US Virgin Islands Governor: HOVENSA Closure “A Catastrophic Decision”

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By the Caribbean Journal staff

The announcement of the impending closure of the HOVENSA refinery on St Croix was a “catastrophic decision” that will affect the entire territory, US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh said in his State of the Territory address last night.

“We had no warning this was coming; no time to prepare, to adjust to the possibility that we may be hit,” he said. “Indeed, this was far more like what one would imagine a tsunami to be — there was little warning and the impact was immediate — there was no time to prepare and its effects are being felt across our territory, but most especially on the island of St Croix.

“And for this lack of fair warning — I am upset and I am angry,” he said.

De Jongh said that the state of the territory was “troubled.”

De Jongh also noted the amount of taxes paid by HOVENSA and its contractors, which totaled more than $50 million, with an additional $30 million of payroll withholding taxes — the absence of which will widen the gap between the territory’s revenue and expenditures.

Despite the hardship of the HOVENSA closure, de Jongh did point to positive economic signs, such as an additional 100,000 airline passengers flying into the USVI and a $100 million investment in high-speed internet.

But it was clear in the address that the HOVENSA closure would define politics in the territory for some time going forward.