BVI News

COMMENTARY: Toward a vision for recovery of BVI

Benito Wheatley. Photo Credit:

By Benito Wheatley, Contributor

As the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) continues to rebuild from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a compelling vision is needed to capture the imagination of the people of the islands and gain the confidence of the Territory’s partners in the recovery.

Such a vision should not simply see the BVI restored to its pre-Irma condition, but place the society on a trajectory to surpass its previous level of development which was imbalanced.

While the Territory was relatively wealthy, its economic model was unsustainable, infrastructure subpar, communities afflicted by various social ills, and its social systems under strain by the growing demands of the society.

The BVI’s ambition rightly should be to regain its high per capita income status, but equally to attain the high quality of infrastructure, education, healthcare, sanitation and security that ideally should come with a certain level of prosperity. Singapore stands out among small states as a shining example of this dynamic.

The United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda conveniently provides sustainable development goals and targets in critical sectors that can serve as a guide for the Territory in setting its aspirations for the future.

The BVI should set its sights high and aim to become a developed society by 2030 if not before. This is an achievable goal in terms of the Territory’s high economic potential and relatively modest social and economic requirements for a modern society of its size.

In 2016 the BVI’s GDP reached a milestone of $1 billion; an impressive figure for a population of 30,000. Achieving ‘developed’ status will require rebuilding the islands’ infrastructure and systems around international standards that ensure resilience, sustainability and efficiency.

These should permeate every aspect of society from the delivery of public services to the flow of commerce. The degree of economic loss and damage to the BVI caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria was unprecedented in the Caribbean and recovery will be no small task by any measure.

The closest frame of reference in recent memory is the Territory’s economic recovery between 1971 and 1979 during which time the Administrations of the late Chief Minister Dr Hon. Willard Wheatley, MBE successfully steered the BVI out of a deep recession that began in the previous period. This ultimately resulted in the Territory getting off grant-in-aid from the United Kingdom by 1978.

This proud achievement offers hope that the islands can see a full recovery and that the wherewithal exists within the society to achieve it. If a proper course is set, the BVI can emerge as a truly modern society whose per capita income is high, infrastructure world class & resilient, economy diversified, environment preserved, communities flourishing and people empowered.

Benito Wheatley is a Policy Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge and the former British Virgin Islands Representative to the UK & EU. He can be reached at [email protected].


Copyright 2024 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

1 Comment

Disclaimer: BVI News and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the comments below or other interaction among the users.

  1. E. Leonard says:

    Benito, welcome back; your commentary(s) was missed. This is a superb read. Agree that a compelling vision/mission, coupled with strategic goals/objectives, strategies/ tactics and actions, is urgently needed to fuel the recovery effort and put the territory back on a progressive, sustainable course.

    After the decimation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the silver lining in the dark and gathering cloud is that the territory has an opportunity to refocus, regroup and reboot. Effective planning is needed to make it happened; all hands must get on deck, all hands must be pulling the wagon, all hands must exercise patience, all hands must sacrifice……..etc.

    Further, agree too that the BVI should benchmark Singapore, a small (270 square mile) city state, natural resource-poor, former Anglophone country….etc in the China Sea yet an economic power house; it is an Asian Tiger. Best wishes on your new endeavors at the University of Cambridge.

    Like 15
    Dislike 1

Leave a Comment