Archive | De Ole Dawg

derez-a-hole-in-di-budgit

Dere’s a hole in de Montserrat 2020 Budget

Contribution, Part 106 – 5/2020

With what, shall we fix it?

BRADES, Montserrat, November 12, 2020 – In June, Hon Premier and Finance Minister, Easton Taylor Farrell presented the annual budget after a three-month delay due to the Covid-19 emergency. However, there is a gap in the recurrent side, EC$ 22 million (about £6.3 million). He expressed confidence, that DfID would be willing to provide support for the gap, and so he was confident that the hole would be filled.

The Recurrent Budget Schedule, Supp. Appropriation Bill,
Sept 2020

A month later, after four months of delay, answers to parliamentary questions showed that the hole was still there. Then, from August to September, we were told that revenues performed better and there were cuts, the hole was now EC$ 3 million. However, the schedule to the supplementary budget did not explain, and after fiery exchanges with Opposition MLA Member, Mr. Don Romeo, the Government has evaded giving a detailed, transparent explanation of the $19 million hole reduction.

Why?

For months, the answer to that has been sealed behind tight lips; a sure sign the news is bad.

The logical guess is that factions in DfID – now FCDO – are yet again pushing for staff cuts and other devastating cuts. Which would not do any good to an already struggling economy further hit by pandemic lockdowns. Perhaps, we can agree that the better approach is to grow our way out of the post-disasters stagnation?

Now that we have all seen the ship laying the fibre optic cable, and have seen the inland trenches cut, new terrestrial cable connected, and the trenches filled in, isn’t digitalisation an obvious opening for the economy?
Yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent, and guard our liberty. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Posted in De Ole Dawg, Features, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

COVID-19-attacks-a-cell

COVID-19 hits Montserrat

Contribution, Part 104 – 4/2020

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, COVID-19 is here.  How can we cope?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 22, 2020 –  On Tuesday, March 17, the Government of Montserrat called a press conference, scheduled for 5:00 pm. During the conference, Hon. Minister of Education, Mr. Charles Kirnon, announced that we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Montserrat. This person had flown into Montserrat the previous Tuesday on British Airways, Flight 2157, along with the first confirmed case for Antigua and as one of the  “eighty-plus” traveling to Montserrat announced on Saturday, March 14th by Hon Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell. 

The Covid-19 virus on the attack. In an infection, the virus binds to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus (Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

(NB: The number traveling here on BA 2157 was later revised to 104, without explanation. For a week, these exposed travelers – and likely others exposed overseas and locally – were freely circulating in our community. By St Patrick’s Day, only 88 of these had been reached by authorities trying to manage the epidemic. Officials asked the others to contact them. Where, also, if we add to March 10, 14 days for incubation we can see that March 24 on will be a key time to see if a surge of further cases will emerge here. