Last week, Prime Minister Andrew Fahie took responsibility for the implementation and swift cancellation of an increase in dock fees on petroleum products that would have raised electricity bills in the territory.
The increase “was never intended to come into effect,” he said at a press conference last Thursday. “It was never intended for people, but to make a long story short… I’m just going to take the heat for it and say it’s been fixed.”
The quickly open and closed saga began when the BVIEC issued a press release on May 18 announcing that under an amendment to the British Virgin Islands Port Authority Regulations, which was approved by Cabinet and released in the Gazette on April 15, a dock fee of 10 cents per gallon would be charged on petroleum products released from a ship’s pipeline to BVIEC facilities.
“Due to the imposition of this new law, all customer electricity bills from May 2021, and in the future, will include this increase in the cost of fuel to generate electricity in the section” fuel surcharge “on your electric bills,” the press release stated.
BVIEC imports about one million gallons of fuel with each shipment, the statement noted, adding that the increase would be reflected in May invoices from customers under the “fuel surcharge” heading. He does not say how much the bills would increase.
Previously, petroleum products were exempt from wharfage charges, according to the BVI Ports Authority Regulations, 1995.
The day after the announcement, the BVIEC announced a sharp reversal.
In a new statement, the utility said it had “worked diligently” with the prime minister and BVIPA to “advance an exemption” from the law.
“Great progress has been made as the Prime Minister in the exercise of his powers indicated that BVIEC would be immediately exempted from this
settlement, ”the statement said.
“As such, customers’ June invoices will reflect a waiver of these dock charges.”
At a press conference last Thursday, reporters asked why the Prime Minister approved the increase to change his mind later. In response, Mr Fahie took responsibility for the rise and overturn, saying he “was not going to throw anyone under the bus”.
“You don’t give people hardship, especially during Covid-19, as some have said, but I wouldn’t stand up to my responsibilities. I apologize, ”he said. “This is something that shouldn’t have happened. But I won’t blame anyone.
However, in response to another question, he acknowledged that the BVIEC would not be the only entity affected by recent increases in wharf fees and other port fees.
The fee hikes – which he says are the first for BVIPA in 25 years – were announced in January and included almost widespread increases in licenses and fees, some of which are said to have more than tripled from March 1. However, in April, the BVIPA announced an attempt to
soothe criticism and relieve pain by gradually introducing adjustments over time.
Last Thursday, the Prime Minister explained that the phased rollout was designed to help businesses suffering from sticker shock.
“The increase for the private citizen, some of them were four cents and part $ 2,” he said. “In terms of monthly increases, this is not trivial, but companies [are] where it would have taken a few more hits.
That’s why I know she should never have gone this far. “
As part of the new plan, revised license fees for customs brokers and agents came into effect in March, as did new fees for warehousing, docking, in-line handling and access to containers and to vehicles.
The other increases were due to go into effect on May 1, but they were postponed until next year.
“We have to watch to make sure they are canceled so that they no longer affect businesses in this way,” the Prime Minister said last Thursday.
He added that the Consumer Unit within the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs is responsible for ensuring “that when we continue to offer these incentives, they are passed on to customers.”
Mr Fahie also announced more initiatives designed to help businesses, including the two-tier tariff system of tariffs, revealed in April, which would allow licensed businesses in good standing to pay lower tariffs than individuals who import goods for non-commercial purposes. purposes.
The two-tier system is intended to allow businesses to benefit from a reduction in the cost of goods which they can then pass on to customers, he explained last Thursday.
“We want to put in place a two-tier system that will allow people with a certain level of activity to bring things in at a much lower rate,” he said.
He also promised more business-friendly initiatives to come.
“Some of them [are] take time; some of them are legislative changes, ”he said. “But remember, we have been dealing with Covid-19 and it has been a challenge, you know. We feel like we have the vaccines and we are trying to balance things out. I can safely tell you that you will see more initiatives coming now than [are] will help businesses now. “