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POLL: 56% FAVOR FEDERAL FINANCIAL CONTROL

Virgin Islands residents have given failing grades to the territory’s economy, according to a poll taken by the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce.
The telephone poll of 607 people on St. Croix and St. Thomas was commissioned by the Chamber and conducted by long-time pollster John Boyd. According to Chamber President Noel Loftus, the effort was undertaken to gauge residents’ views on the economy and their personal spending.
Overall, the most common grade given to the economy by both St. Thomas and St. Croix residents was "F".
Even as the poll was taken between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7, Loftus said consumers scaled back their spending. The main reason is because people, mostly government-sector workers, are fearful about layoffs, he said.
"From September and October there was a marked decline in economic activity, both on St. Croix and St. Thomas," Loftus said, adding that gross receipts taxes were down 31 percent compared to a year ago July. "Everybody is very fearful and uncertain about what’s occurring."
The poll reflected residents’ skepticism of the government’s ability to solve the territory’s economic problems. According to the survey, 71 percent of the people polled said they don’t believe the Turnbull administration will solve the economic crisis.
Of the 607 people asked, 56 percent said it‘s time the federal government take control of the V.I.’s finances in order to solve the economic problems. On St. Croix, the call for federal intervention was 65 percent in favor while on St. Thomas it was 47 percent.
According to Boyd, 323 randomly selected responses were taken on St. Thomas and 284 on St. Croix. The respondents were asked if they were government employees, worked in the private sector or were not working. Boyd said no attempt was made to weight the average for all Virgin Islanders, which means that since more St. Thomas residents responded, the bias for the total is in their favor.
"There are more similarities than differences" in the poll’s responses, Boyd said. "But St. Croix government employees are the most disgruntled sector of our populace while their St. Thomas counterparts are the most contented."
Other questions in the poll found that:
— Compared to a year ago, 75 percent of the respondents said the economy is worse.
— Because of the state of the economy, 55 percent of those polled have thought about leaving the territory for better economic opportunities.
The majority of those polled have no confidence in the government, Loftus said. Translate that to the community at-large, especially public-sector workers who continue to hold off on spending in fear of layoffs, and Loftus predicted a domino effect of layoffs in the private sector.
To ease the uncertainty, he said Gov. Charles Turnbull must unveil his administration’s five-year recovery plan.
"People want to see a plan," Loftus said. "They’re losing confidence and not spending money."
Both Boyd and Loftus noted that government workers on St. Thomas outnumber their colleagues on St. Croix almost two-to-one.
"I think really and truly that’s where the problem is," Loftus said.

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