BVI News

Legislators cry for ‘diversified economy’ amid more pressure on financial services

BVI News photo

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.

READ: New legislation — Offshore companies must open physical offices in BVI, or else …

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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  1. Not2Sure says:

    It seems like every year all the politicians say the same thing. “We must diversify”. But nobody ever does anything. They still just make it as hard as possible for anyone to start a new business in BVI.

    Like 26
    • Tiny Tim says:

      Our Premier and Finance Minister knew this was coming and yet he did nothing to prepare us for this sad day. Our great country now has only one thing to offer – our natural beauty.

      We need to think about how to provide better services to attract a higher paying customer. We need to train our people to be polite and greet our visitors with smiles on their faces. We need to train our people to be friendlier to our customers. Our customers have lots of alternatives and lots of money to spend.

      When you arrive in Tahiti, you are greeted by musicians and women who put flower necklaces on you. When tourists arrive in our ports they have to wait forever in long lines while untrained employees scowl and snarl at them. When you arrive in St Thomas you are greeted with a free glass of rum. When tourists arrive Tortola they have to fill out multiple forms asking the same questions and they gots to pay a bundle just to step off the plane. Then they gots to pay another bundle just to leave.

      Let’s get creative a create a great natural and sustainable experience for our customers.

      • Reply To Tiny Tim says:

        St. Thomas and Tahiti are part of the US, if am not mistaken, so obviously their immigration and customs checks will be much more relaxed for “tourists” who originate from another US port or city.

        Yes we want a good tourism product here. But we can’t afford to be so naive, desperate and friendly that we allow criminals and undesirables to exploit and abuse us. Have you been to Australia lately, to see how they do things down there?

        • VG Resident says:

          Tahiti is a French Island Nothing to do with USA
          BVI could vastly improve the immigration process.
          Control the ferry arrivals so only one ferry comes ashore at a time.

    • Rubber Duck says:

      The tourism industry is severely hampered by the BVIs ridiculous Labour laws, the difficulty of getting here, the petty taxes, lousy reception from immigration and customs and latterly the bad image caused by the hurricanes.

      These are serious hurdles to get over if tourism is to be expanded.

  2. Hmmm says:

    Does anyone know how the public sees these bills before they are passed in the HOA? It would be good to know all the facts, or are we the people not privy to what our representatives are approving for us?

  3. bvi says:


    Like 6
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    • @bvi says:

      You can say that now but the NDP got us into this mess. The BVI is under plagues under the NDP rule. Please do not vote NDP in again whether NDP 1 or NDP 2.

      Like 1
      Dislike 4
  4. Gold mine says:

    The performance arts can be a great pillar of the BVI economy. Lots of talented musicians emerging. Provide them with A1 recording environment ( audio and video) and management and let’s see what can happen. Jamaica seems to do well in that area. Consider the cash flow when Oliver visits the BVI.

    • Educator says:

      Amen! Invest in the Arts in all its disciplines.

      Protect and preserve cultural sites so that they can be a part of the Tourism product.

      Then explore other avenues for innovation.

      • Reader says:

        I find it interesting that its not breaking news that the historical project that Hon. Pickering has been developing in his district (that is being promoted as needing to be added to the itinerary of visitors). You cannot please people. Apparently people seem to just want to focus on negatives. They’ve been saying for a while that Hon. Pickering hasn’t done anything for his district…so this development should be brought to the fore…

    • Django says:

      Who on earth is Oliver? Was he the orphan that learned how to pick a pocket (or two)?

  5. Reply says:

    Too late shall be their cry.

    The handwriting has been on the wall relative to the vulnerabilities of both the financial and tourism sectors for as long as I have been blogging here (donkey years). Yet, this government unfortunately has been sitting on it’s hands doing absolutely nothing to expand the economy.

    If their is one criticism I have of the NDP government, it seems as if they could not multi-task or do anything else other that keep up with the basics. To be fair, the VIP acted similarly.

