VIP Chairman Responds To The 2017 Budget Address

Hon. Andrew Fahie, Chairman Virgin Islands Party

Hon. Andrew Fahie, Chairman Virgin Islands Party

With the presentation of the Appropriation Bill for 2017 the National Democratic Party has now presented its sixth successive budget address and
in so doing has complied with Section #104 of the VI Constitution Order 2007. I can safely summarize the 2017 budget which ironically is entitled
“CHARTING OUR COURSE: Positioning the Virgin Islands for the Future” as one of disappointment. The requirements of the Constitution CANNOT and MUST NOT be subjectively complied. Not a single substantive statement has been made by the Premier with regards to the effects of not presenting, in accordance
with Section #109 of the VI Constitution, to the House of Assembly the audited financial statements of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,
2014, 2015 and now 2016. Our current Financial Secretary has been engaged in his post by the National Democratic Party since 2004. The findings of the
“Always-Present-PWC” is grossly questionable and the hiring, once again, of BDO will be scrutinized one paragraph at a time. As you are aware, His
Excellency has been asked to use the Power of his Office to cause the Audits, already completed, to be presented to the House of Assembly. It is
gross and not acceptable that, in accordance to the time table announced here today by the Premier, this critical Constitutional task will not be
completed prior to His Excellency’s exit from the territory by mid-2017 and will be left to his successor. Promises have been made before by the Premier
and Promises have been broken. There is absolutely no signal that this is yet another empty promise.

In order for anyone to chart the course forward for any future destination they must be clear of their present position. The people of the Virgin
Islands are tired of fancy speeches with some well-intended goals but void of transparency and accountability. We cannot continue to put on put. This
is now eleven budgets totaling approximately $3.3Billion dollars with absolutely no accurate account of how the people’s money has been spent for
the last ten budgets & now adding an eleventh one. This is a clear definition of non-transparency and the abuse of power. In order for a
contractor to get a contract from government he must produce to them a good standing certificate to prove that he has paid up to date ALL outstanding
monies owed to the different arms of government. Even if that same contractor is to get another government contract right after he completes
the first one he has to produce a fresh update set of the aforementioned documents in order to receive another contract from the government. The same
goes for our hard working taxi drivers that transport our children to our secondary public schools. Each school year they must go through an audit to
ensure that they are still in good standing before they can receive their contracts & payments for the transportation of our future—our children.
Any business person in the BVI and beyond that wants a commercial loan from any commercial bank MUST produce audited financial statements to prove that
they have the money in their business that they are claiming that they have so that the bank can be assured that the business is standing “on a solid
financial rock.” The people of these beautiful Virgin Islands are very intelligent people and will not be fooled any longer. This government cannot
take us to the bright future if they are not being transparent and accountable in the present. In the absence of credible audited financial
statements no one, including the Minister of Finance, can tell the public how much money we have at present so it is impossible for him to sail us to
a bright future when the compass of the boat has no absolutely no reference point of the present location/status. As we speak no one can assure us
whether or not we are spending more than we are collecting. No one can assure us that our expenditures are being met and met in a timely manner
because many vendors remain unpaid for services rendered to this government in the distant past. Our people want government to cut with the fancy
formality and deal with the reality. History bares out that you do not know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from. If this lack of
accountability continues, as it seems to be giving that another budget has been delivered without accurately accounting for how the monies were
expended in the past ten budgets, is going down a slippery slope. One where future generations will be put into financial bondage with no hope for the
future because this government continues to blatantly refuse to be accountable and transparent in the present. The future belongs to the
prepared. And a crucial part of being prepared is to improve upon weak areas by addressing them not hiding them because it will come back to haunt in the
future. Hence the strength of the future of the BVI strongly hinges on the strength of the foundation.