The Premier’s Office in collaboration with the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association hosted the Business Solutions Forum on the 26 November 2019 at Maria’s by the Sea Conference Centre. The objective of the event was to give the business sector an audience with the Premier and top public service management on current industry challenges and recommend strategic solutions to ensure sustainable economic growth. There were industry and topical presentations on tourism, construction, yachting, environment and business, ease of doing business and youth entrepreneurship. The presenters were Michael Thomas, CTL Home Centre, Janet Oliver, BVI Charter Yacht Society, Akeem Lennard, Greencrete VI, Sarah Penney, Green VI, Clyde Lettsome, Oil Nut Bay and Marvin Flax, OBMI.
The Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie, in his opening remarks, spoke about entrepreneurship being in our DNA as Virgin Islands people and that diversification of the economy is an important priority of his government’s agenda. He summarized the importance putting measures in place for business startup and growth for the Virgin Islands. A presentation was also given by the Premier’s Office’s Permanent Secretary, Kedrick Malone, giving a synopsis on business-related initiatives in the public service pipeline.
In her remarks, the BVICCHA Chairman, Shaina M. Smith thanked the Premier for agreeing to host such a forum and said she hoped that it was “only the beginning of what will inevitably be an ongoing, multifaceted dialogue about the sustainable socio-economic development of the Virgin Islands.“ Ms. Smith said that the BVICCHA believes it is essential for the dual sectors to develop a better understanding of each other’s role of business or governance for establishing common ground for problem-solving. She acknowledged that the Virgin Islands’ businesses are the backbone of the economy which was estimated at $1.1 billion dollars in 2018 and asked for a round of applause for the business leaders who are the unsung heroes of the economic recovery thus far.
There were enthusiastic and extensive exchanges throughout the day between the business leaders and public service leadership as presenters talked about solutions to the challenges of doing business and what can be implemented over the immediate-, medium- and long-term. Areas discussed included streamlining of the work permit process in the short term. The long term goal was the importance of matching the education system to current and future workforce needs; better quality and cost-effective telecom services; access to capital for startup or business expansion; destination access; environmental protection measures; and specific policy suggestions to reduce the operating costs of business. Current challenges to the yachting industry were outlined and the need for legislation reform and efficient public services to regain a competitive edge in the industry that has seen a major decline in market share over the last four years. One presenter also spoke about the need to improve investor confidence in order to encourage domestic and foreign developers to enter the market.
At the conclusion of the day’s activities, the Premier asked the Ministries and Departments to take careful note of the strategic actions needed as there will be a session in the next quarter to follow up on progress made towards implementation.