Archive | De Ole Dawg

De Ole Dawg – Part 17:The St. Helena’s smoking gun complaint against DFID

Does St. Helena’s parallel struggle with DfID open up an Article 73 opportunity?

BRADES, Montserrat –  In the shadows of the dust-up over Mrs. Shelly Harris’ ill-advised submission to the FAC we may have overlooked St. Helena’s concerns. For example they wrote[1]:

We [St. Helena] share HMG’s desire to increase self-sufficiency, but cannot do so unless the necessary level of funding is available to improve our infrastructure, boost local production, establish sustainable tourism and maintain delivery of essential services. To achieve this during the transitional period, on-going financial assistance from HMG and the existence of constructive partnership working are of the utmost importance to enable us to realise the potential benefits of air access, increase resilience and gradually eliminate the need for grant-in-aid . . . .

We believe that the interaction between HMG and St. Helena (and also other aided OT’s) would benefit from some adjustment. In particular, funding decisions should be taken in partnership, to ensure that British taxpayers are assured of the value of the expenditure whilst respecting St. Helena’s right to democratic self-government. Such decisions should also recognise and address the Island’s reasonable assistance needs . . . it appears that the Partnership Value of sound financial management is being compromised . . . .

The prolonged, continuing absence of a capital programme is a major impediment to St. Helena’s economic and social development and must be addressed urgently if further contraction of St. Helena’s economy is not to occur. Key projects such as the development of cargo handling facilities at Rupert’s Bay remain stalled . . . .

In past years St. Helena enjoyed good working relationships with HMG but recent disturbing indications suggest that genuine partnership working with DfID is deteriorating. This has occurred primarily since the “fallout” relating to discovery of wind shear at the airport and the reputational damage this caused. DfID has since appeared defensive and reluctant to release information or enter into open dialogue regarding key issues such as the rejection of a detailed and well supported bid made by SHG for an additional £1.4 million grant-in aid for 2018/2019, for which no explanation was provided. At times, it has appeared that adverse publicity in the international media has had more influence upon decision making than HMG’s responsibilities towards its OT’s.

Smoking gun!

Ever so familiar concerns, right down to the prolonged stalling of economy sparking, no-brainer investment projects.

Right away, St. Helena’s parallel plight sweeps away a favourite underlying explanation of our own struggles: the UK’s racist colonialist mentality

(FYI, the people of St. Helena are obviously predominantly white.  FYFI, as history tells us, St. Helena was simply too remote to be part of the Caribbean’s plantation economy, slavery based trade in sugar and slaves. Yes, lingering traces of racism may indeed affect our case; but given St. Helena, racism cannot be the tap-root of the problem. We have to get our diagnosis right if we are to solve the problem. Let us stop barking up the wrong tree.)

Another favourite polarising talking point also collapses: is dat madman Don an’ ‘e “badvisors” fault

(FYFI, if St. Helena also recognises the value of a balanced, catalytic infrastructure focused UKG capital investment programme based on meeting “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s, that should make us re-think the way too many voices have ridiculed our Premier’s emphasis on these same concerns. The FCO 2012 OT’s White Paper clearly acknowledges that the UN Charter Article 73 is legally binding on the UK Government. That is also why OT’s are in the main ineligible for funding by International Agencies: it’s the UK’s job to “ensure . . . advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development.” So, the settled, often declared policy of the UK Government has been that “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s have a “first call” on the UK aid budget. Which, is administered through DfID under the 2002 UK International Development Act. DfID, being a leading international development agency in the world. Those who have spoken against these things for years, to the point of outright laughing at them, have done Montserrat no good. They have thereby also shown that they are unfit for national leadership as they have refused to be corrected on a key strategic and negotiation error. Article 73 is our key strong-point in bargaining with the UK, we must not carelessly throw it away to gain crabs-in-a-barrel political advantages. For shame!)

It is equally obvious that economic, educational, health care, social and access development are part of “reasonable assistance” needs here, in St. Helena and in other OT’s.  Stalled strategic, catalytic projects are simply not good enough. DfID and FCO, we are looking straight at you.

Likewise, if we and other OT’s lack capacity for good governance, sound financial management and programme/project management, DfID should be busily promoting capacity-building.

This involves technical cooperation initiatives and working with us to create a development partnership MoU with an adequate, balanced capital investment programme. (Those who have created and fanned up a climate of hostility to TC’s have done Montserrat no good. Another point of disqualification.)

Yes, “reasonable assistance needs” includes urgently rebuilding the Programme Management Office and bringing back PRINCE2 and other Axelos project and programme management frameworks and training.  It requires expediting – not stalling – the key project to reform the Office of the Premier, putting in place a CEO,  developing a proper Tourism agency, creating a new Development and Investment promoting corporation and also urgently establishing a charter of good governance.

