Premier and Minister for Finance Andrew Fahie said local money transfer services will be allowed to reopen as soon as the British Virgin Islands economy mushrooms once more.
Premier Fahie said his administration made the decision to keep money transfer services such as Western Union closed because the local economy has fallen into a fragile state since COVID-19.
He gave that rationale amid strong backlash from certain factions of the public.
“We made our decision on a sound, economic stand and the sound economic stand is that we are going to do a soft opening and allow certain businesses to reopen, to reassess every couple days or every week, and then make some more decisions for more businesses to reopen which we have done and we will continue to do,” Fahie said in a recent JTV broadcast.
Nothing against Caribbean expats
He further said the first phase of the internal reopening is strictly for businesses that contribute to making the ‘national flow continue’ after being shut down for weeks.
“It is nothing against people from Caribbean countries. That’s ludicrous. Those who are using that now we’re on the other side of the coin of the argument when we were regularizing persons from the Caribbean who were here for 20, 25, 30, 35 years. Western Union will open, MoneyGram and their money services will open, but we have to make sure that we kick start the economy again by making sure that there is an internal flow of rebooting our economy because it is a new normal,” Fahie stated.
Keeping agencies closed also a ‘safety decision’
The Premier further stated that keeping those services closed was also a matter of safety.
“We have a lot of social measures that we are putting in place. We cannot put that in place if everywhere open one time. Then we would have open the same way we closed down and create a situation where the spread of the virus would have been even more significant to happen,” he said.
No set date has been given for the reopening these money transfer institutions.
Some members of the public have accused the Premier of being a xenophobe since his administration’s decision to halt these services comes just weeks after introducing legislation that taxes persons who send money outside of the territory. The majority of these persons are expatriates.
Premier Fahie has, however, said he forgives any person who spoke out against his government in light of this decision. He also said he believes in free speech.