By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
In the middle of his government’s maximum four-year term, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith has declared that he is proud of his administration’s accomplishments, adding that the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan is among the best of them all.
“I would like to acknowledge that we are at the mid point of this term and there is quite a lot more to be done… I am proud of what we have accomplished as a government,” he said.
“To me, one of the most significant things for the people of this country was the introduction of the National Health Insurance programme… Everybody is very happy, very pleased and grateful that this is something that this government was able to bring to fruition.”
Premier Smith, who was speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday (June 7), also singled out his administration’s business development efforts.
He promised to release a more fulsome statement on his administration’s performance, adding that he will continue to meet the people’s expectation of good governance, and will forever be grateful for the confidence reposed in his government.
Politics and healthcare
Minister of Education and Culture Myron Walwyn, who also noted the mid-term milestone, touted the NHI as a standout initiative over the period.
According to him, it has helped to reduce the likelihood of political victimization in the distribution of healthcare assistance. He noted that, prior to the implementation of the NHI, persons usually approach politicians for help to cover medical costs.
“The health of your loved ones should not be left in the balance depending on whether the 13 of us [legislators] decide to find some money in our district allocation to keep your loved ones alive. It should not come to that, because you have some wicked people out there who will say ‘you didn’t vote for me; so I ain’t studying you’. They will do it.”
“But we have a [NHI] system in place where our citizens can access the care they need to take care of themselves. I say that is improvement, and anybody who say differently do not know what improvement is,” Walwyn further told the House.
He admitted that there were some shortcomings regarding the NHI, but noted that even the ‘great’ United States has encountered challenges in the implementation of its signature health insurance programme nicknamed Obamacare.
“You have the National Health Insurance; yes we have some teething pains with it, and we are gonna continue to have some, because look at the great United States – I don’t even know if they get that bill passed yet with the Affordable Care Act. They are struggling with the same issues that we struggled with, and we have been able to get that system going,” added Walwyn.
He listed other programmes that he consider to be successful – not least among them are the initiatives that fall under his ministry.
“I know significant things have been done in education and significant things have been done by this government over the last two terms,” the education minister trumpeted.
“You are gonna have the most qualified graduants leaving secondary education in the history of this country at the upcoming graduation this month. Not only will they have their high school diplomas; a significant number of them will have their CXC – their CSEC subjects; and you are going to have a good cohort who would have at least been on track to pass their modules in CAPE – in A Levels. And we are going to be adding some more things on because we have to prepare young people for the future,” Walwyn further told the House.
All governments make mistakes
The education minister, in the meantime, admitted that the National Democratic Party (NDP) government has made mistakes during the term. But he quickly stated that all governments make mistakes.
“We’ve made some mistakes; yes we’ve made some mistakes. But all governments make mistakes. But when you look at the report card of this government this government has something good to report,” Walwyn further said.
He also urged persons to not examine the government’s performance in a vacuum.
“The last two yeas were difficult years; they were difficult years. And sometimes we have a tendency to look at the [British] Virgin Islands where we live – we seem to look at it in a vacuum…” he said, adding that other Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are now facing tough economic times.
“It says to me that we have a lot to be thankful for on this side of the pond, and I don’t think that we are always as grateful and as thankful as we need to be,” added Walwyn.
Despite members of the government singing their own praises, the NDP administration has faced sharp criticism throughout the first half of its current term.
It has been criticized especially for not being transparent and accountable enough, as well as for its handling of the territory’s finances – including a cost over-run of more than $30 million on the cruise pier/park project in Road Town.
The NDP was returned to government with two additional seats in the general election on June 8, 2015. The party won 11 of the 13 seats in the House.
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