4th Annual STATE OF THE TERRITORY ADDRESS
- June 7th, 2007
- in Yachting
Just 4 years ago, almost to the day, I stood here with my colleagues and before the people of the BVI we pledged to serve our community with all the strength of our being.
We made that pledge filled with confidence that by listening to the people, responding to the people and holding ourselves accountable to the people–– we could help bring a new day of prosperity and progress to our Territory. And in the years that have followed – our optimism has never wavered.
Even at times of hardship and challenge we never faltered or lost faith – because in our hearts we always knew that there is nothing wrong in the BVI that cannot be fixed by all that is right in the BVI.
That is why this Government has been more open, more accessible and more accountable than any Government in the history of this Territory. It is why this Government has been willing to make tough decisions. It is why this Government has stood firm in the face of criticism – yet has never shut our ears to those who disagreed with us. It is why we have chosen to lead not with a clenched fist, but with an open hand.
And it is why upon the completion of our first year in office – and every year since – I have come before you to offer this State of the Territory Address.
Now, I come before you at the end of this our fourth year in office so that you, the people of the BVI, may render your judgment.
Ladies and Gentlemen: This Government was elected with a mandate to bring change to the BVI. Four years ago, the people made the determination that we needed a fresh start. They saw an economy that was stagnating and determined that it was time for growth. They saw a treasury that was being emptied by wasteful spending and decided that it was time for fiscal responsibility. They looked at an education and healthcare system that was under-funded and made the judgment that it was time to make these our top priority.
And they looked at a culture of questionable behaviour that was overtaking our sacred institution of Government and decided that enough was enough.
And with that thirst for change driving them on, the people brought forth a Government committed to making change a reality. Four years later, I stand before you to say that change is what we promised – and change is what we have delivered! And because you chose change, the BVI is today on a new course and we are heading toward a better day.
A day of prosperity in which the benefits of growth are shared by all the families of our community. A day of good governance in which the BVI is looked upon as a leader in our region and a model throughout the world. A day of pride in which our people are daring to dream bigger dreams than ever before.
And on this good day, I come before you to say that the BVI is heading in the right direction, our future is brighter than ever and the state of the Territory is strong.
Ladies and Gentlemen: let me offer the record of the past 4 years. First, I would turn your attention to the state of our economy. To simply say that the economy of the BVI is booming does not do justice to the strong and sustained growth we have witnessed over the past several years.
Last year, the BVI enjoyed a growth rate of 11%. Our Territory’s Gross Domestic Product was $992 million dollars. At this rate, by year’s end we will top the 1 billion dollar mark.
Let me repeat that–– by the end of this year, the Gross Domestic Product of the BVI – that is the sum total of all economic activity that takes place on our shores – will exceed 1 billion dollars. It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the size of that achievement.
Think back, ladies and gentlemen, to the generation of our parents and grandparents – think back to the days when our beloved first Chief Minister H. Lavity Stoutt, Theodolph Faulkner, Enid Scatliffe, McWellington Todman, and Noel Lloyd, among others, began laying the foundations for the modern BVI.
Did these men and women ever dare dream that one day this Territory would enjoy such prosperity? And yet here we are – and it is a credit to every member of this community that we have come to see this day. Because of your hard work and vision, the BVI economy is expanding and moving forward. And this robust growth is being driven, first and foremost, by the twin pillars of financial services and tourism.
Today, our financial services sector is a world leader thanks in large part to the work of our fine team from the Financial Services Commission and the International Finance Centre, coupled with the hard work and commitment of the financial services industry.
Our regulatory system has earned a reputation that is second to none for ethics, transparency and good judgment.
Just r ecently, the BVI hosted an international conference that brought together financial leaders from across the globe. All these leaders expressed their admiration at the BVI’s recent success. It is no exaggeration to say that in the past 4 years, the financial services sector of the BVI has evolved from a promising, enterprising sector – to a mature, firmly established international operation recognised throughout the world.
