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Fact? VI infrastructure falls woefully short of what it should be!

-Guest speaker at MCW Retreat says the deficit in quality of infrastructure has direct negative impact on doing business in the VI
"Its not always what you want to hear but what you should," said Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark H. Vanterpool as he presented a plaque of appreciation to Mr Colin O'Neal (r) who had presented a 'raw facts' speech on the state of infrastructural issues in the Virgin Islands at the Ministry's inaugural Retreat. Photo: VINO
During the short question and answer segment of the presentation, BVIEC's General Manager Leroy Abraham tells Mr O'Neal
During the short question and answer segment of the presentation, BVIEC's General Manager Leroy Abraham tells Mr O'Neal "I didn't know you were such a brave man to say some of the things you said but most of it is true." Photo: VINO
BVIEC's Henry Creque says to Mr Colin O'Neal
BVIEC's Henry Creque says to Mr Colin O'Neal "Thank you for coming and giving us a dot of truth." Mr Creque also asked if O'Neal's colleagues were willing to invest in the Virgin Islands. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – One item on the lunch menu for the first of a two-day Retreat for the Ministry of Communications and works (MCW) was certainly well digested when presented to the participants, not on their plates, neither in their glasses, but over the microphone in a striking presentation by Chief Executive Officer of JOMA Property Development, Mr Colin O’Neal, a presentation that was described as “a harsh reality check”. It had no additives, just raw but yet nutritious.

“This is the part that I think no one wants to hear, but in my true opinion, the BVI in terms of infrastructure falls woefully short of what it should be,” noted Mr O’Neal. He was the guest speaker for the opening day of the Retreat on January 24, 2013 and made his presentation during the lunch break. His presentation was on the theme ‘Developing a Modern Virgin Islands – Ideas for Development and Infrastructural Development’.

Mr O’Neal was the choice person to deliver on the topic given his credentials and experience. He is a Political Science and History graduate of Boston University and a Law graduate of the University of the West Indies. Besides his legal and business careers, he has a longstanding and continued involvement in public service. In a timeframe of just over half an hour, Mr O’Neal had the undivided attention of his audience as he delivered on the topic, which attempted to give a vivid perspective of where the Virgin Islands stands today in the area of Infrastructure and from whence it came.

“Where is the BVI in terms of the availability and the quality of infrastructure?” a question he answered without add a grain of salt. He highlighted areas of roads, ports, water, electricity, hospitals and clinics among others. “… but generally I think that you would agree with me that the condition of our roads fall well below world or even regional standards, in terms of designs, constructions and maintenance. Our ports are in fairly good shape but many are stretched beyond their passengers and harbor capacity. Water delivery is sporadic and unreliable, electricity same thing, hospitals and clinics inadequate. Solid waste removal and treatment way below acceptable standards, mass transit inadequate or nonexistent. Telecommunications expensive and bandwidth not on par with first world standards even though the BVI is a major financial services jurisdiction,” noted O’Neal.

Noting that he was not trying to be critical but rather set out the fact as he sees them, Mr O’Neal added that the deficit of the quality of reliability of the infrastructure has a direct negative impact on doing business in the Virgin Islands. Looking back into the history books it was pointed out that most of the key infrastructure of the Virgin Islands was developed between the 1960s and 1980s while the population had doubled and according to Mr O’Neal, “We failed to invest in infrastructure at the rate necessary to support the rate of population growth or economic development. We pile development on top of inadequate infrastructure and we continue to do that and infrastructure is breaking under the weight.”

He, however, noted that in order to catch up, infrastructural development cannot be put on hold. In his opinion the Virgin Islands faces competition and what is needed is a national vision. “We wouldn’t get to where we want to unless we work together,” He added, “We can’t afford to be swinging one way to the other when parties change, when governments change, that’s why it’s critical to get the opposition.”

Getting the views of the opposition on board was highlighted as a key path to aiding the developmental drive of the Territory. The need for government to level with the public was also highlighted as a key factor, one which should see the government explaining to its people the position it is in and how it has fallen behind its competitors.

Mr O’Neal stressed that hard choices would need to be made and the political leaders would have to find the courage to make decisions. The current approach to infrastructure needed to be abandoned with immediate effect. “It’s utterly failed and its based on misplaced priorities and has led to the waste of public funds and loss of investments in critical areas,” said Mr O’Neal after which he stepped back to, according to him, see if missiles were being toss at him for saying. This action was greeting with an outburst of laughter, breaking the ice of the ever keen and attentive audience.

The role of the private sector cannot be exempted, according to O’Neal.

