Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has said the recent decision to “arbitrarily” ban work permit holders from entering the territory shows government’s lack of a coherent plan to properly manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released on Thursday, Penn said the decision — which has affected a great number of persons trapped abroad — exposes many of government’s policy-making flaws.
“A responsible government, a planned government, a transparent government, would assess how many work permit holders or exempt persons are currently outside the territory and their circumstances and then make a policy decision,” Penn argued.
“This decision lacks clarity, and therefore, it creates an uneasiness and uncertainty for families and the business community concerning its labour force. A decision with such far-reaching implications should never be a blanket decision. Such a decision requires consultation and probably should allow for discretion on a case-by-case basis and in conjunction with local businesses,” he added.
No consideration made for these category of persons
Penn said he believes no consideration was made for this category of persons when devising the policy. He said the move directly impacts local families and industries, adding that this could have severe consequences for the British Virgin Islands.
“Did the government consider employees either work permit or work permit-exempt holders for functioning industries like construction and financial services? Shutting out key employees from the construction industry would have devastating consequences. Making critical labour unavailable in this industry will create economic hardship for many companies and their limited employee base,” the Opposition Leader agrgued.
He added: “Because of this policy decision, they are unable to provide for their families or meet their financial obligations (loans, rent, food and statutory obligations) causing additional hardship on family units and the overall economy. These persons should be allowed to return, following clear re-entry protocols.”
Financial Services and Small Businesses could suffer greatly
The Opposition legislator also said he believes the decision will force high-earning financial services providers to opt to work remotely instead of returning to the BVI.
“This would mean the loss of work permit fees, rent to landlords, and spending in the local economy (restaurants, bars, supermarkets and other local establishments), placing additional hardship on already struggling businesses. It could also mean a significant detraction from the strides we have made to have Financial Services companies and their personnel based in the BVI,” he reasoned.
He further said the territory has many small businesses who heavily rely on work permit holders to supply their labour needs so government’s decision will have serious implications on them.
Coherent and well-articulated plan urgently needed
Penn is, therefore, urging the government to revisit their recent decision and to come up with a coherent and well-articulated plan as to how the BVI will co-exist with this virus and safely reopen the economy.
He said he believes this measure is urgently needed before irreparable harm to the economy happens.
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