During the August 9 Sitting of the House of Assembly, the territory’s legislators moved in favour of an amendment to the Finance and Money Services Act, which reduced the Money Services Levy and added new categories for the use of the revenue gathered from this tax.
Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley, who filed the motion, told the House of Assembly, that the money has been allocated to different categories required to “help the people of the Virgin Islands in various areas”, including noble uses such as elderly care, schools and athlete support.
Dr. Wheatley previously spoke about his plans to offer greater support to the territory’s athletes through legislative change while addressing the press on his recent trip to the United Kingdom.
Though the premier noted that dedicated funding for athletes has been something he had previously hinted to, particularly during his time as Minister for Sports, he admitted that it was not until he took office as Minister for Finance that he could act on this promise.
“Not until I was able to get into this seat, the position as Minister of Finance, I was able to make it a reality. It was a priority for me because I wanted to ensure that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports had dedicated monies committed to sports that could be put towards the grassroots programs…can be put towards infrastructural development… can be put towards our elite athletes programme”, he said.
The Premier noted that once the relevant funds have been allocated, it will be up to the Minister for Sports and the ministry to determine how it will be spent.
According to Dr. Wheatley, so far, the fund has accumulated about 6 million dollars, some of which he hopes can be used to address the real-life needs of the territory’s athletes.
“In order to better support our athletes, I think for our elite athletes, they need more funding. They need more assistance when they have injuries, training, and sometimes even to survive and pay bills on a day-to-day basis. As opposed to trying to worry about that. All of these things would help them to be able to perform at a better level”, he explained.
Premier Wheatley said that it is intended that the handling of these government-provided monies at the level of Sporting Associations and Federations will be monitored by a Sports Council.
Though in recent years there have been several missed projections for when such a council will be formed in the territory, dating as far back as 2020, Wheatley said that it is his understanding that the process is moving along.
“We have a draft legislation for a Sports Council, and certainly the Minister of Sport will have to give an update as to where that is but I know it’s in the draft stage. They also have been reviewing and reformulating their sports policy and there may be some sense that they want to complete the sports policy before bringing the legislation further for the sports council”, he said.
Wheatley congratulated the athletes of team BVI for their impressive performances during this year’s Commonwealth Games and promised that these legislative changes are only the beginning of continued government investments into athletes and the youth of the BVI.