A group of around 40 of what BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association Chairwoman Shaina Smith called the “unsung heroes” of the Virgin Islands economic recovery gathered on Tuesday to meet with Premier Andrew Fahie and his government in a daylong session the association dubbed a “solution forum.”
“Virgin Islands businesses are the backbone of the economy,” Ms. Smith said, adding that 2019 budget estimates projected the territory to have a real gross domestic product value of over $1.1 billion in 2018.
For that reason, she said, collaborative relationships between the public and business sector leaders are “essential to push our economy on a positive path as we enter a new stage in our national recovery and a new decade in the 21st Century, where global investments have been taking place at an unprecedented pace.”
Media were asked to leave after the opening ceremony, but the official programme stated that the forum would alternate between industry presentations and group discussions on tourism, construction, the environment, yachting, ease of doing business, and youth entrepreneurship.
During his remarks before the forum, the premier said the government is doing all it can to provide economic opportunity, but he added that the private sector will continue to play the largest role, especially as the VI’s traditional industries of financial services and tourism face threats.
“We are encouraging private individuals and corporate entities to look carefully at the present and changing landscape, and identify those openings that you can turn into viable business opportunities,” he said.
He outlined the government’s three-point plan for the economy, which is to ensure that financial services stakeholders continue to stabilise the sector; to increase earnings from tourism by increasing visitor volume and visitor spending; and to continue to develop the necessary infrastructure for business, including education.
“We must have the means of getting people and goods in and out of the territory without hassle, and — very important — we must have a trained and qualified cadre of people to perform at the highest levels in organisations,” he said.
Mr. Fahie said the forum was an extension of the themes touched upon in last month’s Speech from the Throne, which was themed “Going Green, Going Smart,” and last week’s Budget Address, particularly legislation related to customs management, merchant ship- ping and Airbnb tax.
“We looked at those pieces of legislation that, once passed, would lead to revenue generation,” he said. “Each piece of legislation is linked to strategies of diversification in the budget.”
Mr. Fahie also unveiled the government’s “green agenda for 2020,” which he said “all falls under the umbrella of one simple principle: BVILOVE.”
This slogan and logo, he said, will appear on all government communications beginning Jan. 1.
“The mission and vision of your government is to create a green BVI where all residents love living in the green BVI,” the premier said. “Employees and employers love working in the green BVI. Family and friends love visiting the green BVI, and local and foreign investors love investing in the green BVI.”