A permanent governance watchdog is the Virgin Islands’ last hope.
Swift intervention is the only thing that will save the VI’s integrity when the Rubicon has been crossed from legitimate governance into criminal misconduct.
A recent story in the United Kingdom’s most influential left-of-centre newspaper highlighted allegations of systemic corruption, cronyism, jury intimidation, and misuse of public funds in the territory. Naturally, the narrative also heralded the deep well of resentment at controls placed on VI politicians.
The story described a governance culture where unaudited spending of a $40 million stimulus went hand in hand with the award of contracts to politically connected people; a $10 land development deal; the selective granting of belonger status; handing out Crown property; drug running; the awarding of contracts without following correct procedure; and dubious appointments, with individuals chosen for positions for inappropriate reasons.
The VI police were painted as lacking the public’s confidence, the VI courts as hampered by a culture where favouritism and social links negatively impact due process.
Such issues can only be solved with a new architecture of governance with a permanent watchdog: essentially a permanent investigations agency, with an independent auditor at the centre, and a governor and deputy governor given the powers to swiftly intervene and block any illegitimate action before it becomes a festering sore.
There is no other option but strong oversight to bring this tiny jurisdiction into a safe, equitable and prosperous future.
The territory is clearly unable to govern itself with the type of culture and values it possesses today, and the VI has become a laughingstock in the international community.
The territory is clearly headed for banana republic status if the oversight of local government is not swiftly and effectively conducted.
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