On the tourism front, our industry remains strong in the face of ever increasing competition. We continue to strive to strike a balance between cruise and overnight tourists. Over the past 4 years, we have seen an increase in cruise visitors, ensuring growing business for our taxi drivers, shops and the many other businesses associated with the industry.
We have further supported our taxi drivers by taking the critical step of eliminating the customs duty on any new taxi they purchase.
Our overnight tourism sector has also seen substantial improvements over the past 4 years.
Last year alone, the average expenditure per visitor increased by an impressive 15% suggesting that our strategy of focusing on high-end visitors is paying off.
And we have begun the work of building the first new resort developments that the BVI has seen in a generation. Once completed, these world-class resorts and the new golf course will ensure that we remain at the top of the tourist market for years to come.
With the twin pillars of the economy growing briskly, economic activity has been stimulated across other sectors, as well – none more so than the construction and building sectors. This past year, construction contributed over $50 million to our Gross Domestic Product.
And unlike in the past where most of the major construction projects were carried out by Government, today much of the new developments are being done by the private sector. As a result, our local contractors are able to grow and contribute to the development of our Territory without having to rely solely on Government contracts.
In the same way, our other local small businesses – from our locally owned retail stores, to our local artisans and craftsmen, to our farmers and fishermen – are all finding ways to benefit from our growing economy.
We have bolstered this growth with the establishment of the Small Business Bureau and the new Loan Guarantee programme to provide local entrepreneurs with access to affordable loans. Already, numerous enterprising local businesspeople have filed applications for loans – and we expect to help issue the first loans within the next eight weeks.
Put simply, ladies and gentlemen, the rising tide of economic expansion is lifting up every part of this community.
My friends, it is absolutely critical for the people of the BVI to recognize that the economic growth we are enjoying is no accident.
It is not a matter of good luck. And it is not something that simply happened on its own. Rather, the economic expansion we have seen over the past four years is the direct result of two things:
First, and most importantly, our economic growth is the result of the hard work, creativity and drive of the people of the BVI.
And second, our economic growth was made possible by your Government’s commitment to changing the policies of the past by making economic growth a top priority.
We came to office determined to create new opportunities and a higher standard of living for our community. And we backed up that commitment by sending the message to the world that the BVI is open for business.
We understood that it was not enough for a Government to sit back and hope for investment to find its way to our shores. Rather we actively went out and sought investment.
In tourism, we went out and found leading development companies that can make our tourism product more competitive for years to come. In financial services, we took Road Shows to business leaders from New York to Hong Kong and everywhere in between.
We streamlined approval processes for businesses looking to invest in our economy – and we made clear that the BVI welcomes true partners who are looking to do well financially, while also making a real contribution to the greater good of our community. And in taking these steps, we have created confidence here at home and around the world that the BVI is a place where opportunities abound.
That is why investors are coming here to open offices, develop properties and build new enterprises. That is why local entrepreneurs are opening new businesses. That is why we are recognized internationally as an economic hotspot. And that is why we are experiencing this record ec onomic expansion.
We have reinforced this message of the BVI as a business-friendly Territory with our efforts to strengthen our physical infrastructure.
We expanded the generating capacity at our power station to ensure that the electricity needs of our people are being met today and can continue to be met well into the future.
We built a badly needed new water treatment plant on Anegada and made substantial progress toward completing the sewerage and water treatment project in East End and Long Look.
We have invested heavily in our roads infrastructure. We resurfaced the critical new road linking North Sound and Valley, Virgin Gorda. We paved new roads in Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.
And we repaired and improved the roads and bridges across the length and breadth of Tortola.
We have also focused much needed attention on our docks, seaports and airports including new docks on Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, as well as Trellis Bay and Cane Garden Bay.
We completed the runway extension at Beef Island – a project begun by our predecessors to whom much credit is due. We paved the runway at the Auguste George International Airport on Anegada. We purchased the land at the Virgin Gorda airport to ensure that this vital facility can continue to serve the people of that community.
And in July, we will expand air service capacity to Virgin Gorda by opening a new seaplane facility at Gun Creek that will allow for service to St. Thomas, San Juan and additional destinations.
