As the neighboring US Virgin Islands (USVI) continues to welcome charter yacht operators to its shores, the BVI government is accused of making it difficult for yacht charter professionals to operate locally.
Opposition Leader Marlon Penn made the criticisms during a recent Opposition press briefing.
Penn said USVI was able to grow its revenue to nearly $100 million at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, while BVI’s revenue, on the other hand, remained flat or declined.
“We see where they are putting policies in place to welcome our marine and charter industry practitioners to the U.S. Virgin Islands while we create a public relations storm for companies that operate in our space and have continued to contribute economically to the development of people in this space. »
“They are welcoming our customers, adjusting their laws and policies while we are armed and heavily weaponizing our economic activity in our country,” he said.
The Leader of the Opposition’s comments come on the heels of a crackdown by Her Majesty’s Customs (HM Customs) in recent weeks on yacht charter businesses that allegedly breached BVI maritime regulations.
At the time of recent enforcement activity, dozens of vessels were beached and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines were levied against Moorings and other local yacht charter companies.
A public relations maelstrom ensued, during which government officials squarely blamed the yacht charter industry for its continued breaches of safety and other regulations that the government said were essential to compliance. maritime law.
Apart from these breaches, however, the yacht charter industry has lodged complaints against HM Customs in recent months. These complaints relate to the manner in which yachts were approached and searched during law enforcement exercises conducted by some of its officers.
Meanwhile, Penn continued to castigate the government for its apparent lack of leadership and knee-jerk responses to repeated crisis situations.
According to the leader of the opposition, the government has cut the budget for social services in 2021 by up to 33%, in some cases. He said it happened at a time when the BVI was going through a social crisis.
“Leadership is important,” Penn argued. “We need to make sure that we have a government and a group of individuals with a vision to move this country forward that understands the balance between policies and regulations, but they understand the importance of the economy and the well-being being and well-being of his people. We don’t see that at the moment.
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