Having given his honest view on the topic of infrastructure, he said he is nevertheless optimistic of the future of the Virgin Islands and stressed the importance of making the most of what is currently in its possession. “I used to look forward to Fridays but now I look forward to Mondays because there is so much that can be done in the BVI. The challenges are there but we have to surmount them somehow and we do that with careful planning and skillful execution,” concluded Mr O’Neal.

About Mr Colin O’Neal

Colin O'Neal, BA, LL.B. was admitted as a barrister in the Virgin Islands in 1987 and was the founder and managing partner of the law firm O'Neal Webster where he practiced commercial law for nearly twenty years. In 2005 he left the practice of law to become Chief Executive Officer of JOMA (Properties) Ltd., a real estate development and management company in the Virgin Islands. Over the years, he has served on the boards of several private companies and has served as President of the BVI Bar Association, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Chairman of Police Advisory Committee, Chairman of the Recreation Trust, member of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission as well as serving on many other public boards and committees. He is a member of the BVI Bar Association, Associate Member of the American Bar Association and member of the Urban Land Institute (extracted from bvifsc.vg).

23 Responses to “Fact? VI infrastructure falls woefully short of what it should be!”

  • hog city (25/01/2013, 08:25) Like (5) Dislike (5) Reply
    yet them want to kill fraser for trying to fix sea cow's bay infrastructure
    • links (25/01/2013, 09:23) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
      We get $200mil from Financial Services. How much of that activity is in Sea Cows Bay? The focus needs to be on our capital and main areas. Once those are addressed then funds would be available to develop the Territory on a whole. This competition BS will kill the country. Fraser wants big buildings and malls in each District, who the hell going to patronize them? If they want activity in Sea Cows Bay, it should either be private investment or a partnership. The fact that no private investors apart from Nanny Cay and another coming on board, tells a lot. Nanny cay is expanding their marina, the place across from them, I think is Jarecki's own, that will be developed. Then there's a planned marina type major development for Havers. How much can that one district accommodate? Ya'll just need to stop being ignorant and realize we are one Territory.
    • **** (25/01/2013, 11:53) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      Fraser is not trying to fix infrastructure, he is creating a situation where what he is building doesn't MATCH what the infrastructure can handle... he put the cart before the horse without study.
  • polo (25/01/2013, 08:39) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Surprise! Surprise!
  • Ironic (25/01/2013, 09:12) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply

    Colin God Bless you! in truth you didnt tell them a thing they didnt know,but i'm Glad someone with with common sense and forsight gave them a good slap in the face, 100 Million Dollar Airport and Sewerage running throughout our roads, 100 Million Dollar Cruise Port and No decent Sidewalks, Roads that are so bad people treat them like fallen bridges and take the long route instead, Electricity so poor with unforgiving Fuel surcharges, No Public Transportation so everyone is forced to buy a car even though there is barley even though they can barely afford it, Over saturation of Taxies that making a living in the taxi industry is almost impossible,No Sidewalks, Sewage infested enviorment, No clean water (Fact), Poor Third world quality power standards, Now the Geniuses talking about a golf course on Anegada....lol...you can't mingle if you have $h!t on your foot son! Clean your $h!t first!!! and our Leaders the two Doctors on the mountains top seem clueless! Shame if anyone would know how to solve a problem and sickness i thought it would be those two, they should know...........there doctors.....to become healthy you must better your self! the way you eat! take CARE OF YOURSELF!!! you would think these two would have known.....

  • black boy (25/01/2013, 09:20) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    Ha ha ha gimme ah break he trying to mek sure Collin does not run against he..pure politicks again
    • Biggs (25/01/2013, 10:08) Like (7) Dislike (64) Reply
      Colin is a nice person and well educated, but he is no politician. There is nobody that will beat Mark in the 4th District right now, barring something really big happening. Colin has a lot of value to add to the debates and the country on a whole from where he sits, he doesn't need to be a politician to contribute.
      • qc (25/01/2013, 11:40) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        Please explain.
      • Third Eye (25/01/2013, 15:23) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
        What are you trying to say is that Mr. O'Neal is not popular? That is the problem here with BVI politics, people vote for the popular ignoramus instead of the sensible, unpopular individuals with commons sense.
        • Biggs (25/01/2013, 16:14) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
          The problem is that when the 'newness' wears off we will throw him to the dogs like we did with Dr. Smith. There are some people who can contribute a lot more when they're not distracted by petty 'beggy beggy, gimme gimme' politics. The best Politician we can ever have is one who's willing to be a one-termer if that's what it takes, meaning, they will do what's right for the country whether people agree with it at the time or not. The Government the BVI needs right now would cut 500 jobs in the civil service, get rid of all those SUVs, buy scooters and smaller cars, broker public-private partnerships for certain things like Energy, Water (already being done) and other industries. Government doesn't need its hand in everything. Stop all this welfare BS and promote hard work and promote entrepreneurship. We can have a system in place to help the less fortunate people who genuinely can't take care of their kids and family at a point in time. Everybody else will have to work hard and abide by the rules. Building codes will be strict no matter who you are and where you're from. I can go on and on! Tell me which politician that does all this, do not cut corners for political backers etc. and get re-elected? Not in your best wet dream!!! That's the reality. We are the problem, we are the ones that vote! It's always easy to talk a good talk. We love to say we need to reduce Government but as soon as it's your cousin jane or aunty sue on the list, it's unfair, political bias, yadda yadda..when will it end?
          • Third Eye (25/01/2013, 17:15) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
            Biggs I completely agree with you but the answer to your points lies within us (electorat/voters). Are we as a people willing to change. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day in the BVI and it is sinking us fast.
    • shelia (26/01/2013, 06:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Ain't gonna happen.

