Governor John Rankin chaired Cabinet meetings on Nov. 2, 5 and 10 at the Financial Services Commission’s Conference Room. All members were present except Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley, who was overseas on official business for all three meetings. Attorney General Dawn Smith was also absent on Nov. 2 for annual leave. Cabinet took the following actions, according to a summary published in the Gazette last Thursday. Some of the Covid-19 protocols are no longer current.
1. Considered and approved the Draft Recurrent Budget Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Capital Development Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure in 2022; and decided that the bill titled Appropriation (2022) Act 2021, to provide servicing of the recurrent and capital budget expenditure in the 2022 financial year, be introduced for its first reading in the House of Assembly at the next convenient sitting.
2. Noted that:
a. the Public Finance Management Act of 2012 mandates that a Medium Term Fiscal Plan for the territory is to be prepared and updated as a multi-year document and that the 2022-2024 MTFP fulfils the requirement stated in Section 36(B)(2)(b);
b. by approving the 2022-2024 MTFP, there will be no breaches in any of the ratios under the Protocols for Effective Financial Management agreed with the United Kingdom in 2012;
c. the compliance with the ratios despite stretched resources not only indicates the government’s continued commitment to its fiscal responsibilities, but also to debt sustainability, while avoiding deficit spending as is the case being currently experienced by most governments worldwide significantly due to Covid-19; and
i. reviewed and approved the 2022-2024 MTFP;
ii. decided that the 2022- 2024 MTFP, inclusive of any amendments made by the Cabinet, be tabled as the final document at the next convenient sitting of the House of Assembly; and
iii. agreed that the approved 2022-2024 Medium Term Fiscal Plan be submitted to the minister of the overseas territories as a matter of priority.
1. Reviewed and approved: a. the amendments to the “Cruise Protocol and Operation Plan” to allow for the following:
i. fully vaccinated cruise passengers who embark a cruise vessel with a negative PCR or antigen test as stated in the Cruise Protocols and Operation Plan to have free movement throughout the territory;
ii. removal of the 24-hour and on-arrival testing as stated in the Cruise Protocols and Operation Plan;
iii. fully vaccinated cruise passengers for whom the VI is not their first port of call and who have not had an antigen test within 48 hours of arrival in the VI, should be required to remain in the bubble, and if they want to leave their bubble be required to have an antigen test on arrival, the cost of which would be borne by the government;
iv. removal of the requirement for vaccination dates and other medical records, which are not kept by the cruise lines as per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws in the United States that prohibit maintaining or storing of medical records with third parties; and
b. decided that persons who interface with cruise passengers and crew be strongly encouraged to become fully vaccinated, and if they are not fully vaccinated be strongly encouraged to undertake bimonthly testing; and noted that the amendments in (a)(i)(ii) and (iv) have been included in the revised plan.
2. Reviewed and approved the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s Annual Work Plan and Budget for 2021/2022 in accordance with Section 63 (4) of the Telecommunications Act, 2006; and decided that the documents be tabled in the House of Assembly at the next convenient sitting.
3. Decided to allow fully vaccinated persons travelling to the territory who present a valid antigen test within 48 hours of arrival and valid proof of vaccination to be exempted from entry testing for Covid-19 in the same manner that cruise passengers have been exempted.
1. Reviewed and approved:
a. the proposal for the management strategy for the commemoration of holidays to set up working groups/committees within the relevant agencies to advise Cabinet on activities to be held to commemorate the holidays and to formulate a communication strategy for the same;
b. the composition of committees as below:
i. Anniversary of the Birthday of H. Lavity Stoutt to be chaired by the Premier’s Office. The committee members would include Premier’s Office permanent secretary or designate; the PS in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture or designate; the PS in the Deputy Governor’s Office or designate; the director of culture or designate; the chief information officer or designate; the director of Virgin Islands Studies at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College or designate; a representative from the VI Youth Parliament and a representative of the family of the late H. Lavity Stoutt.
ii. Sovereign’s Birthday to be chaired by the Deputy Governor’s Office. The committee members would include the DGO PS or designate; Premier’s Office PS or designate; the police commissioner or designate; prisons superintendent or designate; the chief fire officer or designate; the head of Governor’s Office or designate; the protocol officer in the Governor’s Office; the chief of staff in the Governor’s Office; a representative of the VI Youth Parliament; and the DGO communications officer.
iii. Virgin Islands Day to be chaired by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture. The committee members would include the ministry’s PS; the Premier’s Office PS or designate; the DGO PS or designate; the director of culture or designate; the director of Youth Affairs and Sports or designate; the chief information officer or designate; the director of VI Studies at HLSCC or designate; and a representative of the VI Youth Parliament.
iv. Celebrations for religious holidays — Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and Christmas Day — would be led by individual religious organisations.
v. Celebrations for New Year’s Day would be led by individual religious, cultural and business organisations.
vi. The Commemoration of the 1949 Great March and the Restoration of the Legislative Council holiday to be chaired by the House of Assembly. The committee members would include the clerk of the House of Assembly or designate; Premier’s Office PS or designate; ECYAFA Ministry PS or designate; director of culture or designate; director of VI Studies at HLSCC or designate; chief information officer or designate; chief records management officer or designate; three sister islands representatives; and a representative of the VI Youth Parliament; and
c. decided that the DGO commission the establishment of the committees.
