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COMMENTARY: BVI has been ‘reactive’ for too long

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

What type of learning culture is required to take the Virgin Islands into the next epoch in its history and development?

OK. It is clear that all Virgin Islanders, and citizens of paradise, fully understand the critical importance of vision, for this country to thrive and prosper into the 2030s and beyond.

The natural disasters of September 2017, and the aftermath add an ominous change in the financial services culture that could see a 50 percent decrease in business over the coming years, has put the matter of strategic planning and national vision, at the top of the country’s governance focus.

Every speech by the country’s leaders, on post-disaster recovery and rebuilding, has vision and planning somewhere in the narrative: hidden or overt.

That is a good thing. ‘The coffee is being smelled’.

Community leaders understand it can no longer be business as usual.

USVI eating our lunch

Neighbouring countries are taking business away from the Virgin Islands. That is unsurprising. This diversion of business elsewhere is the result of the destruction of the country’s economic, business, and tourism infrastructure. ‘They are eating our lunch,’ some state.

That is only expected. Guests will naturally migrate to neighbouring locations where their vacation experience requirements are met. These guests will return, when the Virgin Islands experience meets their expected standard.

GDP will return to pre-Irma levels when the value for money in tourism increases. This will take place when the post-disaster economic recovery is well advanced, and infrastructure that drives-GDP, is at the place where the country stood, pre hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Reactive economy

But for too long the Virgin Islands has been a reactive economy.

The country has looked to foreign lands to find ideas to build its economy. That is not unique. Most developing countries appear to follow this narrative.

Innovation, creativity, and out of the box thinking, is the route to development most leaders of developing countries must adopt. This is not criticism. It is encouragement to change a post-colonial narrative that has shackled developing countries from the 1950s.

The territory has put all its eggs into the financial services basket. It has never taken economic diversity seriously. Then it has then looked on with ‘panic’, as that basket has been hacked at, pummeled, and torn asunder, by global and UK organisations and agencies, including global media.

The BVI can fight back

Countries in Africa and the Middle East have similarly followed a monocultural economic narrative: the overwhelming dependency on one product, or a single economic polarity, for sustenance and existence.

The Virgin Islands can fight back with private and public protest. The people can demand self determination, even independence. A march is planned.

However, the preceding does not appear to have the support of the vast majority of the country’s citizens, apart from a highly vocal segment of the ‘chattering classes’ and the ‘financial elites’.

Most of the territory’s residents are resigned to the fact that the public register of beneficial ownership matter is a ‘done deal’.

Learning drives culture

OK. Learning drives culture. Learning, furthermore, is the basis for any vision of the future. If a maritime and ecology focused economy is to drive social and economic development in the Virgin Islands, then the learning culture must also focus on a maritime and eco-science curriculum.

There is no point in turning out an excess of accountants and lawyers, important as they are, when what is required to grow the economy are chefs, waiters, spa staff, entertainers, tour guides, resort workers, resort managers, boat and yacht riggers, maritime technicians, boat captains, pilots, organic farmers, language interpreters, swimming pool attendants, ocean safety and conservation workers, gardeners, and construction workers.

Clerical workers are important, but if the vision is for a maritime economy, better look at training our children to build, navigate, and maintain seafaring vessels of different types.

Questions

Who will build and maintain the marinas, resorts, and hotels of the future? Who will staff the hotels and resorts if every child and youth is not trained in these fields? Who will maintain and sail the catamarans that are so critical to the maritime economy if the kids are all leaving for the UK and US to read for great degrees, but degrees that are irrelevant for an ecotourism and maritime-oriented economy, and then we wonder why they remain in the UK and US, wasting their expensive education abroad?

The people who will man the maritime economy will be aliens. The change to an overwhelmingly alien population base will continue until it reaches unsustainable levels. Then a cry and shout will take place, as usual, too late.

Yes. The vocations are critical to the future vision of an eco-centric, ecotourism, ecology focused, and maritime, economy.

