Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of the Virgin Islands thank you for tuning in to my daily brief. It is important to me to have this opportunity to share with you what your government has been doing to return the Virgin Islands back to some state of normalcy and for all of us to spur on, the difficult but necessary task of rebuilding our lives and rebuilding our Virgin Islands.
Food distribution continues to be a priority for us. With the assistance of our public servants, businesses, as well as service clubs such as our Rotary Clubs, we have been having daily deliveries of food to shelters, distribution points and community members across Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. Our supermarkets are open daily and their usual importation of goods continue. Today I also received notice of additional food aid that will be collected from some CARICOM members, leaving out of St Vincent on Friday with a capacity to carry some 1800 tons of supplies. Managing the devastation of Hurricane Irma has been an unprecedented challenge, but we continue to actively work on reaching supplies and support to members of the community.
I am pleased to report that through joint efforts with the BVI Electricity Corporation, the Pockwood Pond plant is now up and running and so is the Long Bush sub-station. This means power in our capital of Road Town in areas such as Main Street, Wickhams’s Cay and at Peebles Hospital has now been restored. Along with external support our engineers at BVIEC have made significant progress in their assessment of our electrical infrastructure and continue to work to bring our islands out of the darkness that Hurricane Irma has left us.
BVIEC will be concentrating on getting electricity to the Paraquita Bay and Bar Bay plants, so that those two plants are operational in order for residents along those water routes can have a steady supply of potable water very soon.
Crime and Order
With the support of some 500 additional law enforcement officers we are rounding up individuals that are looting, destroying property and threatening the peaceful nature of our normal society.
We continue to encourage all public servants to report to their supervisors and see how they can volunteer in other areas to support the Territory’s recovery efforts. I am happy to report government agencies who restored operations include the Department of Waste Management, Social Services and Immigration.
UK Foreign Secretary Meeting
Today, Wednesday, I met UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson who had an opportunity to survey the Territory and observe the UK’s relief efforts firsthand. It was important to hear firsthand the UK Government’s commitments, both in terms of financial and technical support, to the rebuilding of the BVI. In my meeting with Secretary Johnson, I expressed my thanks to the UK government for their immediate humanitarian and security support and had a brief conversation on a longer term plan of reconstruction and a comprehensive economic package. I shared with him, the immediate needs of the Territory:
· Restoration of power, communications and continued improvement of the security situation.
· Re-establishment of the criminal justice system and the provision of public services, including schools.
· A full damage assessment to provide a baseline for the recovery plan.
· Financial and technical assistance to build back better homes, capital assets and infrastructure as well as providing support for citizens and businesses to relieve hardship, improve living conditions and support employment.
During our discussions, I raised the importance of not only the need to rebuild critical infrastructure, but also the need to support our financial services sector which is responsible for 60% of government revenues and our tourism industry which accounts for 1 in 4 jobs in the BVI.
I want to personally invite members of our business community to a series of meetings. I want to hear from our business owners about their present experiences, their plans for rebuilding and I also want to address matters such as business continuity and how Government will support their rebuilding. At those meetings I will introduce a business liaison officer that will specifically be tasked with getting businesses throughout the Territory opened and operating. These meetings will be held on:
· Thursday, September 14
· Businesses in Road Town and surrounding areas – Pier Park Lawn at 10AM
· Businesses in the 7th and 8th Districts – 8th District Office in Long Swamp at 1PM
· Friday, September 15
· Businesses in 1st District – Carrot Bay Methodist Church at 10AM
· Businesses in Cane Garden Bay and surrounding areas – Rhymer’s by the Sea at 12PM
· A meeting for the Virgin Gorda business community will be announced in the coming days.
I have now met twice in one week with banks in the Virgin Islands to ensure that business can immediately continue. They have again today given me their assurance that they can and will meet the cash demands the country now has, as my Government continue discussions with them to support the investments made by residents and businesses, and to also ensure our local economy keeps moving.
Most of our insurance companies are open and all will be functional by Monday for residents to speak with their agents and file claims as we all seek to restore our lives following the devastation left by Hurricane Irma. I want to personally encourage residents to reach out to their insurance agents and bankers to begin the rebuilding of their lives and homes. This process will not be an overnight one for us, but it is imperative that we start, we exercise some patience and that we support each other through this difficult time.
I also want to continue to encourage everyone to clean up their surroundings. The Solid Waste Department is out in garbage trucks for areas that are passable and also in smaller pick-up trucks for areas with larger downed trees to ensure that garbage is being collected and that we quickly get our islands cleaned up. Residents are asked to separate galvanize, wood and household waste, to make it easier for collection.
Tonight, I want to say a big thank you to the fine men and women of our public service who have been on duty prior to the passage of Hurricane Irma, and many continue to work around the clock even now to lead and support our response and recovery efforts. Joining them have been volunteers from the private sector and now many experts from around the region and the world. I cannot express enough my gratitude to those individuals who have come to our assistance following such an unprecedented event.
Virgin Islanders and residents, my government fully understands the task that is ahead of us. You have my commitment that we will do everything within our power to rebuild the Virgin Islands. By all accounts, Hurricane Irma has been an unprecedented event. That is why I ask all of us that call these islands home, to prepare ourselves for the task ahead of rebuilding our lives and rebuilding the Virgin Islands