Just as the world seemed to be steadily emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, another global crisis has arrived.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an affront to democracy, and our hearts go out to Ukrainians, including the ones who live here.
The Virgin Islands should do what it can to help, while once again buckling down and preparing for the effects of global events beyond its control.
Ukraine and Russia both export many products that are important for the entire world. Russia, for instance, is the world’s third largest oil producer and the largest producer of wheat, while Ukraine is the fifth largest producer of wheat.
The war, of course, has upended supply lines. As a result, food and fuel prices are likely to continue spiking across much of the world at a time when inflation is already plaguing the United States — and, by extension, the VI.
Island nations will be disproportionately affected by the war because of their outsize reliance on fossil fuels for energy and on imports and shipping for the great majority of their goods.
And in the VI, any rise in the cost of fuel will be a double-whammy: A knock-on increase in airline fees will discourage visitors from flying at a time when the tourism industry is struggling to recover from the pandemic.
We were pleased to hear VI leaders addressing the war in recent days. Premier Andrew Fahie and Governor John Rankin have roundly denounced the Russian invasion and committed to enacting international sanctions — which will be particularly important for the territory’s financial industry. They should continue to consider other ways the territory can help.
In recent days, the premier has also warned fuel businesses against price gouging, saying that a task force has been established to monitor prices.
He is right to sound such warnings, though the appropriate agency for price monitoring is the Trade Commission that should have been formed under a 2020 law. Unfortunately, however, no commission members have been appointed.
Starting now, Mr. Fahie should expedite efforts to get the body up and running.
The premier also said a working group has been established to monitor the effects of the war and make recommendations to government on the way forward. This step is reasonable, but the group must work closely with businesses and other stakeholders to consider potential solutions.
Options for the way forward range from stopgap measures like temporarily cutting certain import duties to longer term solutions such as bolstering food security and encouraging green energy.
We hope Russia will abandon its invasion very soon, allowing Ukrainians to start rebuilding their lives. Unfortunately, however, the war is likely to continue for months, if not years, with effects reaching around the world.
The VI must prepare now.