  • nonsense (25/01/2013, 10:10) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
    The Government is not spending $100mil on a cruise pier. Please stop with the stupid lies. You can be against whatever you want but lying about something because you don't like it does not make sense. The Government is not spending $100mil on the cruise pier. That is a lie and you know it. Biwater and CBE both have contracts to address sewerage, it's just for them to complete the works, so don't act like nothing is happening. You're saying we should put up a 'CLOSED' sign on the country until everything is fixed? The world doesn't operate like that my friend.
  • Confucius (25/01/2013, 11:02) Like (16) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mr. O'Neal! It is long past time that somebody (worth listening to) spoke out.

    Our myoptic politicians KNOW the truth but they (all) choose to ignore it. They insist upon chasing their pie-in-the-sky dreams for the future of the Virgin Islands whilst dodging massive pot holes, reading by flashlight and flushing directly into the sea ~ when we have water with which to flush, that is!

    Meanwhile, our children sit in classrooms with leaking roofs, inoperable windows and stifling heat; being taught by teachers who speak and write almost as poorly as they do.

    They profess that we all must tighten our belts, while they embark upon one fanciful spending spree after another, hire their cronies to carry out the work (without any oversight) and appoint all their friends to manufactured "consulting" positions, paid for out of the public purse.

    ALL of our politicians have let us down over the past 15 (or so) years. They seem to be suffering under some ill conceived notion that the Virgin Islands Treasury is a bottomless pit. Power has gone to their collective heads. This one wants a race track, that one wants a new driveway and retaining wall for his loyal supporter, another wants us to pay to build a private marina on private land, the next one wants us all to invest our hard earned dollars into a dilapidated resort that should never have been purchased by government in the first place and another thinks the treasury is his own personal cookie jar. Then there are those with visions of grandeur, who somehow think we will become the "Caribbean Monaco" with Mega Yachts, massive cruise ships and 5 star resorts dotted throughout the BVI with rich white people throwing their money out of car windows.

    While visions of sugarplums dance in their heads, the smell of sewerage permeates our capital, you can't find a parking space anywhere, traffic is crawling along at a snail's pace, buildings are approved (using executive privilege) directly against the advice of Town & country planning, and our children can't write a single sentence without a spelling error or several grammatical errors. Our grocery stores charge an arm and a leg for sub par goods, while rats run across the floor and we are served by snarling and unhelpful staff who only want their shift to end. Added to that, we have a major airlift problem combined with third world ferry service ~ just to mention a few of our drawbacks.

    The Caribbean Monaco huh?

    Our politicians need to get real and begin to realize that ALL the problems we are facing is because of THEIR mismanagement! Both parties are responsible for the mess we are in! One more than the other, to be sure. BUT, by the time this current term comes to a close, I believe the pendulum will have swung a looooong way the other way.

    Knuckle down and fix our infrastructure BEFORE embarking on ANY other new projects!
    • t2db (25/01/2013, 13:04) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
      Confucius

      I agree with you 100%! However, I will not lay all the blame on the politicians. A smart politician does the will of the people and intends to get re-elected the next time around. So do the math. We have had politicians elected for over 40yrs despite leaving their districts and the Territory on a whole in the dark. Ask yourself why people continue to vote for them despite their actions or inactions. Once you figure that out then you'll see what's going on here. Wanty wanty, needy needy, no principle. Things are only wrong or bad when certain people doing it. I have seen it for myself. Politics is a nasty thing. You will see people jump high and jump low against something and you swear they're for the country. But let an opportunity arise for them to be involved in that same thing you will see how fast they do a 720 (360 twice!!!). I'm sorry, but the people are the ones to blame. Our votes are more about mellee and soundbites, nothing to do with what's right for the country. Look at the online media for example. Stories about fixing the schools, becoming accredited, training teachers, unemployment programs etc. On those stories you find a hand full of comments because there's no drama there. That's where the interests lie. It's all about ignorance and me me me. I can safely syay that 70% of the people that vote here vote based on emotion more than common sense.
      • Confucius (25/01/2013, 16:05) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
        t2db, it’s a chicken and egg thing ~ to a degree. But if the politicians hadn’t started handing out white envelopes, the people wouldn’t have started SELLING their votes (and their souls) in the first place.

