In his midterm report Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith admitted that mistakes have been made during his government’s tenure, and that some of government’s investments did not yield what was expected. Nonetheless, the BVI Leader stressed that his Government has invested more in the Territory than any other in BVI history; and that the public should disregard rumors that the Territory is broke.
While addressing the Territory on 10 July Hon. Smith admitted that Government has made errors over the las six years: “We know that we have not always been perfect in our efforts. Not every dollar invested has realized two dollars in return. As is the case in all human endeavors, mistakes have been made,” he said.
However, the BVI Leader stressed that despite their being some mistakes along the way his Government has not been wasteful, and therefore allegations that his government squandered tax payer’s money are false: “We pledged not to waste your tax dollars, but rather to put them to work for your benefit. And we have worked hard to fulfill that commitment in every budget, in every piece of legislation, in every expenditure, every single day.”
“We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to improve our tourism industry, to promote and protect our financial services sector, to build up our local businesses, to improve our health care, our schools, our roads, our water and sewerage systems, our electricity, and our air and sea ports; we have spent money on getting direct air access to and from this Territory; we have built clinics and community centres; we have hired teachers and provided necessary resources for our police force; we have marketed our Territory to the world and we have made sure that the benefits are enjoyed first and foremost by our people here at home,” the BVI Leader stated.
In dismissing allegations that the government was reckless with the public’s purse the Premier said: “We have made investments with care and diligence. In all cases we have sought to spend your taxpayer dollars with local businesses and local people. Where necessary, we have partnered with companies and organizations from abroad – but only after we have made certain that the benefits of doing so would be felt by our people.”
On numerous occasions the Opposition has echoed concerns that Government was not being prudent about its obligations to adhere to the Protocols for Effective Financial management, which is an arrangement the Territory entered into with the United Kingdom (UK) in 2012. The Opposition worry that failure to adhere to the Protocols creates an avenue for the UK to make further stipulations.
However, Premier Smith assured that his Government has been adhering to the requirements of the Protocols and announced that this year the BVI will achieve an important milestone by fulfilling its commitments under the Protocols: “Under that agreement, we committed that our Reserve Fund would be equal to 25% of our recurrent expenditures and this year we will hit that mark with over $60M in our Reserve Fund, there to meet the needs of our people on the proverbial Rainy Day,” the Premier said.
Once again Premier Smith declared that the economy is strong and firmly stated that government is not broke: “Our future outlook is bright. Despite what some have falsely claimed, Government is not broke – Government’s finances are as sound as any in the world. And part of that sound approach to public finance means effective borrowing to support critical capital investments,” the BVI Leader assured.
Nevertheless, the Premier did announce that the BVI has a debt percentage of 19 percent, and he urged residents to consider that other larger economies have greater debt and he assured that the current debt level is manageable.
“Today, our public debt stands at 19% of our GDP. By comparison, in the U.S. public debt is about 103% of GDP; while in the UK, public debt is about 90% of GDP. In 2015, we achieved a historical milestone when our Territory’s GDP crossed the threshold to become a $1 billion economy. In 2017, we are projecting continued growth of over 3 percent. While we would be wrong to compare our small economy to those global powers, the fact is that by any reasonable measure, our debt is manageable and in keeping with best practices,” the Premier added.