In addition to helping link our people to each other and to the world through modern transportation systems, we have also completed a long and difficult journey toward liberalizing our telecommunications system.
For the first time in the history of the BVI, we are allowing for direct competition among telecommunications providers. Achieving that goal has not been easy. I truly believe that is why no previous Government has ever taken on this challenge.
The challenges of telecommunications liberalisation are great as evidenced by the ongoing debate. But we are committed to seeing this process through because we believe that with competition, prices will go down and the quality of service will go up – and that is what our people deserve.
Ladies and Gentlemen: By taking these steps to better connect our community to the world and strengthen our physical infrastructure, your Government has sought to ensure that the basic building blocks of economic growth are in place.
And in recounting these achievements, I must take a moment to pay tribute to the man who contributed so much in this regard: the late Honourable Paul Wattley. Through all these many improvements to our Territory, his legacy and his sprit live on.
And, ladies and gentlemen, your Government has followed up our efforts to strengthen our infrastructure with an equally strong commitment to taking on the tough policy issues that were necessary to keep our economy moving.
We began by restoring fiscal discipline in Government. We put an end to wasteful spending and demanded value for the people’s money. This discipline has not only allowed us to re-build the Territory’s consolidated fund, it has also led to renewed confidence locally and around the world which has, in turn, led to much of the economic growth we have seen.
In addition to restoring fiscal discipline, we also took on the critical issue of our tax code.
When this Government came into power, the BVI taxed local businesses and financial services businesses according to different rules. This practice – known as ring-fencing – is widely condemned in the international finance community and could have undermined our financial services sector which provides so much of our Territory’s revenue.
Thanks to the bold leadership of the Minister for Finance, we dealt with this threat by overhauling our entire tax system and moving to the payroll tax system.
In doing so, not only did we protect the vital financial services sector–– we also established a fairer tax system.
Under the old system, we all know that some people often did not pay taxes on their salaries and other benefits, nor did some companies pay taxes. Under the new payroll system, these taxes are now collected. Moreover, under the new payroll tax, the tax burden on working families was substantially reduced from the old income tax system – meaning that you get to keep more of the money you earn to spend as you see fit.
By taking these steps – investing in our infrastructure, restoring fiscal discipline and reforming our tax system – we helped create a foundation for growth. And the results are everywhere to be seen.
The BVI economy has never been stronger in our entire history. But by simply saying that our economy is stronger than ever, does not do justice to the importance of this achievement. Rather, we must really stop and take a moment to consider what this economic growth means – not just in terms of numbers, or statistics – but what it means in the lives of our people.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I want to ask you all to pause for a moment and really think about it. I want you to take a moment to think about what our economic success has meant to you and your family, to your neighbours and your colleagues, to your friends and our entire community.
And not only that, but I also want you to think about what it would mean if we were to go back to the days of stagnant economic growth.
Think about the young people you know who have been able to afford to go to college either here or abroad. Without economic growth, it would mean families would have less money to invest in their education.
Think of the school leavers you know who have found a good job in their chosen field. Without economic growth there would be far fewer opportunities for them.
Think about the working people you know whose jobs are now more secure – and the businesses you know whose sales opportunities are stronger than ever. Without economic growth, these personal successes would not be possible.
Think about the fact that we have been able to cut taxable earnings twice in just 4 years, so that now the first $10,000 of every working person’s earnings are tax-free. Without economic growth we could not afford to cut taxes unless we cut back on social services.
And think about all the families you know who over the past 4 years have been able borrow money to either build a new home or improve the home they are living in because the banks have confidence that the loans can be repaid.
Without economic growth then there is a real danger that these same families could find that they are unable to afford their mortgages and could lose their homes.
Ladies and Gentlemen: In all these ways large and small, obvious and subtle, our growing economy is contributing to a better quality of life for the all our people – not just the rich, not just the powerful, not just the well connected – but everyone.