        Yes, I agree that the people get what they deserve in many cases, but it is the scale to which this stupidity and corruption has spread that is so alarming! The sad thing is that despite all our complaints, they just keep doing the same old, same old. They steam roll over the people with their nonsense and put their so called “visions” first.

        I am so sick of it that the grave almost seems like a welcome option. I only worry that once I am gone, my children will blame me and my contemporaries for having failed them. So I will keep fighting until I draw my last breath ~ for their sakes.

        Yes, we absolutel need development. No argument there. But we cannot continue to develop while all these infrastructural problems exist. One day the whole thing will crumble down upon us and everyone will be asking “what happened”. The politicians will turn to us and say "You can’t blame us, we have only been in office for two years! This did not happen overnight!"

        Nah, sorry t2db, it IS the fault of the politicians. Every single one of them that have been in office during at least the last 15 years. The people only take what they are offered. If there were no offers/bribes forthcoming, they would still vote and probably more honestly!
  • pete (25/01/2013, 12:06) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    thank you for a summary of ongoing issues. I want to nominate you for a political position. You hit it on the head.
    Many have cried fix the foundation before raising the walls and roof. If the internet, basic necessities- electricity, sewage, water were dealt with first- wouldn't be easier to move forward with projects both parties want? The Pier Park will be contained and have its own problems with these issues. Why should some projects have solutions and some not? Get schools up and running with reliable computers, build a proper public library for all. establish a historical commission and urban planning commission beyond the planning authority which plays favourites. Take care of home issues first. that alone will draw people to our shores. We don't need to be "Caribbean Monaco" (brilliant!)
  • nonsense (25/01/2013, 13:23) Like (0) Dislike (8) Reply
    You know what's funny? Everybody is singing Mr. Oneal's praises for his speech and rightfully so. He hit the nail on the end. But if he were to contest elections and win, 99% of you would change your tongue. Imagine him being elected, in the business that he is in. Imagine any development or plans that's being put forward by him, everybody would say "Look look at what he's doing, what else should we expect from him anyway, he's in that business so god knows....".>.He owns a lot of property and businesses as well so everything he puts forward, people will cry conflict, just like many are alluding to with the cruise pier and the fact that Doc may have a piece of property leased in the vicinity. Why are we so small minded? So we should move the cruise pier because the premier may have a leased piece, which he would've had even before he got into politics? Mr Oneal, take my stupid advice and stay out of politics, they will eat you alive despite your best efforts. BVI people have turned politics and politicians into what it is/what they are now and they're reaping what they sow. Remain on the sideline and contribute where/when you can. You have already set a trend with your properties taking careful consideration to parking, surroundings and aesthetics. Keep up your good work, stay out of politics! I hope after this maybe the Government can have you as a consultant. Hey, I hear they're looking for someone to head up the Road Town/City development. I think Mr Oneal will be a good candidate. Mark can sure do with the goodwill so he should jump on it LOL....
  • nonsense (25/01/2013, 16:16) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    Threatened? Quite the opposite, the BVI needs the likes of him to come out of the wood works, talk straight, tell it like it is, offer solutions and be a part of it. I know he can do it. I'm not petty, politics isn't everything. Regardless of who's elected we got a country to run.
  • TalkSense (26/01/2013, 15:02) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Thank you, Mr O'Neal.
    Now people hearing it from someone with no vested interest, no 'outsider status' and a wealth of knowledge.
    It is just so clear that politics of this nation has fallen down a well in the last 2 decades. We no longer value intelligence. No longer think of the collective good. We can't even handle criticism without accusing people of being partial, outsiders or racist. Mr O'Neal is in a unique position to cut through that and tell it how it is and he should be thanked for talking straight.
    Best way we can thank him is to take it on board and change our expectations of politicians. Brides and favors are NOT what its all about. The collective good IS.
  • 360 (27/01/2013, 16:00) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Yes, the country will face a harder way of life due to excessive growth and wasteful spending by the NDP government.


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