Following a press conference on Friday where Premier Andrew Fahie stated that government would monitor rising prices of gas and other goods, he made another announcement on Sunday night that an audit of petroluem companies and gas stations would start on Monday of this week.
“Each company’s increase in prices will be marked from their last imported price on fuel and goods, and will be checked against their invoice,” he said. “Simply put, all prices should reflect the regular markup on the product received in the last shipment of their product to the Virgin Islands.”
The announcement came as gas prices in the territory rose by as much as a dollar per gallon over the weekend at some stations. Mr. Fahie cautioned companies against using the war in Ukraine as an excuse to prematurely raise prices. While he acknowledged that the territory will feel the economic effects of the war eventually, he said that unethical business practices will be scrutinised.
“We must prepare ourselves. There will be increases in prices due to these developments which are outside of the control of the government of the Virgin Islands and our suppliers and businesses,” he said Friday. “Your government is implementing a working group to monitor the situation and to help stay ahead of the curve.”
Though he didn’t state any penalties for price-gouging, he urged businesses to “resist any unnecessary price increases that can cause hardship” on people.
On Tuesday, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn described the premier’s announcement about monitoring price increases as a “smoke screen.”
Mr. Penn said that without “sound knowledge, proper structures, processes and methodologies, and without enforcement capacity and legal authority,”
government’s efforts may be futile in protecting the stability of multiple threatened sectors of the Virgin Islands’ economy, including tourism.
Also during the Friday press conference, Mr. Fahie touched on the marine industry, cruising permit fees, Covid-19, tourism and other topics before opening the floor for questions from the media.
Government will waive cruising permit fees for Virgin Islanders and belongers, he announced, but he added that all captains and boaters should carry a passport or other valid identification.
“All agencies — including Customs, Immigration, the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, Labour Department, and Trade Department — are now operating with one goal in mind: creating a one-stop shop for the charter industry,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to streamline and simplify the application process for all charter companies, including foreign-based charter companies, to operate in the BVI waters.”
Mr. Fahie also announced that the VI and the USVI have agreed to a reciprocal certification allowing VI commercial vessels to carry 12 passengers into USVI waters as long as they hold a code certificate issued by VISR.
“Before, there were restrictions, and now we can say that there has been progress to allow our local marine industry to thrive,” he said.
At the end of his address, Mr. Fahie said that Amanda
Milling, the United Kingdom Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East, has agreed to visit the territory in the near future. Ms. Milling also holds responsibility for the overseas territories.
Asked about the Pockwood Pond incinerator and the East End bridge that was recently found to be severely damaged, the premier said he would allow Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone and Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer to provide statements on those projects “next week.”
Mr. Fahie also declined to answer questions regarding Covid-19 restrictions and work permits, saying other ministers would provide information soon on those topics as well.
Asked how much has been spent to date on the additional retirement allowance granted to former House of Assembly members under a law passed last year, the premier replied, “Those figures I won’t have in my mind at all.”
But he insisted that the allowance is necessary.
“When you look at what they’re given, it was not measurable to the sacrifice they made,” he said about past elected officials.
He added that female spouses of retired HOA members were not allowed to receive benefits if they remarried.
“That’s antiquated,” he said. “That’s wrong. We’re going to be amending that and working towards that.”