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Letter: USVI needs long term master plan to achieve economic growth and sustainability
Published on August 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The St Croix Strategic Economic Development Initiative (SEDI) will submit proposed legislation to create a local Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic (CEDS) Master Plan, in order for the US Virgin Islands (USVI) to achieve long term (10-20 year plan) economic growth and sustainability.

SEDI's disposition on this issue is a consequence of learning during the local government federally required incremental CEDS five- year planning and community outreach. The CEDS community outreach was a first ever town hall meeting of its kind held on Tuesday, August 19, 2014, at UVI St Croix.

The USVI is eligible to receive on an annual basis an average of $3-4 million of the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) funding for research and development, and the USVI has neglected to access or utilize this critical funding source over a minimum ten-year period to help grow the USVI economy, this is according to the main presenter and expert of the USVI CEDS consultants. The USVI CEDS consultant stated she has been conducting federal CEDS projects throughout the US for 25 years, and the USVI as a US jurisdiction has neglected to develop a local CEDS long term master plan.

It is evident the constant turnover and revolving door of elected officials in the legislative branch (every two years) of government, and the lack of succession planning by the various executive branches, is a significant factor (not the only factor), but a major contributor to St Croix’s economic decline over a 25 year period. At the risk of sounding clichés, the saying goes if you "fail to plan, you plan to fail".

USVI law requires the government to maintain a balance budget annually, and should also make it mandatory that the local government produce and maintain local CEDS long term master plan with community input. This new law will help the USVI to mitigate the HOVENSA type economic disaster that caught us all by surprise and unable to remedy, because of the lack of diversity in our economy. In the absence of such a law or long term master plan, USVI economic growth and sustainability outlook and forecast will continue to be subject and at risk of the cyclical global economic landscape and marketplace.

We do not have the luxury and can no longer afford to be negligent, complacent or not be proactive in aggressively pursuing US EDA funds ($3-4 million) available to the USVI by the federal government that we continue to not access as a US territory. The USVI without a progressive and robust economic development agenda and policy cannot compete globally!

Back in the year 2006, the USVI government voted and supported unanimously to appropriate and fund ($500,000) a feasibility study for the creation of a USVI Securities Exchange and Capital Market. It was implied this initiative was not pursued due the lack of local government funding to underwrite this study. I would venture to say the US EDA funding program for the USVI could have been accessible to conduct this feasibility study. The USVI is in need of its own capital market to attract new investors and new monies to the USVI economy.

St Croix district senators who were present and represented at the CEDS Town Hall meeting were Senator Diane Capehart, Senator Nellie O’Reilly and Senator Sammuel Sanes.

Anthony Weeks
Reads: 4959

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