STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DURING THE NINTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, June 11, 2020
BVI Resilience Fund
Mr. Speaker, on 7 June, we ushered in a new beginning as we launched a charitable nonprofit organisation that is designed to support the growth and development of the Virgin Islands though philanthropic contributions.
The name of the charitable organisation is called BVI Resilience Fund, a legal entity that will allow nationals of the United States to give a charitable gift for the benefit and growth of the Virgin Islands.
Let me give some context to how we got to this point.
The fund was originally called the BVI Restoration Fund.
It was incorporated on 13 October, 2017, to help the Government of the Virgin Islands as an institution provide disaster relief to the Territory and to help repair and rebuild critical infrastructure for the benefit of the residents, subsequent to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria just weeks before.
Records show that the goal was to solicit charitable contributions from a broad range of donors, including individuals, corporations, foundations and government entities.
The Certificate of Incorporation stipulated the conditions under which the Fund would operate, and there were persons listed as directors and officers of the Fund.
Subsequent to the establishment of the Fund, an “Application for Recognition of Exemption” was made to and approved by the Internal Revenue Service, United States Government under Section 501 (c)(3) of the revenue code.
This status allowed for potential donors to make charitable contributions into the Fund that would provide relief and/or improve the standard of living of residents.
This revenue source was a key component of the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA) strategy.
Enquiries were made and possible donors were contacted by the RDA and others regarding the soliciting of contributions into the Fund.
For various reasons, the Fund never became operational and this may have contributed to the potential loss of interest, and consequently donations, as time lapsed.
Mr. Speaker, over two years have passed since the establishment of the BVI Restoration Fund.
I have always said that I do not believe in seeing good ideas being shelved no matter who were the originators of those ideas.
In this New Regular where we are living and working with COVID-19, we continue to see the need for us to remain innovative as we ensure the growth and development of the Territory for our citizens, residents and visitors to enjoy.
One of the things I have recognised as Minister of Finance is that people want to make charitable contributions in the BVI.
This therefore means that we recognised that such a fund was still a valid option to generate additional income for the development of the Territory.
This need is highlighted by the challenges posed today by COVID-19, as much as by our constant exposure to hurricanes and other natural and catastrophic events because of our geographic location.
Enquiries continue to be made about charitable donations towards worthy causes, most recently for the Iris O’Neal Clinic on Virgin Gorda.
Mark Kaplan of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates, an international law firm based in New York City, who is appointed as one of the Representatives of the Fund, continues to provide volunteer services in making sure that we are in compliance for the requirement of the fund to function accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, over the past few months, since the emergence of COVID-19, and your Government’s anticipation of the economic impact that the pandemic would have on the Territory, we began exploring options for generating funding to support the resilience of the Territory and our people.
One mechanism that we identified was very similar to that of the Restoration Fund, but with some modifications. In the discussions that were held around this topic, it was realised that there were contributors who were willing to support such a programme, as long as they can see that the Fund is properly managed and that there is transparency and accountability.
As such, in April 2020, Cabinet agreed to the renaming, re-purposing, new Board compliment and change of address of the BVI Restoration Fund..
The name has been changed to BVI Resilience Fund.
The purpose of the Fund has been changed to that of preventing and alleviating poverty and suffering of the inhabitants of the Virgin Islands through health, disaster relief, education and infrastructure development, temporary housing, and economic development initiatives.
This means that if you are from the United States and did not have a mechanism to donate as a tax write-off, you can do so legally to assist the Virgin Islands through this fund.
Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a grand opportunity for US contributors to partner with the Virgin Islands who will be the beneficiary.
There are opportunities for persons to donate to areas including entrepreneurship; the expansion and modernisation of our ports facilities, the expansion and modernisation of our runway and airport facilities; and expansion and construction of schools, among many other infrastructural development areas.
There are also opportunities for the expansion of HL Stoutt Community College including investments in scholarships locally and abroad; investments in Arts and Culture programmes, among other areas.
Additionally, persons may want to donate to clinics, shelters, social protection for seniors, women and our special needs population.
The Virgin Islands looks forward to being a beneficiary of such donations.
The BVI Resilience Fund is being operated by a Board.
The Board members are:
- Meade Malone - Director, President
- Glenroy Forbes - Director, Treasurer
- Dr. Henry Jarecki – Director
- Doug Riegels – Director
- Claude Cline – Director
- Najan Christopher – Secretary
The organisation will operate independently from Government.
All proceeds received will be used for the intended purpose, which is identified by the donor, and the filing and reporting requirements to the Government of the Virgin Islands and the IRS must be adhered to at all times.
The Board will see to this through the legal structures that dictate that it be done.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the fund will be fully functional shortly.
This will be an effective tool in soliciting donations to assist with the recovery from 2017 devastating hurricanes, economic shock and other impacts from COVID-19, and other charitable needs in the Territory.
The Fund has the potential to play a major role in the development of the Territory.
Therefore, it is in Government’s best interest to promote the existence of the Fund to likely donors.
First, let me end this statement by thanking God for opening the doors to allow for the success of this initiative for the people of the Virgin Islands.
Secondly, on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, I want to thank all those who will be contributing to the development of the people of the Virgin Islands through their contributions. I say welcome to the BVI.
Lastly, I thank my Government and I also thank the Ministry of Finance, especially Financial Secretary Mr. Glenroy Forbes and Mr. Jeremiah Frett for their hard work in getting this Fund operational and functional.
With BVILOVE, we’re in this together.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker.