By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
The nefarious hurricanes Irma and Maria drove the Territory into a form of agreement and for a moment had the Opposition and Government singing a verse of Kum ba ya, as the issues prior to the catastrophe were placed on the backburner. However, as shaky allegations are made that Government may have a cash flow problem, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie has reignited the BVI Airways cash injection matter as he announced that the BVI can now benefit from the reimbursement from the airline that failed to take to the sky.
While rehashing the BVI Airways matter that saw BVI Airways failing to fly after government invested millions the Opposition Leader stated that now that the BVI is thrust into recovery mode and the Government is desperately seeking funds to rebuild the monies from BVI Airways will be useful.
Hon. Fahie said: “I have been quiet about certain things because we are in a disaster and we have to make sure that we work together and I have been doing my part with that…if you are going to tell us to take a cut and we have no choice and it comes to that — well then we have to see that same aggressiveness with you being reconciling with many things I am not going away from it —are we going back for that $7 million dollars for that plane?
Flight in Limbo
On 1 August, Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced that government intends to fight to ensure that in one form or the other there is satisfaction for the money that was invested in BVI Airways. In that address the BVI Leader mentioned that there are two options on the table to deal with the BVI Airways debacle, which became a Territorial concern on 18 July, following the receipt of an open letter from the company.
The open letter announced that the anticipated Tortola/Miami flights for which the Government injected $7M to secure their activation could not happen because the company was broke. The letter also announced that the staff of the airline were sent home.
Weeks after the BVI Airways letter was pdivulged Premier Smith declared that government is even more determined to see this situation resolved in the interest of the BVI. He told the public on 1 August: “This Government will fight with every ounce of strength to make sure that BVI Airways makes good on its commitments to this Territory – and if it cannot or will not do so, that the people of this Territory are compensated for that loss.” But a big question remains unanswered: is the airline in bankruptcy in the USA?
Plane Still Grounded
In its open letter issued in July, BVI Airways heaped blame for its inability to fly on the government. The airline maintained that the blame for the no-flight situation should not fall squarely on their shoulder because the company had done its part. “We have the planes, the organization and have secured all the difficult regulatory approvals. However, improvements to the airport required under our contract to meet basic commercially acceptable standards for processing passenger volume of this size have not been completed.”
However, in a rebuttal on 19 July Premier Smith stated that Government did meet its obligations: “The Government of the Virgin Islands recognising the need to improve airlift into the Territory for our visitors and residents alike, entered into an agreement with BVI Airways to provide the company with $7 million to operate direct flights between Miami and the British Virgin Islands. The Government has provided all the financial support agreed between ourselves and BVI Airways, and furthermore, the Airport Authority has put in place most of what was agreed to enhance the arrivals and departure experience of BVI Airways passengers including an office, additional seating, air conditioning and two ticket counters.”
“The Airport Authority is awaiting definite word on the time of commencement of flight operations to complete any further arrangements specific to BVI Airways. Having provided the agreed support, this Government and people are awaiting the commencement of the much anticipated direct Miami/ BVI flights,” the Premier added.