    I have come to the conclusion for some time now that perhaps those who were running the government did not know what was meant by diversify the economy or what that would look like, and that’s perhaps why nothing significant has been done towards that end.

    It’s quite unfortunate and demonstrates to me the lack of foresight and vision for the country’s future.

    Crisis or potential crises should not be moving them to act. It’s like some people partying all night, waking up late, jumping in their car speeding towards town to catch the 6 o’clock ferry to St.Thomas. These things should have been thought out, anticipated, and prepared for, and not await crisis point.

    Now that financial dark clouds are finally gathering, they are suddenly talking about diversifying the economy? Unnerving.

    Many of us, including myself have been ringing the diversify the economy bell for years, but as far as this government and previous ones, that bell was rung and fallen on deaf ears.

    One could only surmise that they have no clue what is means to have a diversified economy and how to even begin.

    IMO, at this late hour, it’s prudent that the NEXT government consult with an emerging economies expert from day one for guidance.

    Such a person should be able to assist with feasible areas of potential economic expansion and growth.

    • One-Sided says:

      That will bring a cry for the job to go only to BVIslanders, Belongers. Or work permit requirements become so onerous that a proper consultant would withdraw. You cannot diversify an economy that is over-regulated, one which makes entrepenuership impossible or cost-prohibitive. There are just too many barriers to entry in the current BVI market.

      • Reply says:

        Agreed. Your last sentence ponts to a major problem. Its killing economic growth. If the country is ever going to move forward, it has to lower those barriers.

        Unfortunately, with the prevelant them vs us mindset among many, this might not be politically feasable until things really get bad and people begin to feel the effects of an economic downturn.

  6. paddy says:

    The BVI is really good and one thing, and that is financial services. Sorry to say, but agriculture is a dead horse as it will never be a major export for us. We do not have the resources to compete with the real big players in the Caribbean, let alone the wider world.

    This will be a really tough challenge to “diversify” our economy in a major way, anytime soon.

  7. Economist says:

    We need to have Paypal in this country!

    Like 4
    Dislike 1
  8. Sad says:

    The BVI was built in partnership with expats and locals and that’s why it was a success with both locals and expats benefiting tremendously from the fruits. Fast forward 20+ later and we feel like we have arrived, we don’t need help and everything is local local, well tell us how that has been working out for us? We should not open our gates willy nilly but we need to get serious about allowing real sustainable development in the BVI and not just concrete buildings, but meaningful economical developments that benefit everyone. In order to do so we need people with funding, contacts, experience, let’s wake up before we lose this little gem we call Nature’s Little Secret!

  9. Reality says:

    Only agriculture that would work is legalizing weed . Also a possible casino and a golf course. But then you have to get by the church people . Maybe quick marriage and easy divorce laws could also help. Medical tourism is also good ,. However add them all up together and it will not replace the financial services.

    • Say wha says:

      @reality are you suggesting narco-tourism? What next, nude beaches or naked islands?

    • Harrigan says:

      I’m surprised you’re not proposing we get some prostitution going too. I don’t mean the cheap stripper bar stuff. We’re talking high class here. And why not run some numbers rackets and set a mercenaries company too.That’s surely the way forward for BVI. Anyone gets in the way; whack em.
      Seriously, where do you get these ideas?

  10. Educate says:

    It so sad when a lot of us do not have the common understanding of the BVI Financial Services industry.

    The BVI is the number one in the world for company formation due to the advantages when forming a BVI company. A BVI company can act as a holding entity for another company, or may be used to defer taxation and minimize liability when trading companies. The flexibility of a BVI company is great for e-commerce and joint ventures. Trust and mutual funds can take advantage of the lower taxes and security of a BVI.

