Recently, the BVI Ports Authority issued a press release indicating that they were increasing fees for services the authority offers. Immediately with the release, businesses began to contact the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association (BVICCHA) and complain.
What's very disheartening is that back in September 2020, the BVICCHA reached out to the authority's public relations office to inquire about fee increases and if any were coming for 2020. The reply received said, "…the BVI Ports Authority has not implemented an increase in fees for 2020…" which did not answer the posed question directly.
This month, we now learn that increases were put in place in December 2020 and announced in January 2021 with no notice, consultation, or even a grace period. This is unacceptable. The cost of doing business is already too high. These increases will have to be passed on to consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet in some cases.
For the most part, businesses are already doing their part. Businesses pay their fair share of mandated fees and taxes. And yes, cost increases (inflation) happen, but when you see a fee increase of 500%, that's from $500 to $2500, that's just borderline madness. Considering the only information to explain the increases is what's heard in the rumor mills, which the BVICCHA has not been able to validate, something more than a press release should have been sent before the fee increases.
Cost increases are one thing. Rate spikes for whatever reason without consultation are pure and simple an example of bad governance.
Wastage should be looked at when a body is looking to generate revenue. New revenue streams are another area of priority that should be examined by economists and strategists in the organization. Now is not the time for fee hikes, and the BVICCHA insistently call for an Economic Recovery and Development Plan. The BVICCHA has championed for an economic plan since the summer of 2020 and offered to help develop it with the same eagerness put into the Gold Seal Certification program the BVICCHA submitted in July 2020 to assist with the reopening strategy. The Virgin Islands can no longer endure a piecemeal approach. The country needs a comprehensive and realistic economic plan that includes all stakeholders.
In the meantime, the implementation of the fee increase by the BVI Ports Authority needs to be put on hold and consultation with stakeholders provided.
Keiyia J. George, Executive Director, BVICCHA
(284) 494-3514/345-3513 | firstname.lastname@example.org