The Second District Representative said that if the proposed bill is to pass in its current form it will only result in the BVI becoming a place where the people are working for investors.
“If we are not careful the BVI that we know that our forefathers were proud to protect, proud to work hard for, proud to sacrifice for, that you cannot identify ownership of land, ownership of businesses, but then you look and see, that all you have is a territory that has its people working for its investors,” he passionately said.
According Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Andrew Fahie, who piloted the bill, said it is important for economic transformation, and it will also modernize the framework for attracting investment in the Territory.
He said it is also aimed at making it more competitive and attractive for both domestic and international investment.
Work on the bill had started under the former National Democratic Party (NDP) administration.
Hon. Turnbull said he had also raised concerns about the bill under the former government.
“It came at a time when the discussions on the airport expansion was coming around. I had my views and I still hold to the same views. I don’t have a problem developing anything in this country because it has been done before and we can continue to do it,” he said.
The opposition member added, “but when you are going tell me, that you are going to bring in whether it is Chinese, Filipinos, Africans, Cubans, Colombians on top of your people, and set up this establishment because the neighbor is cheaper and you can have your people work alongside them, get experience, and after a while they will go then you take over, now in 2021? That is what we are talking about?”
He said that the many buildings, establishments, and industries that have been built and developed by ‘our’ people, is proof of the capabilities of locals.
“And you are still telling me that you still need somebody to come in look over you and then we wonder why we always have to answer to somebody else. It’s because of our mentality because of the way we have been training our people,” he said.
He gave an example of the Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020.
“You cannot tell me on that same marijuana bill that you bringing in an investor who we don’t know and we are going to put our negros in the field to work. Think about it; you cannot tell me that you are going to have all these millionaires and billionaires to invest and develop this territory and then tell me you are going to put your people in there to work,” Hon. Turnbull bemoaned.
He said, “when you bring in these investors it is going to look, feel good for a while but then those same companies (local), which have been stapled in the Virgin Islands for so many years, what do they do?”
The second district representative said he has heard the arguments that the local businesses failed to diversify, but according to him, it is the leaders who failed to help them diversify.
“There are more security, bars, construction, and concrete businesses, businesses of the same kind in the territory. You are telling me we cannot call a forum or something that our people come together and say this is what we want to do,” he stressed.
According to Hon. Turnbull they are always ready and willing to look outside.
“We always looking to somebody and that somebody else always have a brief case and a suit and don’t look nothing like me and you,” he said.
Premier Fahie earlier outlined the objectives of the proposed bill, which he said is long overdue. He said it will revolutionize and modernize the way business is done in the BVI. He said it is to also make it more competitive and attractive for both domestic and international investment.
The Premier told the House of Assembly that the proposed bill is important for economic transformation, and it will also modernize the framework for attracting investment in the Territory.
The Trade Commission which will be set up under the Act, will be responsible for the administration of the Act. It will among other things, receive and consider the investment proposals under the Act, and approve or disapprove such applications under the Act, and promote both foreign and domestic investment by identifying specific projects for participation in those projects.
“We all know we need investment in the Virgin Islands in all forms. It (bill) aims to create a stable environment for local and foreign investors, who wish to invest in the Virgin Islands so they can feel welcome, comfortable and confident because the systems are operating in an efficient and transparent manner with good governance,” he said.
He said development is a function of the economy, the economy is a function of development and investment is a driver of both.
“If we want to attract investments then we must address the concerns and needs of investors while balancing the interest of the territory and its people. We must find the balance,” the Premier said.
He pointed out that the proposed bill is to ensure that there is clarity for the opening of investments, the procedures, and mechanisms for fairness and addressing dispute as well as an environment to ensure there is ease when doing business.
The Finance Minister in explaining the the objectives of the Act said it will provide a clear and transparent framework for investment in territory thereby further strengthening good governance; provide for an efficient dispute mechanism involving investment; provide mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination on regulatory provisions; put system in place for both international and domestic investment; encourage the creation of employment, wealth, reduce poverty, and increase more economic opportunities among other things.
The debate will continue on Monday August 23.