The feverish campaigns of recent weeks included promises that ranged from practical to outlandish. And now voters have high expectations for the newly elected Virgin Islands Party government.
“We need a five-year development plan for all natural disasters and how the government plan to function in the event such disasters occur,” said Alethia Turnbull a law student who lives at Fahie Hill. “We need a development plan and a maintenance plan for government structures.”
Like other residents who spoke to the Beacon about their hopes, Ms. Turnbull also would like to see the quick establishment of a consumer protection agency, price controls and a higher minimum wage, as well as improvements to the territory’s infrastructure, including roads, sewerage and systems that would ensure an adequate supply of public water territory wide.
Ms. Turnbull’s sister Athema, a nursing graduate, called for more accountability for all government officials, as well as increased transparency.
“I want the new government to look into projects in full details before signing over projects to any and everybody,” she said. “In terms of looking at who these companies are and what projects they have completed that were a success.”
She added that she would also like to see fewer promises and handouts.
“I’m not saying anything is wrong with helping fellow countrymen, but it comes to a point that they help them during their four-year tenure, then here comes the next election and they’re using it on their platform,” she explained. “I think the public must also be addressed about the plans they have for Brexit and every other issue the [United Kingdom] has implemented that will directly affect us.”
Virgin Gorda teacher Beryl Vanterpool expressed similar sentiments, adding calls for constitutional reform; more community meetings with the district representatives; and the establishment of town councils.
“I’d like to see a special fund set up for residents,” she said. “In cases of a disaster like Irma, people can have quick access for help.”
Social activist Kadia Turnbull, who is no relation to Athema and Alethia, said many wealthy individuals make the territory their home, and there’s currently no policy for them to give back by annually donating a certain amount of money to community projects.
“I’d definitely like to see this policy in place,” she said. “There are so many things they do so that they could avoid taxes from their home, and I would like to see them contribute to the community so that we can get projects done adequately financed through them. This is a need for our community.”
In a similar vein, Greg Callwood, who operates Perfect Pineapple Inn on Jost Van Dyke, suggested that VI leaders should negotiate better deals with investors involved in offshore deals or resort developments here.
“The leaders should add in a fee so that they all can take care of our health insurance,” he said. “It shouldn’t be just the Middle East, Singapore or Cuba doing that. We can do it too. I would like to see them include those things, including water, certain necessities. They have the resources and this is our country as much as the politicians’, and we should be getting something back.”
Mr. Callwood added that he would like to see the resurrection of Fishermen’s Day and Farmers Week, which he described as integral cultural components.
He would also like the see the Festival Village Grounds turned into a revenue-generating parking lot, where money can be collected throughout the year that would go towards the August Emancipation Festival.
Mr. Callwood added that all schools, especially in the sister islands, need proper attention, as does the police force.
Alethia Turnbull also called for social measures, including enforcing and revising laws that protect the elderly from abuse and ensure adequate punishment for offenders including juveniles.
“There must be better funding for our justice agencies and even the creation of a ministry of justice for the police, courts, social services, immigration, customs and prison,” she said. “We need a modernised public service to match the era in which we live. We need succession planning across all government departments and the need for civil servants to address grievances, maltreatment and unethical behaviour by supervisors, heads of departments and permanent secretaries. There’s no checks and balance in the public service.”