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.
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.
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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