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THE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS AND CONSUMER PROTECTION CONSIDERED TWO BILLS, THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH SHARES UPDATE

Published: Nov 30, 2021

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection Chaired by Sen. Carla J. Joseph, held a meeting at the Capitol Building. The Committee considered two measures and was scheduled to receive testimony on the status of the operations for the Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research (BER) and the West Indian Company Limited (WICO), not limited to the enabling law and jurisdiction. However, officials representing WICO were absent.

Bill No.34-0146- An Act acknowledging and commemorating the memory of Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon, Mathilde Mcbean, Susanna Abramson, and other estate laborers before, during, and after the Labor Uprising of 1878 or “Firebun” and their courageous pursuit of human rights, freedom from serfdom variant, and improvement of labor conditions in the former Danish West Indies, and condemning the excessive, cruel, and unjust punishment meted out to the laborers by the Danish Government. Furthermore, the measure requires that within 90 days after the enactment of this Act, the Governor shall appoint a five-member Advisory Committee. The Virgin Islands Council of the Arts shall work in conjunction with the Advisory Committee for the erection of a monument. The Advisory Committee shall take the lead in determining the location, design, materials for the monument, and the ceremony for the 145th-anniversary celebration, as stated on the bill. Sponsors of the bill are senators Javan E. James, Sr., Marvin A. Blyden, and Genevieve R. Whitaker. In support of the measure, Sen. Joseph shared remarks. “Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon, Mathilde Mcbean, Susanna Abramson, and other estate laborers stood up and stood strong and fought vigorously for their beliefs. We have overcome so much as a people that we should never be ashamed of our past because it’s a significant part of our future,” Sen. Joseph said.

Separately, the Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research Director Allison DeGazon, Ph.D. shared an update on the operations of BER. DeGazon stated that the Bureau is an active and productive agency seeking to solidify Caribbean partnerships, catapult data usage, and economic development in the Territory to the 21st century. Some of the data collection-driven projects are inclusive of accessing the impact of the loss of the Limetree Bay Refinery which upon completion, was disseminated to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Furthermore, publishing monthly economic indicators for the Department of Tourism and establishing interagency data sharing with government agencies are also projects. Additionally, DeGazon mentioned that the primary focus of BER is to modernize the data storage systems with the guidance of a hired consultant. Previously, the data was outdated and inaccurate and the new system ensures accuracy while streamlining data access.

Lastly, policymakers received testimony on Bill No. 34-0150- An Act honoring and commending former Governor John Percy deJongh, Jr. for his significant service and contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands, and for his tireless efforts to help expand and grow the economy of the Virgin Islands and naming the walkway and improvements adjacent to the Veterans Drive Highway on the island of St. Thomas the “John deJongh, Jr. Promenade.” This bill is sponsored by senators Novelle E. Francis, Jr, and Donna A. Frett-Gregory. Members of the Cabinet that served during the deJongh Administration praised him for his outstanding contributions to the Territory. The Virgin Islands Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe noted that the improvements along the Waterfront of Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas were a part of the deJongh Administration’s mission to enhance the aesthetics of downtown Charlotte Amalie. Former Chief of Staff to Governor deJongh, Louis Penn cited that additional accomplishments were inclusive of bringing high-speed internet services throughout the Territory by VINGN, reorganizing the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency, and completing the Christiansted by-pass highway on St. Croix.

Senators present at the meeting were Carla J. Joseph, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Javan E. James, Sr. Alma Francis Heyliger, and Novelle E. Francis, Jr.

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