Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Positive Effects of Telecoms Liberalization in the British Virgin Islands: Cable & Wireless Lowers its Rates

Cable & Wireless, one of the leading full service telecommunications providers in the Caribbean, announced that it introduces the new Home Plus calling plans and a 25 per cent rate reduction to call mobile numbers from C&W fixed lines in the British Virgin Islands.

Home Plus is a new fixed line calling plan for residential customers, which will be available from 1st February 2008. Home Plus will be added to an existing Home Plan, and will include calls to mobile numbers, in addition to any local Cable & Wireless number, for just $5.00 more per month. Each Home Plus plan has a new one-year contract term.

Home Plus calling and new fixed line rates offer also other benefits and great savings, including:

  • Bundled free minutes for all calls made to any local mobile number in the British Virgin Islands;
  • 75% decrease in fixed line call rates to mobile calls outside of the bundled free minutes;
  • Customers can get unlimited calls to any local Cable & Wireless number, including mobile numbers, for only $5 more each month for the Home Unlimited plan;
  • Wider calling area that includes calls to mobile phone, NetSpeak, and more than 10,000 fixed lines, with no connection fee or migration fee to add Home Plus calling.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Premier Ralph O'Neal Comments on OECS Meeting

Premier Honourable Ralph T. O'Neal officially participated in the 46th Meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which was held on January 16-18 in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Premier evaluated the Meeting as very useful, and said he will inform Cabinet on the full results from this meeting.

Honourable Ralph O'Neal, accompanied to the meeting by a three-member delegation consisting of Permanent Secretary in the Premier's Office Mrs. Rosalie Adams, Director of Communications Ms. Sandra Ward, and Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Ms. Najan Christopher, returned to the British Virgin Islands on Saturday last week. During his interview given after the meeting to the Department of Information, the Premier especially pointed out that due to the OECS's initiatives BVI had been able to participate in several schemes and projects concerning the environment protection. By his words, the received benefits are especially important because of the fact that the Territory is not a full member of the OECS, and as such should not participate in many of the organisation's programmes. It is the merit of the OECS that, being just an associate member of it, BVI still benefits from a range of sub-regional projects.

The BVI received the status of an associate member of the OECS on November 22, 1984. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States was established on 18 June 1981 by seven Eastern Caribbean countries that signed a treaty agreeing to co-operate with each other while promoting unity and solidarity. Other members of the Organisation are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Anguilla.

In his comments, Ralph O'Neal also welcomed the fact that the Territory continues to benefit from being a full member of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and expressed his intention to follow on an OECS initiative for the BVI to assume the leadership role for a Committee on Cruise Tourism.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BVI Companies Act Company (CapCo) re-registration postponed for another year

In the end of the last week, on its website, BVI Financial Services Commission published BVI Business Companies (Amendment of Schedules) (NO.2) Order, 2007 approved by the Cabinet and signed by Otto O’Neal before the New Year – on December 27, 2007.

This document made amendments in Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 of the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004, which postponed CapCo (British Virgin Islands Companies Act Company) re-registration deadline for 1 year:

  • voluntary re-registration postponed from 16.00 hours on November 30, 2007 to 16.00 hours on November 30, 2008;
  • the date of automatical re-registration postponed from January 1, 2008 to January 1, 2009.

Automatic re-registration means that on January 1, 2009, all CapCos that have not been voluntarily re-registered will be automatically re-registered as BVI Business Companies.

To remind, the re-registration of another former type of BVI company – IBC was completed a year ago.

Some words about CapCo and IBC definitions:
  • CapCo is a company that was incorporated under British Virgin Islands Companies Act and that has not been continued under the International Business Companies Act;
  • IBC (International Business Company) is a company that was incorporated, continued or registered as a consolidated company under the International Business Companies Act.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Governor's New Initiative on Public Service Reform

In the beginning of January, the Governor of the British Virgin Islands David Pearey has announced the renewed focus on the reform of BVI's Public Service. The Public Sector Development programme had been started in 1999-2005, when service charters were developed and Public Service Week was initiated. Current initiative was welcomed by Honourable Premier Ralph T. O'Neal.

