Minister responsible for ports Mark Vanterpool has disclosed a plethora of figures showing what he described as the financial stability of the government-owned BVI Ports Authority and Tortola Pier Park (TPP), as well as the citizens who have invested in the TPP project.
The figures he presented recently to the House of Assembly show the various returns on investment, the partial repayment of loans, and savings realized in the first year since TPP has been in operation.
Vanterpool noted that citizens, who invested in the capital project despite being told that it would have collapsed, already have received substantial returns on their investments.
“Yes people were discouraged from investing, but I want to say it’s good that you have invested. One year later after you invested, the Tortola Pier Park Limited Company paid out in dividends $531,374 to persons who invested… The Tortola Pier Park group didn’t come to the investors and say ‘sorry we don’t have the money’. They paid out $531,374 to the investors. If I calculate right, roughly that is somewhere between 7 percent and 8 percent return on your investment.”
That type of return, Vanterpool argued, could not have been realized if the investors had placed their monies into bank accounts.
“If you had the money in the bank, which of you would tell me you earned even one percent right now on your money? Yes this money [in TPP] was risk, but it was good risk,” the minister said while he attributed the ‘financial success’ mainly to the 15-year berthing agreement the government had signed with Norwegian Cruise Line as well as Disney Cruise Line.
Nearly $10M paid to bank
Vanterpool also disclosed that, after the first year of operation at TPP, the government has repaid approximately $10 million of the money borrowed from CIBC First Caribbean Bank to build TPP.
“The BVI Ports Authority [which borrowed the loan to build TPP] also paid back the bank between interest and principal a total of $9,049,529 towards the $50 million loan. They paid back almost $10 million already out of the revenue that we have coming to the port. They are in good standing with the bank,” the minister said. He noted that, when the loan is fully repaid, the revenue from TPP will go directly into Government’s coffers.
Vanterpool, in the meantime, said a portion of the $8M that was diverted from the East End/Long Look sewerage project to help build TPP also has been repaid.
“They have paid back $1 million… They will continue to pay back that $8 million [that was diverted from the sewerage project]. That is good; that is progress; that is upward mobility; that is confidence in an economy that sometimes we say it’s no good; it’s going to the dogs,” the minister trumpeted.
More than $3M in the bank
Vanterpool also declared that there is no truth to suggestions that TPP is broke.
“You think this port gone broke and don’t have the money to pay off all its bills. They still have $3.119 million in the bank right now today sitting. I am proud of the Port Authority; I am proud of the persons present and past who have been associated with this development. I am proud because what they are doing is good,” added Vanterpool.
More than $1M collected in rent
Turning to rent collected last year, he stated that TPP could have raised more funds, but some of the buildings are either unoccupied or incomplete.
“The Tortola Pier Park Limited has collected for this past year rent in the amount of $1.447 million. The business (tenants) are operating; the investment has been made; the vision is there and it’s operating well; and they are paying their bills. We expect to collect this year $2.1 million in rent. That is without Building Five which hasn’t developed yet.”
Nearly $10M collected in head tax
Vanterpool further told the House of Assembly that, since the creation of TPP and the singing of berthing agreements with two cruise lines, the money raked in from head tax has increased significantly.
Further increases are expected.
“What I want to note is that in the years past when you were collecting $3 or $2 a head (per person) in the summer and $7 in the winter; with the $15 collected now under the numbers that we have, we have collected in 2016, $9,940,808 in head tax – nearly $10 million. That is not with their (management of TPP) full strength. They really started to get at their full strength in the middle of 2016 – almost in summer time. We are yet to enjoy a good full year – which will be this year 2017,” Vanterpool continued.
“We have collected almost 10 million in head tax for this country compared to $3 million and $4 million. In fact, it dropped to $2.2 million in 2014 and $2.3 million in 2013. We expect as it grows that we will get up to the $15 million range. That is good.”
Vanterpool also stated that, contrary to suggestions being made, the amount of money spent on the entire TPP project remains at $82.9 million, which reflects a cost overrun of more than $30 million.
“It (the project) is just about complete in terms of what we are going to do,” added Vanterpool.
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