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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024
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SO MUCH SPENDING, SO LITTLE TO SHOW FOR IT

Second of three parts
Oct. 11, 2002 – An old phrase that describes wasteful spending, "He throws his money around like a drunken sailor," has led me to label our current government's spending habits as "shore leave economics."
The government of the Virgin Islands has essentially wasted many good opportunities to repair many social, environmental and economic problems. Through wasteful spending, this government has caused potentially devastating damage to the territory. The solutions to our problems require political will, something that seems to be desperately lacking in the Virgin Islands.
On St. Croix, crimes are occurring at record rates. Hardly a week goes by that we do not read about a new murder on the island. Robbery and theft are hitting every corner of St. Croix, including the police commissioner's own house.
The obvious solution to this problem is to strengthen the police force. What has the government's response been? That is a very interesting question. It was interesting to read some of the spending proposals over the last two years. One of my favorites was a plan to spend $50,000 to bring Winnie Mandela to the Virgin Islands. Where is our government's political will?
As noted in the first of these three columns, we have solid waste and sewage problems. Sewage flows in the streets and guts of St. Croix. What was the government's response on these issues? Gov. Charles W. Turnbull recently waived the bidding process to obtain materials for sewage system repairs. Does he want us to believe that we are on the fast track to safety?
A gubernatorial candidate has revealed that the governor transferred funds from the Planning and Natural Resources Department to pay for "custom designed" elevators at Government House. It is apparent that, if anything, trusting this government to use funds wisely for the good of the people is a dangerous choice.
Where is our government's political will? I hear the weeping and whining that the Virgin Islands lacks resources. Bunk! If the government can afford to hire Winnie Mandela for a day, or build special elevators in the governor's palace, why can it not afford to clean up our garbage and fight crime? Again, I must ask, where is our government's political will?
I shudder to think what might happen if we gave this government even more money. I wonder whom we would hire next. Would we see any type of reform? Reform requires will, and it would seem as though that is all we lack. From what I have read, we do not need more resources. The only question left to answer is: How do we help our government acquire that political will?
I will address that in my third column.

Editor's note: Bill Turner, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association, was formerly a teacher and vice principal at the high school level in Puerto Rico.
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