United States Virgin Islands Country Report
Following the November 2018 election, Albert Bryan (Democrat) is the island’s ninth elected governor, defeating incumbent Kenneth Mapp. The US Virgin Islands (USVI) is a low-risk jurisdiction given the islands’ status as a US territory. Laws and regulations are relatively straightforward. The main operational concern for firms doing business on the island is the moderate corruption risk, including recent arrests for the mishandling of millions in public funds. The islands’ status as part of the United States means that the threat of terrorism cannot be fully disregarded, although the threat remains moderate; more significant is the risk of violent crime including drug and human trafficking. The economy is overly reliant on the tourism sector, leaving it vulnerable to a downturn associated with the current COVID-19 virus outbreak. The government expected to invest over USD5.6 billion on several postponed infrastructure projects, but those improvements will face likely delays because of the virus outbreak.
The islands’ transport and communications networks are generally sound, but 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria compromised infrastructure and led to prolonged power outages. Questions about the efficiency and integrity of the local authorities were raised because of inconsistencies surrounding the islands’ finances, including reports of local funding shortfalls to pay post-hurricane reconstruction contractors. Arrests in 2017 over alleged misuse of millions of dollars in public funds indicates the ongoing risk of corruption. The government had expected to invest USD5.6 billion on several infrastructure projects, such as a new stadium, road work, territorial-wide camera installations, among others. However, these are likely to face delays because of the economic downturn associated with COVID-19.
Although the US Virgin Islands does not face a specific foreign or domestic terrorist threat, as a territory of the United States the territory’s location increases the likelihood of the islands being identified as a “soft” target for opportunism by international terrorist organisations. That said, there have not been any major attacks on the islands.
According to data from both the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation, homicide rates are among the highest in the region. In July 2019 on a visit to the US Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Police Department Commissioner-designee Trevor Velinor stated that the islands were in a state of emergency due to violent crime. Despite such high levels of crime, the main tourist areas are generally safe, as violent crimes targeting tourists or other foreign visitors remain relatively rare.