Amid pressure from yet another global superpower on the territory’s main revenue-earner — the financial services, several legislators in the House of Assembly are now crying for greater focus to be placed on other industries.
“We need to continue to look at the other areas and try to find a way to not be so dependent on the financial services business as we have in the past,” said Minister of Communications & Works, Mark Vanterpool, while contributing to a parliamentary debate on a piece of legislation mandating that offshore financial services companies open physical office spaces in the BVI.
The legislation is the brainchild of the European Union, which has threatened to ‘blacklist’ the BVI if it does not comply.
The EU claims the legislation is to prevent financial crime, but the local legislators believe it is a direct attack on the territory. To that end, legislators on Tuesday collectively called for the BVI to diversify its economy and focus on other revenue generators such as tourism.
“The shift to more tourism-based industries is essential,” Vanterpool told the House. “We have the natural substance in the territory of the Virgin Islands to be able to pay more attention to our tourism-based economy.”
The Works minister added: “I think we definitely need to provide all of the infrastructural things that are necessary to help to sustain and develop that side of it (the economy) whether it be roads, whether it be ports, whether it be airports.”
What about agriculture
Other legislators from both the government and the parliamentary opposition highlighted other sectors that could keep the territory’s economy afloat.
“We have the agriculture industry,” Education Minister Myron Walwyn pointed out.
“I don’t believe we are moving fast enough in that area, as well, because now we drive down the road and you see produce being sold and they are imported from somewhere else. And we have all that flat land up at Paraquita Bay. I’m concerned about those things.”
He continued: “We boast about the finishing industry and the types of fish that we have and the type of circumstance that we have around the country in our waters and we’re not doing anything with it.”
Early this year, the minister responsible for agriculture Dr Kedrick Pickering said plans were being put in place to make that sector the territory’s third economic pillar. Financial services currently sit as the first pillar and tourism the second.
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