During a roundtable discussion at the World Bank’s annual meetings in Washington DC this weekend, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith plans to make a case that the Virgin Islands should have greater access to financial support to fund its reconstruction.
The VI’s attendance at the discussion, which will focus on the effects of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, was facilitated through the United Kingdom’s World Bank membership, Dr. Smith explained in a Thursday statement.
We are also exploring options with international investors to look at reasonable and responsible opportunities for financing our rebuild,” he added. “While we are reminded daily of the importance to get our islands back to its pristine landscape, we also know that our financial actions will have a significant impact on our future development. To this end, we are seeking all possible options to fund our rebuilding responsibly.”
Those options, he added, include private investors and companies, donor agencies, countries, lending institutions, international investors and the United Kingdom government.
“In addition, we have already received some financial contributions and pledges from our regional and international friends,” he said.
This weekend’s discussions are likely to touch on challenges the UK government has faced in sourcing the funds needed for disaster relief and recovery in its hurricane-ravaged Caribbean overseas territories.
In the short-term, at least two major hurdles loom.
Firstly, the high national incomes enjoyed by the VI, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands prior to the hurricane disqualify them from using funds typically allocated for “official developmental assistance” through the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Secondly, according to a letter written by a subcommittee of the UK House of Lords to the country’s senior legislator spearheading the UK’s split from the European Union, “Brexit” means that millions in EU disaster funds that ordinarily could have benefitted the VI, TCI and Anguilla now can’t be counted on.