As the Virgin Islands goes through the trauma of a Commission of Inquiry and its aftermath, the territory should remember that the exercise aims at strengthening governance. And getting governance right will be even more of an influence on long-term prosperity than the natural beauty and majestic geography of these islands.

A country or territory can be beautiful and endowed with natural wealth but remain poor and underdeveloped if governance is poor. Conversely, a country with limited natural wealth will prosper if it possesses good governance.


Capital mix

Ultimately, the quality of a country’s public and private capital decides its people’s quality of life, standard of living, and well-being. But good governance is synonymous with a capital mix that drives up prosperity, well-being, and the national good.

If we look at countries that underperform, overwhelmingly, it is down to their poor governance. Indeed, governance is an octopus with tentacles that affect every area of national life. Poor governance results in a capital mix that fails to deliver.

Leadership is top-down, and even though a population’s values and culture are factors in deciding the quality of leadership, poor governance will destroy a country’s culture. Countries get the governments they deserve, yes. However, like a fish where the rot starts at the head, poor leadership delivers mass misery.



Consider Africa. The continent is blessed with vast and abundant natural resources, but poor governance drives unethical cultures in many countries there. This poor governance has been a top-down affair, corrupting everything and inflicting war, under-development and poverty on hundreds of millions of people.

Conversely, many countries with far less natural wealth possess a higher quality of life and standard of living owing to honest, progressive and thoughtful governance. In other words, the governing culture of a country appears to have a more lasting effect on prosperity and welfare than the gold, silver, copper, aluminium, and uranium sitting under the earth.


In the Caribbean

The modern Caribbean is a tourism haven, but it is limited in natural resources — unlike many an African nation boasting abundant oil, gas, minerals and arable land. The Caribbean owes any positive economic growth and social development to the fact that many of its islands possess a reasonable degree of honest governance — at least relative to many countries in Africa and Latin America. Honest and good governance results in a capital mix in the Caribbean of a relatively sustainable social and economic infrastructure.

Much more of the Caribbean would have resembled Haiti or Venezuela had it not been for governance that has adopted a degree of honesty.

Consequently, many of the islands — including overseas territories of the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands — are safe for tourism and offshore administrative and financial services, which are key revenue earners.



Much of the Caribbean also possesses an adequate power and water supply, and a connecting road network that borders coastlines and links with hubs and towns inland. Again, this is the consequence of sustainable public investment: public cash that has not ended up in Swiss accounts as in the case of too many naturally wealthy but more corrupt and less developed economies.

There remains much to be improved, but Caribbean roads beat many other regions of the world where potholes become craters and collapsed bridges are left in disrepair for many months or years. A drive through a land where corruption is rife will be a shock to anyone living in a safe, sustainable, and stable country with good governance.

A Caribbean island nation such as Haiti can blame poor governance for driving a capital mix that has resulted in poverty, crime and underdevelopment, especially in recent decades.

Here in the VI, the COI is designed to take this territory further in the opposite direction: towards prosperity.