I wonder who writes the premier’s speeches? And who are they aimed at? International audiences, businesses, voters, taxi drivers, or just regular folks?
He has surpassed himself with his latest half-hour rant after the opening of the ferry port. Essentially, we are to become the Dubai of the Caribbean (my interpretation) — a noble but totally unrealistic ambition.
He has resurrected every project thought of over the last few years: 20, I think he said. Included were the runway extension; the airport rebuilding; five-star hotels (at the pier park and Prospect Reef); marijuana cultivation (worth billions apparently); a betting industry; medical schools; a base for cruise ships to start and end their cruises; and so on. The public has complained that government had a year to plan the reopening of our borders and economy and apparently only acted at the last minute after several delays and changes of plan, and the premier now wants to commit us to sure bankruptcy.
No mention was made of where the finance is to come from. Financial services seem to be on the decline, with the first world after us. But he seems to have forgotten that we cannot even deal with our own present garbage. The Pockwood Pond incinerator keeps breaking down, and, despite a $500,000 down payment, it still lacks a scrubber. Meanwhile, the old incinerator, we now learn, is no more.
Our inability to finish the East End sewage project and to provide a permanent fresh water supply territory-wide are blots on our capability, along with our poor record of selecting capable contractors for projects (think Bates, Balfour Beatty, Beef Island bridge, greenhouses, BVI Airways, solar power — need I go on?).
The marine tourist industry did not feature very high in the premier’s priorities, although it is, or was, our biggest employer and money earner for the people. How is he going to persuade those who have left to return?
Meanwhile, why do we need a two-tier customs regime? The amount of duty paid by private importers must be tiny compared to business payments, and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will pass on reductions to the public. And suddenly the courier services are pariahs. They only really grew because of our appalling postal service, which seems to be headless, unfinanced and abandoned.
By the way, I am all for updating stamps and stamp duty, port fees, electricity and water prices, land tax, property tax, vehicle excise and so, but in a realistic phased manner — and to then keep up with the times. Ignore the cries of Virgin Islanders who seem to think they should pay for nothing.
Several factors will work against the premier’s grand plan.
One is a lack of overseas confidence in our politicians, especially when we change parties of government so often that almost nothing gets completed — and our politicians are mostly inexperienced.
Other problems are nepotism; cronyism; a crabs-in-a-barrel mentality; our inability to control the drug trade and to keep four patrol and rescue boats running; illegal weapons; oversized motorbikes; and an appalling legal system.
Our workforce is insufficient to staff all the proposed projects and will require yet more overseas workers, which does not seem to be popular with our dwindling local population. And there are still cries for independence.
I don’t suppose the right readership sees this, but if it’s you, don’t procrastinate: vaccinate. Do it for the good of yourselves and the rest of us.