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USVI Launches Scholarship Program to Empower Maritime Sector Workforce

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Team members aboard a seafaring vessel engage in meticulous deck maintenance, employing a flex machine grinder for precision cutting tasks, integral to the routine upkeep of ships. Image courtesy of GETTY IMAGES.

The US Virgin Islands are embarking on a strategic initiative to bolster their maritime workforce through the introduction of a new scholarship program, as deliberated by the Senate Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance. Championed by Senator Angel Bolques, Bill 35-0133 aims to foster educational opportunities for individuals aspiring to careers in the maritime industry by amending Chapter 17 of the Virgin Islands Code. The initiative, heralded by legislators and educators alike, promises to enrich the territory on multiple fronts.

Educational Scholarship Bill for the Maritime Industry: Key Features

  • Guideline Development: The Board of Education is tasked with formulating guidelines, application procedures, and criteria for scholarship selection and fund allocation.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Must be a Virgin Islands resident.
    • A keen interest in maritime career paths.
    • Open to high school graduates, current college students, or those seeking enrollment in accredited maritime programs.
  • Selection Transparency: A fair and transparent selection mechanism will be put in place by the Board of Education.
  • Scholarship Provisions:
    • Award amounts up to $10,000 annually.
    • Coverage includes tuition, accommodation, meals, travel, and other academic expenses.
    • Scholarships span up to four years, with funds disbursed following formal acceptance into educational programs.
  • Work Commitment: A contractual agreement requires scholarship beneficiaries to serve in the USVI’s maritime sector post-graduation, with non-compliance incurring repayment of the scholarship funds.
  • Residency Mandate: Applicants should have USVI residency for at least two years before applying, excluding those temporarily abroad for studies or military service.
  • Program Accountability: Annual reporting on program administration and outcomes will be a responsibility of the Board of Education, ensuring transparency and effectiveness.
  • Outreach Efforts: The Board will actively promote the scholarship to ensure widespread awareness, with detailed information accessible through its website and other platforms.
  • Sustainable Financing: The Legislature will ensure annual funding for the scholarship, ensuring long-term program viability.

Kyza Callwood, chair of the Virgin Islands Board of Education, underscored the scholarship’s critical role in addressing skill shortages, fostering economic development, and ensuring a skilled maritime workforce. This initiative is also poised to enhance maritime safety and prevent incidents. Assistant Education Commissioner Victor Somme III and representatives from the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Port Authority echoed these sentiments, highlighting the scholarship’s potential to diversify and strengthen the maritime sector.

The proposed legislation has garnered widespread support, reflecting a collective commitment to revitalizing the maritime industry and contributing to the territory’s Vision 2040 objectives. With the bill moving to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further assessment, the USVI stands on the cusp of creating a robust and diverse maritime workforce, ready to navigate the future with skill and dedication.

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Touched by Tiva: Sativa Williams’ Journey from Hobbyist to Beauty Mogul on St. Croix

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A transformational tale of ambition and artistry is unfolding on St. Croix, where Sativa Williams, the creative force behind Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio, has turned her fervent interest in makeup into a thriving enterprise. This business not only offers a wide array of beauty enhancements but also stands as a beacon for those aspiring to convert their passions into successful careers.

Sativa Williams embarked on her beautification odyssey with a simple curiosity about makeup, which quickly blossomed into a creative outlet as she adorned friends and family, receiving critical yet constructive feedback from her closest kin. Her talent became evident during her tenure at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, where her reputation as a skilled makeup artist grew, leading to numerous requests for her services at various events.

Returning to her roots on St. Croix, the demand for Sativa’s expertise continued unabated. After experimenting with different vocations, she acknowledged her unwavering passion for the beauty sector. With the backing of her husband, Nasheem Williams, she initially launched a boutique offering lashes and hair bundles, a venture that, while eventually taking a back seat, laid the groundwork for the inception of Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio.

The studio, aptly named to reflect Sativa’s commitment to providing personalized and tender care, quickly became renowned for making clients feel so at ease that they would often doze off during their beauty sessions. Sativa, now a licensed tattoo artist, has broadened her services to include “powder brows,” a semi-permanent technique that delicately refines and accentuates eyebrows, offering lasting beauty for up to three years.

