At the invitation of oil and gas giant Sinopec – the Chinese company that partnered with ArcLight Capital Partners’ Limetree Bay Holdings to buy the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix – Gov. Kenneth Mapp announced this week that he will soon be heading to China on a “trade mission” that would explore additional investment in the territory.
“Sinopec has a very serious interest in making additional investment on St. Croix,” Mapp said this week during a press conference. “They have the financial wherewithal to make significant investment in the territory.”
The trip follows an April meeting on St. Croix between V.I. government officials and Sinopec representatives. Mapp said during Tuesday’s press conference that the trip will allow for further discussion on a “potential deal” that could result in the establishment of a “major brand hotel” on St. Croix. Mapp will visit Bejing, Shanghai and Ningbo, and planned business includes a meeting with Air China, in an effort to bring Chinese tourists to the territory, he said.
Mapp said he had invited the Senate to send one of its members on the trip, along with both Chambers of Commerce. Also traveling with the governor will be members of his staff, Tourism Department representatives and officials from the Economic Development Authority.
During Tuesday’s short press conference, Mapp also announced that raises for employees at the Bureau of Internal Revenue, V.I. Fire Service, Division of Personnel and the Departments of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Tourism and Finance will receive salary increases in their May 26 paychecks. Mapp signed into law Tuesday a bill that authorized the raises.
The governor said the new law finalizes the overall process of granting raises to be finalized and that following this month’s increase, workers can look forward to receiving a lump sum in their June 9 checks.
Not on the list were raises for Education and V.I. Police Department personnel, whose employees have staged job actions over the last few weeks. While a large group of VIPD officers did not show up to work the J’ouvert festivities last week, Education’s teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff staged their sick-out in mid-April.
Mapp said Tuesday that he was “perplexed” by “unsanctioned job actions” that took place while government efforts continue to address pay issues and concerns over job conditions. While Mapp said that he and Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter are “committed” to paying out “living wages,” raises for these two groups will not be negotiated “under duress.” Mapp said the government does not “reward bad behavior” and that he would be putting the raises for these groups on the “back burner” until both sides come to a resolution.
“I will not join you in that bad behavior; nor will I reward you for it,” Mapp said Tuesday. He also clarified that any implementation of salary increases in “not tied to the back pay” owed to teachers.