In a statement during the 12th Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) on July 10, 2020, Premier Fahie said he was happy to see that commercial banks in the Territory have followed his Government’s lead with the stamp duty waiver, and are offering loan packages that go further in making it easier for Virgin Islanders to own property in their name.
“For instance, with the stamp duty waiver being announced on 8 May, National Bank of the Virgin Islands has since launched a Land Loan Campaign, commencing 1 July 2020 and running until December 2020, offering 100 percent financing on raw land purchases and 6.5 percent interest, highlighting the additional savings to applicants through the stamp duty waiver.
“The bank has reported that the offer is very well received so far,” Premier Fahie stated.
NBVI has also implemented a one-year moratorium for its customer.
The Leader of Government Business assured that his Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government continues to engage the commercial banks in dialogue about other ways to help Virgin Islanders to own their own property.
Some banks lagging behind!
He noted that what is being offered by some banks, while it is very good, it is still lagging behind their competitors. “So, we are asking them to review and reconsider their position and to see how they can improve and become more competitive. Customers benefit when there is competition in the market.”
Noting that his Government has always been seeking the cooperation of the banks in the Virgin Islands from the inception of the pandemic, Premier Fahie said on 1 July 2020, he wrote to the Bank Association and the individual banks asking them, in light of the hardships that citizen are experiencing due to the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19, to consider further incentives to help citizens, not only with land ownership but with home construction.
“Some of the banks have promised to look into this request and we are keeping an optimistic mind.
“I have also asked the banks, in my most recent letter, to see if they can provide any loan facilities to assist existing and start-up small and medium-sized businesses, since these are critical to our economy.”
One-year moratorium for NBVI customers
The Premier said another area he has been dialoguing with the banks is for the relief for persons who have lines of credit such as credit cards and loans, and who would be facing hardship due to COVID-19, and therefore are unable to keep up with payments.
“Mr Speaker, you would recall that from the onset, your Government began working very diligently to prepare for and respond to COVID-19. We were conversing and providing frequent updates to the people.”
Premier Fahie said one of the recommendations of the Coronavirus Economic and Fiscal Stability Task Force in April 2020, was to approach the banks for a moratorium on personal and business loans and credit facilities, as well as Government loans.
He said the task force was cross-sectional and multi-sectoral, so it was not any grand secret what were the options under consideration.
“On 15 April 2020, in my address to the Territory, I disclosed the areas under consideration for the Phase One response; and this included requesting a moratorium of three to six months in the initial stage.
“By the very next day, we began receiving confirmation from banks that they would be implementing waivers for three to six months, on a case-by-case basis.”
As Minister for Finance, Hon Fahie said he wrote the banks again on May 4, 2020, asking them, in light of the deepening economic downturn from COVID-19 and based on the forecasts that the impacts would be protracted due to absence of a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus, to consider extending the moratorium to one year.
“I am very pleased that National Bank of the Virgin Islands, has confirmed that it has implemented a one-year moratorium for its customers, which would end 31 March 2021. On behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, I thank the Board, Management and staff of National Bank for their compassion towards the people of the Territory, and for their support.”
FirstCaribbean gives a break!
Premier Fahie said the Territory is also grateful to FirstCaribbean International Bank which responded positively and gave a break to statutory agencies that have loans with them like the BVI Ports Authority.
“I thank them for understanding the position in which we all find ourselves in this COVID-19 and to see the importance of meeting people and agencies where they are so that there is not only assurance but an opportunity for these agencies to reorganise themselves and strategise for remaining resilient in this New Regular.”
He said a follow-up letter was sent to all banks on July 1, 2020, requesting that the other commercial banks reconsider Government’s request for a one-year moratorium.
“Mr Speaker, I know the banks operating in the BVI want to help the people more than they already are doing. I know that they are aware that if their customers go bankrupt then they will have no customers left to do business with.
“We all need each other; the banks, the businesses, the customers, the employers, the workers, the Government. We live on an island, but no man, no woman, and no business is an island. We depend on each other in ways that we may not always recognise or remember. But what is important is that we must support each other to get through these unforeseen challenges so that we can look forward to having a better and brighter tomorrow,” Premier Fahie said.
Other commercial banks operating in the Territory include Banco Popular, First Bank and Republic Bank.