United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean Lead Consultant Dr. June Soomer — who is helping lead consultations on the National Sustainable Development Plan — was the keynote speaker for a recent graduation at the territory’s University of the West Indies Open Campus, above. (File Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

The Virgin Islands soon will have a roadmap for development until 2036, leaders hope.

The government recently released a 233-page draft version of a National Sustainable Development Plan — something promised at least since November 2019 — which aims to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals over the next 15 years.

The plan includes a current situational analysis; a list of challenges and priorities; national goals and outcomes; and an implementation framework.

It also provides for a “built in review” every three years supported by monitoring and evaluation frameworks. These steps will ensure timely reporting, transparency and accountability, according to the document.

Government announced on Saturday that public consultation on the plan will be held for one month, and that submissions can be sent to nationalplanBVI@gov.vg.

“Consultation is ongoing and UN Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean Lead Consultant Dr. June Soomer and her team will meet this month with special groups such as farmers, fisherfolk, financial services, teams from ministries, tourism stakeholders, private sector officials, sports personnel and civil society organisations to ensure that they are well represented within the plan,” Premier Andrew Fahie said in a press release.

The plan states that its overall vision is “a well-balanced, people-centred Virgin Islands built on spirituality, social justice and equality; nurtured by trust, cultural knowledge and participatory governance; strengthened by economic, environmental, and social sustainability.”

The document also includes an assessment of the VI’s economy, labour force, education sector, crime, fiscal practices, and social profile.

Economy

In one section, the plan details key factors of the territory’s economy and critical challenges to its growth, including air access limitations and deteriorating public infrastructure.

“Investment in public goods needs to be ramped up to meet the needs of a growing population and the BVI’s niche tourism market,” the plan noted. “Underinvestment in road infrastructure, solid waste disposal, water supply facilities, seaports, etcetera has meant that infrastructure has lagged behind the needs of the population.”

In 2020, the year Covid-19 hit, the territory entered its worst recession ever recorded with a 10 percent decline in gross domestic product and rising unemployment, according to the plan.

Threats to financial security include declining revenues, inadequate revenue collection mechanisms with significant leakages, and a narrow debt portfolio, the document added.

Some of the territory’s strengths include largely untapped fishing resources, a strong yachting sector, geographical location, a low crime rate, and a vibrant private sector, according to the plan.

‘National outcomes’

A large part of the plan is dedicated to outlining 21 “national outcomes” within four main goals that the strategy aims to help achieve (see below).

The NSDP explains that it builds on guidelines set out in the National Integrated Development Strategy proposed by the Ministry of Finance’s Planning Unit Head Otto O’Neal in 2000.

The NIDS was designed to balance economic development with social and environmental cohesion in an overall sustainable development plan.

Other documents that helped form the foundation for the NSDP include the Recovery and Development Plan, the Blue Economy Roadmap, The Medium-Term Development Plan, The Medium-Term Fiscal Plan, and the National Physical Development Plan.

PLAN HIGHLIGHTS FOUR GOALS

The National Sustainable Development Plan includes four main goals with 21 “national outcomes.”

GOAL ONE:

“Empowering islanders for a sustainable future and inclusive, vibrant society”

Outcomes

  • A healthy population
  • An educated and skilled population
  • Adaptive shock response social systems
  • Equal opportunity and gender equality
  • Embracing unique culture and heritage
GOAL TWO:

“Having a prosperous, vibrant and thriving internationally-competitive economy”

Outcomes

  • Fiscal strength and sustainability
  • An enabling business environment
  • Resilient economic infrastructure
  • Sustainable water and energy
  • Science and technology innovation
  • Globally competitive industries
  • Sustainable economy
GOAL THREE:

“Embracing good governance, accountable government and citizen participation”

Outcomes

  • Safety and security
  • Efficiency of government
  • Constitutional advancement
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Feedback and social dialogue
  • Strong foreign relations
GOAL FOUR:

“Embracing environmental sustainability”

Outcomes

  • Sustainable management and use of environmental and natural resources
  • Developing the blue economy
  • Hazard risk reduction and adaptation to climate change

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