By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY IS TALK OF THE TOWN IN BVI
A UK government-funded Commission of Inquiry into corruption allegations against the government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has triggered contrasting waves of reactions across the territory.
The six-months inquiry which got underway in mid-January is probing claims of corruption, victimisation and failures in the criminal justice system.
It is the main topic of debate; from those who question the motives and timing of the investigation - including suggestions of colonialism, to those who hold the view that successive governments had brought this upon the territory.
Premier Andrew Fahie who has vigorously questioned the basis and timing of the inquiry has also alluded to the prospect of ‘self-determination’ for the BVI as a probable fall-out from the exercise.
When he announced the Commission just before departing the territory last month, former Governor Gus Jaspert said: “These concerns were put to me by individuals across the community, including senior business leaders, public officers, community groups, media and others. Cumulatively, they paint a worrisome picture.”
The COI was launched on January 18th. Mr Jaspert left the BVI five days later.
There is no limitation stated on how far back the inquiry will probe.
The final report is expected by mid-July.
FEBRUARY ELECTIONS FOR TURKS AND CAICOS
Election fever has gripped the Turks and Caicos Islands with voters going to the polls on February 19th. Elections were due by last December but were postponed due to the COVID-crisis.
The incumbent Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) government of Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson is being challenged by the main People’s National Party (PNP) being led for this election by former chief minister Washington Misick.
Mrs Cartwright-Robinson is the territory’s first female leader.
The PDM won six of the ten constituencies and four of the five At-Large seats in the last elections held in December 2016 for the 21-seat House of Assembly under a new two-tier electoral system.
Management of the COVID-19 crisis has already emerged as the dominant issue alongside pre-pandemic economic performance and concerns about crime and illegal immigration.
To date, TCI had recorded eight deaths from the pandemic with 1,387 cases.
TAXING TIME FOR BERMUDA?
The Premier of Bermuda David Burt has raised the prospect of income taxes for the territory.
Citing the rising cost of living as a main reason for the consideration, Mr Burt told the annual conference of his ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) that “difficult conversations may be needed”.
“For our economy to be sustainable, we must have those conversations that we may not have been comfortable having before.”
With Bermuda’s economy being impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier said: “It is now time to work together to implement overdue changes in a fair and balanced fashion.”
Mr Burt said the cost of living and the cost of doing business were the most pressing issues facing Bermudians, and tax reforms could help address that.
Instead of personal income tax, the Government of Bermuda levies a payroll tax on companies.
MONTSERRAT WOOS REMOTE WORKERS
Montserrat has launched its version of a remote workers scheme.
The territory which has been almost completely reliant on UK aid since its economy was decimated by volcanic eruptions over 25 years ago, is hoping that revenue from the scheme will give it more say over how its budget is allocated.
Montserrat is charging between USD$500 and USD$750 for its remote workers scheme for a year’s stay without having to pay income tax locally.
With a current population of a little over 4,000, Montserrat has not had any active COVID-19 cases since last July and has only had 13 cases of the virus and 1 death to date.