Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley has attempted to downplay concerns arising from the government’s hefty multi-million dollar investment in the Joe’s Hill Manor Estate.
Eighth District Representative Marlon Penn questioned Minister Wheatley over whether any interest was earned on the investment and chastised the government for not coming up with alternative uses for the funds.
“What I’m hearing from the Minister is that there is no immediate plans to divest of some $15 million of pensioners’ money that essentially is just sitting. Is that correct, Minister?”
Wheatley said the Social Security Board spent over $41 million on the property over the years, with $26.3 million of that amount coming after the purchase of the land. When pressed about the SSB’s plan to divest its investment in the property, Minister Wheatley said he was uncertain about this, but he assured lawmakers that there was no need for any rush since the value of land usually appreciates, especially in the BVI.
“To say that it’s not making interest is a false statement,” Wheatley argued. “Land does appreciate in value. It was bought a few years ago. I cannot say specifically what the value of the land is at this point in time, but it has appreciated.” “I cannot say what the plan is [or] that the board may have for these properties… the board is here for the long run. Even if the land is not developed now, maybe in the next 50 years, it’s there, it’s not going anywhere,” he added.
The Minister argued that if the SSB needed to divest the property to get liquid cash, they would have gotten more than they paid for the land whenever they bought it back in 2016 or 2017.
“One of the things we know about land in the BVI – and all the records show it – it has the best holding value and efficient value of land in most countries in this world,” Wheatley said.
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