Maybe, too, it is time to ask whether DfID and/or FCO are the best way forward for Montserrat and other OT’s. Certainly, our submissions to the FAC asked that question and raised the onward question of a separate, OT Development Fund with joint administration. (Stay tuned, TMR readers!)

Twenty-three years of very mixed results are simply not good enough. It is time for a fresh start.

Yes, there are also many obvious gaps, delays and failings with projects etc. (and many go back across twenty years, it’s not just this government):

  • Why is there a persistent pattern of blackouts? How is it going to be fixed?
  • Why has Geothermal Well #3 stalled for what, two years?
  • Given their FAC submission, did Thermal Energy Partners submit a serious proposal for GT development?
  • What are we doing about it and other results from the early market engagement on GT development?
  • And yes, we know DfID took over the GT project. DfID and GoM owe the public an explanation. Isn’t “transparency” part of good governance?
  • When will ZJB finally move into its new building?
  • When will we see proper airport lighting and improvements to the airport?
  • Why was the vital Fibre Optic Cable project delayed by at least two years past the July 2017 target date in its original logframe?
  • Could this be an example of what the “Saints” are saying: At times, it has appeared that adverse publicity in the international media has had more influence upon decision making than HMG’s responsibilities towards its OT’s?
  • What is to be done about emergency social housing and lingering problems with housing in Davy Hill and Lookout? (Compare, how the similar structures at Gov’t Headquarters were demolished after hurricane damage.)
  • Why did the Meade Government use EU money to knock down Gun Hill without a firm agreement with DfID and other partners to build the Carr’s Bay seaport that we paid a lot of money to have designed?
  • What are we going to do about the remaining, undermined, collapsing rock platform at Carr’s Bay? It’s not just an eyesore, we need to defend our coast from the sea!
  • Why was Piper’s Pond filled in, destroying our last significant mangrove wetland on the West coast? Why has it sat there ever since as another eyesore?
  • Where are the Dubai partners and can the Little Bay Master Plan be updated and implemented? Is a four rum-shop waterfront what we want to be known by?
  • Given the crucial importance of Article 73 for our onward development partnership negotiations with the UK, why did the Meade administration try to take us off the UN’s list of territories to which it applies?
  • Why is it that our Government has raised the concern of being forced to choose between building a proper Hospital and a more adequate high school campus?
  • Why is it that we hardly hear about or discuss these and so many other crucial issues?
  • And so forth?

Obviously, it is time for a new, more realistic, more responsible, more transparent, more truthful conversation on how Montserrat can come together as a community to rebuild our volcano-shattered economy and community infrastructure. Then, let us see if we can come together around our Growth Strategy and National Vision to build a brighter, better future.  


[1] See, FAC 2018: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/written/88937.html

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characteristics of good governance

De Ole Dawg – Part 16:The “Good Governance” challenge

Why   does the FCO  say that its  “fundamental responsibility and objective” for OT’s  is “to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples”?

BRADES, Montserrat, September 23, 2018 –  In the landmark June 2012 FCO White Paper on Overseas Territories, the UK Government states that security and good governance are its chief priority for Montserrat and other OT’s. So, Exhibit 1:

The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective is to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.” [p.13 with added emphases. Cf. the actual wording of The UN Charter, Article 73.[1]] (See: https://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xi/index.html)

The grammarians say, “and joins equals,” though in a list, typically “first comes first.” On either view,  “good governance” for Montserrat and other OT’s is extraordinarily important to the FCO and to the wider UK Government. Logically, if we are to find a better way forward than we have seen for twenty-three years now, we must seriously and credibly address sound governance.

(NB: Given some ever so sensitive egos, let us note “FYI” to senior civil servants, politicians and other power brokers or “men of renown” [cf. Num. 16:2] who may feel affronted that TMR does not “know its place” and is “trying to dictate” to them: this is analysis in the public interest on facts in public evidence, not usurpation. FYFI, the independent media and the transparency they provide are part of good governance. Where, FYSFI the newspaper is the people’s college duty-bound to soundly educate and inform our public on matters of national importance.)

Exhibit 2: DfID – the other UKG Department we routinely deal with – wrote in its May 2012 report on its work with OT’s[2] on how governance issues (including financial management) are pivotal: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67426/DFID-work-overseas-territories.pdf

“We have a particular duty to show that we are achieving full value for money through our programmes, demonstrating results and observing principles of value for money, transparency and accountability.  Aid is only ever a means to an end, never an end in itself.  It  is  wealth  creation  and  sustainable  growth  that  will  help  people  to  lift themselves out of poverty.” [Introduction, p. 1. Emphases added. Note, the International Development Act, 2002, Section 2,[3] specifically exempts OT’s from the poverty relief criterion in Section 1. See below.]

