The protests that marred the Asian Territory of Hong Kong over that last few months have had no effects on BVI’s financial services sector – Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie announced during the House of Assembly on 17 October.
For months the city of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China since 1997, saw repeated pro-democracy protests that started over citizens’ unhappiness about a Bill that was proposed. The fact that Hong King is a major hub for BVI Financial services and that there are Virgin Islanders currently working for the BVI Government there prompted Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn and Senior Opposition Member Hon. Julian Fraser to ask questions about the effects of the protest.
Hon. Fraser in his question on the matter noted that the Territory has business interest and an office in Hong Kong and he queried the safety of the staff of BVI House Asia. On the other hand, the Leader of the Opposition noted that some 40 percent of the Territory’s financial services business is concentrated in Asia. Therefore Hon. Penn asked the Premier if he has a team in place focused on looking at this issue.
Hon. Fahie while responding to both questions at different moments of the Questions and Answers portion of the sitting of the House of Assembly assured that the protests did not have any effect on the Territory’s business or its staff.
Hon. Fahie mentioned that BVI House Asia under the direction of the Premier’s Office has been closely monitoring the protests which have been taking place since June 2019. “The office staff is safe, and every measure has been taken to ensure that they are not placed in harms way at any period. The physical office is in a secure central location and under no threat from protesters. As such they are able to continue to work as representatives of the government of the Virgin Islands unimpeded,” Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly.
Regarding the financial services industry the Premier noted that the impact from the protests have been minimal with no significant effects on the function of the industry as it relates to the BVI as a jurisdiction of choice. “No evidence from any credible institution has been cited to indicate otherwise. With few exceptions, generally, most protests are held on weekends and are announced ahead of time so the authorities and the media are aware of impending obstructions,” the BVI Leader stated.
Additionally, the Premier noted that economic loss due to the protests have surrounded transportation, and Chinese businesses, not the BVI financial services. “Having no direct impact on financial services from a regional perspective. In the midst of the escalating civil unrest in the city most business entities in the financial services sector have continued to operate as usual including BVI House Asia,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Hon. Fahie disclosed that there is some resiliency in the sector. He pointed out: “While China and the Asia Pacific constitutes some 40 percent of the BVI industry, Hong Kong houses numerous cooperate service providers with branch offices around the world including BVI. These offices are globally positioned to continue business.”
Further the Premier noted that his office has been continuously monitoring the situation to note any significant changes that would impede the function or impede use of the financial services products.