My goodness, the House of Assembly was busy last week. It passed lots of new bills and quite a few amendments to finance bills, most of which I feel sure the members did not fully understand, judging by the lack of comments and debate. The attorney general and her staff have been busy, presumably with input from, or urging from, the financial community.
One amendment caught my eye. Apparently, if a financial institution fails to file certain documents on time, its local agent is held responsible and faces heavy fines, even if the agent is not at fault. The amendment would remove from the local agent the onus to report — and thus the threat of fines. This means that government will, or may, lose income, but that’s all right, isn’t it, if the agent is one of us?
Two other subjects caught my eye. The premier raised the subject of drag racing again. Of course, it was under his watch in a previous administration that we spent some $96,000 on a feasibility study, which has never seen the light of day. Did the consultant recommend that we could have a viable business, and, if so, what are the details?
The premier seems to have his eye on the Raymond Hung-owned lands on Beef Island for a “drag racing stadium.” Incidentally, I thought that anyone buying land on a non-belonger land holding licence was duty-bound to develop the land within a certain number of years? What is the penalty for not doing so?
Discounting the time taken for the lawsuit over a five-star hotel and golf course on said property, which the project’s opponents ultimately lost, some 20 years have passed with no development. Now the premier says the government is in arbitration as it works to “acquire” back the land, which is more than 600 acres. But surely that would be for our huge new airport (see below), and in any case can’t they compulsorily purchase the acreage at a price favourable to them? I can’t think the BVI Airports Authority would want to engage in a drag racing business, especially if the other proposition comes to pass (see below).
I have been looking up drag racing, as anyone thinking of engaging in it can do. Firstly, it is mostly an American phenomenon, with a few tracks in Europe. Secondly, it is a dying sport. Talks are being held to consider introducing electric cars into the sport, but they would not race against traditional cars.
Now to the actual sport. Drag racing is not in a stadium or oval, but on a dead straight, high quality tarmac surface with heavy concrete retaining walls on each side, and spectators on bleachers on either side down the track. The track is nominally a quarter mile (1,320 feet) long, but the actual timing length is 1,000 feet, with a 320-foot slowdown at the end. Racing consists of two cars or motorbikes battling it out to be the fastest down the track from a standing start and trying to attain the highest final speed. Pairs of cars or bikes race, the losers being eliminated until just one victor remains.
It is said to be very boring compared to other forms of racing. Most tracks only have about three meetings a year, using the facility for fairs and concerts at other times. It is horrendously expensive to maintain the facility and organise events, though not particularly expensive for contestants once they get their vehicles here. If we were to start to see residents with true dragsters, one might think of asking where the wealth came from.
Of course, it’s possible the premier did not mean “drag” racing at all. There are other forms of racing which take place in stadiums of various types, which would take up less acreage and be more within our sphere, such as soap box derbies, petrol-powered roller skates, and electric skateboards.
Cruise ship law
The premier also introduced a bill designed to encourage cruise ships to be based here. That would entail huge logistics of fuel and food supplies on a weekly basis, together with getting twice the passenger capacity (those coming, and those leaving) to and from the island either by air or ferry. Think of two even 3,000 passenger ships every week at our pier park. That means 12,000 people movements all on one changeover day. The mind boggles. Can they really be serious? How will they sell it to a cruise line or two? Imagine the size of airport needed and the number and size of airplanes required to bring in so many people — not to mention the number of buses required to transport them to and from the pier park. We might also require large hotels for overnighters or if things go wrong with ships or flights.
The investment required is tremendous, and what do we have to persuade cruise companies to invest in the project?
Better to earn the promised billions from a few farmers at Paraquita Bay. I suspect this may be another bill that just sits on the books with no action.