All eyes will be fixed on the House of Assembly on November 12 as Premier and Finance Minister, Andrew Fahie delivers one of the most important budget presentations in the history of the BVI.
As the entire economy has taken a battering from the global COVID-19 pandemic, residents eagerly wait to hear whether the budget for the 2021 fiscal year will be significantly more or less than $414,008,611 that was announced for 2020.
More importantly, residents are curious to hear how the government plans to finance its budget, especially since tourism and the financial services industry — the territory’s biggest revenue earners — have seen significant declines in recent times.
This is compounded by the fact that tourism — which accounts for an estimated 40 percent of the BVI’s economy and accounts for one in four jobs — is expected to have a ‘soft reopening’ or slow recovery for the first few months as visitors worldwide struggle to get comfortable with the new COVID-19 virus.
The slow recovery of tourism is also predicted because of the recent reopening protocols some deem too stringent and which reportedly led to several cancellations by tourists who were set to visit the BVI after December 1.
Remittance had started to earn major profits this year when the government imposed a seven percent tax on all monies leaving the BVI through money transfer agencies.
But the latest estimates published by the World Bank show that global remittances will decline by 14 percent by 2021.
This prediction is not in the BVI’s favour — a major migrant-hosting territory where expats make up some 70 percent of its workforce and fuel the remittance sector here in the BVI.
Premier Andrew Fahie has shared that it has no plans to cut the civil service. But with pressure mounting on all sides, could this become an option?
In a statement on the upcoming budget presentation, Premier Fahie said: “With this being our first budget speech since the onset of the pandemic, it is expected to be more than just about finances. It will be about continued stability, diversity, competitiveness, trade, and our people.”
Premier Fahie said that it is the government’s intention in this upcoming financial year to continue to ensure that its “legislative agenda and policies are aligned with the proposed budget so that the territory can experience overall success”.
The Premier did not give any hints as to how it expects to earn the revenue needed by his government.
But the big question remains: what income streams are going to take centre stage as the government tries to keep the economy afloat amid one of the worst pandemics to hit the world in recent times.
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