By Mellica McPherson “Prosperous”, was the term MP James Duddridge, Minister for UK Overseas Territories used to describe the British Virgin Islands during a press briefing on 8 October. The recently appointed Minister announced that one his first decisions was to visit an Overseas Territory and his second decision was that it had to be the BVI. During a sit-down with the media, His Excellency Governor John Duncan, and Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, Minister Duddridge explained he would not judge his success as an Overseas Territory Minister based on how many visits he has made, but that he wanted to visit the Territory because of how well it is doing. The Minister said: “I wanted to visit the BVI early on because I felt that the BVI has the tourism, it has the financial services, it also is prosperous as to other Overseas Territories. I would also be visiting Montserrat as part of this trip; which obviously has other challenges; some which is shared such as the fear of natural disaster...Hopefully getting an understanding of two elements one here (BVI) where things are going very well, and an area that has been problematic, but on the up in terms of Montserrat.” The Minister did not say if he would visit any of the other UK Overseas Territories, but rather pointed out that no government wants to be jetting around on trips: “In terms of visiting other territories clearly although like your government, my government we don’t want to spend all that time jetting all over the world; actually it is more effective to work at the joint ministerial counsel level or with colleagues across the board...So it is good to see for yourself what is going on ...but I am not going to judge my performance by the number of countries I have visited.” The UK Minister lauded the Territory’s strides in financial services and tourism. In fact his highest praise was extended to the tourism pillar of the economy, and specifically praised the cruise pier project: “I think the future is very bright for tourism in the area particularly of cruise ships with the expanded area to allow better water access so that more ships can be in for longer period of times. I think tourism and the ships coming will be a key source of revenue for the area, but certainly not the only area; we are talking not only to the financial services industry but also to local businesses. It will be a driving force.” “The interesting thing is the expansion of tourism the expansion of the cruise (industry),” the UK Minister said. Prior to his arrival a government release announced that Minister Duddridge was interested in discussing matters regarding financial services during his visit. To this end, members of the media enquired what the MP’s impression of the sector was, and how he felt about the number one BVI sector.
Mr. Duddridge explained: “financial products are there for a reason, and we shouldn't shy away...we won't tolerate unethical activities...it's pretty much working together, not just the UK and the BVI but working together, but across a number of jurisdictions to make sure that businesses get the financial vehicles that they need and territories like the BVI prosper; but also that we don't inadvertently sow the seeds that transfers money for the type of things none of us would like to support such as corruption and bribery...”