Home Commonwealth Political Insights Putting the feet of the Virgin Islands politician…to the fire

Putting the feet of the Virgin Islands politician…to the fire

by caribdirect
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Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

Protocols for effective financial management are good for both the governed and government, and are crucial to keeping the Virgin Islands on the cutting edge of a much more socially and economically integrated world

Christmas is on the horizon. And some voters in these Spectacular Antilles view their Senators as the veritable SANTA CLAUS. Apparently, a vocal and influential minority expect their Senator or Elected Representative, in addition to meeting the normal and reasonable requests of Joe Public, to pay also for vacations, home extensions, mortgage arrears, roof repairs, even lingerie. This is absurd, unbelievable! But apparently true.

Consequently, the fight for political power increasingly becomes an economic narrative about whose snout is in the proverbial feeding trough; the trough, in reality belonging to taxpayers, but becoming the personal piggy bank of a very small number of politically well connected voters, and their powerful political patrons.

However, it is humble and hard up Joe Taxpayer, who must ultimately foot the bill when things get out of kilter. Bear in mind that it is a good thing for the politician to use his ‘special allowance,’ to aid the deserving and struggling family with house rent, essential groceries, school supplies and uniforms, and critical medical care. But paying for a cruise, or new kitchen, and roofing repairs, for those who very frequently can afford to foot their own bill, is an insult to the national intelligence.

Corruption and fiscal mismanagement are not unique to the British Virgin Islands. And spending on pet projects, or looking after family, friends, old school and college fraternity colleagues, or members of your lodge, golf club, and even church, with Joe taxpayer’s money is a characteristic of a global political culture rife with greed.

Does your representative take kick backs? Photo courtesy rbth.ru

These are questionable and unethical uses of public money: such as pork spending  in the USA; a culture of privilege in the UK; European subsidies to wealthy landowners; tax breaks for the rich; the in your face looting and stealing that is Modus Vivendi in developing countries such as Nigeria and Zaire: these are just a few examples.

And yes, there is good reason sometimes for a politician to assist a voter with a retaining wall, and a concrete road to his or her home, and the such, especially when the resident and voter is in dire straits. However, this type of ‘political spending’ appears to have been taken to the extreme in these Antilles in recent years.

A certain pedigree of voter in these paradise islands must begin to learn that everything is not about ‘’them,’’ and remember that there is a wider national interest, just as important as their leaking roof, and crumbling retaining wall. In the so called ‘Third World,’ this type of perverse logic has bankrupted many a nation. It has kept millions in poverty.

And some appear willing to take this tiny country to the edge of the fiscal cliff, even into the abyss of debt and bankruptcy, as long as they can spend at will public money for the benefit of their, ‘special constituents,’ friends and families. In fact, the culture of greed has apparently created a whole class of sycophant in these Islands who live off taxpayer hand outs from powerful political friends and contacts.

So now it has taken Britain to step in and draw the line in the sand, to correct this anomaly, which means that as long as the country desires to live within the cocoon of Great Power Protection, then the Virgin Islands is going to have to live within its means.

It is going to have to adopt a culture of fiscal prudence. Or it can swim in the big wide world by itself: in other words become completely INDEPENDENT! And any observer of Virgin Islands society knows the people are not ready to go it alone.

The sad fact about political greed is that it frequently becomes a hammer when the ‘cookie jar’ is emptied. A heavy implement that falls most heavily on the socially vulnerable in the community: school children, teachers, public officers, struggling small businesses, the sick, the poor.

Spending on critical national institutions such as the hospital and old people’s home, a new National Public Library complex, building a new facility to house the national museum, art center, and cultural resource unit, a much needed second administration complex, and the like, are put on the back burner.

However, when the going gets tough financially, the unscrupulous politician and his rich and well connected friends are usually able to shelter themselves from the painful austerity that is the inevitable result of greed. When times get hard, the scalpel instead, is used to cut into the Public Service, social needs, and worthwhile social projects, crucial to the national good.

Consequently, the hue and cry against the FINANCIAL PROTOCOLS is mainly from those long accustomed to dipping at will into the NATIONAL GRAVY TRAIN. It is understandable the groans from those who will from now on be checked by a document of British origin that possesses integrity, real clout, and the force of law. A rendition to good governance and accountability.

Apparently, when the global economy was booming, behavior of this sort was below the radar, and ignored: but in a tighter fiscal environment, the British Mandarins at Whitehall and the Foreign Office, and their political bosses at Westminster, and Numbers Ten and Eleven Downing Street, are keeping watch on the money management of overseas territories.

Britain today is part of a European Union in economic crisis and recession. She cannot afford the financial irresponsibility of profligate children. Cases in point include pension fraud in Gibraltar, corruption in the Turks and Caicos, and economic mismanagement in the Caymans.

The core objective of the ‘’Protocols for effective financial management’’ is that the Virgin Islands commit itself to, ‘’ a pattern of governance that is consistent with global standards and best practice.’’ That is a very good thing indeed.

And know this: the Protocols, if they work according to the true intent of the document, will actually protect the socially vulnerable, the average citizen, and the honest taxpayer, from the excess and greed that can so easily become a negative feature of power.

The British Virgin Islands have fortunately avoided the fall of the British hammer, but apparently only just.

To be continued



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