As global economies struggle to contain the consequences of the ongoing global health emergency known as Coronavirus (COVID-19) which originated in Wuhan Hubei, China, the BVI is bracing for its share of the economic fallout as leaders agree that this is to be expected. The fear is that this situation of anticipated economic down-turn comes on the heel of announced $30M falloff from the BVI bread and butter Financial Services industry. However, as anticipation holds the Financial Services’ overarching bodies are devising a plan to weather the expected global turbulence.
It is believed that the Coronavirus which has already struck many countries will result in a decrease in revenue for the Territory at the end of this financial year. This assertion was made by Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn during the House of Assembly sitting on 27 February.
While debating the suspension Bill for the Micro Business Act, the Leader of the Opposition noted that while the Territory prepares and plans to deal with the virus itself the economic impact is beginning to show up. He told the House, “Coronavirus has already hit the BVI in a major way. The BVI Financial Services industry holds over 40 percent of its shares in Hong Kong, China, Asia Pacific region.”
In explaining the ripple effect and the impact of this global pandemic Hon. Penn mentioned that China is a major exporter to countries around the world who depend on their goods for various economical purposes. Therefore Hon. Penn mentioned that the lack of such goods will affect economies globally. This problem has already impacted Chinese exports which have hit a snag.
“Imagine the tack on implications to all the other global industries. That means an economic loss and a downturn for the US as well – who is one of the main consumers. Who is one of our main tourism customers …These are things that we have to be strategic and mindful of,” he added.
The Leader of the Opposition alluded to the fact that Asian countries (many of which are affected by the virus) are major contributors to the financial services sector.
In noting the seriousness of the situation of the virus and the BVI’s bread and butter industry Hon. Penn noted that typically the BVI gets about 10,000 to 8,000 incorporations in January alone annually. However, he pointed out that there is some concern for the first-quarter results. “That has been traditionally the busy period for incorporations. But, half of the firms have been shut down or are operating skeleton staff…We have to accelerate how we innovate in this industry, how we protect this industry,” Hon. Penn further stated.
Plans To Weather The Corona Storm
Returning to the talk show Honestly Speaking With Claude Skelton-Cline on 3 March CEO of BVI Finance Elise Donovan announced mitigating and planning has begun. She announced, “We are putting our heads together to see…what we should be doing as soon as it [the emergency]abates hopefully within the next couple of months.”
“We are certainly preparing ourselves in the BVI Finance getting ready to produce a guide for the industry in terms of preparing.” This plan Donovan explained guides the industry on business continuity efforts and working remotely.
She said that the plan extends to after the Coronavirus threat has been extinguished.
BVI In Preparation Mode
Meanwhile, a meeting was held on 3 March with His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert, Premier Hon. Andrew Fahie, Deputy Premier, and Minister of Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone and representatives of key response agencies across the public service to discuss the current global outbreak of COVID-19.
In a statement issued following the meeting the Governor announced that the conference was essential for formulating the best possible response in the Territory to the ongoing global COVID-19 outbreak, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) activated at a Level 1.
His Excellency said that the activation of the NEOC is not meant to scare residents but rather reassure that Government is taking the situation seriously. “I remind you all that at Level 1, key agencies within the NEOC are closely monitoring the situation and are standing by to escalate our activation level, should that prove necessary,” Governor Jaspert stated.