And in all these ways, we all stand to lose out if we go back to the days of economic stagnation. And the importance of our growing economy does not end there – because it is also the reason that over the past 4 years we have also been able to take unprecedented steps to meet our goal of strengthening the Territory’s social infrastructure.
In doing so, we have been able to provide greater peace of mind and comfort to every single member of our community.
Today, the BVI is well on its way to providing world-class social services to every member of this community. Nowhere is this progress more apparent than in the area of education.
Our approach to education has been based on our belief that every young person from Anegada to Jost Van Dyke has the absolute right to a quality education from Pre-school through College – and that income should never be a barrier to achievement.
On the basis of that belief, we have invested more money in education than any Government in BVI history. At the primary school level, the opening of the Alexandrina Maduro Primary School created a model that we are working to ensure all our schools can meet.
At the High School level, we have invested significantly in new technologies and work proceeds for the construction of the New High School.
We have established the new Department of Youth Affairs and Sports, which is providing hundreds of young people in every part of the Territory the opportunity to engage in activities ranging from organized sports, to music, to theater, to art.
We have expanded the opportunities for young people to pursue their interests by offering a vocational/technical option at the High School level. We have nearly completed the vitally important work of updating the entire curriculum of the BVI to bring our study into the 21st century.
And, in one of the proudest achievements of this Government’s time in office, we made education at the Community College tuition-free, we increased scholarship aid for students studying abroad and through our efforts and the efforts of the other Overseas Territories, the Government of the UK has lowered rates for our students to the same rates paid by other UK citizens.
This year, the H Lavity Stoutt Community College welcomed its largest class ever – 976 students; with nearly three-quarters of these students enjoying 100% free tuition. In addition, more young people than ever before are now studying at colleges and universities around the world.
Let me emphasize that point: this year over 700 young men and women of the BVI were able to study at the College tuition-free and hundreds more are studying abroad.
Those hundreds of young people like Sheroma and Kareem, and the many thousands who will follow them in the years to come – they are the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams for the future. In them resides the best potential of the BVI. Upon them rests the fate of our community for decades to come. By opening the doors to a college education and telling them that no barrier of income should stop them from achieving their potential, we are making a giant investment in tomorrow.
Let there be no doubt that in the years ahead these students will grow up to become business leaders, and public servants, and artists, and Ministers of Government, and teachers and doctors and community leaders. And when that happens, then there shall be no question that this investment paid off handsomely for our entire community.
And as we are taking our education system to new heights, we are similarly aspiring to achieve world-class quality in our healthcare services, as well. Over the past two years, we completed the first phase of the new Hospital project with the opening of the new Annex.
This first-rate healthcare facility has provided much needed space for our doctors and nurses to care for patients. And the new emergency care unit and new CAT Scan machine offer a glimpse of the future of healthcare in the BVI. And with the completion of this first phase, we have moved forward to construct the new 128-bed Hospital building.
Already, we anticipate seeing the shape of the new building taking form against the backdrop of the hills where once there was nothing but an infamous hole.
Once completed, the new Hospital will provide a level of service previously unknown in the BVI. And we have also begun the historic work of establishing a National Health Insurance Programme. Under this programme every member of our community will enjoy quality medical insurance coverage.
Ladies and Gentlemen: as a doctor, I saw how often people feared getting sick because of what that could do to their families’ financial condition. Once the National Health Insurance Programme is in place, that fear shall be a thing of the past.
Under the National Health Insurance Programme you, your family and our entire community will be covered – and we will all enjoy the security that comes from knowing that you will be cared for at your moments of need.
In this same spirit, your Government has focused additional resources on providing for the needs of our seniors. This past year, we opened the impressive new Road Town Senior Citizens Centre. Plans have already drawn up for the new senior’s home at Spooner’s Estate. And additional Community facilities are in the works throughout the Territory.
And as we are developing these facilities, we have also taken major steps to ensure that our seniors enjoy the financial security they deserve.
We have increased social security pensions across the board for all persons 65 years and older. We have expanded the number of civil servants eligible for pension benefits, by extending that privilege to daily paid workers.
