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Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes.
Senator ALLOTT. And the Virgin Island Legislature has authorized the issuance of $2 million in government bonds to construct and operate a hotel and other commercial enterprises owned by Sidney Kessler and associates; is that true?
Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes, sir.
Mr. DE CASTRO. No. The media for issuing the bonds and the method of operation has not even been developed. The authorization has been made, but nothing further has been done.
Senator ALLOTT. You say there is still a fourth one. Do you know who that is, and what the amount of the authorization is?
Mr. DE CASTRO. Kessler, Lindgre, and Hunt. I guess those are the three. I don't think there is any other.
Senator ALLOTT. You are not sure that there is a fourth?
Mr. DE CASTRO. There was a fourth application for a medical institution in St. Croix because the law provides any type of public endeavor, but that was not approved.
Senator ALLOTT. That was not approved, but the three applications for hotels were approved ?
Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct. My statement that the Federal Government does not own any interest in any hotel at this time is correct. We have no such interest.
Senator ALLOTT. I understand that is strictly speaking correct, but we have in the offing a situation where the government is actually authorizing itself to go into debt to finance enterprises in the islands, is that correct?
Mr. DE CASTRO. No, sir; I don't think that is strictly speaking correct. Under the terms of the organic act the government will not go into debt for this. The bonds will be picked up by private people and they are guaranteed only by the revenues of the project. The government of the Virgin Islands will not guarantee these bonds either by the Government of the United States revenues or by the general revenues of the islands. They will be guaranteed by law only by the revenues of the particular project.
Senator ALLOTT. Isn't it a fact that in these three instances the legislature has authorized the issuance of bonds?
Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes, sir.
You spoke of tomatos in 1957. Governor, isn't it a fact that there has never been any comprehensive effort for the Virgin Islands to Bring the Virgin Islands into a situation where it could be essentially self-producing to provide its own foodstuffs?
Mr. DE CASTRO. That is a correct statement. Senator ALLOTT. Let me go further. Mr. DE CASTRO. May I continue 1 second ? Senator ALLOTT. Yes. Mr. DE CASTRO. I will qualify that by saying I don't think agricultural conditions in the islands are such that the Virgin Islands could ever support themselves on their own foodstuffs.
Senator ALLOTT. It is true, is it not, so that we have the general picture in the record, that there is only a very small amount of the total acreage of St. Thomas susceptible of cultivation! Mr. DE CASTRO. That is right, sir.
Senator ALLOTT. And the same situation applies generally to St. John?
Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct.
Senator ALLOTT. Now, with respect to St. Croix you have an entirely different situation as far as the character of the land, do you not?
Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes, sir.
Senator ALLOTT. As I recall it, running generally through part of the central and eastern portion you have a hilly or a mountainous country, but you also have rather extensive plains areas running along the west side of the island upon which most of the present crop of sugar cane is grown? Is that correct? Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct.
Senator ALLOTT. Is it not a fact that one of the greatest deterrents to the development of agriculture in the islands has been the fact that you have not been able to get the natives of the Virgin Islands to work in these agricultural projects?
Mr. DE CASTRO. I don't think so, sir. I believe that the natives of the Virgin Islands will work on any agricultural crop that would prove successful if they can be proved to be successful. May I say that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an experiment station and an agricultural station in the Virgin Islands now and has had for many years and they have still not been able to come up with any very successful crops in spite of the fact that they have been experimenting there for a great many years.
Senator ALLOTT. To further this situation, the island of St. Croix has more water, far more water, than the island of St. Thomas, does it not? - Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct.
Senator ALLOTT. And you must know this of a general nature, although not from an engineering standpoint, that the island of St. Croix is susceptible in many instances to the retention of water and the subsequent use for agricultural purpose by dams?
Mr. DE CASTRO. That has been done.
Senator ALLOTT. And it has already been done in part, but there is still room for much greater development. Now, with respect to the labor situation, do you know what is the total labor force on the Island of St. Thomas, exclusive of taxicab drivers? Taxis seem to be one of the main businesses. Mr. DE CASTRO. In number?
Senator Alkort. In number, yes. If you don't know, don't guess at it.
Mr. DE CASTRO. I don't know exactly. I would say about four or five thousand people, roughly.
Senator ALLOTT. Isn't it a fact that a major portion of the labor force of St. Thomas comes not from St. Thomas, but all from the British Tortugas and the Antiguas and from the adjacent islands?
Mr. DE CASTRO. It is not a fact that the major portion of the labor force of St. Thomas comes from the British islands.
Senator ALLOTT. You say it is not a fact?
Senator ALLOTT. Have you ever discussed this with the immigration authorities there?
Mr. DE CASTRO. I have been a part of the discussion with them. I have joined with the employment service in the discussion of admissions. I think the total number of workers admitted to the Virgin Islands from time to time by the employment service and the immigration service would be in the neighborhood of a thousand or a little over, and that includes St. Croix and St. Thomas, with the exception of the labor imported by the Virgin Islands Corp. on a seasonal basis for sugar.
Senator ALLOTT. We will leave those out.
Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes, we will have to because that is another question.
Senator ALLOTT. I only want to interject this remark, Governor, and I am sure that your answers were given honestly, but the information I have had given to me is quite contrary to the statement you have just made and, as a matter of fact, one of the main troubles is that they are not able to get the local citizens to work, that a lot of them are on relief, and other things. How does our relief load there compare with the relief load in the United States ?
Mr. DE CASTRO. Senator, could I mention something about what you said a minute ago?
