He suggested that the government needs to explore new and more aggressive forms of revenue generation.
“That means a diversification of the economy, that means the strengthening of the tourism sector, that means seeking new industries and of course we have been speaking about them for some years now. It’s time to deliver on those promises of a diversified economy,” Premier Wheatley stated.
The previous Andrew Fahie-led Virgin Islands Party (VIP) government had proposed a number of revenue generation initiatives such as the introduction of cannabis legislation but this never received assent by the then-governor Augustus Jaspert in order for it to be made law.
There was also the passage of the Gaming and Betting Act which was set to facilitate online gambling in the BVI, among other things.
Meanwhile, Premier Wheatley rattled off a litany of expenditure faced by the government over the past few years including repairs to the RT O’Neal Administration Complex, the Cane Garden Bay Sewerage system, and immigration detainees, among other things.
“All of this money was necessary to be expended,” the Premier said in the House of Assembly (HOA) yesterday.
He said a conversation needs to be had with the various ministries and departments of government moving forward as well as with the people of the BVI about how much needed funding can be provided in vital and critical areas.
He also noted that attention needs to be placed into optimising the government’s revenue collection methods and whether technology can be used to improve this area.
Dr Wheatley said the government also needs to look at its liabilities and cutting out unneeded expenditure in order to become more efficient and effective.
The Premier also indicated that the government needs to look at the issue of pension reform, an issue which he said could likely end up bankrupting the government in future years if it is not addressed.
He said the country is at a critical stage when considering the pressure that’s placed on the territory’s financial services sector, its growing population and growing infrastructural needs.
“We have to take action now if we are going to continue to keep the lights on, so to speak, and continue to meet our obligations, to continue to employ our hard-working public servants and to continue to provide the public services that people require in this modern Virgin Islands,” the Premier added.