In the Virgin Islands, 2018 was a rollercoaster of highs and lows.
The hurricane recovery, of course, dominated the news, which ranged from inspiring tales of phenomenal heroism to heart-wrenching reports of overwhelming struggles.
Even today, it is difficult to speak of the year’s successes without also acknowledging the clouds that still hang over the territory.
Throughout 2018, residents continued to show remarkable resilience in pulling the community back together, and a sense of normalcy surely has been returning across most of the VI. But all is not well.
As one example, consider the housing situation. After extensive building repairs, most residents are living fairly comfortably with running water and electricity. But others are not so lucky, and with rents sky high a handful will spend yet another Christmas in a shelter.
Jobs are also returning, but some residents nevertheless remain unemployed in an economy that is recovering in fits and starts.
In the tourism industry, visitors are back in force, but major resorts remain closed and the numbers of hotel rooms and yacht beds alike are far below pre-storm levels.
The financial services sector has continued to thrive after weathering the hurricanes remarkably well, but threats from abroad — especially the United Kingdom’s public registry requirement and the looming European Union blacklist — pose existential challenges.
The government has made some progress, with the Recovery and Development Agency coming on stream and repair projects slowly getting under way. But the promises of “building back stronger” that leaders made in the wake of the hurricanes seem to have largely fallen by the wayside, and work has not even begun on important projects like the Elmore Stoutt High School.
Heading into the New Year, then, the territory is by no means out of the woods.
To ensure success in 2019, the government, businesses and the rest of the community will need to work together ever more closely, putting self-interest aside for the greater good as so many were able to do in the weeks after the storm.
Heading into an election, this is a tall order. But it is the only way forward in these troubled times.
Happy holidays and a happy New Year to all.