A push to transition the Virgin Islands into a more diversified, tourism-led, investment-driven low carbon economy that delivers business and job opportunities for the people of the territory is being supported by the United Kingdom, the territory’s Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley has indicated.
The Premier’s statement came during a May 16, 2023, press conference following his return from the UK after attending both King Charles III's coronation and the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) between UK Ministers and Overseas Territories (OT) Leaders hosted by OT Minister the Rt Hon Frank Z. R. Goldsmith.
Discussions constructive - Premier Wheatley
“The discussions were very constructive and aimed at strengthening UK Government support for the Territories in areas such as security, climate change response, environmental protection, maritime management, economic resilience and health. We also discussed the importance of making the modern partnership between the UK and OTs work better for all concerned.”
He added that in meetings with Lord Goldsmith, the minister committed to the OTs and is doing his level best to get them additional support.
Premier Wheatley detailed that The Foreign Secretary Rt Hon James S. Cleverly also joined the JMC and he reiterated his deep commitment to the OTs and his own backing for more UK Government assistance to support the Territories in their growth and development.
“Prime Minister Rt. Hon Rishi Sunak’s approval of Ministerial leads in each UK Government ministry to handle OT matters is very welcome and very positive. This will promote UK Government's commitment to the OTs beyond the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which is an important shift in approach and a critical step in renewing the modern partnership,” he said.
In terms of BVI-UK relations, the Premier said the UK partners support local plans to engage the relevant UK Government departments on technical assistance to help advance this transition, as well as tap into the UK’s existing support schemes to unlock investment into the Territory’s economy.
JMC supports development plans by VIP Administration- Premier
“I am also very pleased that at the JMC there was UK support for my Administration’s push for infrastructure development through targeted borrowing. The UK side understands our economic needs and climate vulnerability which has to be addressed through public sector investment in resilience. In due course the Ministry of Finance will have technical discussions on loans with UK counterparts once the Ministry has prepared a borrowing package to fund our planned Public Infrastructure Improvement Programme,” he added.
The Premier said notably he had bilateral meetings with Lord Goldsmith and that the meetings were also attended by the Deputy Premier Hon Lorna G. Smith, OBE.
“We discussed governance reform, among other things. We agreed that now is the time to re-energise the reform process and to swiftly move forward with [the] implementation of the remaining elements of the COI
recommendations and other reforms.”
Dr Wheatley added that discussions will be had with Governor John J. Rankin, CMG on any additional areas where an extension or timeline revision may be required.