July 19, 2005 – Effective and efficient management of the Virgin Islands of the United States is what really matters to us today. As we continue to look at what are our immediate challenges, it is clear that management is critical to the formula of transforming V.I. into what many want, but what many feel can never happen.
Today's knowledge base is different from that of six months ago. The solutions to tomorrow's problems may seem to be just beyond our grasp.
But, I believe strongly that they are within our grasp. We can be ready.
There are several critical questions that need to be asked and answered:
1. What is our actual financial status?
2. What is the methodology for making key decisions regarding our finances?
3. Are we better off than we were yesterday?
4. For economic growth to prevail our health, safety and education are absolutely necessary; therefore, what action can we take to ensure their growth and productivity?
I believe many of these questions can be coupled into:
1. Understanding all of our financial management.
2. Use of technology to drive efficiency and quality in the operation of our government.
3. A modus operandi that includes a code of ethics with a focus on transparency.
The divide of opinions about the financial health of V.I. has been one of the most significant divisions in thought among various persons in our recent history. It is imperative that we all know what is going on financially and that we all better understand what's happening to our money.
It is vital to know and be confident that, however our administration approached the budget and the allocation of funds, that they were, in fact, doing the right thing. The need for transparency continues and is more vital now than ever.
Transparency is possible right now, right here–if our elected officials would allow it. But for reasons never spoken and shared, there is relatively no transparency. What is shared never gets to the true understanding of our financial health or lack of it. As a result, other approaches are being considered that may not solve the issue of transparency, but they would certainly change the balance of power in our political system. We are tired of promises that information will be shared or revealed as to what is truly the financial picture in the Virgin Islands.
The perception is that the "Only thing that government really does is collect our money and spend it; and that the spending is not wise spending."
There are questions as to whom the money is taken from and to whom is the money given? There are questions of large amounts needed for important services that go unspent. Why? Where are the management controls that allow all the money to be spent correctly? I can clearly say that when I was in government I made sure that every penny we received from the federal government was spent for the right program and, I might emphasize, was spent.
No money under my control went back to the Feds for we had worked too hard to identify the need; we had worked too hard to write the necessary justifications for the money; and, we had fought a fight to receive the money from the central government offices, the very money that we generated.
We spent every dime for programs, and we saw the fruit of our labor in improved services. We ought to be very productive. Clearly, productivity is linked to good management that has the proper controls. What my past and present tell us is that with proper management and proper controls, we can see a future where we are better off today than we were yesterday. Our past and present management demonstrates that we were able to deal with complex issues even on an individual basis so we could truly address the most serious issues we face. Our past and present management show us that we can network and form affiliations that assist us in becoming successful. Our past and present actions show us that we can avoid potential disasters in our crucial services such as health, safety and education, services that may not seem central to our economic growth but are of fundamental importance. When our health deteriorates, our economic growth is limited. When our education fails us, we are failing our future and we are undermining our economic development. When our safety fails us, we are putting ourselves in a quagmire that will take us years to get out of. If we are constantly losing what we own in our businesses and in our homes due to lack of safety, our economic status is limited. If we are unable to compete in the marketplace due to limited education, our economic survival is threatened.
Our present status tells us that we must be competitive in the marketplace in the global arena. We are now forced to do things differently. We have to recognize that we do not have to hurt the least fortunate of us to accomplish our goals. We can help others, our society and economy while maintaining integrity and honesty in all our dealings. There are some things we must do to improve our efficiency and productivity. We must use more technology. We must use technology not to replace the worker but to enhance the worker's productivity and upward mobility. We must reduce errors in the workplace for errors tend to hurt someone along the way. Too often some are hurt more seriously than others. We must understand that transparency allows our community members to see where our strengths and weaknesses are and allows our community to work with us to achieve a better government.
In the final analysis, I am of the firm view that effective management is necessary not on an intermittent basis but a sustained disciplined basis, 24/7. Too many people have talked about management in our home, the U.S.V.I., but too few have put in place the genuine, effective management that will make us more powerful in the delivery of goods and services to more of our people. We can deliver effective, efficient management. We can make it happen if all of us want it to happen. We have to talk the talk and walk the walk of effective management in our home, the U.S.V.I.
With an effective and efficient management, a transparent government and an enlightened public, there is but one winner: you, me, the community-ALL ARE WE.
Editor's note: Dr. Cora Christian was the founder of the Virgin Islands Medical Institute and functions as the Medical Director as well as the Chief Medical Consultant at Hovensa, LLC. She is on the boards of the National AARP; Interfaith Coalition, St. Croix; American Cancer Society and the Foundation of the University of the Virgin Islands.
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