Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has urged that locals must be treated well, regardless of whether the territory has to outsource some of its labour needs in order to accomplish its goals.
Premier Wheatley was at the time speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a public school building that was commissioned on the island of Jost Van Dyke.
During the ceremony, Premier Wheatley credited CEO of the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA), Anthony McMaster, for the job the CEO was doing, and noted that he must sing McMaster’s praises.
“He (McMaster) is delivering recovery for the people of the Virgin Islands
. He was given a task and he has delivered,” Dr Wheatley said.
“In fact,” he added, “I wish they could brag a little more about all of the accomplishments, all of the times that I’ve had to stand at a podium, at a contract signing, at a groundbreaking, or when we’ve actually delivered and finished the project and hand over the keys. There’s been countless occasions that the RDA has brought us to this point.”
But the Premier was also keen to reflect that things did not commence this auspiciously at the institution.
“When the RDA started, no disrespect to anyone, but the RDA was paying all kinds of $300,000, $400,000 salary, and I know Brother McMaster, they’re not paying you that $300,000, $400,000 that they were paying to persons who came from elsewhere,” the Premier said.
He continued: “Which of course, we welcome persons from elsewhere. We have nothing to do with elsewhere, but we have to make sure we treat our own people well.”
Premier Wheatley was referring to the remuneration of the Agency’s first CEO Paul Bayly, a New Zealand national that was receiving some $300,000 as a base salary at the time.
Premier Wheatley recalled that the RDA’s rent was astronomical when it started four years ago and said the organisation was much bigger and probably took about $4 million dollars to cover its operational costs.
“Now Brother McMaster has cut that down by more than half and he’s delivered way more projects,” Dr Wheatley stated.
He added: “The next time I come at a RDA forum I’m going to bring the statistics for you so you can understand how the RDA has been delivering.”
Dr Wheatley also argued that the agency has been building capacity under McMaster’s leadership and has been implementing procurement processes which are international in their scope.