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GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: Virgin Islands’ Debt Is Higher Than Any Other American Territory

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WASHINGTON — U.S. territories, like states, borrow through financial markets.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the territories’ fiscal year 2005-2015 public debt.

Puerto Rico‘s debt grew to 66 percent of GDP and the territory is now in default. Its financial future is unclear until debt restructuring is complete.

Guam‘s debt increased to 44 percent of GDP. Large unfunded pensions, if unaddressed, may hamper repayment.

The U.S. Virgin Islands‘ debt grew to 72 percent of GDP. It’s uncertain if financial reform will let the territory borrow at favorable rates again.

At 11 percent and 16 percent of GDP, respectively, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands had lower debt relative to the size of their economies.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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