Categorized | Features, General, Opinions, Politics

A Ping-Pong Island Budget

By Claude Gerald :

Is it really the nature of politics or that of politicians to engage in waffling language designed to mislead and misguide? Is it that when you have nothing to say, you insist on attempting because if you say it attractively and often that you are deemed credible and on top of your game?

The recent Budget Speech, captioned ‘Counting our Blessings amongst the challenges’, rendered by Montserrat’s first Premier Reuben T. Meade is instructive. It seemed rushed, temporary, forcibly so and inherently feeble. The Premier was caught off guard by his own devices.

DFID our major partner in development is seemingly frustrated with this government’s partnership. The island is suffering because of ineptitude in the seat of local governance.

In January this year in a high level meeting with local officials on budgetary aid, DFID cites in an Aide Memoir, as disturbing, failed attempts to get background documentary information to allow for a full assessment of budgetary and revenue performance for the previous year and government’s forecasts for 2013/2014. One senses that this is more the norm than the exception in dealing with our main benefactor, whose standard rests squarely on justification in objective terms.

The visiting team was therefore handicapped in submitting conclusive findings to the government of Montserrat. Nor was it able to provide a budget aid settlement for this current budget in light of this sleeping-on-the-job action of the administration. After all a Budget is a serious document with legislative teeth that comes once a year and sets the stage for the economic and financial outlook ahead. It is not a Mickey-mouse or recreational hobby.

But Meade in his wisdom seems to feel he can whisk pass most problems by white-washing with words cloaked in a priestly garb, thinking and behaving that he has penetrated the psyche of us all.

Mr. Meade did not tell the nation that this budget suffered from data insufficiencies and that it was an interim one to allow Ministries to have funds at the start of the financial year. The budget ought to reflect basic truths without a desire to disadvantage the unknowing. It has the capacity to build or destroy confidence in the economy, important for business prospects.

DFID is placed on the waiting deck and must assess this outstanding information when and if it arrives to secure ministerial approval for a later settlement. The agency in diplomatic language is urging the government of Montserrat to better plan and prepare for future such visits and to provide even the minimum requirements in the marriage that is to favour the people of Montserrat, in an endless quest to right its economy.

With revenue performance down for the last years, DFID rightfully expected the Meade’s government to enforce tax laws in an equitable manner with heightened efficiency in collecting arrears especially. Instead a well remunerated crony of Meade was separately employed to manage and to dance discriminatingly to the tune of the political directorate, rendering as grossly unfair the process of collection. There was no level playing field. Politically well connected citizens chuckled whilst lesser mortals frowned at the inbred inequities resident in official circles.

The message is very clear from the seat of governance: DFID’s obligation is paramount. British tax dollars are a sacred cow of sustenance for us to abuse without accounting. Tax compliance and expenditure restraint are not key parameters that impress the workings of this government in a serious way.

The Premier is wedded to the notion of economic growth indices as the sign that the economy is doing well. Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician maybe proud of the numbers game but will condemn the Premier for a purposeful departure from positing a real and meaningful impact of this deceptive measure of the economy.

Mr. Meade continues to exaggerate economic performances on Montserrat even in his second coming. Montserrat is a vulnerable economy. It is directly linked to the health of larger economies for its economic sustenance. Trading partners are experiencing sustained decline in economic fundamentals. He painted a woeful picture of conditions in Europe and the United States.

Regional sister territories are similarly placed with debt obligations as major bottlenecks. Out of that milieu Montserrat, an island ravaged by natural forces for near two decades is on a path of economic growth, in the Premier’s estimate. Mr. Meade is using this illusion to confuse the populace into the belief that his leadership is building a sustainable economic future for Montserrat.

What does his estimated economic growth rate of 1.6% mean in real terms? Dear reader it is next to nothing in a miniscule economy as ours. It is a catastrophe. That figure would be tremendous for larger economies with zillion dollar nation incomes but still inadequate by conventional standards. This so-called growth is built on investments in capital projects not related to production, as in the building of feeder roads to outlying agricultural areas, which lends to sustainability.

If even this figure is a fact it is not growth which is average based over a period of time. Performance in a single year is different. Mr. Meade knows this very well but it is his nature to speak deceptively.

Growth would only be meaningful at levels enough to reduce the recent poverty estimates of the Caribbean Development Bank on Montserrat, trigger a decrease in the unemployment rate or lead to initiation of much needed productivity to cut costs of doing business for example.

The Premier wants citizens to accept his word and roll along as if good times are in MCAP style. A major problem with this MCAP form of governance is that it does not distinguish between political affiliation and governance. Its operatives arrogantly slam the door shut on anybody who is not of the status quo. MCAP leadership fails to understand that there must be competition in the market place for ideas and responsible governance should not promote homogeneous thinking. Such stagnates every aspect of human development and Mr. Meade is masterful in the practice of micro-management and exclusion.

Mr. Meade is hell bent on presenting an image of accomplishment in an election year. He would comfortably pad the truth to do so as he out-speaks his ministers, whom he berates as useless whilst enticing the populace to give him another term is office to complete the self-destruction of Montserrat.

The Premier is callous in understanding that he has had a credibility problem from his inception into politics. This has reduced the command and respect that a leader should have when he speaks and acts. There is a huge gap between what he says and is. He creates doubt in accepting his utterances since his truth is garnished with economy at best of times.

Leaders of his ilk only can tarnish the mentality of citizens who largely follow the character of leadership. The leadership giggles, people giggle in return whilst they become mendicants telling the leadership what it wants to hear in an unending cycle of unproductiveness.

The cycle keeps apace on our beloved isle.

