British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Opposition Previously Had No Objection To New Port Fees - Premier Recalls

Opposition Previously Had No Objection To New Port Fees - Premier Recalls

Notwithstanding the staunch opposition on the recently implemented port fees increase by Opposition Leader, Hon. Marlon Penn, Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie pointed out that the members of the Opposition did not raise objections to the increase when it was introduced in the House of Assembly.
hon. Penn, in a recent statement on the matter, said the hike was effectively a travesty to the people and the economy and introducing them during the ongoing pandemic was not a wise move.

“This is simply not the right time. For those business owners whose businesses are already on life support, this fee increase will only create undue hardships for those already struggling businesses. Business owners will have no other choice but to pass those very same increased fees onto the consumer, thus negatively impacting our economy,” Hon. Penn said during a statement on April 5.

Addressing the issue, which has had serious public outcry since it was introduced earlier this year and subsequently implemented a few weeks ago, Premier Fahie said when the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) decided to raise its 25-year-old fees.

“These recommendations were forwarded to the Board of the Ports for approval and subsequently after the Board’s approval, it was forwarded for Cabinet’s approval, and then to the House of Assembly where it was laid on the table of the House of Assembly without objections from any Member of the House, including members of the Opposition.”

The Premier added, “It is important to note that Cabinet stipulated and instructed that all stakeholders be engaged for further feedback prior to implementation. Also, Cabinet recommended that a full Public Relations Strategy be done by the BVIPA after the above so as to sensitize the public of the intent. These recommendations were not followed. However, the BVIPA announced in January 2021 an adjustment to port fees and the implementation thereafter. Since then, the people of the Virgin Islands, as well as the small business stakeholders, have expressed concerns, mainly regarding the timing of the new fees. Some have also recommended to the Ports Authority the need for further consultation.”

As a consequence, the Leader of Government Business informed that there would be some adjustments made.

“After having discussions with many stakeholders as well as with members of the Board and Management of the BVIPA, the BVIPA Board has agreed that the Authority will roll back the majority of the recent fee increases to the pre-March 2021 amounts. This means that majority of the fees that formed part of the fee scheduled to take effect from May 2021 are postponed,” he said.

“Furthermore, the BVI Ports Authority has informed that the majority of the announced Port Authority fee increases will now be postponed until 2022. As I said, we cannot run from this forever. We will have to find a way to do what is necessary while softening the impact it will have on the population,” he added.

Premier reasoned that with the return of cruise tourism along with other new proposed revenue streams would allow the BVIPA “to adequately function for now until our economy continues to rebound in this New Regular of living and working with COVID-19.”

Notably, the Premier did not expressly state which fees would be postponed.

Premier Fahie said as a government they are ‘mindful’ of the economic shocks caused by the 2017 weather events and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and “when your Government assumed office in 2019, we promised to always put the people of the Virgin Islands first.”

The BVIPA took significant heat for not holding consultations with stakeholders and had initially held off on implementing the fees, but after a few weeks, decided to forge ahead with the increases despite a request from the BVI Chamber of Commerce & Hotel Association to meet with senior port officials on the matter.
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