July 9, 2001 – Members of the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands were clear Monday that they thought Sen. Adlebert Bryan's Draft Sustainable Economic Development Plan was vague, at best.
The plan was presented by members of Bryan's staff to the league at a luncheon meeting.
Hortense Rowe, Bryan's chief of staff, originally intended to show a 23-minute video tape of Bryan talking about the plan, but audio problems with the tape left Rowe and Julius Jessup, Bryan's economic researcher, to answer questions about the 44-page document that was handed out as people entered the luncheon.
Rowe said Bryan welcomed criticism by the league members, who she said had had a copy of the plan for two months.
Attorney and league board member Edith Bornn started the questioning saying she has read the document, "It's very vague. I want to know, what is the next step?"
Rowe said Bryan's Economic Summit, to be held July 24 on St. Thomas and July 25 on St. Croix would be the next step. ,
She said Bryan had "searched the globe for people who will be presenters at the summit." She said in his research, Bryan found the V.I. to be most comparable to Singapore and had used that island nation of 4.5 million people as an example of what could be done in the V.I. to establish sustainable economic growth.
But at least one member wasn't buying the Singapore comparison. Richard Hall, professor at the University of the Virgin Islands said the problems of an island of 4.5 million people to that of a territory of 108,000 were "radically different."
It was also pointed out that Singapore didn't have a very good track record on the environment, an issue near and dear to the mission of the league.
The goals of the plan, referred to as its "vision" are to "establish the foundation for sustainable development …through addressing the educational and career opportunities for VI youth, developing an environment for nurturing globally and regionally competitive export and import-substitution oriented firms and industries, providing for the protection of our natural resources with market oriented recycling activities, providing the territory with the data necessary to properly plan and manage our economic and social development, streamlining and making transparent any government processes that interact with the VI economy, and by pursuing development plans that value the quality of life for all VI residents."
Rowe enthusiastically described the territory and its young people as being part of the global workforce, thanks to the Internet. She said Bryan's plan will assure the youth of the V.I. a chance, through education reform, that will offer "a workforce that will restore investor confidence."
One part of the plan suggests that $4 million be pulled from the University of the Virgin Islands' budget and used to "send 200 students to a $20,000 a year Ivy League institution with full scholarships."
The plan goes on to say, " It could provide nearly 400 students with a scholarship of $10,000. Those are 400 MIT trained engineers, economists, educators coming back to the USVI every year."
This idea met with immediate skepticism ranging from, "where would these 400 people find jobs," asked by Hall, and "where do you find an Ivy League school that costs $20,000 a year," from league board member Rosalie Ballentine, to "this has been tried before and they don't come back," from board member Norma Levin.
League member Trudie Prior said she'd prefer to see money put into the educational system for all students to benefit, but educator Ruth Thomas said, "help the brightest," by making sure they get money to go to college.
Jessup said everyone should be allowed to get a higher education.
The discussion didn't get much further into the plan, but several people were skeptical about yet another plan.
League Vice President Debra Brown Roumo closed the meeting on behalf of the league saying, the league was concerned about three things:
– the broad approach taken with the plan.
– the lack of a statement of a viable means of implementation.
– the reality of the plan's legal and political pitfalls.
"Where does this document fit in with the myriad of other plans? We've heard it all before," she said.
Rowe assured the league that all the vagueness of the plan would be address at the upcoming "summits," saying she was "bursting with enthusiasm" for the events.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here