In a statement Hon. Penn said that this recent decision speaks to the absence of a coherent plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This decision lacks clarity, and therefore, it creates an uneasiness and uncertainty for families and the business community concerning its labour force. A decision with such far-reaching implications should never be a blanket decision; such a decision requires consultation and probably should allow for discretion on a case-by-case basis, and in conjunction with local businesses," he stressed.
He asked if the Government considered that there are work permit holders and work exempt persons who are married to Virgin Islanders and are gainfully employed as the breadwinners for their households who may have been shut out of the Territory?
"Because of this policy decision, they are unable to provide for their families or meet their financial obligations (loans, rent, food and statutory obligations) causing additional hardship on family units and the overall economy. These persons should be allowed to return, following clear re-entry protocols," Hon. Penn stated.
The Opposition Leader said that this move will also affect the business community and could have a negative impact on the economy.
"Did the Government consider employees either work permit or work permit-exempt holders for
functioning industries like Construction and Financial Services? Shutting out key employees from
the construction industry would have devastating consequences. Making critical labor unavailable in this industry, will create economic hardship for many companies and their limited employee base," he outlined.
The Eighth District Representative said that this decision has serious implications for all businesses in the Territory, especially the small business sector. He stated that the fact is that a large percentage of our businesses depend on work permit holders to supply their labour needs. Businesses which have been shut down or struggling for the past six months need some certainty in the policy decisions being made, so that they could adequately plan how they
would restart or maintain business operations.
"External Human Resources is a key component of many businesses and unfortunately, this level of uncertainty from our Government is going to force many of our businesses to close their doors permanently," he expressed.
Speaking to financial services, Penn noted that the impact is slightly different but has far reaching socioeconomic impact on the Virgin Islands.
He said that several persons in the Financial Services Industry are high earners and instead of going through the hassle of re-entry, would just opt to not return to the Virgin Islands and work remotely.
"This would mean the loss of work permit fees, rent to landlords, and spending in the
local economy (restaurants, bars, supermarkets and other local establishments), placing additional hardship on already struggling businesses. It could also mean a significant detraction from the strides we have made to have Financial Services companies and their personnel based in the BVI," Hon. Penn noted.
He asked that the Government must communicate clearly with the business community and wider populace on the decisions they continue to make surrounding COVID-19.
A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.