In a position statement from government ministers to the Commission of Inquiry (COI), it was said that “from the very first day of its mandate, the newly elected government came under heavy pressure from former governor Jaspert to agree and sign up to the terms of the loan guarantee agreement”.
The statement further claimed Jaspert went as far as to place the papers for signature before the Premier immediately upon swearing him in.
But the government said it resisted doing so on the grounds that it was unwilling to put itself in the position of sacrificing political and democratic control. The Fahie administration said these were effectively the conditions of the UK’s offer to pay off up to £300 million of the BVI’s debt in the event the territory defaults on its obligation.
The ministers added that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) — under which the governor is assigned — even informed the government that if it rejects the loan guarantee, the FCDO “will not look favourably under the Protocols for Effective Financial Management on any alternative borrowing”.
But during his appearance before the COI recently, Jaspert refuted the assertions and said: “I don’t recall pressurising the Premier to sign as he was sworn in. That’s not something that I actually recall from my recollection of events.”
“[However], I do recall being very clear throughout my concern about the pace of recovery and that this was an offer — an offer given in good faith to the territory — to help the government should it wish to bring in more money at a cheaper rate than they would otherwise be able to likely get, which in clear principle is built in about transparency, accountability in terms of how that money is spent in the interests of the people of the Virgin Islands,” the former governor added.
He further denied the government’s charges about the UK’s attempts at control and, instead, insisted that the loan guarantee was designed to be a BVI-led recovery effort.
The government had said some of the UK’s conditions to control the effort was through the Recovery & Development Agency (RDA). The Fahie administration said the RDA was set up in a way that, essentially, arranged for the UK to dictate where recovery funds would go.
Responding to questions from the COI on the matter, Jaspert stated: “Actually, the UK, the position that the loan guarantee was taken forward on, was to support the territory itself to design its own recovery, to design its own approach to recovery through an act that the House of Assembly, the BVI’s House of Assembly voted on and took part in the Recovery & Development Act. And also to design their own plan for recovery,” Jaspert said.