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.
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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