    I must say for I working in the financial sector this Government over the years has been on top of things with every changes that has been placed on us. Example England passing legislation that we must have a central Registry for registering directors we have place a system in place with the Registry of Corporate Affairs to do so. We must have a level playing field for local and international clients with the merging the CAP 285 Act to the BVI Business companies Act. UK also placing legislation in place that we must have a system were the Beneficial Owners for company must be registered the government spend thousands of dollars to implement the BOSS system.
    where we are now into negation not to have our information going public.

    The UK, EU, USA and other countries look at us as being to small to be making money for so much years so what they do is impose legislation in place to make it difficult for us to continue to operate in the financial services industry.

    They feel that their citizens should conduct business in their country only.

    I think it is time we start to educate ourselves and stop chatting foolishness.

    That is why the government publish information this passed in the house is the Gazette.

    Like 1
    Dislike 1
  11. E. Leonard says:

    Diversifying the economy should have always been a top priority. The BVI lacks the resources to construct either a strong primary(fishing, mining, farming, forestry) or a secondary (manufacturing) economy. It has a tertiary (service )economy anchored by tourism and financial services. Financial services and tourism are two fragile legs on an unsteady stool. If one sector tumbles, the whole economy can tumble. There are dark gathering and violently swirling economic clouds over the VI. Financial services is under heavy fire and needs a strong defence to protect and sustain it.

    Moreover, for the continued growth and development of the economy, maintaining the current quality of life and standard of living and per capita income, the economy needs to be diversified. A diversified economy is insurance to mitigate one sector tumbling from causing the whole economy to tumble. However, given the territory’s small size and lack of natural resources, diversifying the economy will be challenging. Nonetheless, the current government, along with the new and incoming government, must make divserfying the economy a TOP priority.In addition to tourism and financial services, agriculture, fishing, investing in human capital (knowledge-based economy), increased focus on blue economy, light manufacturing, ……..etc should be areas of focus.

    • Right says:

      Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

      Our current leaders didn’t invest and any of these useful ideas but they did invest in themselves. Can we do an audit of them? I bet they own a lot of BVI companies.

      I think the boss is looking pretty foolish now for telling the Brit’s that he could solve their problems by introducing them to China and Africa. (He forgot that the British used to own Hong Kong and Part of Africa.)


    • Economist says:

      Your comments on the primary economy need to be updated.

      The BVI has a large fishing zone (200 miles) which is exploited by others in both commercial (as well as sports) fishing.

      Also with new technologies such as greenhouses, farming can play a great role in either reducing the large food import bill or producing enough for export.

  12. VG Resident says:

    To improve the tourism product you will need to improve the roads. They are in terrible shape; You need to provide for water to all rental villas. You need to have high speed fiber optic internet. You need to greatly improve the ferry service from STT . Most of my guest come thru the ferry service or the VG airport. I could go on and on but just do the above and the tourists will come.

  13. CW says:

    The obvious industry is tourism focusing on growth from the villa and yachting sectors. Second, their should be a focus on enhancing medical capabilities- medical tourism sustains lots of Latin America and Asia, and also helps your local population. Lastly, financial services can remain incredibly profitable, as it has in EVERY OTHER COUNTRY THAT GOES BY TUE RULES. BVI takes this as a personal attack and that mentality holds everything back. Those who lead in transparency in finance will be the new leaders in the world economy; it’s already happening around the world. Don’t be left behind again!

  14. @Economist says:

    PayPal is the way to go. I live in St.Thomas and we have PayPal.

  15. From afar says:

    All I can say is may the good lord send some much needed blessings to the BVI.

  16. Buzzy Bee says:

    Diversify? It’s not exactly like the BVI is open to investment and industry.
    The amount of Red Tape is atrocious, work permits and such.
    The friendly folks at HM Customs are always looking for an angle to fine and penalise.
    Trade takes up an application for a license with all the speed of a snail.
    Who in their righ mind would want to start up here?

  17. Moomoos says:

    Those p****s keep waiting till the last minute when they have young people who have solid ideas. But it’s about who know who… Moomoos let us see how this story ends.

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