Mapp Says Hurricanes’ Aftermath Won’t Keep Territory From Making Its Bond Payments
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria will not prevent the territory from making its bond payments, Gov. Kenneth Mapp said in his State of the Territory speech.
“Bondholders can be assured that their investments in Virgin Islands’ securities are safe, secure, and valuable,” Mapp said. “Both of our rum producers are operating and shipping rum products to the U.S. mainland.
The Virgin Islands government and the quasi-governmental Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) have at least $2 billion in outstanding bond debt. In the last year there have been increasing worries among municipal analysts, ratings agencies, and even on Capitol Hill that this debt will have to be restructured.
“Our Gross Receipts Revenue Bonds are more secure and valuable given the devastation caused by two Category 5 hurricanes,” the governor said. “Consumer buying power, consumption, construction, and employment will remain robust for the foreseeable future as we rebuild our lives and businesses as well as repair and construct numerous public facilities throughout the territory.”
Mapp said he has asked his financial team to update a five-year fiscal plan settled upon before the hurricanes. The goal is to achieve a structurally balanced budget within five years.
The territorial government has hired a firm to propose solutions to the islands’ underfunded Government Employees Retirement Service (GERS) pension systems.
About four and a half months after Hurricane Irma and about four months after Hurricane Maria, electrical service has been restored to 96 percent of WAPA’s customers.