Claude Gerald comments on social issues on Montserrat. Reach him at ceegee15@hotmail.com

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Claude Gerald :

Is it really the nature of politics or that of politicians to engage in waffling language designed to mislead and misguide? Is it that when you have nothing to say, you insist on attempting because if you say it attractively and often that you are deemed credible and on top of your game?

The recent Budget Speech, captioned ‘Counting our Blessings amongst the challenges’, rendered by Montserrat’s first Premier Reuben T. Meade is instructive. It seemed rushed, temporary, forcibly so and inherently feeble. The Premier was caught off guard by his own devices.

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DFID our major partner in development is seemingly frustrated with this government’s partnership. The island is suffering because of ineptitude in the seat of local governance.

In January this year in a high level meeting with local officials on budgetary aid, DFID cites in an Aide Memoir, as disturbing, failed attempts to get background documentary information to allow for a full assessment of budgetary and revenue performance for the previous year and government’s forecasts for 2013/2014. One senses that this is more the norm than the exception in dealing with our main benefactor, whose standard rests squarely on justification in objective terms.

The visiting team was therefore handicapped in submitting conclusive findings to the government of Montserrat. Nor was it able to provide a budget aid settlement for this current budget in light of this sleeping-on-the-job action of the administration. After all a Budget is a serious document with legislative teeth that comes once a year and sets the stage for the economic and financial outlook ahead. It is not a Mickey-mouse or recreational hobby.

But Meade in his wisdom seems to feel he can whisk pass most problems by white-washing with words cloaked in a priestly garb, thinking and behaving that he has penetrated the psyche of us all.

Mr. Meade did not tell the nation that this budget suffered from data insufficiencies and that it was an interim one to allow Ministries to have funds at the start of the financial year. The budget ought to reflect basic truths without a desire to disadvantage the unknowing. It has the capacity to build or destroy confidence in the economy, important for business prospects.

DFID is placed on the waiting deck and must assess this outstanding information when and if it arrives to secure ministerial approval for a later settlement. The agency in diplomatic language is urging the government of Montserrat to better plan and prepare for future such visits and to provide even the minimum requirements in the marriage that is to favour the people of Montserrat, in an endless quest to right its economy.

With revenue performance down for the last years, DFID rightfully expected the Meade’s government to enforce tax laws in an equitable manner with heightened efficiency in collecting arrears especially. Instead a well remunerated crony of Meade was separately employed to manage and to dance discriminatingly to the tune of the political directorate, rendering as grossly unfair the process of collection. There was no level playing field. Politically well connected citizens chuckled whilst lesser mortals frowned at the inbred inequities resident in official circles.

The message is very clear from the seat of governance: DFID’s obligation is paramount. British tax dollars are a sacred cow of sustenance for us to abuse without accounting. Tax compliance and expenditure restraint are not key parameters that impress the workings of this government in a serious way.

The Premier is wedded to the notion of economic growth indices as the sign that the economy is doing well. Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician maybe proud of the numbers game but will condemn the Premier for a purposeful departure from positing a real and meaningful impact of this deceptive measure of the economy.

Mr. Meade continues to exaggerate economic performances on Montserrat even in his second coming. Montserrat is a vulnerable economy. It is directly linked to the health of larger economies for its economic sustenance. Trading partners are experiencing sustained decline in economic fundamentals. He painted a woeful picture of conditions in Europe and the United States.

Regional sister territories are similarly placed with debt obligations as major bottlenecks. Out of that milieu Montserrat, an island ravaged by natural forces for near two decades is on a path of economic growth, in the Premier’s estimate. Mr. Meade is using this illusion to confuse the populace into the belief that his leadership is building a sustainable economic future for Montserrat.

What does his estimated economic growth rate of 1.6% mean in real terms? Dear reader it is next to nothing in a miniscule economy as ours. It is a catastrophe. That figure would be tremendous for larger economies with zillion dollar nation incomes but still inadequate by conventional standards. This so-called growth is built on investments in capital projects not related to production, as in the building of feeder roads to outlying agricultural areas, which lends to sustainability.

If even this figure is a fact it is not growth which is average based over a period of time. Performance in a single year is different. Mr. Meade knows this very well but it is his nature to speak deceptively.

Growth would only be meaningful at levels enough to reduce the recent poverty estimates of the Caribbean Development Bank on Montserrat, trigger a decrease in the unemployment rate or lead to initiation of much needed productivity to cut costs of doing business for example.

The Premier wants citizens to accept his word and roll along as if good times are in MCAP style. A major problem with this MCAP form of governance is that it does not distinguish between political affiliation and governance. Its operatives arrogantly slam the door shut on anybody who is not of the status quo. MCAP leadership fails to understand that there must be competition in the market place for ideas and responsible governance should not promote homogeneous thinking. Such stagnates every aspect of human development and Mr. Meade is masterful in the practice of micro-management and exclusion.

Mr. Meade is hell bent on presenting an image of accomplishment in an election year. He would comfortably pad the truth to do so as he out-speaks his ministers, whom he berates as useless whilst enticing the populace to give him another term is office to complete the self-destruction of Montserrat.

The Premier is callous in understanding that he has had a credibility problem from his inception into politics. This has reduced the command and respect that a leader should have when he speaks and acts. There is a huge gap between what he says and is. He creates doubt in accepting his utterances since his truth is garnished with economy at best of times.

Leaders of his ilk only can tarnish the mentality of citizens who largely follow the character of leadership. The leadership giggles, people giggle in return whilst they become mendicants telling the leadership what it wants to hear in an unending cycle of unproductiveness.

The cycle keeps apace on our beloved isle.

Claude Gerald comments on social issues on Montserrat. Reach him at ceegee15@hotmail.com