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Premier clears air about Branson and IMF

Premier Dr D Orlando Smith

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith said Sir Richard Branson’s recent talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was not specific to the British Virgin Islands but to all Caribbean countries that were affected by the September hurricanes.

Dr Smith made the statement this week following reports that Branson held talks with the moneylending organisation on behalf of the BVI.

“Mr Branson was not speaking to IMF on behalf of BVI… He was addressing the delegates from the international community to give assistance to the countries affected,” Dr Smith explained, adding that he was present when Branson held those talks.

He said several other regional and international delegates were also present.

“That inference [about the IMF] was made at the meeting in Washington organized by Sir Richard Branson and the head of CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) Dr Keith Mitchell. It was made to the international community over there – representatives from many international organisations on behalf of all the countries in the Caribbean who was affected by the hurricanes, not just BVI,” Premier Smith.

“I was in attendance and also the Honourable Ronnie Skelton as well as about 100 other delegates including representatives from the IMF,” Premier Smith said.

Branson, who owns two of the outer islands in the BVI, recently wrote to the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association claiming: “Over the last month I have met with Governor Jaspert, Premier Smith, Dr Pickering, Caribbean Heads of State, representatives from Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.”

“During these meetings, I have heard some fantastic ideas,” Branson said.

Reports that Branson held talks with the IMF had raised several eyebrows. There were concerns in relation to who authorised the billionaire to bargain with the IMF, which is known for its strict loan conditions.

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