Rebuilding the country in a new eco-friendly and maritime mould will require a learning culture that is relevant, appropriate, and overwhelmingly vocational. A learning culture uniquely built for Virgin Islands citizens.

To be continued

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6 Comments

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  1. VILander says:

    Excellent points but the people have been corrupted by the American dream and they won’t hear it.

  2. Sam the Man says:

    Good article thank you….unfortunately many that are Born here don’t want jobs that they consider beneath them…they want to work in Government, be a flashy politician, rich pastor or company director….so most of these necessary roles will need to be outsourced and therein lies a big problem!…..

  3. E. Leonard says:

    The VI/BVI is tiny with few natural resources and with a fragile service-based economy that is anchored by tourism and financial services. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 2 Cat 5 hurricanes, hit the tourism industry hard. Now financial services is being threatened by a legislative storm. For too long diversifying the economy was just talk; action is urgently needed to diversify the economy. Putting tourism and financial services in one basket is hazardous to the territory’s economic health.

    Moreover, regardless of what the VI’s vision is, education and training must be a core factor in pursuing and attaining the vision. The territory must commit to becoming a learning nation; becoming a learning will require effective planning and a complete reforming of the education and training system. Investing in education (human capital) should be the engine that drives economic growth and development. The territory should strongly consider benchmarking Singapore, a small, resource-poor island (~270 square miles) nation in the China Sea. Singapore used education to go from 3rd World to 1st World in one (1) generation.

    For example, at independence in 1965, Singapore’s education system was poor with a GDP per capita of approx $500. Today, it ranks consistently at the top or near the top in educational achievements; its GDP per capita is approx $60K. Its economy is built on trade, finance and transportation. The BVI has to invest on and ride its human capital to economic growth and sustainability.

    • Where's the Vision? says:

      Our highly revered leader, HL Stoutt, a regular man; without degrees and letters behind has accomplished and at a much lower cost than the two governments combined. His passing was in 1995; some 23 years ago. Nothing really new and different and progressive since then. His motto was: “Where there’s no vision the people Perish. His Vision was apparently tied to that expression.
      A bit further back to Hon. Willard Wheatley, is credited with taking the country out of “Grant in Aid”; quite an achievement. He will perhaps be remembered for being thrifty and frugal with the country’s purse. Were he alive today and sitting in the leadership chair, our books would have likely been audited, and have mega bucks sitting in the country’s bank account with us not being beholden to the UK as deeply as we are this very minute; nor even thinking about approaching the IMP or World Bank to bail us out or our pathetic situation.
      The preceding article and comments hold much food for Thought and Action.
      Consistently Easy and to-good-to-be-true money blurred our Vision and paralyzing us into a “Twin Pillar economy; without need for outa-de-box thinking; all while we have been sitting on top of a vulnerable earthquake fault-line and smack in the path of the annual hurricanes path.
      Returning to Visionary Leadership and moving ahead 4-5 years into the future, we might very well thank hurricanes Irma and Maria for waking us out of our somnambulistic sleep; and perhaps even the British for ruffling our feathers. It is perhaps likely they might just strategically frustrating us into action to becoming the visionary leaders and people we can be.

      May God continue to bless our land.

  4. Dim Sum says:

    BVi Government hasn’t a clue! Human capital is seen as expendable and if not a family member or business associate the vast majority have to carve out their own path. Many educated individuals have left due to nepotism, cronyism and all the other ‘isms. These politicians see themselves as God-like and act in much the same way they perceive themselves. Too many self-serving individuals running for and being elected to office here and their lack of value to the territory is evident daily. Through and through government there are excellent, talented workers being held down and back by imbeciles that were placed in positions of authority just to maintain the statu quo.

    People have awoken and the mess still visible is down to the failures of the square pegs in round holes.

    • Sam the man says:

      v true I thought that about the recent younger additions to the NDP but they have been absolutely appalling and lackluster, achieving so little tangible – but when it comes to promises and wordy speeches – Universal ego’s are evident as they are so principled and passionate – yeah right…its all about me me me unfortunately…or your family connections!

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