(BVI NEWS) – Amid calls for a referendum or even reconsideration on how government plans to finance the territory’s recovery and development, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith has made a firm decision on the matter.
The Premier said he will not change his mind about accepting the £300 million (approximately US$400 million) loan nor the accompanying conditions from the United Kingdom (UK) government.
He said the debate on the subject has gone on for too long.
“I feel at times that we have lost sight of the prize. It is now time to act! We cannot continue to look like a third-world, bombed out shell of who we were prior to September 6, 2017.”
“The reality is that we need to get our people back to work in a comfortable and productive environment. The reality is that our residents need comfortable houses to live in, good roads to drive on, and a reliable electricity supply.”
“We need all these amenities to continue attracting visitors to our beautiful shores. These amenities require money – money that is available to us in the form of both loans and grants. Without investing in these amenities business will not only stagnate, but business will move elsewhere,” a frank Premier said during a public address Monday evening.
The Premier Smith administration has been facing increasing pressure from the parliamentary Opposition and other residents to back out of its loan agreement with the UK.
According to Opposition member Julian Fraser, government is ‘mortgaging local children’s future’ by borrowing to rebuild the territory.
The Opposition member is publicly advocating against government’s financing strategy. Apparently, so is a group of anonymous residents who recently mounted a controversial billboard in Road Town; opposing the strategy.
We are not damning our people
But, Premier Smith said the territory is in no way damned if government accepts the UK’s offer and borrows.
“We must not for a moment see this as a yoke around our necks because the UK will provide a guarantee for our borrowing so that we will be able to borrow on much more favourable terms. For instance, we can borrow at an interest rate of just under one percent compared to 3.5 percent that we would have to pay without the UK guarantee,” Dr Smith said.
“Whether we borrow $100 million per annum or less will be determined by our ability to effectively spend that money, or invest that money, in our future.”
He continued: “The US$400 million dollars that the UK has agreed to guarantee is a maximum figure. We might find ourselves requiring less and indeed with your help in identifying priority projects we are still working out what that figure will be annually. The bottom line is that as a territory we are in a position to access the monies needed to rebuild.”