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Friday, Aug 12, 2022

COMMENTARY: BVI a global laughing stock

COMMENTARY: BVI a global laughing stock

The British Virgin Islands has become a global laughing stock.

And only a permanent and powerful governance watchdog will prevent future repeats of the present misadventure and travesty that has beset the islands.

In recent days the Virgin Islands has been in the spotlight, especially in the UK Press. And not for great reasons. The latest is links between the government and a colourful and wealthy character from the UK.

Now any resident travelling abroad today will feel a pain in the proverbial gut telling people overseas, he or she is a citizen of the British Virgin Islands. It is the same feeling one gets when stating you are from Nigeria or Haiti, where poor governance is a culture, with devastating economic and social consequences.

People you tell that you are from poorly managed countries such as Venezuela or Afghanistan will look upon you with pity, consternation, and even sadness, in a world striving forward, in terms of culture, society, technology, science, and innovation.

BVI look upon with amusement

The British Virgin Islands is looked upon with amusement, and even some derision today, when compared with Caribbean neighbours. The simple reality is that the present generation has totally dropped the ball socially and economically. And the future generation appears unprepared for taking over the governance and economy of the island.

The country is looking like a comic book to the international community. The reason for this poor reputation is a very bad press internationally, feeding upon the country’s governance woes.

The latest example of bad press is the allegation that the British Virgin Islands Government plans to spend up to $5m on a high flying UK lawyer and politician, a Member of the UK Parliament, who according to the UK Guardian, attempts to turn the inquiry “from an examination of corruption and misgovernment, into an examination of near- colonialist conduct by Ex-Governor Augustus Jaspert”.

Bad press

The UK Lawyer appears to be paid thousands of dollars an hour, from BVI taxpayer cash, in a country that cannot fix its schools, roads, and the most basic infrastructure.

And this bad press has been a feature of the country’s international reputation for years, with words such as dodgy, corrupt, illegitimate, opaque, and illegal, used to derogate the country by specific journalists and newspapers, especially UK news media.

On the other hand, neighbouring Caribbean islands plough ahead to a greater future, with better social and physical infrastructure, far better governance, even establishing direct travel links with foreign capitals in the USA, Europe, and Asia; while the BVI chases a BVI Airways, that appears to have flown to the moon, and doles out taxpayer cash to people, based upon their connections with politicians.

Roads are the same as they were 30 years ago

Thirty years of self-governance and self-autonomy, and the most infrastructure development to show has been the building of churches on every street corner for the business called religion. Roads are the same as they were 30 years ago.

Then the country after spending millions continues to suffer water woes. Albeit there has been some infrastructure improvement: a state of the art Pier Park, a decent regional airport, and a large fully air-conditioned hospital facility. However, the country should be much further ahead. Foreign investors who rule the global economy will probably prefer to park their cash in the Caymans, Turks and Caicos, and even Anguilla, these days, as these countries have their politicians reined in. How did the Virgin Islands get to this sad place?

Change the sorry trajectory of governance locally

Well, instead of throwing the wool over resident’s eyes with silly assertions, and pontificating on colonialism and racism, and driving up the hatred of migrants and foreigners, the country’s leaders should do everything to change the sorry trajectory of governance in the land, and turn the country’s tailwind receive a tail wind towards a far better future. But that takes competence, vision, and savvy, which is nowhere to be found, apart from the savvy to spend taxpayer cash foolishly.

The tragedy of the Sir Geoffrey Cox affair is that it reads like the type of sleaze and unethical behaviour found in a John Le Carre’ spy thriller. A top UK politician and lawyer defending allegedly crooked officials on a Caribbean Island.


And in a land horribly traumatised by allegations of criminal misconduct and criminal conspiracies at the very highest levels of government, and a Commission of Inquiry that appears to most residents of the Virgin Islands to be the last hope for the tiny country’s welfare, security, and safety, the appearance of a jet setting millionaire, UK high official, politician and lawyer, with vast tentacles and deep links to the top of UK government and society, throws a fog over the Inquiry, and further worsens public cynicism and doubt, that the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry will be fair and just, driving a change towards good governance for the Virgin Islands.

The hire of this wealthy, Conservative Party Grandee, over and above thousands of extremely competent Caribbean lawyers, smacks of the type of executive impunity the Commission of Inquiry was appointed to stop.


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