Now that the House of Assembly has passed the 2022 budget, Labour & Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley said the Virgin Islands is one of two British Overseas Territories operating without a deficit budget going into the new fiscal year.
Wheatley said it is especially important to operate a country without a deficit budget during a pandemic as it will ease some of the burdens the government faces.
“Some persons may look at that and say it’s no big deal. What’s the big deal with a deficit budget? But these have consequences. You do not want to be in a deficit budget during a pandemic. One member had said you can’t run a country on the backs of the businesses and the taxpayers. You also cannot be foolish during a pandemic because a pandemic does not have a start date and an end date,” Wheatley said.
“You cannot compare a pandemic to a hurricane. You know when a hurricane is coming and it lasts a few hours and it’s very finite, so to speak. But when you are dealing with a pandemic, this is the worse one in over 100 years. You have to be very prudent how you handle a budget,” the Labour Minister added.
The first-term legislator also commended Premier Andrew Fahie
on the approach he took with this year’s budget. He said there will never be enough money in any country to complete everything the government and the people want to accomplish.
The minister used the United States as an example whom he said had to print actual cash to offset some of its crippling debt.
“If you have been following the news in the US in the last couple of months; you see how much money they had to print. They did not print hundreds of millions; they went into the billions. In the BVI we don’t print money, we can’t print money. Therefore, we have to be very prudent on how we choose to spend our money,” he said.
“No matter what priorities you choose to do; someone will always say, oh you should have done that as opposed to that. Anything you do someone can criticise. It’s not for us to criticise what was chosen to be done but to make sure whatever we chose to do, we get maximum benefits from. Whether it be education, health, fishing or farming,” Wheatley added.
The final approved budget amounts to $397,174,331. This will comprise of $336,964,300 for recurrent expenditure; $39,402,900 for capital expenditure; $5,847,631 in contribution to various statutory funds; and $14,959,500 towards repayment of the principal on debt.
emphasised that his administration is taking steps to ensure that the BVI meets its requirements outlined in his budget address by the end of the 2022 financial year.
With the 2022 budget estimates now passed, the government is now positioned to move forward with its public programmes and key infrastructure projects.