By Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist
Premier Dr D Orlando Smith and the United Kingdom both yielded to the demands and requests from local legislators who had refused to support the now-passed Recovery and Development Agency legislation if it was not amended.
Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie was one such legislator who had demanded that the Premier reveal the ‘secret documents’ detailing the UK’s high-level framework and conditions for supporting the BVI’s recovery.
Fahie said the Premier ‘somewhat yielded’ to disclose those documents.
UK promises to address concern
The UK, in the meantime, buckled to the Opposition Leader’s concern about how a BVI-UK agreement called the Protocols of Effective Financial Management conflicted with the Agency bill and the mother country’s £300 million loan guarantee offer to the BVI.
“This concern was that the huge amount in loan funds being sought would cause the territory to be outside the allowed ratios of the Protocols for Effective Financial Management document for borrowing. The Premier stated to members that the UK responded to this concern through a March 26, 2018 email to him,” said Fahie.
“It was acknowledged that this concern must be addressed. The UK pledged to have dialogue to allow for such.”
“Having this particular issue addressed and rectified is a major victory for the BVI in many respects, especially financially,” added Fahie in a media release after the Agency bill was passed in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
The bill underwent what Fahie described as ‘major amendments’ since the Premier first presented it in the House of Assembly for debate.
“All were in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands and in the best interest of ensuring accountability, transparency, and independence of political interference of the Board/Agency,” Fahie assured.
The Opposition leader listed some of the amendments to the bill as follows:
1. Cabinet will not approve the Recovery Plan alone but it is now subjected to an Affirmative Resolution of the House of Assembly.
2. The functions of the Board and Agency are well defined and all efforts were exhausted to ensure that they do not conflict with the constitutional powers of ministers and their duties.
3. The Board will ensure the proper implementation of the approved recovery plan through the Agency.
4. The selection of the Chairperson of the Board to include input by the Governor, Premier, and the Leader of the Opposition.
5. Composition of the Board was amended to include a youth to be selected by the Leader of the Opposition, and the Premier to select a person from one of the sister islands.
Only two legislators — Opposition member Julian Fraser and government backbencher Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull— voted against the Recovery Agency bill. Delores Christopher was absent for the vote.
The Recovery Agency bill will allow the BVI to accept the United Kingdom’s loan guarantee of £300 million (more than $400 million) to fund recovery efforts.
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