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Saturday, July 20, 2024
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ECONOMIC PLAN NEEDS WORK, TESTIFIERS SAY

The territory's economic development program is broken and needs major repairs.
That was the consensus of testifiers at Wednesday night's legislative hearing on a bill to revamp economic development initiatives in the territory.
While only four persons testified, their presentations suggested that the measure, now the subject of territory-wide public hearings, is not the means by which to bring about reform.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Donald Cole, David Jones and Anne Golden, seeks to consolidate several government agencies — including the Industrial Development Commission, the industrial park, Government Development Bank, the Bureau of Economic Research, Film Promotion office and the Small Business Development Agency — into a single Economic Development Authority.
But St. Thomas businessman Alex Randall blasted the legislation as being too complex and "not designed to attract business to the territory." He said it fails to factor in the advantages that could be realized by engaging in e-commerce and information technology.
Attorney George Dudley, co-chairman and co-chief executive officer of Lockhart Caribbean Corp., praised lawmakers for attempting to stimulate economic growth in the V.I. but blamed years of "governmental neglect and mismanagement" for the inability to capitalize on the economic potential of the Virgin Islands. Dudley noted that the U.S. economy and that of Puerto Rico continue to blossom while the V.I. falls further behind.
Another testifier, Sen. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan's Chief of Staff Hortense Rowe, unveiled the senator's proposal to "reorganize the economic development structure." She said Bryan envisions the establishment of a "Virgin Islands Economic Development and Commerce Corp."
Attorney David Bornn urged lawmakers to resist the urge to "tinker with the territory's economic development policy." He said potential investors look for stability in the policy before deciding to bring their business to the territory. "Frankly, we are in no position to scare away potential investors," he added.
At the end of the meeting, the bill's sponsors described the measure as a work in progress and said several amendments will be tacked on before it moves toward a final vote.

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