Greed started taking the Virgin Islands toward self-destruction when the territory first embraced financial services, but our political leaders and many business and religious leaders have continued to encourage the industry. When greed takes over, morals, pride, integrity, honesty and respect are removed from one’s vocabulary.

Over the years, all the governments were so busy trying to benefit themselves and their cronies that much of our land and islands were lost, in part because of a failure to adhere to the Non-Belonger Land Holding Regulation Act. Even when the weakness of the law was brought to leaders’ attention, they didn’t care to correct it. They used the excuse of development and investment.

Now the present government and other candidates for the upcoming election are all focused on investment. They are so ready to give away the rest of the territory that some are even willing to give foreign investors the right to live here and do as they wish (including banning belongers and visitors from our beaches) for a few dollars. Those who understand have a moral responsibility to help those who do not understand that investment and development are supposed to benefit the people of the territory. Selling (or giving away) our land and islands is not to the best interest of the people of this territory.


Making money

When foreign investors come here, they come for one reason: to make money. Residents invest their money for the same reason. Therefore our government has a moral and legal responsibility to insure that our local investors do not face unreasonable competition from foreign investors.

There are issues with both sets of investors, however. For my part, I have two issues. First, when foreign investors come they are allowed to bring in all their top executives, which I have no problem with. The issue here is that these companies should be required to train belongers for these positions so that when their work permit expires belongers can fill that position. With small investors, government should assist and encourage belongers to learn the business and be in a position to buy it rather than allow a foreign investor to sell it to another expatriate. Sometimes the employees do not know that the business is being sold.

With local investors, some look at their competitors as their enemy; some do not want to hire belongers; and some, while making their money here, do not want to spend their money here.

Some of these same people complain when expats send their money out of the territory.


Working together

With all the talk and proposals I hear from this government and other future political candidates, I am personally at a lost as to their understanding of who should be the primary investor and beneficiary of investment and development. Facts and statistics have proven that small businesses are the major contributors to their community. While big businesses may employ large numbers, small businesses collectively will always employ more people and be the backbone of a community. Therefore it is extremely important that all locally owned businesses — big, medium and small — work together for the benefit of all. Big business should be willing to offer advice and assistance to small businesses, and small business should be willing to accept advice and suggestions.


Mutual benefits

In many instances, big businesses benefit a lot from small businesses. For example, many first-time jobseekers who do not have any particular skills and work experience depend on small businesses for that first employment opportunity. This is where many employees get work experience in order to move forward in their lives. So big businesses get the vast majority of entry-level employees from this source.

Another example of interdependence between big and small businesses is where small retailers depend on wholesalers from which they need to purchase their merchandise for retail.

Until the people we elect understand that we should be the primary investors in our own home — and that small business is the backbone of any community — we will continue to go in the wrong direction.