DfID is also emphasising good governance. This is why they went on:

“DFID  manages  the  British  Government’s  long-standing  responsibility  to  meet  the reasonable  needs  of  those  Territories  that  require  assistance.    The  International Development  Secretary  has  made  clear  that  the  Government  remains  firmly committed  to  this  responsibility,  as  a  first  call  on  the  aid  budget.  But  where  the conditions  are  right,  we  have  also  been  clear  that  we  will  deliver  strategic investments in the aided Territories. These investments, such as the construction of an  airport  in  St  Helena,  are  designed  to  facilitate  private  sector  driven  economic growth  and  deliver  a  real  prospect  of  both  self-sufficiency  and  savings  for  the  UK Government through elimination of long-term dependence on aid. 

This is part of a bargain. In return for these investments, we expect these Territories, for their part, to undertake the necessary reforms to ensure an enabling environment for growth and develop their financial management capacity so that they can meet their budgetary obligations.” [p. 1.Emphasis added. Of course, the St Helena project ran into trouble over turbulent winds; though they have now managed to get regular airline services by using more suitable aircraft than the Boeing 737. That means, DfID is likely to tighten its scrutiny of projects.]

Yes, again, it is clear that good governance reforms (including financial management reforms) are part of the bargain to be struck if we are to obtain UKG sponsorship for “catalytic” or “breakthrough” infrastructure projects.  Equally clear is the “first call” principle, that too many here have mockingly dismissed.

Of course, there is also a problem: given the legally binding obligation to “ensure . . . advancement” and that to “promote constructive measures of development” in the UN Charter, Article 73, there is no legally justifiable border drawn between “assistance” and economically transformational “investments.” In short: if conditions are “[not] right” here in Montserrat or in other OT’s, that simply means that capacity development and linked sound governance reforms are necessary first or “parallel priority” stages in the development aid programme.

So, the obvious lack of emphasis on good governance is utterly revealing on what has gone wrong here in Montserrat. Frankly, it was astonishing to see how, in answer to Questions[4] on July 31st, Premier Romeo had to concede that efforts toward a Charter of Good Governance and toward a linked Development Partnership MoU did not get far. Smoking Gun.

But, what is “governance,” what is “GOOD governance,” what are our challenges to achieve such “good governance”?

First, governance is perhaps best summed up: how the big decisions get made and how they are made to stick. That can be through formal structures and systems, or it can be through informal influence and power or even cultural traditions. This applies at all levels: families, villages, the nation, businesses, Government Departments, Cabinets, projects and programmes etc.

For such governance to be “good” – or, “sound” – it needs to have certain characteristics. For instance, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the South Pacific (UNESCAP) lists[5] eight factors:

  • Transparent
  • Participatory
  • Accountable
  • Responsive
  • Equitable and Inclusive
  • Effective and Efficient
  • Follows the rule of [just] law
  • Consensus-oriented

This simple act of listing already points to deep-rooted challenges that we face. Complaints about unaccountable decisions behind closed doors, lack of effective participation by marginalised stakeholders, unresponsiveness to needs, unfairness, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, want of adequate capability and more are regrettably commonplace. Too often, for cause.  For example, for a year now TMR has pointed out how a Programme Management Office was set up to bring our programme and project management and governance up to international standards (which would significantly enhance the credibility of our proposed projects). Then, only a few months later, the Director was suddenly frog marched out of Government


[1] See: https://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xi/index.html

[2] See:

2 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67426/DFID-work-overseas-territories.pdf

[3] See: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/1/part/1

[4]  See: https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/tuesday-july-31-2018-a-sitting-of-the-legislative-assembly-of-montserrat/

[5] See: https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/good-governance.pdf

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UN Lgo

De Ole Dawg – Part 15:The UN Factor

Why is the UN Charter relevant to Montserrat and to our making progress? 
(And, why does it trump Brexit concerns?)

BRADES, Montserrat, December 10, 2018 –  Those are very good questions. Questions,that go to the heart of gaps in our understanding of how we can best move forward on “catalytic” development projects. Questions, that are therefore relevant to our “people’s college” focus here at TMR. Especially, when we can see the following from the key DfID 2012 Business case for MDC:

The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years . . . .  the base of local business comprises 150-200firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market, all now located in the remaining northern third of the island. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s . . . . The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access . . . . Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI. Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.” [Key points emphasised.]

Now, too, Montserrat has been under the British flag since 1632 and when the French briefly captured our island 150 years later, the UK negotiated to get us back. For nearly 400 years, we have been British; at first as a Colony and now as an Overseas Territory. So, contrary to ill-advised notions in recent UK tabloid hit pieces, we are not “foreign.” As one result, as a rule we are not eligible for assistance by international development agencies (apart from a few bodies like the European Union or CDB).

This is because, under the UN Charter, Article 73, we are a non self-governing territory and the UK is obligated to provide for our “reasonable assistance needs” (which includes our development needs).So when aid is given to regional groups such as Caricom there are often lists of territories such as Montserrat that cannot receive funding. 