Sativa Williams’ journey is a narrative of resilience, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of one’s aspirations. She passionately encourages fellow entrepreneurs to embrace their dreams, underscoring that the road to success is paved with challenges that ultimately forge strength and resilience. “The financial rewards you seek will follow once you commit to your path,” she asserts. “Every trial encountered is merely a step toward fortifying your resolve.”

Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio invites everyone to discover the transformative experiences it offers, with detailed information on services, operating hours, and special promotions available through its website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram). Sativa’s evolution from a collegiate enthusiast to a celebrated entrepreneur exemplifies the power of perseverance and the realization of dreams through hard work and unwavering commitment.

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Governor Bryan Stands Firm Against EU’s Unfair Tax Blacklist

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At a recent pivotal meeting, the European Union’s decision to keep the U.S. Virgin Islands on its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions was met with immediate and stern opposition from the Government House. Governor Albert Bryan Jr., speaking at the Department of the Interior’s Interagency Group on Insular Areas annual meeting, voiced his strong disapproval of the EU’s stance, emphasizing the inappropriateness of treating the USVI as though it were a nation distinct from the United States. “Being singled out and treated differently from other U.S. territories in matters of tax is something we cannot accept,” he asserted.

Governor Bryan, who has been at the forefront of efforts to challenge the USVI’s placement on this unfavorable list since 2019, announced plans for an upcoming dialogue with officials from the State Department in Washington to address this critical issue among others impacting the territory.

The Bryan administration is calling on the European Union to reevaluate its position and acknowledge the U.S. Virgin Islands’ dedication to international standards of cooperation and transparency. Describing the continued blacklisting as unjust, the administration is committed to correcting this situation and securing equitable treatment for the residents of the USVI.

The European Union justifies its decision by pointing to the USVI’s lack of participation in the automatic exchange of financial information and its failure to sign and ratify the amended OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance. The EU also labels several of the territory’s economic initiatives, including the Economic Development program and the International Banking Center Regulatory Act, as fostering a preferential tax regime, which has led to the territory’s maintained status on the blacklist.

The creation of the EU’s tax-haven blacklist, spurred by the revelations of the Panama Papers, has faced widespread criticism for its perceived bias. Marla Dukharan, a prominent Caribbean economist, has condemned the EU’s approach as a clear display of racism and bullying, noting that a significant number of tax havens exist within EU member states themselves.

This confrontation underscores the ongoing struggle for fairness and recognition on the global stage, with Governor Bryan leading the charge to ensure the USVI is treated justly and equitably in international affairs.

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USVI Continues to Navigate EU Tax Blacklist, Highlighting Commitment to Fair Tax Practices

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The landscape of international tax cooperation is ever-evolving, with recent adjustments to the European Union’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. This list, aimed at promoting fair tax competition and governance, has been updated, resulting in the removal of several jurisdictions, including the Bahamas, Belize, Seychelles, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. However, the U.S. Virgin Islands, alongside Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda, remain on this list, spotlighting ongoing discussions between these territories and the EU.

The European Union has raised concerns regarding the U.S. Virgin Islands’ practices in automatic exchange of financial information, as well as its participation in the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance, which has been amended to enhance global tax cooperation. Additionally, certain aspects of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Economic Development Program, the International Banking Center Regulatory Act, and the list of exempt companies have been identified by the EU as potentially fostering a preferential tax regime.

Despite these challenges, the U.S. Virgin Islands has consistently expressed its commitment to adhering to international tax standards and has refuted the classification as a non-cooperative jurisdiction. The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands has previously addressed the EU’s concerns, emphasizing the legitimacy and transparency of its economic development initiatives and denying any connection between these programs and tax avoidance strategies that could affect EU member states.

The creation of the EU blacklist was catalyzed by the Panama Papers’ revelations, showcasing the use of offshore entities for tax reduction. The list has since been a subject of debate, with critics, including prominent Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan, arguing that it reflects discriminatory practices. Dukharan has highlighted the irony in the EU’s stance, noting that a significant portion of the world’s tax havens are located within EU member states themselves, calling into question the fairness and impartiality of the blacklist.

As the U.S. Virgin Islands remains on the EU’s list, the territory’s government is actively engaging in dialogue and taking steps to address the EU’s concerns. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands is recognized for its commitment to fair and transparent tax practices, aligning with global standards and contributing to the fight against tax evasion and avoidance.

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