And, most importantly, we have increased social security pensions annually to ensure that the spending power of pensioners keeps pace with the cost of living. This is one way Government is ensuring that our seniors are able to live a quality and comfortable life.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Taken together, the investments we have made in the past 4 years in education, health services, care for our seniors and other social programmes represent a new era for the social services of the BVI.
Our schools are stronger, our healthcare system is stronger, our senior centres and community centres are stronger – and as a result, the people of the BVI can enjoy a peace of mind knowing that the public services they require are there – and that the most vulnerable members of our community are cared for.
Let us never forget that all this was made possible because our economy has grown and given us the resources to fund our most vital projects. And let us also never forget the debt of gratitude we all owe to the dedicated men and women of our public service who work tirelessly to meet the public’s needs.
That brings me, ladies and gentlemen, to the third major objective of this Government – and that is to promote BVI pride.
Measuring our success against this goal is, of course, much harder than measuring economic growth or improvements to our social infrastructure.
There are no statistics to gauge pride. And yet, I am confident that today the feeling of pride in the BVI is strong and growing. I see it everyday.
I see it in the joy people feel at being able to celebrate weddings and special events in our new Palm Grove Park in the centre of our revitalized capital of Road Town.
I see it in the outpouring of support for Taheisha Harrigan, Chantel Malone and our other athletes when they bring us home the Gold.
I see it in the pleasure people take from hearing about the triumphs of our financial services industry and the respect we are winning around the world.
I see it in the growing movement to preserve and promote our local culture.
And above all, I know that BVI Pride is real and growing because I felt it at my back everyday that I led the Constitutional Negotiating team in our talks with the United Kingdom.
Ladies and Gentlemen: it was one of the great honours of my life to lead the BVI delegation composed of members of Government and Opposition, as well as the esteemed leaders of the BVI Constitutional Review Commission. And I can tell you honestly that it was only thanks to the strength that we were able to draw from the people’s support that we were able to stand firm at every step in the negotiation.
Every time the UK team wanted us to concede on a critical point, even when they were supported by members of our team – we recalled that we were acting upon the express will of the people of the BVI – and our spirits were strengthened, our backs were stiffened, and our heels dug in.
We now have a new Constitution for the BVI that is the pride of our community and the envy of our region.
This once-in-a-generation achievement paves the way for a new era in the history of the BVI. From the very first day after the coming election, we will be living under a new framework – one that recognizes the fact that the BVI is a mature democracy with strong institutions and proud traditions.
We will have a National Security Council to promote our public safety.
We will have a cabinet system to ensure that the elected leaders of the Territory can advance the public’s agenda.
We will have new protections to ensure that children born to BVI parents outside the BVI will be Belongers and enjoy the full rights and privileges Belonger status provides.
We will have a human rights chapter that forever preserves the core liberties of our people.
We will have the authority in areas of external affairs to negotiate and work to ensure our best interests are served.
And we will have a new distribution of power between the BVI and the UK that gives us new authority to control our own destiny and chart our own course, while maintaining the benefits that come from being an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
This new Constitution – and the spirit of progress that it embodies – is the surest proof that BVI Pride is truly growing, and powering our community to ever greater heights.
And so, my friends, as we come to the end of our four years in office, we look back with satisfaction – and we look forward with confidence. Yet we are also clearly aware that there are still great issues that we must address.
In particular, there are three profoundly important issues that I believe must be tackled in the coming years, which will largely define our shared future.
First: the issue of Development.
Second: the issue of social cohesion.
And Third: the danger of modest expectations.
Ladies and Gentlemen: we must achieve a community consensus on the issue of development.
Today, the issue of development is far too controversial and contentious. This debate is not healthy nor is it productive.
We must find common ground if we are to move forward and do what is right for the BVI.
In order to find that common ground we must start by recognizing that new development is not a luxury – it is an absolute necessity.
The fact is that the BVI has not had a single major new development in almost 20 years. In that same time, our competitors around the region have built dozens of world-class resorts. If we fail to act, the tourism industry of the BVI will eventually be overwhelmed.
