Frank Schneiger is right on target: "Delegate Donna M. Christensen is to be commended for her courage in seeking to arrest the financial disintegration of the territory."
Calling it like you see it is most important in these times. Thanks to the delegate! And, thanks to Frank Schneiger for his insightful, direct and accurate presentation. He has drawn a picture with great clarity and thought.
He wrote: "For at least two decades, successive V.I. governments have operated on the basis of the following assumptions: 1. It is essential to keep the current system and government structure going at all costs. 2. 'They' (the federal government) won't let it collapse. 3. 'We' aren't going to be around when it's time to pay the piper."
Acceptable to most, as the options are not. I recall the words, as my 8th grade teacher placed them on the blackboard: "to ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME."
Having been associated with federal government contract work in the V.I. since the late '60s and a resident/business owner dating back to 1979, I appreciate and concur with the historical perspective presented in the article with a few exceptions:
– The proposed chief financial officer must and will "materially improve the situation" as long as she/he is independent of V.I. connections and reports to a federal entity in addressing the "structural deficits and growing debt of the territory and to introduce a strong and badly needed measure of transparency to the government's finances." Any "local" authority will undermine the intent of this critical mission.
– "The core of the problem was the conception of government as a jobs program for Virgin Islanders." No, I believe it was the conception of government as employer of all resort.
– "Nobody at present appears to have a handle on what the real numbers are." Don't believe that! Budget officials responding "I don't know" really mean "I don't want you to know."
– "This narrowness [of the delegate's proposal] may be necessary to make the proposal politically palatable, but there is a need for review, audit and budget authority that will require an infrastructure and staff, qualities that go beyond the title of chief financial officer." Politically drawn, yes — and need, as Schneiger states, absolute. However, the proposal should be re-conceived and developed by individuals with in-depth knowledge of the territory's fiscal history and training and experience in financial turnarounds, so that there greater chance for success and less for charade.
As to title, it makes little difference. It will be the roles, responsibilities and authority that will make change occur!
"Ignore the nay-sayers. Do it." I second this motion, Frank!
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