BVI News

COMMENTARY: A hard climb out economic hole; ongoing blame game

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

Hurricanes Irma and Maria pulled the British Virgin Islands into a huge environmental and ecological ‘hole’. That ecological crater is also an economic pit.

Then political and social leaders of the British Virgin Islands do not appear to have any cohesive and unified plan for pulling the economy out of recession.

There are no solutions being offered. There is no vision on the horizon. The media is full of complaint and castigation.

Everyone else is being blamed for the country’s woes, not the people who over the years have put the country where it is today: unable to find the cash to at a very minimum, begin to dig itself out the hole it finds itself.

The country’s leaders are on the defensive against a global climate that is disinterested in the affairs of offshore financial centers.

The ‘vocal’ are like complaining children. Instead of offering ‘hard solutions’ there is an ‘atmosphere of protest’, that will go nowhere considering the global realities.

Where did the billions go?

Residents are asking: where did all the billions disappear that should have today been used to rebuild?

All the boasting about the country’s wealth in past years has rung hollow this mid 2018. And this writer has stated continually that the era of nationalism and independence was a 1960s and 70s paradigm.

In today’s global, cosmopolitan, multicultural, multilateral culture, present Virgin Islands protests citing racism and colonialism as being the ‘raison deter’ for the public register matter ring hollow.

Many of the people crying racism are the very people who placed the country where it is to date. Protest without, cogent arguments, clear solutions, or valid alternatives is simply ‘carnival’.

Post-hurricane recession worsens

Then, it appears the post-hurricanes Irma and Maria economic recession may be getting worse.

The country remains ‘thrashed’. The more the Irma and Maria debris and refuse that is cleared and cleaned, the more refuse and debris there is to remove.

Debris blows down the hills on to the coastal plains at regular intervals making cleanup efforts extremely frustrating.

There was never any specific vision on how to clean up the country after Irma and Maria.

Leaders were warned immediately after Irma that the first priority for getting the country back to normal had to be a massive cleanup. The hills post-Irma and Maria were inundated with debris of every type.

Much of that debris remains embedded in the geography nine months after Irma. Most hurricane Irma and Maria devastated islands in the Caribbean are months ahead of the BVI in terms of clean-up.

The cleaning up of the country should have been priority number one after Irma: not talk of an airport runway, or bringing back cruise passengers into a hurricane devastated island.

Another ‘rush’ to issue contracts

Instead, there is a rush to once again offer ‘contracts’ to repair the devastation. Looking at past history, and without a clear vision, public discussion, and development plan, that will be another $100M down the proverbial hole, into a few ‘divinely ordained’ pockets.

The country sits hundreds and hundreds of tonnes of waste, debris, and refuse, lying about, on remote beaches, mangrove forest, coastal plains, valleys, and hills.

Thrashed vehicles from the disasters of September 2017 are junked in huge piles in specific locations.

Beaches that would normally please and offer great pleasure to discerning travellers remain despoiled with refuse intermingled among palm trees, vegetation, and foliage.

A salvage expert this writer met at Nanny Cay one pleasant night told this swimming instructor that it will take at least 10 years to get the sailing and yachting industry back to normal considering the huge destruction wreaked by Hurricane Irma.

No urgency

Where is the urgency? Visitors could care less about runways and pier infrastructure. What the tourist wants in 2018 above everything else is a safe, clean, pristine, and ecologically sound destination.

Islands that can offer the preceding will simply take business away from the British Virgin Islands.

This is already happening. This writer sat at his favourite restaurant last week and spoke with the proprietor. Taste of paradise Road Town offers Indian cuisine second to none.

Furthermore, it is clearly of global pedigree, as anyone who has savoured Indian cuisine in any foreign land knows. The food is simply exquisite.

On this early evening in a still reeling Virgin Islands, the restaurant was strangely empty. This Old Boy was the only customer.

No business, tourist prefers St Martin

The restaurateur was clearly concerned. He stated that most of his customers were tourists who overnight on Tortola.

