We are a prosperous people in these Virgin Islands. We enjoy special advantages not available to many in the world. It is easy to forget this, in these dire financial times.
Our close association with the United States of America played a key part in our prosperity. Special tax advantages and outright federal gifts flowed through our society, allowing us to achieve things found nowhere else in the Caribbean. We got a boost through our childhood; the benefits of growing up with wealthy kinfolk.
Now look at us. We know how to spend someone else's money, but are not too good at producing our own — (yet). If you look in at the Virgin Islands from outside, you would think we were some forgotten stepchild
rather than the shining star of the Caribbean.
When there was a big pot of money, the best skill to have was to scramble for a piece of the pie. The unions did that to get their fair share. And frankly, it was a good idea at the time. It put the money in the hands of more people.
But now we're faced with the awful, immediate problem: how to share a smaller pot of money? How do we divide it up fairly? We'll look at one concrete scenario in Part two.
Sharing the Pot of Money– Part two
The Virgin Islands enjoyed a decades-long childhood were money flowed freely and endlessly. But now we're faced with the awful, immediate problem: how to share a smaller pot of money? How do we divide it up fairly?
In an unprecedented stroke of leadership, the governor and lieutenant goovernor are voluntarily giving themselves a 10% pay cut.
This is unheard of! The status quo says, "To the victors go the spoils," yet these elected officials are humbly placing the good of the society as a whole above their own personal financial gain.
With great wonder I await the outcome of the coming weeks. Will government workers continue to demand money from an almost empty pot? Or will all government workers strike a deal to fairly share the money available today?
One idea that is circulating follows directly from the governor's own voluntary cut, with the idea that those making more money can withstand a larger pay cut. Those who make under $20,000 tolerate a small pay cut of 1%-2%, whereas someone making $100,000 takes a pay cut of 16.4%.
Here's how it looks:
Salary ($$) Percent cut
10,000 or less 0.0%
65,000 10.0% Salary level of commissioners & senators
(To calculate the percentage for any salary, just subtract 10,000, then divide by 5500 and you've got the exact number.)
How much will these salary cuts save? Is it enough to keep the pot from running dry? Are we willing to do it? (And more ominously, would we rather have some federal control board come in and do something drastic to us over which we have no control or choice?)
I vote for self-determination, and doing whatever we have to do in unity, to get out of hot water on our own.
In Part 3, we'll look beyond the immediate bailout to how we can build a robust economy of our own that isn't wholly dependent on outside aid.