Also, because of our lack of access and infrastructure due to the volcano disaster, we are generally unattractive to foreign investors and local investor confidence will tend to be low. Moreover,we have been rated as having governance, financial management and corruption challenges and have repeatedly been hit hard in the UK media. A recent DfID study found that it is hard to set up a business here, and indeed a potential investor actually recently publicly complained of this.

These factors easily explain why – in a world where huge sums of money move in investment markets every day – our economy struggles to grow and relies on annual UK grants.

Our Government, DfID and the FCO have therefore long since agreed that only UK-funded “catalytic” investments on key“catalytic” infrastructure such as the sea- and air- ports, geothermal energy and fibre optic cable could credibly help to spark local and foreign investor confidence. In turn, it is that confidence that will lead to private sector investment in the economic sectors opened up by those “catalytic” investments. Investments would then gradually lead to growth and prosperity. 

These, we have all known for twenty-three years.

So, if we are to move forward, we have to soundly rebuild our development relationship with the UK. Which instantly raises the question:what do we have to hand that can give us leverage in restructuring  our development partnership so that we move beyond the snail’s pace, stop, go, stop pattern of the past twenty-three years?

In one word, Law.

Specifically, International Law.

United Nation Logo

For, on October 24th 1945 (less than three months after two atom bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, bringing World War II to an end) the United Nations Charter went into force.  Its preamble is sobering:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . .”

That is already obviously relevant to us here in Montserrat. For one, the fact that our 2010 Constitution Order starts from a bill of rights directly echoes what was bought at the awful price of perhaps eighty millions dead in two world wars. For two, the UN Charter clearly starts from the fact of failure of the old order for international relationships and power politics. So, a fresh start had to be made for international law and relationships, on principles of peace, justice, human dignity (thus rights), freedom, thriving community, prosperity and progress.  Including a commitment “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . .”

So, our start-point is that the UN Charter is the cornerstone of modern international law.

This is why in the 2012 White Paper on Overseas Territories, the UK’s FCO acknowledged that its primary responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of such OT’s “flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations.” [p. 13] In short, FCO understands that the UN Charter has legal force regarding how it promotes “the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories.” (See Article 73 of the UN Charter. The Charter’s wording actually requires the UK to “ensure . . . advancement.”)

This then grounds a familiar longstanding UK policy statement: “The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.”

(And yes, those who have so often scoffed at this UK policy commitment despite being corrected have shown a disqualifying, stubborn ignorance. An ignorance that has undermined a strong-point for Montserrat’s negotiations with the UK on development aid. Similarly, given the FCO’s priority on good governance,  we also need to put good governance reform guided by a Charter of Good Governance on the font burner. Unless governance – including financial and project/ programme management – is put in good order the UK for cause will have little confidence in proposed development projects. And yes, that must include capacity building, reforms, improved procurement and project management and better financial management. Those who imagine that as “big boys” they can get special business concessions from our Government while failing to be tax compliant or that they can corruptly exploit political influence, are sadly mistaken and do harm to us all.)

But how does any of this relate to Brexit?

Simple: the legal force of the UN Charter trumps Brexit.

For, whatever the terms on which the UK actually exits the EU, the UN Charter obligations remain. Where, too, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK has a particular obligation to enforce the UN Charter and its principles.

Even more interestingly, in October 1945, the British Empire held the largest number of colonies in the world. So, when Article 73 speaks to legal obligations of states that hold colonies, the UK is obviously  the main state being addressed. This sets a far stronger basis for discussions, negotiations and development planning going forward.

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De Ole Dawg – Part 14:The Don Romeo Factor

Has Premier Romeo single-handedly wrecked Montserrat?

BRADES, Montserrat – It is a commonplace talking point in various media and on the streets, that the present government is a failure led by a non-entity who somehow bamboozled his way into the Premier’s Office. Where, he has almost single-handedly managed to wreck Montserrat’s economy. Which, is “dead.”  (Oh, we must not leave out: he is also a puppet, dangling from the wires manipulated by devious “badvisors” and incompetent, over-paid TC’s backed up by their racist colonial masters in DfID and FCO.)

Does this reflect “a true and fair view” of our circumstances and choices going forward?

“True” and “fair” are key. For, we need a sober, accurate, sound and manifestly fair-minded assessment of where we are, how we got there and what our realistic alternatives are. 

Now, let’s focus: how did Mr Romeo ever get into office?

For one, because our technocrats and highly credentialled politicians destroyed their own credibility and so for cause lost the trust of ordinary people. People therefore voted for a clean person who had a track record of telling the hard truth when it was not popular. One, who also reached out to and stood up for the vulnerable and needy[1] again and again. That meant that, from the outset, Mr Romeo was going to face bitter and sometimes dirty resistance from the rejected technocrats and insider politicians.  (In fact, such bitterness started while he was in opposition.)

