British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Dec 04, 2021

COVID-19 grants were provided in ‘good faith’ to meet real needs– Premier Fahie

COVID-19 grants were provided in ‘good faith’ to meet real needs– Premier Fahie

Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has defended his government’s issuance of COVID-19 cash grants, despite criticisms from the Auditor General Sonia M. Webster.

“When COVID-19 hit our islands, the Government acted swiftly to provide help, including money, not only to assist hard-pressed farmers and fishermen but also to expand the numbers of both to ensure a stronger and more reliable local food supply,” the Premier said in a October 7, 2021, statement.

Gov't also wanted to help churches

He said the administration also wanted to help churches and other denominations, whose outreach work to support communities is important, along with daycare centres and schools.

“We have been criticised for what we did by the Auditor General. The people must be told the facts. The Government provided help in good faith to meet real needs,” Hon Fahie said.

The Premier said that in those terrible circumstances, it was not excessively lax or too generous in the provision of public funds since persons faced real suffering due to the COVID emergency and the government has a duty to help.

“Yes, we had to relax the conditions we would normally impose on spending public funds, but the UK Government implemented similar schemes in its own country - putting speedy help to as many people as possible first, ahead of exact assessment in each case of how much any individual claimant should receive,” he said.

Hon Fahie continued, “So they too had to relax the conditions. The National Audit Office in the UK says the UK Government schemes resulted in a bonfire of public money and that many thousands who did not need it or deserve support received the money.“

Hon Andrew A. Fahie said the government did what it had to do despite criticisms from Auditor General Sonia M. Webster.

UK Gov't also did same to help itself

The Premier said as such, the UK Government did not provide grant money to help the Virgin Islands (VI), “and those wanting us to follow the UK’s standards of governance should not expect us to have taken a very different approach from the UK Government faced by the same global emergency,” he said.

Hon Fahie had made a request from the UK for grants to assist persons who may have lost their jobs or were made to work reduced hours due to the pandemic; however, the UK-via former Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert- said the VI had enough money to help itself.

“We had to get the money to the people as soon as we could, even if it meant that some who didn’t need it, or need as much, would benefit,” Premier Fahie said.


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