2. Decided that the Hotel Aid Licence for Bitter End Yacht Club Limited be amended to include the additional items presented for duty-free importation in accordance with the Hotel Aid Ordinance (Cap 290).
3. Amended the decision taken on Nov. 5 and:
a. noted the strict Covid-19 protocols that cruise ships have put in place to ensure the safest possible environment for their passengers throughout the duration of the cruise;
b. reviewed and approved the amendments to the “Cruise Protocol and Operation Plan” to allow for the following:
i. fully vaccinated cruise passengers who embark on a cruise vessel with a negative PCR or antigen test as stated in the Cruise Protocols and Operation Plan to have free movement throughout the territory;
ii. removal of the 24-hour and on arrival testing as stated in the Cruise Protocols and Operation Plan; and
iii. removal of the requirement for vaccination dates and other medical records, which are not kept by the cruise lines as per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws in the United States that prohibit maintaining or storing of medical records with third parties; and
c. decided that persons who interface with cruise passengers and crew be strongly encouraged to become fully vaccinated, and if they are not fully vaccinated, be strongly encouraged to undertake bi-monthly testing.
4. Reviewed and accepted the evaluation report submitted by the Central Tenders Board technical evaluation committee, which was approved by the CTB on Sept. 28; accepted the recommendation of the CTB to award E&K Trucking & Construction Services Ltd. Corporation the contract for the construction of a new social home in Purcell Estate in the amount of $202,939.79.
5. Agreed to the following four priority areas of the public service, which are crucial in the further development and transformation of the public service: good governance; digital transformation of government; customer service improvement; and public administration and human resource management. Approved the sum of $7 million to transform the public service in the four priority areas over a two-year period, with $3.9 million provided in the first year, subject to funding availability, and noted:
a. that funding sources to ensure execution of the priority transformation areas will be considered in the 2022 budget estimates, subsequent budget estimates and, if required, supplementary funding; and decided that the Deputy Governor’s Office instruct the responsible ministries/departments to take action on the initiatives outlined.
6. Reviewed and approved:
a. the Maritime Law Revision Project and an estimated budget of $800,000 to support the project subject to budgetary approval in the 2022 budget process and identifying additional funding of $400,000 in grant and in-kind services from local and regional partners; and decided that:
i. the Premier’s Office instruct that a comprehensive plan, inclusive of a detailed budget, outlining the cost per phase to complete the project be prepared by the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry and submitted to Cabinet by Dec. 31;
ii. the Attorney General’s Chambers advise VISR on the most effective process for recruitment and engagement of the legal drafting team and that the chambers assist in managing the recruitment process; and
iii. the VISR engage local industry partners and regional partners to assist with supporting the project in an effort to reduce the cost.
a. the availability of scholarships with Asian universities for Virgin Islanders and that the BVI Hong Kong Office is the direct contact for all partner institutions, while the ECYAFA Ministry recommends participants for the programme through a local Asia Abroad Scholarship Committee; and
b. that any reciprocal activity which might develop will be managed by a tripartite of the BVI Hong Kong Office, ECYAFA Ministry, and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, and that student relations on the ground will be administered by the BVI Hong Kong Office.
8. Agreed that the current Covid-19 Control and Suppression (Entry of Persons) (No.3) (Amendment) (No.5) Regulations, 2021 should be amended, as necessary, in light of the amended decision to Memo No. 422/2021 – Cruise Protocols and Operation Plan (Amendment No. 2) and noted that the PS in the Health and Social Development Ministry would liaise with the PS in the Premier’s Office with respect to the amended decision.
9. Reviewed and accepted the Cabinet Office’s Monitoring Report of the Implementation of Cabinet decisions across ministries covering the period of March 1 to Dec. 31, 2019. Noted that for the reported period there was a total of 313 Cabinet decisions of which 84 percent were reportedly implemented by the respective ministries; seven percent were reported with an ongoing status or in the process of being implemented; seven percent were reported as pending/incomplete; and two percent were either not actioned for reasons such as later withdrawn or no implementation status stated.