The revised Recovery to Development Plan is designed to replace the previous one passed in October 2018 in the House of Assembly. The new version is the government’s “plan of action” for the next four years. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

Government tabled a new Recovery to Development Plan during the Oct. 17 House of Assembly sitting, introducing a 33-page document that is designed to replace the previous 116-page plan that was approved in an HOA vote last year.

Following tense debates surrounding a proposed £300 million loan guarantee from the United Kingdom, the Virgin Islands government submitted the revised plan to meet a Sept. 27 deadline as part of efforts to secure the UK offer.

The previous RDP was extensively debated before it passed last October. At the time, some politicians expressed concerns that it did not include specific spending priorities or timelines for the implementation of major projects.

Though Premier Andrew Fahie said the new plan includes a “detailed listing of recovery and development projects,” it still lacks specific spending priorities and timelines — as well as a wide range of information that was included in the previous version.

“The government concluded that [the previous plan] was too broad in scope,” the new plan states, adding, “Consequently, a collective decision was made to revise the plan to concentrate on specific sectors and projects.”

Omitted information includes a broad list of expenses for rehabilitation across several sectors; general cost estimates for ongoing and upcoming projects; and a “recovery to development vision.”

However, the bulk of the new plan — 11 of 33 pages — is a new section dedicated to updates on completed and ongoing projects.

Projection changes

The document also includes a few major changes in projected spending. For example, it estimates financing needs for the recovery at $186.9 million, of which $112.14 million is to be funded by loans sourced under the UK guarantee. It doesn’t specify a timeframe in that section, though the plan elsewhere bills itself as a four-year strategy.

The previous plan stated that the financial need for recovery would come to $580.8 million over a ten-year period, and that $247 million would be funded through loans.

Other differences between the two documents include revised estimates of planned recovery spending from specific sources: insurance settlements dropped from $44.5 million to $11 million; government funding dropped from $173 million to $28 million; and grant funding dropped from $51 million to $0. The document doesn’t provide an explanation for the changes.

Eight sections

The new plan — which includes several typographical errors — contains eight sections like the old one, but the titles of half of those sections are modified. Repeated titles are “Introduction,” “Impact Assessment,” “Recovery to Development Plan,” and an appendix section.

Instead of a “Recovery to Development Vision,” the new plan contains a “Recovery Up- date.” The section titled “Financing the Plan” also has been changed to “Funding the Recovery,” and “Governance and Implementation” is now “Recovery Plan Implementation.” Section Seven used to read “Way Forward” and is now “Next Steps – Implementing the Plan.”

The only section of the plan whose content remained nearly verbatim is the impact assessment based on data provided by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in November 2017.

Section four of the revised plan lists four “crucial sectors” that the government plans to focus on over the next four years. These include “restored functionality of human and social services” (such as housing, education and waste and debris management); “restored government functionality” (such as government buildings and systems, and security enforcement); “rehabilitated tourism product;” and“rehabilitated physical infrastructure” (such as roads and sea defences, water and sewerage works, and seaports).

Over four pages, the new “recovery to development” section outlines actions that the government plans to take to complete these projects, but does not include any budgets or timelines.

Each plan describes itself as a preliminary step in the VI’s long-term development and notes that a national development plan will be created to “provide continuity of these initiatives,” but neither plan specifies a deadline for the completion of this initiative.

Development plan

The ECLAC is supporting the government in creating the strategy, which is referenced in the revised RDP as a “National Sustainable Development Plan.”

Additionally, the latter part of the revised plan stresses the government’s intention to “formalise a joint investment partnership with the United Kingdom government and strategic partners” to build the territory as a “prototype” for green and resilient infrastructure.

The goal is to portray the VI as a “model of a climate resilient island state” with infrastructure that can withstand hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis, the document states.

The new plan passed through the Cabinet, was submitted to the UK, and eventually reached the HOA, where it was tabled without a vote or debate.

Last year, the previous plan was originally tabled at the HOA without a debate in the same manner, but it later was brought back and voted upon.

The new plan states that it will have to be approved by the Cabinet and the House of Assembly before taking effect.