Think about the consequences if this were to happen:
Think about the jobs we would lose; think about your rental properties that would stand vacant; think about the taxis that would stand idle; think about the business opportunities that would be lost.
Not only that, but think about the revenue that we would lose and the impact that would have on our social services.
Ladies and Gentlemen: think about what would happen when all our families who have built new homes and started new businesses over these past 4 years one day they found that they could not keep up with their mortgages because our economy had stopped growing.
This Government will not stand idly by and allow that to happen. Failure is not an acceptable outcome for the BVI.
And so we have charted a middle course that encourages development, but does so in a way that protects our environment and makes sure the benefits are widely shared.
Private developers have responded positively to the call for ensuring that their developments are compatible with our pristine environment. The three projects that we have approved – on Beef Island, Scrub Island and Smugglers Cove – will all adhere to the strictest environmental standards.
They will all be required to give first priority to local people for jobs and local businesses for contracts. And they will all abide by the laws of our Territory that says that access to the beaches shall never be restricted to any member of our community.
Looking back, I regret that we have not been able to make more progress toward achieving community consensus on development over the past 4 years. Too often the fears of the community were stirred up by false rumours and inaccurate information.
Perhaps we in Government did not do as good a job as we might have of explaining our course and demonstrating the benefits of development. But now we must put aside the past and look to the future.
Development is absolutely critical to the BVI – and finding consensus on this issue is absolutely necessary to our long-term strength.
The second great issue that we must face in the coming years is the challenge of preserving social cohesion at a time of rapid change. As our community grows and prospers, we are finding that it is harder and harder to preserve those traditional values that were once the backbone of our communal life.
Too often these days, we see families that are not as tightly knit as they once were. We see neighbours maintaining a distance from one another. We see young people who are not learning the fundamental virtues of hard work, respect for authority, respect for oneself and personal discipline. And, most ominously, we are beginning to see the alien culture of crime trying to take root in our soil.
Ladies and Gentlemen: it is hard to overstate how grave a threat this truly is to the future of the BVI. If we allow the morally bankrupt criminal culture that glorifies violence, rejects God, and worships the almighty dollar to become a permanent part of our community – then we put at risk all that we have worked so hard to build here.
This criminal culture must be understood for what it is – a sickness of the soul. We must fight this disease with all the strength in our beings. I am proud that under this Government, the first blows have been struck in this war.
We have taken steps to bolster the police force and to establish a Citizens Constabulary.
We have provided new resources to promote positive youth programmes.
And we have reached out to our clergy, to our community leaders, to our parents and teachers and enl isted them all in this fight.
Yet there remains so much more to do.
And future Governments must be prepared to wage this fight without compromise and without retreat. This issue is far too important to be subject to political controversy. When it comes to fighting crime there can be no NDP and there can be no UP nor VIP – we must be united in common cause as one people, one community.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, there is one more great challenge that lies ahead for the BVI – and that is the danger of modest expectations.
I believe that above all else these past 4 years have been about expanding the horizons of what we here in the BVI have the opportunity to accomplish.
We came to office promising to empower the people – to open the doors for every person willing to work hard to achieve all that they are capable of achieving. And looking back now, nothing makes me more proud or more hopeful than the fact that we have taken great strides in this direction.
Yet, too often there is still a sense that here in the BVI we should not dare to dream too boldly about what we can achieve. There is a sense that to shoot for the stars is somehow an act of arrogance or conceit.
I reject that belief absolutely.
I say that if we have learned nothing else over these past 4 years, we have learned that with the right combination of faith, vision and dedication to a goal – anything can be accomplished.
Along the way, there were those who told us what we couldn’t do – they told us we couldn’t build a new Hospital; they told us we couldn’t provide college education free of charge; they told us we couldn’t pass historic immigration reform; they told us we couldn’t build Palm Grove Park; they told us we couldn’t negotiate a new Constitution with the UK.
They told us all these things and many more were beyond the scope of what can be done in the BVI.
And we told them: just you watch us.
