Montserrat: fixing governance

What about the long-promised charter of good governance and development partnership MoU with the UK?

BRADES, Montserrat, July 31, 2019 –  In his June 25th, 2019 statement to the UN Committee of 24 on Decolonialisation, Premier Donaldson Romeo requested the assistance of the UN in –

“creating a charter of good governance that will set a framework for democratic self government, for structured consultations with stakeholders, for guiding reforms, for enhancing transparency and for managing our relationship with the UK . . . ”

Such a charter (and a companion umbrella Development Partnership MoU with the UK) are in fact mentioned in the 2014 PDM Party Manifesto. During a recent question time in the Legislative Assembly, the Premier was challenged concerning these promises, and indicated that while initial drafts were created and consulted on, such “did not get very far.”

Perhaps – as the Premier has now suggested at the UN, it is time to reconsider.

For example, serious concerns over lack of transparency, questions about poor procedures and even shadowy questions of long-standing corruption concerns have long hovered over how key decisions have been made here; the invisible but all too palpable ghosts in the middle of the room. No wonder, then, that former Governor Adrian Davis often spoke to the need for such a charter and former Governor Waterworth spoke to the need for transparency, accountability and responsibility.  Likewise, Governor Carriere, in a perhaps less guarded moment, spoke about our civil service not being fit for purpose – something that is not entirely unexpected, given the lingering impact of the volcano disaster. Governor Peirce frequently speaks of cumbersome, outdated procedures.

As for a development partnership MoU, in her last press conference, Governor Carriere clearly indicated that first steps had been taken, but that there was a lack of “energy” to push the MoU forward in the face of its inevitable obstacles. Where also, in answers to questions on the Hospital, on July 29th Minister Ryan spoke of a repeating cycle of restarting projects when DfID officials change. As a result, we seem to have gone from proposing a hospital development on the current site to short-listing three sites from eight candidates, to picking Hill-Top, and now back to the St Johns site again. At least, this time around we actually have approved funding through CIPREG.

On the face of the matter, we do need a framework of agreed priority transformational projects and an agreed framework for managing the project cycle. The CIPREG initiative and associated projects such as the recently launched Little Bay breakwater and berth project seem to give us a list. The agreed £30 millions in funding for CIPREG gives a financial base. The restarted Programme Management Office (now under Mr Parlett) provides managerial capability. The potential that a proper sea port, improved airport, fibre optic cable and the like have for our economy provide adequate motivation.

However, until a proper, agreed Development Partnership MoU is in place, stop, start, re-study, consult, stop again games are likely to continue. 

Likewise, we clearly need a coherent, reasonably comprehensive framework of principles and commitments that will help to drive reforms towards sounder government and governance. Where, this is much wider than our civil service – we need to bring in the whole of civil society. Where also, clearly, this is a matter for self-determination, perhaps with guidance and support from experts of one form or another.

Accordingly, we can see a need to prepare a draft charter, consult across civil society and then go to a parliamentary debate on a finalised resolution. Such a resolution would be accompanied by a detailed cabinet-issued policy, which we would again control. These frameworks would then also shape an overall framework for a parallel development partnership MoU, to be negotiated with the UK. Such a MoU would probably work best as a joint ministerial policy declaration, framing a series of three-year medium-term technical agreements with FCO and DfID technical officers. At this stage, perhaps this could be developed as a wider framework that takes in the CIPREG and other initiatives as they come on stream.

For sure, the case by case project approach has obviously fallen victim to all sorts of delays, roadblocks, leaks to the tabloid media and general want of determination to expedite the catalytic initiatives we so obviously need if we are to move on beyond perpetual dependency. Twenty-two years of delays are enough, with blame enough for both sides, Government of Montserrat and DfID alike. We need a better way.

It is time for a major exorcism!

Where, too, the proposed UN Facilitator Premier Romeo also spoke of on June 25th could play a role in such developments.

But, what should a charter of good governance look like? Possibly:

  • taking its form as a resolution of our Legislative Assembly (with a Cabinet policy declaration to flesh it out)
  • laying out motivating “whereases” that set out context and aims
  • declaring a commitment to pillars of sound, sustainable, constitutional democratic self government
  • declaring, also, commitment principles of partnership for governance and development as agreed between the UK and Montserrat (informed by the UN Charter’s legal force, especially Article 73)
  • stating, that a companion development partnership MoU should set out the agreed terms for a development programme of action (building on CIPREG and PMO as first steps)
  • declaring that an associated Cabinet policy declaration will give detailed effect to the charter (including laying out a programme of action), with set periodic progress reports to the Assembly
  • setting up a broadly representative stakeholder-based community body for consultation and addressing local, district level issues.
  • highlighting the five main goals of the SDP 2008 – 20 as the ongoing principal development goals for Montserrat under our National Vision
  • and the like.

