By Bennette Roach
A Department for International Development (DFID) team visited the island to assess whether the Government of Montserrat (GoM) has met its six-month milestones in the Strategic Growth Programme, milestones due to be completed by February 2013. Some good progress but some not good was the report, suggesting that a rethink on some targets may have to be made.
The Honourable Premier Reuben Meade on May 1, 2012, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Government, which accordingly, would link future development aid to a series of reforms that the government would have to undertake, to make the island more prepared for inward investment and improved service delivery.
The DFID team of Tom Kelly, Eric Arnold, Kato Kimbugwe and Alan Clarkin were to and according to them did meet in discussions with Montserrat’s Core team of the Hon. Premier Reuben Meade, Hon. Financial Secretary John Skerritt, Cabinet Secretary Angela Greenaway, and Director of Policy & Planning Angela Estwick.
Kelly said at the opening session which was also attended by members of the Opposition, the Honourable Leader Don Romeo and Hon. Victor James that the week-long visit will build on the monthly video conference sessions to review the timetables and assess how Montserrat is doing with meeting its targets. “DFID is very keen that the reform process is taken as seriously as any other investment. The new Secretary of State in charge of DFID Justine Greening is very keen on value for money,” Kelly noted.
At a press conference on October 22, 2012, the DFID team sat with the Premier, who left on an emergency while Cabinet Secretary Angela Greenaway sat in his place, reported on some key messages emanating out of the discussions. Specifically, the report mentioned, Milestone 5 (Reducing customs clearance times); 11 (On-line visa applications); and 18-23 (wide range of access analysis), as showing progress, while “Performance has not been so strong in milestone 10, (Labour policis); 13 (Tax reform), 27 (Access co-ordination functions; and 30 (Review of GoM regulatory functions).
On Wednesday last week the team met with Chamber (MCCI) members and small business owners at the Grand View Bed and Breakfast, where a Financing Management Workshop had been taking place. The DFID review team told the gathering there: “…the UK government wants to see these reforms implemented.”
That was based on the background of the (then) Secretary of State Mitchell, who said since February, 2011, “who set out a very different view of the overseas territories …compared to the previous liberal government in the UK,” while the UK conservative government feels very strongly that the overseas territories should get investment, that they should be able to grow, should be able to develop and that the UK government would help them do that with significant investments and infrastructure.
In Montserrat’s case he said that meant a new town and a new port, but with as he stressed: “if the government of Montserrat does everything it can to make Montserrat a good place to do business in, making Montserrat attractive to the private sector…”
That he referred to was the bargain between the UK and GoM. In the MOU it was mentioned as a “deal.”
Kelly confirmed later at a press conference after questions, that the private sector referred to local, international and the diaspora.
The team received presentations from the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) on the status of plans for building a new town in Little Bay; held discussions on the government’s investment policy; as well as immigration and tax policy, environmental management; Tourism’s demand and supply constraints, along with access, a matter heightened with the recent woes of FlyMontserrat.
The DFID team reported at the press conference on the progress of the reform commitments outlined in the MOU, but also said there were areas that were not as good.
The team through their lead Kelly, said: “there was good progress…it’s very clear that the government of Montserrat is very committed to the MOU process. They have performed in some areas and even better than we had thought when we agreed the MOU…there are also areas inevitably where we could have made more progress and we have agreed where we should rethink some of the milestones to see how we can meet the February targets…”
One of the milestones that was commended and noted by the Cabinet Secretary, was that of outsourcing, after the team said that they were aware that some progress had been made, although there were concerns as to how some areas are being developed. Mrs. Greenaway reported that following consultants reports going back to 2008, GoM had selected four areas in this financial year to be outsourced. These she said, “are school bussing, school needs program, care of the elderly and GoM cleaning services.” All of these, she said further, “are at various stages of implementation.”
The team was critical on the issue of communications of the Government strategy and the reforms. “…it was clear to us that we think (GoM) needs to do a better job in reaching out…” particularly to the small businesses, as they acknowledged, they didn’t expect, “that the average Montserratian in the street is really interested in milestones…”
Checking a Summary Assessment of Achievements, obtained (not from GoM), it reveals that 21 of the 35 milestones showed “fully achieved” under a yes/no/partial column. Of the 21 fully achieved, 13 were done by Cabinet. The 14 incomplete milestones are expected to be completed by February 2013, but suggestions by the Review team regarding improvements in co-ordination, monitoring and reporting hint at stringent requirements on GoM.