The National Debt clock in NYC spins faster than you can see. Second by second it lets the United States know how big our debt grows. Perhaps a different type of clock needs to be erected in the Virgin Islands. A big clock, erected to let us know how many days are left before our Government Employees’ Retirement System runs out of money. Presently, funds disappearing are estimated gone in less than three years.
Perhaps it’s because the reality of that day has not arrived or perhaps it’s because most people don’t like to think about bad things yet to come, but no substantial reforms have been enacted in this system that has been fiscally sick for years. But the reality is that horrible day, when the GERS fund runs dry, is fast approaching.
Soon, a pension plan that pays out a check to approximately 9,000 retirees and takes money from another 8,000 Virgin Islands citizens will meet its end of days. When this happens, the wails of those who have staked their retirement years on money to help in their lives will be so loud we will all need ear muffs.
Hiding our heads in the sand is doing a disservice to people who don’t realize how close they are to a catastrophic change in their lives.
There will be no magic bail out.
The Virgin Islands Government will not be able to find the resources to handle the under- funded liabilities estimated between $4 billion to $6 billion. The federal government also will not give us money for pension funds. Nonprofits will be ill-equipped to pick up the slack, when basics like food and medicines are needed for people who no longer have enough.
Years of warnings have gone unheeded. No politician wants to be the bad guy in delivering the bad news to voters that cuts need to be made, and re-election is more important than doing what was right for the people. At the very least, getting a countdown clock installed may get the people ready. That may be the best money we will ever spend.
— Maria Ferreras is a longtime St. Thomas resident and community volunteer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.