With such a framework in hand, we can then embark on comprehensive reforms and  transformational development initiatives guided by a clear policy vision and framework voted into effect by our duly elected representatives. And so, if not now, then, when? If not here, then, where? If not us, then, who?

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What about the long-promised charter of good governance and development partnership MoU with the UK?

BRADES, Montserrat, July 31, 2019 –  In his June 25th, 2019 statement to the UN Committee of 24 on Decolonialisation, Premier Donaldson Romeo requested the assistance of the UN in –

“creating a charter of good governance that will set a framework for democratic self government, for structured consultations with stakeholders, for guiding reforms, for enhancing transparency and for managing our relationship with the UK . . . ”

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Such a charter (and a companion umbrella Development Partnership MoU with the UK) are in fact mentioned in the 2014 PDM Party Manifesto. During a recent question time in the Legislative Assembly, the Premier was challenged concerning these promises, and indicated that while initial drafts were created and consulted on, such “did not get very far.”

Perhaps – as the Premier has now suggested at the UN, it is time to reconsider.

For example, serious concerns over lack of transparency, questions about poor procedures and even shadowy questions of long-standing corruption concerns have long hovered over how key decisions have been made here; the invisible but all too palpable ghosts in the middle of the room. No wonder, then, that former Governor Adrian Davis often spoke to the need for such a charter and former Governor Waterworth spoke to the need for transparency, accountability and responsibility.  Likewise, Governor Carriere, in a perhaps less guarded moment, spoke about our civil service not being fit for purpose – something that is not entirely unexpected, given the lingering impact of the volcano disaster. Governor Peirce frequently speaks of cumbersome, outdated procedures.

As for a development partnership MoU, in her last press conference, Governor Carriere clearly indicated that first steps had been taken, but that there was a lack of “energy” to push the MoU forward in the face of its inevitable obstacles. Where also, in answers to questions on the Hospital, on July 29th Minister Ryan spoke of a repeating cycle of restarting projects when DfID officials change. As a result, we seem to have gone from proposing a hospital development on the current site to short-listing three sites from eight candidates, to picking Hill-Top, and now back to the St Johns site again. At least, this time around we actually have approved funding through CIPREG.

On the face of the matter, we do need a framework of agreed priority transformational projects and an agreed framework for managing the project cycle. The CIPREG initiative and associated projects such as the recently launched Little Bay breakwater and berth project seem to give us a list. The agreed £30 millions in funding for CIPREG gives a financial base. The restarted Programme Management Office (now under Mr Parlett) provides managerial capability. The potential that a proper sea port, improved airport, fibre optic cable and the like have for our economy provide adequate motivation.

However, until a proper, agreed Development Partnership MoU is in place, stop, start, re-study, consult, stop again games are likely to continue. 

Likewise, we clearly need a coherent, reasonably comprehensive framework of principles and commitments that will help to drive reforms towards sounder government and governance. Where, this is much wider than our civil service – we need to bring in the whole of civil society. Where also, clearly, this is a matter for self-determination, perhaps with guidance and support from experts of one form or another.

Accordingly, we can see a need to prepare a draft charter, consult across civil society and then go to a parliamentary debate on a finalised resolution. Such a resolution would be accompanied by a detailed cabinet-issued policy, which we would again control. These frameworks would then also shape an overall framework for a parallel development partnership MoU, to be negotiated with the UK. Such a MoU would probably work best as a joint ministerial policy declaration, framing a series of three-year medium-term technical agreements with FCO and DfID technical officers. At this stage, perhaps this could be developed as a wider framework that takes in the CIPREG and other initiatives as they come on stream.

For sure, the case by case project approach has obviously fallen victim to all sorts of delays, roadblocks, leaks to the tabloid media and general want of determination to expedite the catalytic initiatives we so obviously need if we are to move on beyond perpetual dependency. Twenty-two years of delays are enough, with blame enough for both sides, Government of Montserrat and DfID alike. We need a better way.

It is time for a major exorcism!

Where, too, the proposed UN Facilitator Premier Romeo also spoke of on June 25th could play a role in such developments.

But, what should a charter of good governance look like? Possibly:

With such a framework in hand, we can then embark on comprehensive reforms and  transformational development initiatives guided by a clear policy vision and framework voted into effect by our duly elected representatives. And so, if not now, then, when? If not here, then, where? If not us, then, who?