On January 8, the Governor issued a circular addressed to all public officers, where he said that the main focus areas of the new reform programme are service delivery, financial and human resources management, and strategic planning. Each of these areas is linked to the others, but launched by a different agency. According to David Pearey, the results of the reform programme should be:

  • improved implementation of Government policies;
  • more efficient use of public resources;
  • increased satisfaction on the part of the general public in their dealings with Government agencies;
  • finally, more job satisfaction for public officers.
Reform programme will be activated within each Ministry. The reform in service delivery, including the re-launch of service charters and measures is led by the Deputy Governor's Office. The financial management reform, led by the Ministry of Finance, includes introduction of output budgeting, accrual accounting and decentralization of financial authorities to managers. The strategic planning reform will be launched by Office of Honourable Ralph O'Neal; the Premier will ensure that the budget process provides for delivery of services and goods in line with the Government's strategic objectives. Human Resources Department will be responsible for human resources reform, which will include the implementation of devolution, bringing into force of revised General Orders and Public Service Regulations and other initiatives such as performance pay, enhanced performance management and strategic succession planning. By words of the Governor, every public servant will play certain role in ensuring the reform results.

The Cabinet approved the reform programme on October 25, 2007.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Amended Bill on Legislators' Transparency Passed by the 1st House of Assembly

The 1st House of Assembly held its First Session, during which the Register of Interests (Amendment) Act was passed. Before the Bill was adopted, it went through the second and third readings, followed by the discussion during the committee stage. This Bill was presented to the Legislative Council (now House of Assembly) more than a year ago but did not come into effect. The current Bill is expected to come into effect in the shortest time.

Premier Ralph T. O’Neal, when spoke in the House of Assembly, noted the importance of the Bill, as it is important for people to know that their representatives are not afraid to disclose their interests. Premier also mentioned his interests are in Government organizations, VISAR, Humane Society, Church and schools and said that, if any legislation is being considered, it would be known that he has interests in those organisations.

The second and third readings of the Bill were backed up by the Deputy Premier Dancia Penn-Sallah, who said she was pleased to stand in support of such a measure. She stated that a Bill with a similar name was introduced to the House and had its first reading in 1994.

Most of the House representatives, including Minister for Education and Culture Andrew Fahie, Deputy Speaker Keith Flax, and Territorial-at-Large representative Irene Penn O'Neal, expressed their support of the Bill.

Talking about the current legislation initiatives in the BVI, we cannot but mention the loss of one of the Territory's outstanding legislators – former representative of the Fifth District Ethlyn Smith, who died on December 31, 2007. Smith is remembered for her years of work in the Ministries of Communication and Work, and in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour. After retiring from the Civil Service in 1992, she wanted to work in another capacity, and in 1995 she became one of the first two women who won the elections.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The BVI Financial Investigation Agency as a Special Institution Regulating the Financial Services in the Territory

In the last published blog concerning Kenneth Baker's Presentation on Risk-Based Approach, we have mentioned the BVI Financial Investigation Agency as an organization to report on suspicious transactions or activities in the field of financial services. In this posting, we will talk on the general role of BVI FIA, and the structure and the main responsibilities of this organization.

The BVI Financial Investigation Agency was established by the Financial Investigation Agency Act, 2003 as an autonomous law enforcement institution and a special arm of the Government of the BVI in relation to the Territory's position as an International Offshore Financial Centre. The organization thus replaced what used to be referred to as the British Virgin Islands Reporting Authority.

The BVI FIA is generally responsible for the investigation of serious financial crimes and money laundering offences taking place within or from the BVI territory. It also processes requests for legal assistance from authorities in foreign jurisdictions, which appear to the FIA to have the function of making such requests. The Agency acts as receiver of all disclosures of information required to be made pursuant to the relevant financial services legislation.

The FIA is not a revenue generating body; it is currently financed jointly by grants from the BVI Government and the Financial Services Commission (FSC). The FIA is directly responsible for managing its own budget which is ultimately approved by Executive Council.

The general purpose of the organization is to have financial and business sectors free of money laundering and other major financial crime. For this, the Agency endeavors to work actively, safeguarding the integrity of Territory's financial sector while contributing to the global fight against money laundering and other financial crimes.