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 that she is seeking to bring change, to restore good governance to the Territory, to restore transparency, openness, inclusion, progress, solid experience and viable solutions.
“Mine is a solution oriented campaign. My mantra is solution, 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.
The Independent Candidate noted that the BVI is currently at a crossroads and that there are issues that seem to keep arising. She announced that the issues however did not only begin with the 2017 disasters: “Our Virgin Islands today are confronted with major challenges. Let there be no mistake about it, the problems in our country today did not begin with the August Monday floods of 2017 nor did they begin with Irma or Maria those are major climate events. Those problems were there long before and they were growing and increasing. The flood and the two hurricanes simply stripped us naked and laid them bare,” she explained.
Penn focused her address on five of the major challenges confronting the Territory and mentioned some solutions that once elected she would explore. She spoke of economic challenges that include threats to the Territory’s financial services and tourism sectors which are the BVI’s main economic pillars.
The popular candidate stressed that a myriad of social issues are part of the day-to-day concerns of residents of the BVI and are on her list of points to tackle. In chronicling these matters to the attentive gathering Mrs. Penn said: “We face social challenges including the high cost of living, the lack of consumer protection, inadequate social services, health and health care delivery — including the issues with our national health insurance – the NHI as we commonly call it; issues with education, and quality of our education,” she pointed out.
Mrs. Penn said that unfortunately the social and economic problems are compounded by various infrastructural issues: “We face problems with infrastructural challenges, including challenges with respect to our roads…we face challenges with water, sewerage, energy, telecommunications – we have very, very slow internet.”
In summarizing the issues and possible solutions the candidate explained that the BVI’s systems are not sufficiently modern/resilient or best fit to support a viable economic future and she indicated that adequate improvements would remedy the situation.
While noting early in her speech that the hurricanes of 2017 were climate related Ms. Penn explained that great attention must be paid to environmental matters for the sustainability of the BVI’s future: “We also face environmental challenges resulting in degradation of natural resources that underpin our economy and the quality of life that protect us.”
The need for diplomatic outreach and relationship fostering was stressed by the independent candidate who also pointed out that before things are sorted overseas some internal matters will need to be addressed.
She went to the heart of the problem: “We have weak governance systems, corruption and the state of our international relationships is not what it should be. Our relationship with the United Kingdom, with the European Union and our relationship with our neighbors in the US Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean needs to be strengthened and affirmed.”
The former Attorney General and former Deputy Governor emphasized that brighter days are ahead for the BVI and that the issues she highlighted can be remedied with the right leaders. In encouraging hope among the electorate she said: “To the future I look, and to the future I invite all of you to look, small as we are we can achieve greatness. We can once more stand tall and proud in the world.”
The former Minister for Health said the BVI can achieve much, but it will need the right leadership: “Leadership is many things and when I speak of leadership of course I am speaking of elected leadership to the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands because it is in the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands from the 13 men and women who we elect on the 25 February to represent us.”
“What is needed now is leadership that is competent, dedicated, able …that would be respected. Leadership that the world, and the international community would listen to. Leadership that is able to go abroad, to the various capitals and to negotiate and to seek to find what is best and right for our country,” Ms. Penn explained.
While returning to her diplomatic point Queen’s Counsel Penn noted the current economic matter will continue to be urgent after the election: “Although we have passed and amended the economic substance legislation as mandated by the European Union there remains a strong likelihood, as far as I understand it, that the Virgin Islands will be blacklisted by the EU. This can potentially have a serious negative impact on our financial services industry and in a fairly short time we could begin to see the consequences of that.”
Similarly, she mentioned the matter of BREXIT and stated that this has a great potential to impact the Territory. “Brexit can and will impact us…This is not a joke it is a serious matter…We need leaders who will be aware of those issues who will address those issues.”
Nonetheless, she said, “We have to face the world as the world is, not how we want the world to be…so we have to take urgent and immediate steps to preserve, protect, and diversify our financial services business. We have to find a way to diversify to build on what is already there and – importantly – to find a way to make ourselves different, distinct and attractive. We have to lay some new firm foundations and we have to lay them now. The time is now,” the independent at-large candidate declared.
In exploring the solutions the Queen’s Counsel said that she would also seek input from others to ensure that the undertaking is the best option. “Part of my quest and the commitment that I would make to the people of this country – in particular to our young people – is that I would welcome and foster your ideas and initiatives.”
Among the solutions put forward by Ms. Penn is a proposal for the creation of new tourist attractions that include culture and sports tourism focused initiatives. She called for the Territory to look towards a knowledge based economy. Furthermore, Penn said that the BVI needs to embrace the green and blue economy; the candidate highlighted the importance of agriculture and food security as she noted that efforts would be made in those regards.
Entrepreneurial interests would be getting attention by Penn if she is elected as she announced that more investment needs to be made in small businesses. Further the candidate announced that she feels that there is currently more lip service on the matter. She therefore suggested the implementation of incubator spaces, and the offering of training and startup concession. Additionally, she called for a fixed elections date and said that it is time that the BVI advances in this regard.