Senator ALLOTT. Yes,
Mr. DE CASTRO. You said that perhaps the major problem is that we cannot get our citizens to work and that they are mostly on relief. That is not so, Senator. In my close work with the people of the islands, I would say that every employable person, every employable native of the Virgin Islands is now employed. There is no unemployment. Among the people of the Virgin Islands those who are not working now are the aged and the indigent, and they come under the Federal public assistance program the same as those American citizens in the United States. I would deny that the people of the islands do not work. I would say that the people of the Virgin Islands are a hard working group of American citizens. You may find people lagging in some spheres anywhere. You might find it up here.
Senator, I would take, for instance, some people that I have trained in government, and I have mentioned this to the Interior Department over a period of years. I would take stenographers that I have trained in my office, and I have taken young people out of high school who went to work with me in the West Indies Bank & Trust Co. and the auditors who have come down there a year or two later have said that they have made top-notch banking clerks.
I would say that the people of the Virgin Islands are hard working and they are working. I would also comment by saying that if you have a statement to the contrary about the number of aliens working in the islands, it is quite true that the number of aliens has increased in the past years due to the increase of business, because every employable Virgin Islander is now employed.
Senator ALLOTT. That depends upon how you interpret the word "employable," doesn't it?
Mr. DE CASTRO. I interpret it in the way that it means every person who can work other than by reason of health, age, and other similar handicaps that you have anywhere in the United States, the Virgin Islanders are now employed.
Senator CARROLL. Will the gentleman yield at this point?
Senator CARROLL. How many of those people who are employable are employed ?
Mr. DE CASTRO. I don't have the exact number of the working population. A minute ago the question was asked of me about St. Thomas and I would say that would be around 4,000 or 5,000. I don't have the census figures before me, but they could be gotten.
Senator CARROLL. Does anybody here have it? Does anybody in the Department of the Interior? Could they give us that information, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. DE CASTRO. I don't believe we brought the census figures over. We could get them.
Senator ANDERSON. Supply those for the record, please.
(The following memorandum was subsequently supplied for the record by Stewart French, chief counsel of the committee:)
Date: March 14, 1961. Memorandum to: Senator John A. Carroll. From: Stewart French. Subject: Labor forces in the Virgin Islands.
The Bureau of the Census has supplied the following figures on the labor force in the Virgin Islands. The officer with whom I talked explained that processing of the data had not been completed, and final statistics might show a slight variation. Total labor force (1960), 11,334; total employed, 10,845.
STEWART FRENCH. Senator CARROLL. And I would like to have also the number of people that are receiving public assistance. Mr. DE CASTRO. We can have that statement sent right up.
(Subsequently Governor de Castro supplied the following information by cable to the committee :)
St. Thomas, VIRGIN ISLANDS, March 16, 1961. STEWART FRENCH, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.:
One thousand and thirty-four cases or 1,684, persons including 756 children, 028 adults on public assistance including old age, aid to dependent children, of population disabled and general assistance. This represents 5 percent of population. U.S. Social Security Bulletin December states proportion persons aged 15 and over receiving assistance and insurance benefits range as low as 509 per thousand in District of Columbia, 560 in Virgin Islands, 578 Alaska, to as high as 860 in Louisiana.
DE CASTRO Senator DWORSHAK. And those working for the Government too!
Senator CARROLL. Yes. I think the able Senator from Colorado, Mr. Allott, makes a good point. The witness has testified, if I understand it correctly, that there is no unemployment in the Virgin Islands and what you have said, if I understand you, is that those people who are receiving public assistance are elderly people and indigent persons.
Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct.
Senator ANDERSON. Indigent doesn't necessarily mean physically handicapped, does it?
Mr. DE CASTRO. It means mostly physically handicapped, but they have to come under the same qualifications as indigent people who are entitled to public relief in the United States.
Senator ANDERSON. There is no physical bar on that.
Senator CARROLL. Do I understand you that you have jobs for the healthy people who can work over there? Is that what you are saying?
Mr. DE CASTRO. That is correct.
Mr. DE CASTRO. Indigent people are people who may not be 50, or 60, or 70 years old, but people who cannot work any longer because of some disability and don't have enough income, but not the physically strong people
Senator ANDERSON. If you don't mind, don't start putting the people of 60 in the class of being unable to work.
Mr. DE CASTRO. I am close to that myself. I am very close to that myself.
Senator CARROLL. While we are on this point, if I may pursue it further I don't want to interfere with the Senator from Colorado
Senator ALLOTT. You go ahead. I yield.
Senator CARROLL. You have had considerable economic expansion in the past few years in the Virgin Islands, have you? Mr. DE CASTRO. Yes.
Senator CARROLL. And are the business conditions generally good ? They must be good if you can employ so many people.
Mr. DE CASTRO. The business conditions due to the expansion of tourism and the number of people coming to the islands are excellent; yes, sir.
Senator CARROLL. Tell me a little bit about your population increase, say, in the last 10 years.
Mr. DE CASTRO. As I recall, the 1960 census showed an increase from about 26,000 people in 1950 to 31,000 or 32,000 people in the census of 1960.
Senator CARROLL. You spoke about your employable people. What is their wage rate over there?
Mr. DD CASTRO. The legal wage rate is around 50 cents an hour. I will say 60 cents an hour is now the minimum wage rate, but no one gets that. The going minimum wage rate would be around 75 cents an hour.
Senator CARROLL. I am not referring now to Government workers. I assume that they are paid at a higher rate than 75 cents an hour.
Mr. DE CASTRO. Not the laborers. They are paid the same wage as we pay in private industry. The common laborer will be paid anywhere from 65 cents, 75 cents and up.
Senator CARROLL. What is the average wage in private industry? Mr. DE CASTRO. The average wage for what group of workers?
Senator CARROLL. I did not get a chance to ask this question of Mr. Paiewonsky. How many employees do you have, Mr. Paiewonsky, in the corporation with which you are affiliated, and your family controls?