In the United Kingdom, shortly before the election was announced, the queen read “The Queen’s Speech” outlining the government’s proposed legislation for the next session of Parliament. This has since been followed by some of the competing political parties’ “manifestos” proposing their programmes if elected.
In the Virgin Islands, the governor read the “Speech from the Throne” outlining our government’s proposed legislation for the present session. Then the premier presented his budget for next year, also outlining the spending plans.
These two speeches have two things in common. Firstly, neither the queen nor the governor has to believe a word of what they are reading out loud. The speeches are written by the political minions under government instructions.
And the second thing they have in common? Hardly any of the promises are likely to be fulfilled. They are designed to persuade voters to support one party or another, or in our case to convince the electorate that they did the right thing in electing the present government.
Most of you can probably guess which of our government’s promises won’t be kept, will not see the light of day, will falter at the start, or will fade away.
The following are a few that I don’t think will make it:
- Legalising gambling and betting. Our religious righteous will see that off.
- Increasing nightlife to persuade cruise ships to stay until midnight. Cruise ships leave when they do because they are on a tight schedule, planned years ahead, and are rightly concerned about the safety of their passengers after dark. They also have a huge investment in their own evening entertainment on board. There are only a few ports where they stay overnight, such as St. Petersburg, Bermuda and Sydney.
- Entering the marijuana industry, allegedly for the medicinal benefits. Firstly, we have said before, government must stay out of commercial businesses, whether it be hotels, pelagic fishing or agriculture. Secondly, we do not have the acreage to grow marijuana in sufficient quantities to make a business, whatever the pot-smokers may think.
- Drag racing. So a $96,000 consultancy survey said it is feasible to start such an activity. Where is the report? What areas of land did it suggest? Was a financial cost-benefit analysis done? Again, this must not be for government to get involved in, other than maybe granting land and making regulations for safety and so on.
- Green and blue and SMART initiatives are all very well, but when we cannot repair or replace our incinerator and we allow our hillsides to burn, they are but platitudes. Reducing import duty on hybrid or electric cars will be offset, if more than half a dozen people import them, by someone having to provide charging points all over the territory and cause the need for yet more electricity to be generated. Meanwhile, the proposal to allow larger motorcycles and jet skis, with the added noise and fuel use, is not exactly going green.
- Improving e-payments for customers is all very well, but if people won’t pay their bills, however generated, and government has toothless enforcement legislation, the expense is questionable. Look at the Water and Sewage Department’s accounting system. They rarely read meters and no longer send out bills, and they think spending over $1 million on remotely read digital meters will improve the situation.
Work to do
Phew! The governor did well to get through that speech, but I have run out of comments for a short newspaper article. Let’s keep the speech and the Budget Address and see how much has been enacted by the end of 2020.
The bill drafters and legislators will have their work cut out to meet all those promises.