Apologies to those who bought the Beacon last week expecting to see a contribution from me. It’s the curse of the weekly newspaper: Publish Thursday, but deadline Tuesday, and a lot can happen in between.
I had covered the main points the week before: fast-tracking status and cyber currency. There were plenty of other good articles in last week. Cyber currency seems to have sunk, along with medical schools, drag racing, airport expansion, and small government subventions to many voluntary bodies, but we still want to waste money on festival activities and, probably, Buju Banton.
Have you noticed we are being affected by “billboard creep”? Not only plywood/posters but large, very bright television screens as well. Government told political parties to remove their structures after the election, but it seems some others have moved on to berate us with advertising, as well as distracting drivers. I wonder what the law is concerning this type of activity?
Bikes, jet skis
The new minister of transportation, works, etcetera, etcetera, has, like his fellow ministers, hit the ground running. He is proposing park and ride, 600cc motorcycles, jet skis, and banning the importation of used Japanese vehicles.
I don’t suppose any of these ideas are in the budget, but I know an area where he is wasting government money. I have mentioned it before, even to him in his previous job, but does he realise that, since National Health Insurance, it costs government at least $144 for every 70-plus-year-old’s annual driving licence because they have to have a medical every year? Under co-pay it costs the driver $16 instead of the previous $60. The doctors charge $160 and government picks up the bulk of this. Most 70-plus-year-olds are much fitter than they were when this law was introduced, and it is time to follow other countries and allow three-to-five-year licences and self-certification. The only exceptions should be taxi/bus drivers and heavy goods vehicle operators.
Now to the most disturbing news of last week. In the House of Assembly the premier had to admit that he has been unable to find any information on the BVI Airways debacle. Specifically, who signed off all the payments early instead of on the agreed schedule? Surely the ex-premier, ex-minister of communications and works, financial secretary, cheque writers and civil servants must all be in the frame? An explanation would be nice, but the fact that there seems to be no paper trail, that it may have been destroyed, or that civil servants are stonewalling the investigation is something we should all abhor.
The question of fast-tracking permanent residency and belongership applications seems to have been put on hold with the withdrawal of the second and third readings of modifications to the Immigration and Passport Act. I don’t believe there is anything in the Constitution to hold up applications once all requirements have been met. Cabinet usually rubber stamps them when they reach that level, so it has been civil servants and ministers who have been the stumbling block in the past.
We all know that many people have waited years for residency or belongership. Some have given up, some have left (particularly after Irma), and some have died waiting. Meanwhile, the die-hard xenophobic in VI society continue to oppose recognition of people who have helped build the society to what it is today, and without which the islands could well have been depopulated by now — and then where would we all be?
And how many of the naysayers who have been giving their opinions to the premier were actually born here, or have children born as United States citizens?
That said, it looks like the exercise will be delayed beyond mid June, though there is actually no need for the legislation at all. With the United Kingdom government saying they will not interfere with belongership status, there is no rush to get potential voters into the fold, but that should not stop improvements in the process.