Assembly will be aimed at strengthening the Government’s mandate of “Going Green and Going SMART.” This is according to the Speech From the Throne that was delivered by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert in the House of Assembly on 14 November. In his Speech the Queen’s Representative announced that Government will be taking various pieces of legislation to the House of Assembly during this session that are designed to benefit the people of the Territory.

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Premier Gives Assurance to Airbnb Property Owners

Airbnb property owners in the Territory in the Territory were given assurance by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie that their business would not be disenfranchised. During his budget presentation on 19 November the Premier pointed out that in 2017 and 2018 while the Territory was grappling with the devastation that hurricanes Irma and Maria wrought to hotels and guesthouses in the Territory, Airbnb properties were picking up the slack. 

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Medical Marijuana Industry Commences Next Year

From next year the government will be taking actions to venture into the medical marijuana industry. This announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie in his budget address that was delivered in the House of Assembly on 14 November.

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Pari-mutuel Betting Gets Green Light

Pari-mutuel betting will finally be legal in the Territory now that both the Governor His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert, and Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie have announced plans to introduce legislation that will enable this long debated activity.

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Cancer Registry In the Pipeline

Cancer control is a large part of government’s plan to improve health care services in the Territory; this disclosure was made by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert during the Speech from the Throne that was delivered on 14 November. In his speech which outlines government’s legislative agenda for the new session of the House of Assembly Governor Jaspert announced: “The Public Health Ordinance (Cap. 194) will be amended to provide for the establishment of disease registries, including a National Cancer Registry.”

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NHI in The Red

There seems to be slow improvement in the condition of the National Health Insurance (NHI) which was described as ‘being in the red’ when the 2019 budget address was delivered a few months ago; and now under threat as the 2020 budget estimates were presented. In both instances the disclosure of the state of financial affair were made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie.

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Strong Border Protection Planned

In the near future persons who take a chance to visit the British Virgin Islands outside of the legal means to do could be facing more jail time or a larger fine. This decision was announced as one of the measures being taken to increase border protection.

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December

International Reports of Digital Currency

On 3 December, the international media was littered with reports that the British Virgin Islands is about to have a digital currency which would operate one to one against the currently used United States dollar. The announcement was circulated worldwide in a press release that was issued by LIFElabs.io.

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HOA Members Pay Tribute to RT O’Neal

It was a day of reminiscing for the legislators of the House of Assembly on 3 December as they shared stories and fondness of recently departed Member Emeritus and former Premier Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal. The fitting tributes commenced with the contribution of Senior Member of the House of Assembly and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser who served with Hon. O’Neal in multiple administrations.

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Constitutional Review in the Pipeline

The Territory’s Constitutional review, which was due in 2017, but became off railed by hurricane Irma is expected to commence next year (2020). This announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie both in a statement he delivered on the Anniversary of the 1949 Demonstration and in the budget address that was delivered on 19 November.

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Hon. Flax-Charles Breaks Silence on Reshuffling

Junior Minister and At Large Representative Hon. Shereen Flax-Charles who was mum following the Premier’s reshuffling agreement broke silence yesterday afternoon to declare that she is embracing this new change. The announcement by Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie on 26 November that he was reshuffling the two Junior Ministerial portfolios caused tongues to wag in the Territory. Speculations surfaced as one of the Junior Ministers Hon. Sharie de Castro was away on official duty and the other Hon. Flax-Charles did not comment.

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Statesman RT O’Neal Laid to Rest

It was a sad yet historical moment as the many who gathered to watch the procession leading the body of Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal to the multipurpose sports complex will never forget that moment. The procession which started at the R. T. O’Neal Administrative Complex was the start of the celebration of life the man that served the BVI for 40 years as the Chief Minister, and the first Premier of the Territory.

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Incinerator Being Fixed

As residents of the First District and surrounding areas continue to complain of the irritation associated with the smoke and fumes from the Pockwood Pond incinerator Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone announced that his Ministry is working hard to solve the problem.

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Hon. Fraser Propose Reps For JVD and VG

Senior Member of the House of Assembly and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser said that he does not feel that the three sister islands are often treated fairly and equally; and therefore, he announced that the time has come for the islands to get their own representation. 

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Census Planned

Following the devastations of hurricanes Irma and Maria a number of persons left the Territory, and it was announced that the BVI’s population decreased by a few thousands. Has the population returned to its pre-Irma figures or is there still a decrease? This is just one of the questions the 2020 census is expected to answer. Both Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie and Director of Central Statistics Raymond Phillips have on separate occasions announced that the next territory wide census will be taking place next year.

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1,500 Get Belonger/Residency Status

A gathering of over 1,500 converged at the Multipurpose Center on 16 December for the largest Belonger and Residency certificate handover ceremony the Territory has ever seen. The massive gathering consisted of persons who have been living in the Territory for more than 20 years. The large group of recipients comprised of 648 persons receiving certificates of Belonger status and 542 who would receive certificates of Residency and Belonger combined from the Fast Track programme, and persons from the applications backlog that included 129 for residency and 204 for Belongers.

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Big Bikes Legalized

Government’s controversial and unpopular promise to allow larger motorbikes into the Territory was fulfilled on 29 November when the Cabinet made the decision to  vary the import and export restrictions on engine size limit on motor cycles and their parts pursuant to the Customs Management and Duties Act, 2010, section 85(3)(a). The Cabinet decided that increased engine sizes should be allowed on the condition that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revamp the licensing mechanism for motorcycles; and impose a three-prong licensing regime that includes basic training. The initiative has been heavily criticised by members of the public.

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Dengue in BVI

Dengue is here in the Territory, however it was mentioned that persons who are infected with the disease are not going to the hospital for treatment. This nonchalant behavior of some dengue infected persons is worrying health officials who outlined that this can have certain effects. The concern was raised by Epidemiologist within the Government of the Virgin Islands Harmony Brewley during her appearance on the Umoja radio show on 5 December  that is hosted by Cromwell ‘Edju En Ka’ Smith and aired on ZBVI.

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