Every year, Beaconites like to complain about closed-door government affairs that should, by any transparency standards, be open to the public. Currently, lawmakers are in the midst of one of the biggest examples of this: the deliberations of the Standing Finance Committee, when various department heads and high-level government officials try to woo lawmakers into giving them an ample piece of the budgetary pie. Though government issues a report after the deliberations, it is frequently redacted and very often hard to interpret. For all the recent talk of transparency, accountability and good governance spoken into microphones at the House of Assembly chambers and throughout the halls of the Central Administration Building, lawmakers seem to have little appetite to throw actual sunshine on some of the most important government discussions of the year — those directly involving the direction and shape of the now-stressed public purse.
Less than two months away from the start of the 2018 hurricane season, the territory is still filled with reminders of the last one. One significant change has happened, though — the Multi-purpose Sports Complex in Road Town is no longer being used to house dispossessed people. As of last week, the gymnasium that used to be full of cots, air mattresses, clothes and other personal items is now — almost eerily — empty. Several of the people who used to inhabit that space have not moved home, but rather to another shelter on the island. While it’s a positive step forward (and certainly a long time coming) that the sports complex has been returned to its intended purpose, there’s a larger issue at play. Droves of VI residents found themselves homeless after Irma, and still haven’t been able to harness the resources they need to find permanent housing, even six months later. In the short time before the next hurricane season, government should examine what they’ll do if another Irma-like storm hits and the homeless population grows. Many of the designated emergency shelters were damaged last year, and some (at least one on Tortola) still house shelterees. Come June, if the season proves to be as active as last year, government might be forced to reopen the sports complex yet again.
First press conference
A Beaconite will readily admit that as a younger person, she did not ever really see herself as a journalist, and especially not the type of journalist who attends press conferences and asks hard-hitting questions of high-ranking political figures — such as the premier of the Virgin Islands. A mere six months ago, she had never interviewed a politician at all, and did not expect to. But last week, due to an unexpected set of circumstances involving a last-minute press conference, she found herself doing just that, throwing on a borrowed jacket and rushing off to the Central Administration Building, hoping her outfit would be deemed acceptable for such an event and she would not make a complete and utter fool of herself. Luckily for her, unlike the leaders of some other countries she could name, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith deserves credit for being surprisingly welcoming to reporters he probably does not recognise, even when they are peppering him with questions he would probably prefer not to answer (or like the Beaconite, reading them off a script). He may even recognise the Beaconite the next time he sees her, which is significant given the number of people he meets on a daily basis. In any case, she now knows that she is capable of handling this kind of important task without any major disasters, even though the idea of writing a story about circumnavigating Tortola in a sailboat race remains much less intimidating to her.