From day one, he also had to address the collapse of confidence in the Montserrat Development Corporation,[2] which was facing whistle-blowers, audits and DfID’s 2012 evaluation that it had “fail[ed].” Cabinet set up a committee, but they publicly shared only a summary of its findings.[3]  Notwithstanding, the diagnosis was clear enough: credibility-destroying persistent governance failures, financial issues, failure to become self-supporting or to get actual major development investments on the ground after seven years.  Looking at the recommended options, the new administration closed it; likely imagining that they could then work with DfID to set up a fresh-start statutory corporation similar to others across the region.[4] However, once MDC was closed DfID obviously refused to support such a fresh start. This left the new government holding the empty bag.

Later, based on consultancies, a Programme Management Office was set up to bring our development initiatives portfolio, programmes and projects up to world class standard through the Axelos system. But soon after it started, the head of the new PMO was frog marched out of Government Headquarters on flimsy grounds – the “no cause” clause dismissal tells us the sad story.[5] And, a year later – surprise, surprise (NOT) – no replacement is here. That’s another big clue on the real power game being played. Similarly, urgently needed reforms for the Premier’s Office developed through years of consultancy have been road-blocked for over a year.  Yet another clue.

Add, how questions and answers in the July 31st parliament sitting[6] just exposed that early drafts for an urgently needed good governance charter and for a similarly urgently needed development partnership MoU were blocked to the point that they have not got beyond preliminary consultations.   Where, DfID has long since implied[7] that if we do not seriously reform governance, financial management and project management we will not have the credibility to attract their support for economy-transforming infrastructure investments. Clue number three.

Clearly, we must move beyond power plays, needless delays and trying to compromise between “stop” and “go.” We need a lot more transparency and accountability. We need robust change incubators backed by serious godfathers. And, when Cabinet issues an implementation order, our Premier and his Ministers must not tolerate endless delays and excuses.

Likewise, the growing list of sudden publicly humiliating dismissals on flimsy grounds and linked dragging out of recruitment for key posts is an outrage.

DfID is part of the problem, too. The ferry fiasco across 2016 clearly showed that DfID and our own government tend to fall into deadlock and needless quarrelling, or even into holding sorely needed projects, services and vulnerable people hostage. There can be no excuse for how it has taken years and years to get approval from DfID for seven sorely needed “emergency” – yes, EMERGENCY – houses. Stories about repeated attempts to impose utterly unsuitable house designs keep on leaking out.

The no-brainer fibre optic cable project should have long since been completed. Instead, it was hit by smear jobs in the UK tabloid press that obviously trace to willfully destructive leaks. This cost Montserrat at least two years of needless, economically damaging delay. 

Likewise, recent alarmist articles in the UK press tried to suggest that the volcano was about to blow up again, so “obviously” further aid to Montserrat would be a waste.  Who is leaking destructively, why? Who is dragging out project development/approval and cutting budgets into the bone, why?

In short, can we be led by soft voices of reason, facts and responsible compromise, or do we slavishly “need” the strong man’s raised fist holding a whip?

The evidence, frankly, does not look so good.

But, what about our wrecked economy?

What “economy”? As, because we did not heed credible scientific warnings from McGregor and Perret in the 1930’s down to Wadge and Isaacs in the 1980’s, we put all our economic eggs in the Plymouth basket. The goose and its golden eggs were therefore swept away from 1995 – 97.  What we have as a result is a shocked, broken-back consumption-led economy with weak productive sectors. Until this is solved, we are debating little more than how much the hard-pressed, increasingly frustrated UK taxpayer is willing to subsidise our consumption.

Since 1995, we have only been kept afloat by about £500 millions of UK aid provided under the legal force of the UN Charter, Article 73.[8]  So, from year to year, our governments have to go hat in hand to beg line by line, getting £22 millions on average. That is why the Premier rightly pointed out that 60% of Opposition Salaries and of the costs of the Opposition Office from year to year come through that commitment. It is also why cumbersome, delay-prone bureaucracy and want of capacity have too often led to a gap between budgeted and actual expenditure across several administrations, deflating the economy below its hoped-for level.

Bottomline: we have known for years what we need to do – seriously fix governance and build capacity so that catalytic infrastructure projects can trigger self-sustaining, private sector led growth (much as the Economic Growth Strategy[9] envisions). That is going to require a drastic change of the way we usually do business. 

Mr Romeo, clearly, needs to pull up his socks. So does the rest of Cabinet. So does the Opposition. So do our Senior Civil Servants. So do DfID and the FCO.  So does the media.

