While admitting that the territory has accepted a subordinate role in the financial services industry, government legislator Dr Natalio Wheatley has rebutted claims that the BVI is not benefitting enough from the so-called trillion-dollar industry.
Those claims had come from senior legislator Julian Fraser who said residents only see an insignificant fraction of the revenue financial services rake in for the BVI.
Responding to Fraser’s assertions, Dr Wheatley said: “We have settled for the crumbs from the table, I agree with him completely. But I have to challenge some of the sentiments that I heard.”
“Sixty per cent of the government’s revenue comes from the Financial Services industry. Perhaps some persons would like to see that number increased to 70 or 80 [per cent]. But, in my view, the financial services have more than done its part in the budget for the government, in providing employment, in renting buildings, in lots of different things,” Dr Wheatley argued.
He continued: “I see as well a BVI that has the highest per capita incomes in the region and in the world. So for all of our criticisms, we must ever be mindful that the $180 million or so that the government receives from the financial services industry that helps to pay lots of salaries in the BVI. Those salaries help to pay persons’ mortgages, to build these grand houses in the hills. I see lots of persons driving Range Rovers and BMW’s in the BVI. The industry has been good to us, and we have to defend it.”
We need to manage the $$ better
The government legislator said the funds must now be managed properly.
“If we want to make the argument that the $180 million or so that we get from financial services hasn’t been managed well, well I can unite with you there. I think it should be reflected more in our infrastructure, more in the skills of our people. It is actually shameful that we have had all of this money pass through the BVI yet we have so many problems with unemployment,” Dr Wheatley said.
However, the first-term legislator said the territory’s leaders are the ones who must shoulder the blame.
“Who do we blame for those things? We should blame ourselves. I wouldn’t blame the financial services for that,” he said.
Dr Wheatley further said some responsibility must also be channelled to the United Kingdom who he said did not assist the territory with its guidance as a developed nation.
“It is not just a matter of sending someone down here to try to control our finances, our decisionmaking … [they need to] allow us to develop and to grow and give us guidance. Don’t try to do it for us,” the minister stated.
“Our people needed assistance in terms of a developmental strategy, an overall strategy and the same national development plan that we are grappling with today. That should have happened 40 years ago,” he added.
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