In a recent, well-meaning, non-controversial article entitled "VI ECONOMY GETS MIXED REVIEWS" I was inadvertently misquoted relative to statements I made regarding the need for increased federal spending in the Virgin Islands, the development of entrepreneurial skills of Virgin Islanders engaged in "underground businesses", and the need to cut the government's payroll, respectively.
The following paragraphs describe the proper context in which I made the original statements:
On increased Federal spending – My comments were that the federal government should increase overall federal spending in the Territory. I made reference to the increased defense spending in Guam over the years that has resulted in increased private investment and available jobs. The federal government awards billions of dollars annually in contracts to private firms to provide varied products and services for various executive branch departments not just Defense. The apparent unintentional exclusion of the Virgin Islands by our federal partners in the awarding of federal dollars has put us on unequal footing when compared per capita with other Territories and States.
On the development of entrepreneurial skills of residents – To be clear, the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce DOES NOT support in any way, the "underground" economy in the Territory or the further development of the same. I merely noted the example of the undeniable underground economy as evidence that many residents earning a living through their "off the books" businesses possess entrepreneurial spirit and skills and should be identified and assisted in legitimizing their businesses and improving their skills to help grow the economy and improve their socioeconomic standing.
On cutting the Government's payroll – My comment regarding the government's payroll was that taxpayers should receive a decent return on their investment regarding government service. At the moment, there is a shortage of emergency services personnel, teachers, and other public servants that are essential in any community. The overall quality of life is negatively impacted when a community lacks these most basic services. We need to reprioritize the manner in which dollars are spent on personnel in the public sector to spend less on cronyism and more on essential services.
Ben Rivera Jr.