But said keeping money transfer services closed part of ‘economic concept’.
With money transfer services not included in the list of essential businesses allowed to operate during the reopening phase of the Virgin Islands economy following a month of shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heaps of criticisms were thrown at the Government of the Virgin Islands by a large number of persons on social media.
"The economy has been shut down for almost a month now. In this first phase of the reopening of our economy, only businesses that will directly contribute to national flow of income to the internal economy has been allowed to reopen first," Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) told Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) in an invited comment on April 29, 2020.
Some of the sentiments since expressed on social media in response to the decision are that Government is insensitive to the needs of persons from the Caribbean islands, knowing they are the majority of persons who use money transfer services to support their families back home, and that the move is to force those persons to spend their monies intended to be sent out of the country to help boost the local economy.
Premier Fahie; however, has since responded to the critics, letting them know that “it’s a democratic country” and everyone has a right to speak as they see fit; however, it was a decision made on sound economic standing.
“And the sound economic stance is that we are going to do a soft opening and allow certain businesses to open, continue to reassess every couple days or into the week and then make some more decisions to allow for more businesses to reopen, which we have done and we will continue to do,” Premier Fahie stated in an interview with JTV Channel 55 on May 1, 2020.
No hate for expats from Caribbean islands
Hon Fahie added that the Government has a responsibility to the people of the Virgin Islands (VI) and a responsibility to make sure the economy starts to flourish.
“We have nothing against anyone from the Caribbean countries…and that is ludicrous,” Premier Fahie said in response to critics who have been stating that the decision to keep money transfer services closed was out of hate for expatriates from the other Caribbean islands.
“Those who are using that now were on the other side of the argument when we were regularising persons from the Caribbean islands who were here for 20, 25, 30, 35 years. They were against it. Now they [are] on this side saying let's open it because you are trying to be negative to those persons from those areas and somehow they want to attach that once you sending money from Western Union you are poor.
“Those are things that have no statistical basis. They sound good.”
Western Union & Moneygram will reopen
According to Premier Fahie: “Western Union will open, Moneygram and the money services all of them will open but we have to make sure that we kick-start the economy again by making sure there is an internal flow, a rebooting of the economy because it is a new normal.”
Asked if there is any truth to the suggestions by persons that he is keeping the money transfer services closed so people who were looking to send out money will be forced to spend it in the VI, Premier Fahie it was just a decision based on an economic concept.
“We want businesses open first that will allow the circulation of money in the Territory. It has nothing to do with money services. It is an economic concept and nobody reopens their economy where the first thing they are doing is making sure that all the areas that export monies are the first thing that happens.”
Hon Fahie emphasised that he respects everyone’s views and that money transfer will reopen eventually, “but they also have to respect that we have a country to run in the best interest of the people of the BVI.”
He explained that there are a lot of social measures being put in place and it was not practical for those to be done if every place opens one time as it ran the risk of undoing all the hard work that was done to contain the virus that causes COVID-19.
“So there is not a hatred bone in my body for anyone but at the same time we leading a country where we have to do things that are in the best interest of the country. Some of them are not going to be popular. What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular,” Premier Fahie said.