People think we benefit financially as a UK territory
Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has posited that many residents are afraid of changing the BVI’s status as a territory because they fear losing fundamental benefits they believe the country gets from the United Kingdom (UK).
The Premier said efforts need to be made to educate the public on what the BVI currently gets from the UK as this will put people in a better position to discuss the political advancement of the territory.
“Despite what we’ve told persons, some may believe that the UK gives us money or grants and things like that. And what is more likely is that nations that have a lower per capita income will get those big grants and despite our relationship with the United Kingdom government, we won’t get those big grants because of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) rules,” Premier Wheatley said.
He said the public must realise that becoming more independent doesn’t mean the BVI has to discard all the institutions it now enjoys because of its connection with the UK.
“Independence is not the only route, of course. But let’s say you go independent, you can still keep the legal system that you have, you can still keep the privy council as your final court of appeal. Persons need to understand these things because perhaps maybe they feel if there’ll be some fundamental shift that will hurt you in some way and persons need to be properly educated so they can consider next steps,” the Premier said.
Premier Wheatley also encouraged the community to consider the BVI’s state of readiness in comparison to Caribbean nations that severed ties with the United Kingdom in the 1900s. He said he believes the BVI is in a far better situation than those countries were at the time and this may be a good indicator of whether the territory is ready to advance politically.
“Persons must consider whether we are in a lesser state of readiness in 2022 than Jamaica was in 1962 or St Kitts in 1983 or Antigua in 1981. Is our economy stronger than those economies would have been back then? I’m not sure completely but I know we have a thriving financial services sector, a thriving tourism sector. We are considered a middle-income country with a very decent income per capita. Not to say that we don’t have our challenges but are we really that far behind all those other independent countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East at the time when they became independent?” Premier Wheatley said.
The public is divided on the matter of political advancement in the BVI. Some sections believe having the UK as a governing authority helps to keep elected leaders in check while others believe the BVI is fully capable of governing itself and should ditch the UK as a ‘mother country’.