TORTOLA — Exactly one week after Hurricane Irma slammed the British Virgin Islands causing severe damage to homes and businesses across the territory, banks are scheduled to open their doors today, following Tuesday’s meeting with Premier Dr. Orlando Smith.
Smith met with bank representatives to address the issue of cash flow, as the BVI begins its response to the devastation caused by Irma.
“Banks have collectively agreed to open their doors for business on Wednesday, Sept. 13, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” the premier’s statement said, adding that people could begin accessing cash from ATMs on Tuesday. “Our government fully understands the importance of ensuring that we quickly begin the arduous task of rebuilding the territory, so I have begun daily meetings with the central arms of the economy, social and civic make up so that we can work quickly, to get the Virgin Islands back to normalcy.”
Smith was speaking to representatives of Scotiabank, Banco Popular, Development Bank of the Virgin Islands, First Bank and First Caribbean International Bank on Tuesday. According to the statement, the premier expressed an immediate need for the banks to to be up and running to support the rebuilding efforts of the Virgin Islands.
“The banks are fully aware of the need to ensure cash is available and we have been working with each other and we are collectively confident about the cash on hand, and the ability to provide the access to our clients,” stated Joy Francis, president of the BVI Bank Association and CEO of the National Bank of the Virgin Islands, who spoke on behalf of Sjored Koster of VP Bank.
For the business community, the banks have confirmed that if employers have Internet access, they can run their electronic payrolls and salaries will be made to employees’ accounts so that they could access cash via ATMs. For employers running manual payrolls, the banks have agreed to assist business owners to ensure salaries can continue to be paid.
Given the infrastructural damage to the territory, the islands have become a dominantly cash economy. The banks have given Premier Smith the assurance that they can provide the cash in the economy that is needed and have triggered their backup plans.
The bank representatives are expected to meet with Smith again today, to discuss plans for loan reprieves for both businesses and personal accounts.
The statement noted that Smith assured his administration will be working proactively with the business community to spur on territory’s rebuilding process.