Because we believe anything is possible for the BVI. And we hold that faith more firmly today than ever. That is why I say to you today, let us look to the future and know one great truth: If we will it, then it can be so.
If we will it, then one day a BVIslander will stand on a podium and win Olympic Gold like any member of the BVI CARIFTA track team here today.
If we will it, then one day a BVIslander will accept a Nobel Prize for science, like our young scientists here today, or in economics, literature, or for peace.
If we will it, then one day a BVIslander will display works of art in the great galleries of the world.
If we will it, one day, a BVIslander will found a company that will trade on the stock exchanges of New York or London or Hong Kong.
And not only that, but if we will it, then one day the sons and daughters of the BVI will own more of our own businesses and hotels that keep our economy strong.
If we will it, then our social services will rival those of Sweden and Denmark and the most advanced societies of Europe.
If we will it, then our farmers and fishermen will thrive and our local artisans will prosper.
If we will it, then our College will become one of the great learning centres in the region.
If we will it then the hardworking men and women of the BVI will all enjoy a quality of life unmatched in our region and the world – a quality of life that allows them all to develop their fullest potential, realize their fondest dreams and pass on to their children a world as full of beauty and possibility as the one they themselves enjoyed.
If we will it, then we can accomplish all these things and so much more.
I believe this because God has blessed us and because our people have the humility and faith required to realize these blessings and not allow them to be squandered.
Ladies a nd Gentlemen: Allow me to close on a personal note. These past 4 years, serving you as Chief Minster, have been among the most rewarding of my life.
But let me be honest, they were also among the most challenging years, as well. The truth is that the work of Government is not always easy. But every time I felt tired or frustrated something always seemed to happen to lift my spirits and restore my sense of purpose.
I would speak to a college graduate – and I would be energized by the possibilities of that young person.
I would see families building new homes – and I would be inspired by the change our growing economy could make in people’s lives.
I would talk to leaders from other nations on matters of mutual interest, and quite often they tell me how impressed they are with the BVI – and I would feel pride that our little Territory had achieved such a large reputation.
I would take counsel from my pastors and the other clergy in our community – and my trust in God would be strengthened. And as most of you know, I would also take counsel from my mother who would call and tell me all that they are saying about me on the talk shows.
I would speak with so many members of the public – the men and women working hard to build a better life for themselves and their families – and my faith would be restored that the future of the BVI is bright.
And most of all, I would run into friends old and new, especially the sweet old ladies who would stop me on the street just to say: Chief Minister, I’m praying for you.
These moments gave me courage and they gave me strength. They uplifted me and helped guide me forward. So that I can stand here today, 4 years later and look back on the path that has been traveled and feel gratitude.
And so from the very bottom of my heart let me simply say: thank you.
Thank you to this community for giving me the chance to serve.
Thank you to our public servants who do so much for us all everyday.
Thank you to Governors, past and present, and the Opposition.
Thank you to my colleagues in Government who worked so hard to make these past four years a time of progress and growth.
And above all, let me give thanks and praise to God for guiding us and bestowing upon us his many blessings.
As I thank God for all of you, I must at this time say thank you to the lady, the Honourable Eileene Lucia Parsons. Mrs. Parsons I am delighted that you have joined us today for this afternoon’s event. I know you have endured some challenging times over the past months but you are a fighter and you have persevered.
Ms. P brought energy to our team in Government. She brought her own style like only Mrs. Parsons can. She has decided that after this term, she will retire from office and on behalf of the team, I want to publicly thank her for leading the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour and for her candid contributions to our discussions.
My friends, 4 years ago your Government said we would empower the people of the BVI. Today, the people of the BVI are empowered like never before. And as a result, the BVI is on the march.
We see it everyday. We see it everywhere. Our spirit is strong. Our pride is strong. And our commitment to building a better future is unshakable. And when I see all these things then I know that together, we shall transcend all limitations, overcome all divisions, topple all barriers and conquer all obstacles.
And together, we shall build a stronger, better BVI. Thank you. God Bless You. And May God Forever Bless the British Virgin Islands.