BVI News

COMMENTARY: Big campaign promises but where will the money come from?


By Benito Wheatley, Contributor

The people of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) go to the polls on 25th February to elect a Government for the next four years.

The election comes as the territory is entering a period of economic uncertainty and still recovering from the hurricanes of 2017. The stakes could not be higher.

Many promises are currently being made on the campaign trail. From lofty district projects to expansive national programmes. However, few details are provided on how these initiatives would be funded.

Moreover, it seems that after the outcome of the District 9 debate in Virgin Gorda, several candidates are unwilling to participate in organised district debates to defend their own proposals.

This has left voters without a structured forum in which competing district candidates can face off against each other before the public. The same is the case for At-Large candidates.

One debate between the leaders of the various political parties is scheduled to take place very late in the campaign season on 21st February, but lands on the very same day of early voting which will exclude a segment of the electorate.

Choreographed campaign events, house-to-house visits

Until then, voters will have to settle for choreographed campaign events, online, and radio talk shows and house-to-house visits.

Fortunately, a number of media outlets have conducted interviews of candidates that provide some sense of who they are as persons and elements of their campaign platforms.

At this point in the campaign season, it is critical that voters try to maximise the available opportunities left to engage candidates and insist on hearing more than just the usual campaign promises.

They must demand answers on exactly how candidates or their parties intend to deliver on the things they have proposed should they be elected to office.

The big question, however, is where will the money come from? Especially when the government budget is tight and there is a very real risk of a hit to financial services revenue from recently legislated economic substance requirements on BVI companies.

It is highly unlikely that public funds will be available to deliver on many of the various campaign promises made by competing sides. There will have to be a prioritisation of spending.

The question is what spending priorities are appropriate for the territory’s current circumstances.

Many issues require urgent attention so there must be an honest exchange between candidates and voters for candidates to explain what issues will be tackled first and why.

This exchange must also encompass the most pressing issue for the territory at this time, which is the recovery.

What about Recovery and Development Plan?

There has been little discussion of the $500 million Recovery to Development Plan adopted by the House of Assembly in November 2018 for implementation by the Recovery Development Agency (RDA).

This is concerning when it is clear that the top priority for any new government is rebuilding the infrastructure of the islands.

What needs to be understood is how the campaign promises currently being made align with the plan or how the plan fits into candidates’ overall agenda for the territory.

The public must also know what steps will be taken to gain UK approval of a loan guarantee of up to $400 million that requires the government to meet certain conditions.

Voters must demand clarity on these issues that will directly impact the BVI’s future. The current circumstances are too serious to simply accept the usual campaign promises and demands a higher level of engagement by voters on the important issues of the day.

In the remaining two weeks of campaigning, it is critical that voters hear the comprehensive vision the various political parties and independents have for the territory, how the districts fit into that picture, and the fine details of their plans and spending priorities.

As the BVI goes to the polls, let this general election be a contest of practical ideas and realistic and affordable plans for a better future for the territory.

Benito Wheatley is a Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge and a former BVI UK & EU Representative.

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  1. Exactly says:

    The VIP especially are talking about free school lunch, building marinas, land bank, building homes yet they are accusing the NDP of leaving the Territory broke? How will a broke Territory afford all these stuff? So it means they’re either lying about the Territory being broke or lying to the people about what they are going to do if elected. I haven’t made up my mind fully about who I’m voting for but so far the NDP seems to be the more serious bunch especially atlarge, with their candidates focusing on their strengths and offering reasonable solutions and initiatives. I will listen for the next two weeks but so far I’m leaning towards NDP. People say alot about Myron but when compared to the other leaders I am willing to take my chance with him. I think he will get a lot done.

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    • 2 cents says:

      The same ndp led us here with mismanagement & giving money & consultancies to foreigners without due diligence. Don’t let their fancy words fool you they were in 8 yrs where’s all these things? Why couldn’t we function after the storms if they’re so great & smart at money? Why the RDA now?

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  2. What Time Is It? says:

    @Exactly, One thing before we all latch on to one political party or the other is to Listen, ask questions and Find out for yourself. I was in North Sound on Sunday night. Andrew Fahie was the last person to speak. He used the words “Cha Chang” to list a number of failed expensive or downright NDP programs that failed staring with the Seaborne sea plane in Gun Creek a few years ago. He followed that with several other failed initiatives; including the $7-2 million for another plane; the 40-million over-run on the pier park; 20+million in lawsuits (while we have an attorney genera); the 8-million taken from 7th-district sewage, 20+million spent on consultancies ++++. He finally added them all up with a total of several hundred million
    cha chang dollars gone from us. So, he is right; we made and had money; but the country is clearly broke and unable to repair and get back to normal. But should not have been so if we had those wasted and given away cha chang dollars. So the situation he said was a matter of using tax payers moneys wisely; then the money would be there to do the things needed to advance the country.
    At this late stage in the game, isn’t it borrowed moneys from CDB that is doing all that last minute paving from east end to VG? On Virgin Gorda we are kept awake several nights a week by heavy-duty trucks running all night carrying gravel and sand because we don’t the passenger and cargo docks are the same single dock and must be cleared b4 morning so the ferries can run without hindrance.

