Thank you for joining me once more for my daily brief as I update you on what Government continues to do to support all of our residents through this most challenging time. We are making every effort to improve communications
Food distribution continues to be our top priority and as food aid is received, we are working to get that supply of food into our communities and into the hands of our residents that need it most.
As I reported yesterday, the Pockwood Pond plant and Long Bush sub-station are now online and distributing power to the Peebles Hospital, Wickham’s Cay and Main Street areas. The team lead by BVI Electricity Cooperation engineers are working hard to safely restore power throughout our capital city and the rest of the Territory. In the interim we have already sourced and accepted donations of generators to help power businesses and essential services.
Many residents will be pleased to know that the National Bank of the Virgin Islands today announced its position as it relates to loans with that financial institution following Hurricane Irma’s devastation. The National Bank of the Virgin Islands is granting its clients a three-month moratorium on personal loans, which means a temporary suspension on payments and no action is required by customers to benefit from this. Persons who wish for their loans not to be suspended are asked to contact the bank immediately.
The bank also announced a three-month moratorium on all residential mortgages and commercial loans, which means a temporary suspension in accordance with customer requests and signed authorizations. Further to the 3-month moratorium period, residential mortgage and commercial customers will be assessed on a case-by-case basis with respect to extension requests. Residential mortgage and commercial loan customers are asked to visit the Bank beginning on Monday, September 18th, 2017 to execute a simplified form confirming the status of their property and/or business, insurance claims, and future intentions.
National Bank of the Virgin Islands is also in the process of scheduling visits at centralized district locations to facilitate customers who are unable to make it to the Bank in person, due to after-effects of Hurricane Irma. This I am certain will bring some relief to residents and also demonstrates the bank’s commitment to helping all of us rebuild our lives.
Today I started my series of meetings with business owners throughout the Virgin Islands. It was an opportunity for me to hear directly from businesses how they have been impacted, but to also update them on what Government has done and what services have been restored. Understandably the issue of the looting that took place immediately following the passage of Hurricane Irma left many businesses with serious concerns, however this has been somewhat been alleviated.
As I have mentioned before, we have 500 additional enforcement officers on the ground to assist us with security concerns. Some of those officers will now be doing regular patrols throughout Road Town and various communities to support efforts by business owners to begin their rebuilding and reopening. Those that chose to take advantage of the devastation left by Hurricane Irma by looting local businesses or attempting to throw our usual peaceful society into a state of lawlessness will be swiftly dealt with. I am united with the Governor and the Commissioner of Police to ensure the Virgin Islands remains a relatively safe and peaceful society, particularly in these days.
Our main shipping port is open for business and I continue to encourage business owners to restock and prepare their businesses to open their doors again to our community. Many businesses require highly skilled individuals to come in and restore services such as IT, networking, and other advanced areas. While our immigration and labour departments are now functioning, the clearance process will be relaxed to allow those skilled experts to quickly come in and support the rebuilding of businesses.
In my meeting on Wednesday with Honourable Camillo Gonzalves, Minister for Economic, Sustainable Development, Industry, Internal Trade, Industry and Labour and Honourable Sabato Ceasar, Minister for Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Transformation from the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, they shared that they have already asked skilled nationals of St Vincent and the Grenadines that reside in the Virgin Islands to stay on to help with the rebuilding process. They have also secured additional skilled nationals to support our rebuild as we need. I remain thankful for that type of assistance from our regional and international friends.
It is important for all of us to recognize that we need our businesses, at all levels to reopen. They provide jobs, opportunity and security for the continuation of our economy and for the rebuilding that will be required for the Virgin Islands. From my office we are investigating a few options and will be moving swiftly on policy actions to support the rebuilding of our local economy.
I am also announcing tonight that Keria Christopher, Director of the Department of Trade, Investment, Promotions and Consumer Affairs has been assigned as the Liaison Officer for the rebuilding process. She has been tasked with getting businesses throughout the Territory opened and operating.
Continuing my meetings with the business community, on Friday, September 15 I will be meeting with business owners in the 1st District at the Carrot Bay Methodist Church at 10AM and then business owners in Cane Garden Bay and surrounding areas at Rhymer’s by the Sea at 12PM. A meeting for the Virgin Gorda business community will be announced in the coming days.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of the Virgin Islands I thank you for your strength and your support through these difficult times. Again I remind you of the words of our Territorial Song, with strength and will power we will overcome to restore Virgin Islands pride.
The days ahead will be challenging. It would be foolish of me, as your elected leader not to be honest with you about the way forward. However, I reaffirm that my Government and all of your elected representatives will be working together, united, to bring our Territory out of this moment, which is undeniably the greatest test of a generation.
When I stop to think of the task ahead, the words of our Territorial song reminds me of the character of the people of the Virgin Islands and all that have come to call these islands their home. So though the task ahead is heavy, I have some comfort that our history reminds us that a few generations before, we were tasked with doing the same as we must today, build a Territory where our children and their children can have opportunity. I simply ask you to prepare yourselves and continue to support us as we work swiftly to get the Virgin Islands back to normalcy and rebuild our Territory, even greater than we were before. I know that our Lord has not forsaken us and I wish his blessings on each and every one of you, and these Virgin Islands.