June 5, 2005 — The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce is trying to do what it can to keep the Economic Development Commission program functioning.
The Chamber's Omer ErSelcuk said last week that he has become involved with three EDC-related initiatives, sponsored by the Chamber, because he doesn't think the public knows how devastating the program's demise would be to the entire territory. He said it wouldn't be just some affluent company owners who will be affected. He said everyone in the community would be affected by loss of both jobs and money invested in the community.
The three initiatives, announced in a recent press release, are: 1) dissemination to the public of ongoing EDC-related events, 2) an EDC Interior Committee formed with Chamber and EDC members to address program concerns and related effects to the Department of Interior, and 3) an EDC Treasury Committee formed with Chamber and EDC members to submit public comments to Treasury about the new regulations drafted to reflect the recent passage by Congress of the Jobs Creation Act of 2004.
The first initiative is being designed to provide both public and private access to events that will shed light on the economy of the islands.
The EDC Interior Committee, according to the release, will work with EDC and non-EDC stakeholders in the business community and with the Interior Department in order to help reverse some of the damaging long-term effects caused by the Organic Act, which governs the territory. The committee also addresses the potential ill effects to the V.I. economy of changes to EDC regulations created by the recent Jobs Creation Act of 2004.
The Interior Committee will attempt to increase the benefits received from the federal government by increasing awareness of the territorys needs and concerns. The committee will attempt to do so via improved and ongoing relations between the business community and the Department of Interior. The aim is to help make the Virgin Islands "a shining example of a properly self-governed and self-financed territory."
The EDC Treasury Committee's purpose will be to work with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Treasury to mitigate the negative effects caused by the passage of the Jobs Creation Act of 2004. It will focus first and foremost on providing comments on the new regulations to Treasury and to two Congressional Committees — the Senate Finance Committee and House, Ways and Means Committee. All such comments will be submitted by June 21. The committee also hopes to send individual business owners and managers to the nation's capital to testify on the effects of the new regulation changes on July 21.
The next initiative will be to work in concert with ongoing lobbying efforts to change the laws that pertain to the EDC in the Technical Corrections Bill to be passed sometime in late summer or early fall of this year.
Chamber members see possible loss of residency status by many individuals and EDC companies due to the new regulations. The new regulations may require retired individuals to file their tax returns in the United States (instead of with the V.I.'s Internal Revenue Bureau) or leave the Virgin Islands because they can no longer legally qualify as V.I. residents.
The potential negative effects of the recent changes in the EDC program, according to the chamber are:
1) Greatly reduced business and individual tax collections
2) Economic contraction and stagnation
3) Significant increase in unemployment and the decrease of well paying jobs.
The chamber press release concludes, "It is estimated by many that these consequences, if they are not mitigated now, could ultimately cost the USVI economy hundreds of millions of dollars immediately and billions of dollars over time. Such effects will be very real and very devastating to everyone."
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