Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie said that he is speechless as he considers that Government has been paying interest on a loan that it has not used. However, Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith said that the amount Hon. Fahie stated is exaggerated and that Government made a choice to secure the loan in order to commence immediate work.
Nonetheless, Hon. Fahie during the questions and answers section of the 28 June sitting announced that he was speechless as he considered that nothing has been done to date with the $15M CDB loan drawdown that was acquired in December yet the Territory has paid interest in the region of over $200,000.
However, Premier Smith refuted the amount the Leader of the Opposition claimed was spent on fees and announced that since receiving the initial $15M rehabilitation reconstruction loan the government of the Virgin Islands has a fees total of $187,000.
The figure Hon. Smith provided was challenged by the Leader of the Opposition who announced that during the Standing Finance Committee deliberations the Financial Secretary (FS) told the House of Assembly that government already paid $200,000 plus in fees for the draw down amount thus far in terms of the interest.
“The Premier is telling me now that the figure he is giving me — what created the difference between what the FS stated for us in this honourable house that is documented, versus the figure that you have given us…so could the Premier tell us which figure is true,” Hon. Fahie asked.
In response Hon. Smith assured that his figures were accurate: “The figures I have given came from the Ministry of Finance…what I can tell you is that these were checked and rechecked and came from the Ministry of Finance.”
Hon. Fahie asked for further clarity as to why the loan was never used. The Leader of the Opposition asked: “Why did we take a drawdown of $15M to pay now over $200,000 thus far in interest if we knew as a Territory that we were not ready to spend the money? Why did we take a drawdown of $15M and have the taxpayers already paying back $200,000 plus in interest? Why didn’t we just leave the loan and drawdown when we were ready to use the loan?”
In explaining the rationale behind Government’s decision the Premier said: “Madame Speaker this is like what I call the chicken and the expectation – the idea you could have taken either the money first and when the projects are ready you start the projects or you get the projects ready and wait…There is a balance which you have to achieve. It was felt at the time when this money was received that the projects would have been ready and work would have started.”
Following the Premier’s explanation Hon. Fahie said: “Madam Speaker I am speechless …that we took a loan drawdown and we wasn’t ready and the taxpayers done pay 200,000 plus and it seems like it is ok. An explanation that is not worth salt… and that’s not correct business wise.”
Nonetheless the Premier maintained that the amount paid in fees did not amount fully to $200,000.