So, which will be our priority: getting things set right, or playing self-defeating scapegoating, delaying, dog-eat-dog politics and bureaucratic obstructionism as usual? END

[1]           See 2009 CDB-GOM report on living conditions: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MSLC_FINAL-vol-1_v7.pdf

[2]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mdc-shut-down/

[3]           See: https://discovermni.com/2015/04/02/summary-report-on-mdc-task-force-review/

[4]           See: https://discovermni.com/2015/04/02/mdc-to-close-at-end-of-may-future-relaunch-in-the-works/

[5]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-22-2017-failing-the-opportunity-test/

[6]           See: https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/tuesday-july-31-2018-a-sitting-of-the-legislative-assembly-of-montserrat/

[7]           See DfID 2012, p.1: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67426/DFID-work-overseas-territories.pdf

[8]           See DfID 2017: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/636551/Overseas-Territories1.pdf

[9]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Economic-Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-Final.pdf

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Economic Growth Strategy

De Ole Dawg – Part 13: Montserrat and the politics of sound progress

How can we move beyond the politics of polarisation (and even of slander) to wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution?

BRADES, Montserrat – Going forward, we need a consensus vision of how we will build a sound, resilient, inclusive, wholesome, prosperous future as a nation.  For, it is plain that more and more, we can and must become:

A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all of our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society

. . . and it is even obvious that if we are to do so, we must prioritise the five SDP goals that we also find in our Cabinet-approved policy agenda:

  1. Prudent Economic Management
  2. Sound Human Development

III.        Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

  1. Good Governance
  2. A Sustainable Population

To that end, the five breakthrough initiatives announced in the 2018/19 Budget would mark an excellent start. As announced:

“[I] Port Development – signed Financing Agreement . . . with the CDB, estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$ 54.5 million.

[II] European Development Fund (EDF) – signed Financing Agreement with the EU . . . estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$60 million . . . [to] support the transition towards reliable, affordable and renewable solar energy which will reduce usage of fossil fuels and will enhance Montserrat’s tourism offer. This already adds up to EC$114.5 millions in our transformational projects kitty.]

[III] The Subsea Fibre Optic Cable project[1] – . . . This project will provide a secure and fast data communication link to the Island increasing the resiliency of the island with regard to the threat from hurricanes. [Given the £5 million estimate, that’s another EC$ 17 million to go in the kitty.]

[IV] Geothermal Energy Development – progressing well, with several expressions of interest and . . . site visits.

[V] Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan[2] – now delivered giving us the blueprint to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth for all Montserratians.”

Such hopes and targets are a logical point of departure for building a politics of  wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution.  It is therefore a strong symptom of what has gone wrong, that we so seldom hear reference to these unifying themes in our political debates, in the media (social), on the streets or even in the Legislative Assembly. Instead the tone and substance of what we commonly hear is the politics of polarisation, manipulation based on half-truths or even sometimes outright falsehoods that exploit the public’s ignorance.

And, there is a longstanding assumption that “Montserrat people don’t read,” also, we hear that “dem belly long but dem memory short.”  (Of course, the first feeds the second; that’s why our national newspaper is so vital as the people’s college and as our national, collective memory.)

Now too, for over twenty years we have been a traumatised nation due to the devastating impact of the volcano crisis. Consequently, many of us suffer undiagnosed, untreated post traumatic stress disorder, with linked survivor guilt and pent up rage due to unresolved loss as well as polarised personal and family relationships. There is also a deep longing to make some sense out of an overwhelming, deeply confusing, largely unexplained calamity, which obviously opens the door to those who can provide a rhetoric of targets for projecting guilt, blame and rage. 

However, that is a blunder. We need look no further than the story of too many radical revolutions over the past century to see how this invites the politics of envy, scapegoating and power-hungry, fundamentally lawless, ruthless selfish ambition. Names like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and many others come to mind. Where, the ghosts of over a hundred million victims of such radical dictatorships moan out a grim warning to a world that seems to have by and large forgotten. 

Of course, that very extremism tends to make that sad history seem to be something that “could never happen here.” But in fact, there are milder forms of political messianism that are also ruinous. We should therefore be extremely wary of any politician or ideology that subtly suggests that they have cornered the market on political virtue, so that those who hold other views are habitually caricatured as ignorant, stupid, insane, incompetent, corrupt, racist, oppressive or wicked. 

The spirit of accusation is satanically destructive.

We must then be doubly concerned if we see the suggestion that the movement of rescue is led by political and economic geniuses who will almost magically deliver instant success, triumph over those who have conspired to oppress the people and quick, lasting prosperity.  For, we can be sure that if there were easy, ready- to- hand solutions to our troubles, they would have long since been successfully applied.

In short, a key fallacy in messianistic politics is that polarisation through the targeting of scapegoats is being substituted for the unwelcome lessons of sound economics:

  • growth and prosperity require long-term investments that transform the productive base;
  • a nation has to continually build and renew its knowledge, skills and productive technologies;
  • artificial consumption and construction booms are unsustainable and lead to collapse. Where also,
  • to feed sustained accelerated growth, a country has to win and hold sustained advantages in key international markets.

That requires building a sound generation-length growth and development strategy that continually shifts to ever more skilled, knowledge-driven highly productive services. For instance, that is how resource poor countries like Japan and Switzerland or Singapore have moved ahead. 

