No fair shake! Wheatley calls for greater equity among districts
Ninth District Representative Vincent Wheatley has called on the government to take a better approach to equity in the territory’s budget.
He said this should include the matter of the coordinating unit for funding for the sister islands of Virgin Gorda and Anegada.
“All islands have taxpayers but sometime you find [that] … expenditure is concentrated in only a few areas. And it’s something I’d like to see improved upon, where there’s more equity among all the districts,” Wheatley argued in the House of Assembly (HOA) recently.
Wheatley said he recently enquired whether there was a coordinating entity that was based in the Premier’s Office to ensure that there is equity among the districts but learned that the coordination of government’s services was based in the Deputy Governor’s Office; under the Sister Islands Coordinator.
According to Wheatley, the Office of the Sister Islands Coordinator — a post in which he previously served — should have been based in the Premier’s Office from its inception. “I was told when the time came to implement that programme, there was no vacancy in the Premier’s Office, therefore, it ended up in the Deputy Governor’s Office,” Wheatley explained.
However, after examining the responsibilities of the job, Wheatley said he noticed that it was best suited to be placed in the Premier’s Office as the lead ministry. “With a unit that works across all ministries, a coordinating entity should not be in a Deputy Governor’s Office. It needs to be with the Premier’s Office, with proper funding.”
He argued that this would solve many of the problems and concerns related to equity in the various districts, adding that every member of the HOA can likely complain that something in their district goes neglected.
“I don’t think that it gets a good, fair shake in terms of the way the budget is done,” Wheatley said. “Now I’m not blaming anybody. The way the budget is done, it’s not structured that way to really capture every single part of the BVI.”
He argued that it was left to Permanent Secretaries and other persons to have the consciousness or the willingness to address the various issues affecting the districts. “If you leave those things to chance, chances are they are going to be missed. It needs to be structured through the budget,” he contended.