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    • @What time says:

      The pier park was not overrun by $40 mil that’s a lie. Further, do they have any shame? Their sidekick was the Managing Director and spearheaded the pier project. He himself said it was not overrun so pick a battle. You are grasping at straws. If you want the voters to vote for you, tell them what your strengths are, tell us where the money coming from, tell us how you’re going to do the stuff. Without the pier park Tortola would’ve already plunged into a state of depression especially the taxis

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    • Well says:

      Did he made mention of the beef island bridge,bi water contract,traffic lights at the roundabout,green house project,sea cows bay wall,Purcell and Johnson ghut bridge,roundabout outside the airport, he many consultant did VIP had in there time and the cost,CBE contracts for sewer, Andrew Trying but he have failed and will continue to fail that’s why we voting NDP all the way on the 21st and 25th..

  3. Me again says:

    @ exactly
    I feel the same way
    Not sure but leaning ; need Myron to tell us the FINANCIAL status of the Treasury
    No one is tellin us any thing : just promises
    Are they hiding something ??

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    • Star says:


    • @ Me Again says:

      Two things came out recently:

      2018 being the best year in regards to income and according to a CDB Analysis the GDP of the BVI grew in 2018.

      Also at the very first NDP Pep Rally Hon. Walwyn outlined the Reserved Fund which is money that is put aside in the budget for emergency purposes.

  4. The State of the Nation... says:

    This has been my question all along with their pie in the sky promises…ALL OF THE LOT…and it’s like they laughing we the electorate in our face as they make these promises with big smile of dem face…the country don’t have money…NDP and VIP sell this country back into slavery with poor management and other misdeeds…if the walls would only talk.

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  5. E. Leonard says:

    Indeed, there seems to be loads of promises on the white hot campaign trail. However, campaign promises are not a 20th Century, 21st Century…….etc. practice; it is an ancient practice. For example, Quintus Tullius Cicero in 64 BC advised his older brother Marcus Tullius Cicero who was running for Consul of Rome to promise everything to everyone. The belief was that it is less costly to overpromise and under deliver than to not promise at all. Quintus also advised his brother to be a chameleon on the trail.

    The territory is at a crossroad with a large Bucket List of needs with limited resources with which to solve them. Consequently, it has to prioritized the items on its Bucket List. As such, every promise should come with a funding source. Every need has an opportunity cost, ie, something is not going to get done; something will be sacrificed.

    The electorate needs to know what is going to get done, as well as what is going to be deferred or not get done. Voters must demand from candidates what their promises will cost and how they are going to fund all the promises. Moreover, the electorate also needs to hold parties and candidates responsible and accountable for their promises. The practice of overpromising and underdelivering should not be business as usual. Benito, good read!

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  6. Concerned says:

    The problem is that we have no way to hold them accountable. At the moment I actually do not see anybody deserving my vote. I had picked one candidate under the “lesser evil” selection but after hearing the campaign promises I would feel like a real idiot giving him my vote.

    • BVIslander says:

      I too find this circus unappealing, its like picking the lesser of the evils, but I think voting for one party all the way is a huge mistake. They don;t have the glitz and momentum but I am starting to look at PVIM or whatever Ronnie party called. He has never been accused of stealing and that is unheard of in BVI politics.

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      • Here we go says:

        Eyes wide open seeing the party bloggers @BVIslander. Don’t waste your time

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      • Concerned says:

        The problem I am having with the Honorable Ronny Skelton is that for 8 years he has been an important part of the NDP and now he is revealing their corruption. He was right there and never stopped it. He is to smart to pretend ignorance. It is like he and some other’s felt that the NDP ship was sinking and founded their own new party.

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    • Diaspora says:

      @Concerned, the vote is one tool to hold politicians accountable. If politicians do not deliver and still get voted iback in term after term, they are not care what voters say. On the other hand, if the poor performers are kicked to the curve, the others would get in line. One thing a politicians hates is not get elected but not getting re-elected. This bruises their ego. If they run and don’t win, they used the fox and sour grapes fable.

    • Call Me Ismael says:

      We can address this problem with whistleblower laws that some of the candidates have agreed to support! Vote for those supporting those laws and question those who don’t. We need honesty and transparency with our elected officials.

      It’s really that simple. The BVI is not hard to govern. It’s the size of a small American city. We don’t need professional politicians. We just need honest hard working people we can trust. People we can talk to and who won’t steal or mispend our money.

      Really folks it’s that simple.

  7. BVIslander says:

    I think people need to know the truth, though it may not necessarily be what they want to hear. The BVI’s finances are in a precarious state and the NDP Government did not demonstrate good financial stewardship. So why should people trust the NDP or anyone affiliated thereto? Like I have said, I am less than impress with with most of whom have so far came forward.

  8. True Dat! says:

    I predict that this man, Benito Wheatley, will one day be premier of this country. I strongly doubt that he will align himself with any of the existing parties, however. A new political institution will need to be created that is purely focused on the greater good of the territory and all of the citizens. A party that is untainted by scandals, corruption, and the misappropriation of funds. A party that truly serves the people.

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