From his own business network, he understood that a number of customers who would normally visit Tortola now preferred St Martin.

‘Customers from the United States Virgin Islands no longer visited, as there was “nothing for them to do at night in Road Town. There is no nightlife in Tortola worth savouring,” he has been informed by customers.

Nine months after Irma and the country is still on its knees in terms of infrastructure, he asserted.

He was asking himself whether ‘his investment’ would give him any reasonable return, considering the considerable effort he has put into his business, a quarter of a million dollar affair.

The canny Asian businessman stated that this was a time for true leadership.

“What is required, are hard solutions for growing the country’s economy”, he rightly asserted.

Restore the geography and economy will follow

This Old Boy responded that ‘nothing will happen until the pristine geography is restored to at the least pre-Irma norm.’

Not focusing on fully cleaning up the territory and environmental repair is simply putting the cart before the horse.

Fixing the ecology and environment, first and foremost, will offer travellers and tourists the type of value that makes travel a pleasure, and value for money.

And even pre-Irma, environmentally, much was left to be desired on Tortola as the rush for material gain was placed before generating a sustainable habitat, and pristine ecosystem.

There is denial in much of the talk on the public register matter.

The real problem for these islands is not the UK.

It is the environmental havoc Irma bestowed on the country.

There is a refusal to acknowledge the very serious and sorry state of the Virgin Islands is in post-Irma.

Not putting the environment first, for a tourism destination, and for a country that has always been known for its pristine and beautiful geography, is ‘killing the goose that lays the golden egg’.

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  1. ?? says:

    Where did the billions go? In people’s pockets, retaining walls, fluffed contracts, cash based pension scheme, money for nothing favors and I can go on and on. We take comfort in blaming the NDP and VIP of the last 20 years but pretend as though the ones before them didn’t cause the mess. A lot worst to come before it gets better.

  2. VG Resident says:

    Personally I think you are right. On Virgin Gorda, the residents have done a great job in cleaning up the island but there is more to do. My villa is being rebuilt but it will take time. My fear is that politics will override everything else and government money will evaporate

  3. Sam the man says:

    This is difficult to read but yet again another in my opinion thoughtful and insightful article thank you. I cannot think of one person at present that possesses the qualities of leadership that is required sadly – no doubt over the next few months many “pretenders” will be throwing their hats in the ring and proclaiming their suitability to be Premier but I don’t rate any of them as what have they actually achieved apart from great talk and principles! absolutely nothing….

  4. WELL says:

    You are so right we are in a very sad state might as well the PREMIER had stay in hiding we would have been better off with the clean because the UK people would have stayed to see the place get clean up he cannot do a damn thing on his own he have no money in the treasury so where we stand. All I see they are doing is traveling and things still the same. The next government have a lot to contend with I wish them the best.

  5. E. Leonard says:

    Undoubtedly, the devastating damages/impact inflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the infrastructure( roads, water, sewage, water, telecommications, public safety facilities, schools, economy, employment, environment, personal property, housing, public facilities……..etc thrust the territory into crisis. It will require strong leadership, sound planning, programming, budgeting……….etc to fuel and drive the recovery effort. There is no magic wand to wave to effect the recovery effort; it will take time. Nonetheless, effective planning is critical for the recovery effort to take root and materialize.

    Dickson is on point on taking care of environmental resources and presenting an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Tourism is 1/2 of the economic twin pillar and it depends heavily on marine resources (water, beaches), attractions……..etc.

    Moreover, one of the first tasks after a storm passes should be iclearing roadways (after been given and all clear from BVIEC). Plan(s) should be put in place for either in-house personnel or contractors to push debris to the side of roads to permit traffic flow. Occurring simultaneously should be a coordinated(volunteers, government personnel, contractors) comprehensive clean up effort.

    Further, the BVI, to maintain its reputation as a top, high end tourist destination, a high state of readiness must be attained before inviting visitors to visit Nature’s Little Secret. The positive experiences of visitors is the best form of advertisement for the tourism industry.

  6. Devon says:

    Well written Sir… can only agree.

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