Looking far beyond the few remaining months the current House of Assembly will be in place, HOA members have made official a roadmap for the territory’s development until 2036.
Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley laid the National Sustainable Development Plan on the table on Feb. 3 in the House.
“We, as a people, have to start thinking about who we are and where we want to go in this life,” he said. “If we could only have the vision to see where we could be through our own collective efforts, we will go far. The sky is the limit for the Virgin Islands.”
The plan has been promised since at least November 2019, and the 233-page draft was circulated for public commentary last year. Dr. Wheatley said this included 70 virtual and in-person meetings throughout the islands guided by Dr. June Soomer, the lead consultant for the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean.
“The people of the Virgin Islands can claim ownership of this plan,” he said when laying the document. “It was essentially written by the people, who will be the ones to bring it into reality, for it was crafted around the vision for themselves.”
Goals are laid out in the short, medium and long term to realise this vision.
The final plan has not yet been circulated, but the draft published last year 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.
The document also includes an assessment of the VI’s economy, labour force, education sector, crime, fiscal practices, and social profile.
Dr. Wheatley said he took personal pride in seeing the plan move forward and stated that he hopes it inspires confidence among the population.
“I look forward to us all proceeding in earnest with its implementation, and I’m hopeful that all the relevant actors, regardless of political affiliation, will embrace this plan as a mandate of the people of the Virgin Islands for the execution of their vision,” he said.
He also encouraged political parties to incorporate the plan’s priorities into their individual manifestos ahead of the 2023 election.
The premier also moved to allow legislators to debate the plan.
Opposition Leader Julian Fraser said last Thursday that he considers the plan to be clear and comprehensive in laying out the needs of VI society.
“I think there are a lot of good things in this plan, and all we need to do is try our level best,” he said. “This administration has already stated that the implementation of it is being set up. The next administration has to now start looking at putting that implementation plan to work.”