Follow the money
A Beaconite is no stranger to covering budget meetings, including those of student clubs, port districts, and capital cities. But last month was her first introduction to covering the budgetary process for the Virgin Islands government. She admits to being perplexed at the secrecy surrounding the process. The numbers offered during the premier’s budget address last month were helpful in gaining a general understanding of the state of the VI’s finances. But where are the spreadsheets breaking down the revenue and expenditures (estimated and actual) for 2019, 2020 and 2021? Why is the budget debated in closed-door Standing Finance Committee meetings rather than in public? It’s important for community members to know what policies the officials they elect choose to support, but it’s possibly even more important for people in the VI to know what government programmes and projects actually receive funding — and which ones don’t — and why. Especially at a time when the territory is contemplating a path to independence while simultaneously navigating a recession-inducing pandemic, community members should have easy access to budget numbers. What better way to build confidence in the VI’s ability to govern itself than show the books and open the budget deliberations?
While she was working on the paperwork to renew her work permit at the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex, a Beaconite was greeted by an immensely helpful security guard. She appreciates his extra effort in ensuring the line moved as quickly as possible and helping her understand the forms. Thank you very much.
A Beaconite has felt a twinge of homesickness with Christmas just around the corner, so she was delighted to see the launch of a skating rink here in the Virgin Islands. Going ice skating with her family was always one of her favourite seasonal activities. There’s nothing quite like strapping on a pair of skates and racing around the rink, then warming up with a mug of hot chocolate. She’ll likely skip the warm beverage this time, but she looks forward to planning a day out at the rink with friends.
A Beaconite, in her online wanderings, frequently encounters would-be do-gooders who claim, “Don’t travel anywhere until the pandemic is over! It’s dangerous and wrong!” She suspects that most of these keyboard crusaders live in countries with diversified economies and have jobs that they can happily do from home without missing a paycheque. They don’t know what it’s like to live in a tourist-dependent economy like the Virgin Islands, where it’s common to see friends and family worry about how they’re going to pay the bills and keep the lights turned on, and where the government is seemingly unable to provide the level of help needed. They also don’t know the difficult behind-the-scenes work that has been done to establish protocols designed to keep residents and visitors safe. The Beaconite never fails to respond to them: “Yes, do travel.” Do it responsibly, but do travel. You are needed.
A Beaconite celebrated her birthday last week on Thanksgiving Day. Though far from home, she really enjoyed the things the Virgin Islands has to offer to its residents. First, she took a day trip to Virgin Gorda, where she enjoyed hours of relaxation and pampering at a spa and noticed various improvements and construction ongoing on the island. In many ways, she sees, Covid-19 has given businesses, people, and nature a chance to recoup and make improvements that have been a long time coming. After that, the reporter returned to Tortola, where she enjoyed a delicious meal wrapped up nicely with a slice of pumpkin cheesecake with “Happy Birthday” written on the plate. She ended the day by spending some time with friends and counting her blessings. On Sunday, she went out on the water with some friends, and she swam in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, and jumped off the Willy T quite a few times. As she looked at the yachts anchored in JVD and all the power boats tied up to the Willy T dock, she felt like things were almost returning to normal