The government is still of the opinion that there are stipulations in the Protocol for Effective Financial Management that can pose financial difficulties for the Territory in the near future if they are not dealt with now. However, His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert announced that he does not share the Premier’s sentiments about the Protocol.
The concerns about certain clauses of the Protocol for Effective Management and their implications impacting the borrowing of money as well as the UK £300 million loan guarantee resulted in Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie leading a delegation to the UK in September last year for talks and clarifications. Negotiations were still ongoing when the COVID-19 pandemic struck; presently while preparing to roll out the government’s stimulus plan and other financial obligations the Premier is reiterating concerns about the Protocols.
The Premier’s concerns were apparently noted by the Governor who addressed the matter during a press conference on 21 May.
While speaking specifically about the proposed Stimulus Plan, Governor Jaspert refuted the government’s claim that the plan was subjected to stipulations contained in the Protocols. He further rubbished the Premier’s claim that such stipulations could serve as a barrier to the government’s ability to deliver an economic response to COVID-19.
In shutting down the notion the Governor told the media that the Protocols had no effect on the proposed stimulus: “I have not seen any evidence to indicate that they hamper the government’s ability to bring forward an economic package for the people. From what I understand, BVI’ reserves are in a very healthy position – over $80 million according to the budget estimates announced late last year,” Governor Jaspert stated.
He further explained that the Protocols were created to ensure and maintain financial prudence. “By having them in place, BVI is sending a clear message to potential lenders and international partners, but most importantly to the people who live here, that we are committed to sensible borrowing and spending of public funds. In practice, they are about making sure governments don’t spend and borrow more than they can afford to.”
“The UK and BVI Governments have agreed to temporary breaches in the past when the BVI Government needed to borrow large amounts in exceptional circumstances. The UK is committed to supporting each territory through this crisis and is working hard to understand and meet any needs on a case by case basis,” His Excellency further noted.
Premier Pushing For Amendments
During a press conference held after the Governor made his comments the Premier expressed disagreement with the Governor’s view that there was no correlation between the Protocols and the proposed stimulus plan
In a strong response, Premier Fahie expressed his dissent with the Governor’s explanation stating: “These are not the times when only the Governor went to college and the people here did not – all of us went to school now, we will respect because I have the most respect for the post and I thank the UK in everything, but there are areas where we have a difference in position and it is for the people of the Virgin Islands.”
“This is one of those areas, we have a lot that we have in common, but I cannot be seen as disrespectful because I am taking a position for the people and the future generation. All I am saying is, I’m not coming off of this position, because those conditions that [are]going to be put in once we go below a level of the reserves, and other things that we have to do… those conditions have to be removed and the language has to be clear,” the BVI Leader added.