On March 19, I issued a warning to the territory and the Port Authority about the effects of increasing the landing fees. Today I am issuing a much stronger warning that we cannot reduce the income of the people of the Virgin Islands through increased taxes or a reduced work week.
Having said that, the answer to our fiscal problem is and continues to be a reduction of expenditures in all three branches of government. To diminish the amount of capital flowing through this economy is a simple recipe for social disaster.
Although I will not support any new taxes, I am far more adamant that not one government worker in this territory can afford to have his or her income slashed by even four hours per week.
My warning issued to the Port Authority that the increase in landing fees would only create severe economic discord throughout the territory fell on deaf ears. The landing fees are being rescinded in an effort to recapture the businesses we lost. Because of this, we have lost a substantial number of jobs throughout the territory. I only hope that we can appeal to the airlines with an added message of improved friendly relations so that we can regain the necessary airlift and improve the damaged economy.
In June of 2002 and again in February of 2003 we discussed that the airlines would not stand for any kind of increase. The decision to approve such an increase has proven not to be a prudent decision. An attempt to strong-arm the airlines, especially when we have limited air carriers to the territory, is something we cannot afford to do. This is an area that needs to be represented by more statesmanlike relations. In a conference last April at the University of the Virgin Islands, the secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Mr. Jean Holder, stated that "without the airlift our economies are dead in the water."
In the future, we must do all in our power to encourage business throughout the territory and find inventive ways to stimulate the economy. The decisions made must be in the best interests of all members of this community, both rich and poor. The luxuries displayed for the few must not trample on the many. The people of this community ensure the continued prosperity for private investors throughout the tourism industry, construction fields, and any other revenue-generating machine. As leaders, we must not only embrace the entrepreneur but also train our workforce for a holistic benefit.
It is time that our leaders begin to promote the aspects that drive this territory's economy. We must begin to develop a responsible tourism product and create a viable tool for the advancement of this community and any entity that wishes to stimulate the growth of these islands. Socially, we must globalize our minds in order to be a leader in Caribbean policymaking. Economically, we must do everything in our power to encourage more investment while being fiscally responsible with the rewards.
Our diversity bestows upon us the opportunity to infuse the many ideas and processes in order to achieve our goals for the future. The Virgin Islands Tourism Authority is one of the aspects that will help our community in this advancement. This is the time to lay the foundations so that future generations can build upon a stronger and more financially stable United States Virgin Islands.
Sen. Roosevelt St. C. David
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