While claiming that the British Virgin Islands cannot wait until the next general election to possibly change the finance minister, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie has indicated that the current finance minister has a chance to resign before he faces a vote of no confidence in the House of Assembly on August 1.
According to Fahie, now is the opportune time for the government to get together and remove Premier Dr D Orlando Smith as Minister of Finance.
“It is not about power, it’s not about hoping for election. This can be done now right inside of the government in the best interest of the people. We cannot wait until general elections; we are going down a slippery slope now,” Fahie said.
He noted that leading personnel in the finance ministry – except the finance minister – were changed in recent times. Financial Secretary Neil Smith and his deputy Wendel Gaskin both were reassigned to different government department amid controversy.
“Everyone is changing in the finance [ministry]. It is only fair now that the minister of finance at this time changes also, so that the best interest of the people can be served.”
Fahie also warned that, if Premier Smith remains the finance minister, the BVI should brace for distress. “All of them (business operators) are feeling the pinch, because they are carrying the economy – and they only can carry it for a certain time. We either take a stand now as people that love this country, or in the end we will find that we all are going to enter into financial distress, because the spirit of the leader falls on the people. So we have to have a change in the minister of finance at this time.”
According to the Opposition leader, Premier Smith has failed in the execution of his duties. “We have to have some restoration of our finances. The direction in which we are going, we are going down a slippery slope…” added Fahie.
He continued: “We have the Public Finance Management Act, we have the Protocols for Effective Financial Management, we have the constitution to guide us. In all three areas, it is clear that the minister of finance has failed in these areas, and we cannot afford for our territory to continue to suffer when this can be fixed from within to help the people of this territory and to help the economy of the territory, in which we all are feeling the pressure here financially, because of poor financial decisions from the top. So, this must be addressed.”
Fahie in the meantime, listed a plethora of reasons he thinks Premier Smith should resign. They include the cruise pier project that had a cost over-run of more than $30 million, the $7.2 million that Government has pumped into the privately owned BVI Airways, as well as the diversion of $8 million from the sewerage project in East End/Long Look to the cruise pier development in Road Town.
“We have Her Majesty’s representative (Governor John Duncan) had to go into the Treasury to get the money to protect the citizens, which means the minister of finance left the people of the territory exposed. Warning was given that this would have happened before; so it would have been acted on, and not use manipulation now to try and make the people think otherwise,” added the Opposition leader.
Premier Smith, in the meantime, is expected to survive the no-confidence motion on August 1. Votes of the sort are usually cast along party lines. The governing party currently holds 11 of the 13 seats in the House of Assembly.
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