(We will need to grow at rates averaging 5 – 7% for twenty years to recover from our post-volcano plight. And we cannot put all our eggs in the tourism basket, or it will become the new king sugar or king cotton.)

So, we have a major clue: tone and focus tell. That is, politicians and pundits who by and large ignore our policy agenda or the above themes and emphasise the politics of projecting blame while using rhetoric calculated to undermine investor confidence are manifestly unsound. 

Instead, we need to be hearing how we can come together as a community to build and carry out a national policy consensus, how we can build our collective knowledge, skills and capability, how we can partner with sound (not dodgy) investors, how we can put in place catalytic infrastructure that opens up room for growth, how we can move beyond consumption and construction to value-added services.  How, we can build a culture of enterprise, thrift, prudence and productivity. How, we can work with development and aid partners to achieve sound, lasting development, inclusive growth and enduring prosperity. And such like.

In short, our tone and focus of political debate have to shift. One tool for that is the recently discussed Economic Growth Strategy:

Let us learn lessons, let us recognise that we must change, let us have a new conversation about transformation, growth and lasting, sound, sustainable development.  END

[1]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-232017-the-fibre-optic-cable-project-and-development-aid-to-montserrat/

[2]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf 

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, De Ole Dawg, International, Local0 Comments

DSC_8108_1

Montserrat hosts Leewads Mens’ 50-Over championship

The Leeward Islands Senior Cricket Team Men’s 50-Over Cricket Championship, announced by L Is Drector, Cricket Operations in July is set to start on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 in Montserrat.

Captain Burns receives his team jersey

On Wednesday evening, September 12, 2018 the Montserrat Senior Cricket Team unveiled it’s Uniform Launch for the Cricket Championship at Summer Breeze at 8.00 p.m.

This function was hailed as a very welcome and special one, with Premier Romeo, Minister of Sports Delmaude Ryan along with Communications and Works Minister Paul Lewis each giving brief remarks on the occasion.

The tournament was due to begin on Friday 14th, but due to the passage of hurricane Isaac and the the burial services of a former Montserrat opening batsman, and former Chief Minister Bertrand B. Osborne and other related circumstances, such as transportation into Montserrat of the other five competing teams, the beginning of the tournament was set to a Tuesday start.

Already the championship organisers are thanking Digicel for Partnering with the Leeward Islands Cricket Board to help execute this major project and to sell to the world that Montserrat is open for Business. At the uniform unveiling, some other support sponsors were acknowledged.

These supporting sponsors are: Digicel, Rovika, Victor’s, Montserrat Bottling Company, Amsa Sports and Summer Breeze.

Following are the names of the Montserrat 16-man squad.

Shernyl Burns (Captain)
Damion Williams (Vice Captain)
McPherson Meade (Player Coach)
Quinton Boastwain
Dalston Tuitt
Jaison Peters (Leeward Island Hurricane Franchise Player)
Kriston Murrain
Theodore Frye
Shawn Tuitt
Zawandi White
Aidan Livan
Joshua Grant
Jemuel Cabey
Damion Jacobs (Leeward Island Hurricane Franchise Player)
Tavis Harrison
Deno Baker

Kenton Weekes (Sports Therapist)

Vernon Springer, L Is Drector, Cricket Operations

Posted in De Ole Dawg, Local, Local Sports, News, Print Pages, Regional, Regional Sports, Youth0 Comments

De Ole Dawg – Part 12: It is time to move beyond the politics of division and destruction

De Ole Dawg – Part 12: It is time to move beyond the politics of division and destruction

 

 

 

Contribution – Part 12/2018

 It is time to move beyond the politics of division and destruction

 How can we best build a consensus to rebuild and renew our economy and community?  

BRADES, Montserrat, July 25, 2018 – A basic principle of sound, sustainable democratic self-government is that we must learn to strike policy deals we can all live with, today and tomorrow.  In short, “mis-government by ‘divide and dominate’ gossip, slander, ‘advantage’ and melee tactics will not work.

Yes, we must first remember that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is a part of the Government. Repeat: The Parliamentary Opposition is a part of the Government.

(And yes, class is again in session here at TMR, The People’s College®.[1])

For example we have an Opposition Office that is funded through the annual budget, with a “ring-fenced” sum to support its policy analysis, representation of the people and parliamentary roles.

(But, that Office must not be abused through “partisan politicking.” That was a key part of the bargain struck with DfID when the office was created by the initiative of then Opposition Leader, Hon. Mr Donaldson Romeo. And yes, that Office is actually funded based on the “first call on the UK aid budget” principle. That principle, in turn, is built on the even more mocked and dismissed UN Charter Article 73. That’s also where 60% of the recurrent budget and maybe 80 – 90% of the capital budget comes from. Where, the St Helena “yardstick” example,[2] the 2012 MDC “last chance” business case[3] and the ECCB Governor on his recent visit alike point to key UK infrastructure investments working to catalyse local and foreign private sector investment; leading to self-sustaining growth. Indeed, that is the foundation of the recently developed, widely discussed Economic Growth Strategy.[4] Reality trumps rhetoric.)

