Guyana wants her citizens back – BVI’s Deputy Premier tells Islanders
Guyanese living in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are being encouraged to return home to support the ongoing transformation of the country, fueled by oil funds but affected by shortages in labour.
And as discussions intensify at the government level in the BVI on removing the existing visa restrictions for Guyanese, Deputy Premier Lorna Smith assured Islanders on Tuesday that there is no expectation of Guyanese flocking the shores of the Virgin Islands.
“The Guyanese authorities said early that they would love to have their people back,” Smith said as he provided an update on her recent trip to Guyana to scope out investment and other prospects.
Smith is in support of lifting the visa restrictions and wants it to be a decision the Cabinet can reach soon. She said from her personal research, there are no expected ramifications on the labour market in the BVI to flow from such a move.
To make her point, she said data show that the number of visa applications by Guyanese that were turned down in recent years is little to none.
“It’s negligible… there was little or no refusal,” she said while noting that the removal of the visa requirement does not translate to an automatic approval to live and work.
“Lifting the requirement will not change the workforce in the BVI. There is so much work in all the fields and it’s not like people will be flocking,” Smith added.
Guyanese are the third largest foreign population in the BVI and have been supporting the country’s development since the 1960s; Smith reflected on being taught by Guyanese tutors as a child.
She said removing the visa requirement was just part of removing hindrances to heightened business and political relations in the future.
She dubbed it a trip that “reinforced relations with one of the leading and largest member of CARICOM,” as she brushed aside questions like: “Why Guyana? Why now?”
Dr. Dawson said there are many lessons to be learnt from Guyana on its agricultural ambition and work that has borne fruit for the entire region.
The BVI and Guyana are to jointly address, however, the high cost of shipping which has affected the price for commodities imported from Guyana for resale in the BVI such as sugar and sand.
He was particularly impressed with the use of shade houses by Guyanese farmers to boost productivity and the modern system used by authorities to track farmers across the country.
The BVI is currently discussing establishing a permanent presence in Guyana to ensure and continued and mutually beneficial relationship.
Another visit will occasion soon to address other issues like air and sea transport, bilateral trade and long-term support for the oil and non-oil sectors.