By Maria Mays
ROAD TOWN, BVI — The director for the Overseas Territories in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FC), Ben Merrick, concluded his visit to the British Virgin Islands on Friday, November 9.
Merrick had a full programme of meetings and visits on Tortola. These included discussions with the premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, the Cabinet of the British Virgin Islands, the Leader of the opposition, members of the financial services industry and business community and a number of public servants and agencies.
Merrick’s visit followed an earlier visit by Lord Ahmad in July 2018. His main focus whilst there was to assess the progress of recovery following the devastating hurricanes of 2017, to discuss recent international requirements on the financial services industry and the long-term vision, and to ascertain the progress on implementing the governance measures to which the government of the British Virgin Islands has committed at the most recent Throne Speech and in earlier Joint Ministerial Council commitments.
Merrick said of his visit: “I have had the privilege to meet many committed people during my time in the Virgin Islands and have been struck by both the beauty of the territory and the determination and resilience of its people to work towards its reconstruction.
“I am humbled by the commitment of the many public servants who continue to work and live in very difficult conditions whilst they work towards rebuilding the territory. The extent and breadth of the work needed to rebuild the territory cannot be underestimated.
“There are though evidently many challenges which remain, and I have urged the premier and his Cabinet to expedite recovery.
“The United Kingdom remains ready to support the Virgin Islands through the £300 million loan guarantee. Now the Recovery and Development Plan has been passed through the House of Assembly, I hope that we will see rapid progress as the government tasks the Recovery and Development Agency to implement the Government’s priorities as outlined in the Recovery and Development Plan.”
Merrick added that he had been pleased to see the government’s progress towards transparency and accountability. Publication of Cabinet decisions had been an important first step. He also welcomed the premier’s commitment to publishing a new Ministerial Code before the end of the month. This would show the British Virgin Islands leading the way.
Merrick also welcomed the positive engagement of business leaders and the financial services industry and their commitment to the territory’s economic development.
The governor welcomed the director’s visit which he said demonstrated the UK’s continued commitment to work in partnership with the Virgin Islands as it continued to work towards recovery.