Similarly, being a part of our government is why there is provision for regular Opposition access to the Government Radio station, ZJB. Where, in a “truly democratic” community, there is room for debate, critique and putting forward a serious, truth-based alternative. For,   a mature Opposition will conduct itself as potentially, the next Governing Majority.

That leads to “the permanent arm of government.” Our Civil Service’s officers – especially the senior ones – must always serve the nation by so serving the present government that they can readily serve the next one . . . and the one after that.[5] In short, red tape driven delay or obstructionism, too close a connection to political figures or parties, or repeated failure to render prompt, true, sound, responsible and prudent evidence-based, objective counsel are unacceptable. Poor service to Jane or John Public when she or he walks in the door is also unacceptable.

Likewise unacceptable is the attitude that where you were born and who your parents are trumps competence, diligence, capability and soundness.

(A quiet word of advice: if being ancestrally Montserratian is constantly used in an unfair,  polarising way, it will create dangerous pent-up, silent rage on both sides.[6] While we are at it, sound “advice” can always be refused, but not without damaging consequences. If you doubt this, ponder the case of the McGregor 1938 Royal Society Report, the 1986-88 Wadge-Isaacs Report and the 1995 VDAP Bulletin 16 warnings about how we were handling the eruption. Yes, eighty years of telling but largely forgotten history.)

Going on to Cabinet [the working Committee of parliament’s governing majority], ever since Plato wrote his telling parable of the Ship of State in his The Republic Bk VI,[7] we have known that a “bridge fight” on the ship of state is suicidal. Or, maybe the Apostle James will be more familiar:

James 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere . . . . 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder [and this can be by the power of the accusing tongue]. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel . . .”  [ESV. Also see a literal case study in Acts 27.[8]]

No wonder, then, that “mis-government by “divide and dominate” gossip, slander, “advantage” and melee tactics will not work.

How can we do better?

First, by heeding good old Miss Sophia [= Wisdom] as she stands by in the gates and at the street corners, calling out[9]:

Prov 1: 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away [from wisdom],
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” [ESV]

Where, parsons and lay preachers of Montserrat, with all due respect, the Bible plainly implies that our pulpits and street corners should also be places of education in true, God-fearing citizenship. Such is undeniably a part of Christian discipleship.[10]

Let us prize truth, responsibility, neighbourliness, prudence and soundness. Next, we have to learn to build reasonable policy cases and build a healthy broad-based consensus on where our nation needs to go. (Why, then is it that ever so many voices avoid or dismiss key steps forward such as the recently developed Economic Growth Strategy[11]? This key strategic document is based on not only analysis of our economic challenges and opportunities but also on a process of broad-based consultation, laying out a ten year path to growth based on a SWOT analysis.)

Next, Economist Kenya Lee’s remarks that were played on ZJB News recently are right: moving to self-sustainability is a generational challenge, it will not happen overnight. Here at TMR, the suggestion: twenty years to get there has repeatedly been put on the table.

Indeed, that is what it took last time, from the mid-’60’s to the mid-’80’s. END

[1]           SHAMELESS PLUG: Check us out just about every week at leading shops here in Montserrat (and at the Library for those who cannot afford $3.00  – the cost of one grease bread). Not to mention, here: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/

[2]           See, TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-19-2016-can-montserrat-make-a-good-case-for-catalytic-investments-in-development/ also, DfID remarks, INTRODUCTION (p. 1): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67426/DFID-work-overseas-territories.pdf 

[3]           See the DfID 2012 MDC Business Case, esp. p. 4:  http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt also note: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf

[4]           See, TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-1-2018-what-are-montserrats-economic-realities-challenges-and-opportunities/  and also Caribbean News Now: https://wp.caribbeannewsnow.com/2018/01/09/montserrat-moves-forward-economic-growth-strategy/

[5]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/the-needed-radical-reform-of-our-civil-service/

[6]           We would do well to remember that when our population was dwindling away and the UK was suggesting total evacuation, people from sister Caricom states were invited to come here and help keep Montserrat going.

[7]           Based on the history of the collapse of Athenian Democracy. See: http://www.john-uebersax.com/plato/myths/ship.htm

[8]           See: http://kairosfocus.blogspot.com/2013/01/acts-27-test-1-on-celebrating-new-year.html

[9]           Compare, the classic Consolation of Philosophy, written by Boethius, a high officer of state in Italy just after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. It was written while he was awaiting unjust execution on trumped-up charges: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14328/14328-h/14328-h.htm

[10]            See Rom 13:1 – 13, esp. vv. 8 – 13. Cf. Matt 28:18 – 20 and Titus 2:11 – 14 etc.

[11]          See: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Economic-Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-Final.pdf

 

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, De Ole Dawg, OECS, Regional0 Comments


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