For too long, the Virgin Islands has suffered from a failure to plan for the long term.
The result can be seen in shoddy infrastructure, ill-conceived public projects, struggling schools, wasted taxpayer dollars, a stalled hurricane recovery, subpar social safety nets, and other areas.
We therefore have high hopes for the draft National Sustainable Development Plan that government released on Saturday. From that day, the public has 30 days to provide input before the document is finalised.
We hope everyone will read it carefully and offer ideas for the way forward.
The plan, which was created with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme, is designed in large part to help the territory meet the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” the UN hopes to achieve globally by 2030.
This laudable agenda was adopted by all UN member states in 2015, and it includes eliminating hunger and poverty, reducing inequality, and ensuring access to health care, quality education, clean water and reasonable employment, among others.
The VI is right to come on board as the world works toward achieving these goals.
The plan should be a big help.
For one thing, it should help address a longstanding problem associated with VI politics: Too often, a change of government here completely resets the local agenda, stalling well-meaning projects midstream and starting others that themselves get stalled after the next election. The plan should bring continuity.
It should also help the territory get a better handle on its physical development. So far, the VI has largely eschewed best practices such as zoning, often allowing construction to proceed haphazardly.
The new plan should also help the territory boost its social safety nets and education system while guiding longer-term responses to critical challenges such as environmental degradation and climate change, among others.
However, a plan alone won’t be enough. For the VI to reap the benefits of the document, leaders must officially adopt it and follow it.
Too often in the past, similarly well-meaning strategies have been drafted and then ignored altogether.
One example is the 2007 Road Town Improvement Project, a well-conceived strategy for the territory’s capital that included ideas like park-and-ride facilities, a waterfront walkway, greenways, and others. But the RTIP was never officially adopted, and few of its recommendations were implemented.
Similarly, the 2017 hurricanes 10 years later offered the territory an opportunity to start from scratch in many areas and build back stronger. But the then-government didn’t get far with its initial recovery plan, which the current government later replaced with a smaller plan that has been similarly ignored as leaders have failed to source the needed funding.
The National Sustainable Development Plan is an important opportunity to turn over a new leaf by refocusing attention to long-term priorities instead of knee-jerk reactions and short-term thinking.
Everyone, then, should read it carefully and provide any input they see fit. After that, leaders should take careful note of the public’s views and work to set an example in the region by quickly meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals as early as possible.
The entire community stands to benefit.