Sunday, October 07, 2007

Premier Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal Summarizes Financial Situation in the Territory

Since the time when the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) defeated National Democratic Party (NDP) in general elections 2007, VIP continues to publish information about all the things which could be done better by NDP, which was the ruling party from 2003 till 2007, and which VIP is going to improve now. So far, VIP has touched upon spheres not connected directly to offshore financial industry (health, tourism, building industry), but some of future corrections may be related to the BVI financial services industry.

However, the ruling party is unlikely to criticize the BVI financial services industry, which was not less successful in the past 4 years as in the previous years, also the main regulator – BVI Financial Services Commission – was established in the previous period when VIP was the ruling party – in 2001. Anyhow, in this transitional period after the elections we will follow the process of the change of the ruling party, and how it can influence upon the Financial Services Industry. Now back to the Premier's address.

In his speech of September 19,2007, Premier Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal has addressed BVI community with information on some 'mysteries' that should be unraveled yet.

The main subject matter of Premier's talk was the situation around the project of the Virgin Islands Party Government - the Peebles Hospital. Premier explained that the work with this project came to a full stop after June 16, 2003. On May 2, 2006, the Minister of Finance, Health and Social Development was asked to inform the Honourable House of the names, scope of works and amounts of each contract that was stopped or not allowed to be performed by the Government of BVI.

Further on, the Premier in his speech got more in detail that the firm BCQS was contracted by the preceding Government in 2001, to provide project management services on the new Peebles Hospital Project. The project was placed on hold in order to conduct further financial studies; it was signed at a cost of $3.6 million to be spent over a three year period. At the time when the project was stopped, total amount of more than $1,4 million was already paid – about 50% of the amount of the contract, while only 20% of the actual work was completed. In addition to the sums expended, the closing cost was in the amount of more than $118,000, and the annual cost for services including management for all projects under the Ministry of Health and Welfare was $155,000.

The Virgin Islands Party Government negotiated with an architectural firm of Page Southerland and Page to design and produce the working drawings for the new Peebles Hospital. Hon.Ralph O'Neal noted in his speech that his National Democratic Party paid the same Architectural firm about $3,000,000 to re-design the hospital, while the Virgin Islands Party Government had designed for a total of $75,000,000.

The Premier is going to lay a copy of five development agreements of such a kind on the Table of the House of Assembly. He was informed that before signing these agreements, each prospective investor or developer was required to sign a contract to engage the services of a particular individual, for a fee of $7,500,00 a month.

Hon. Ralph O'Neal added some words about the financial situation concerning the BVI Tourist Board, and looked into the whole financial situation of the territory., saying about the possible deficit of 13,000,000 in 2007. The Premier informed on his intention to have a detailed report of the territory's finances.

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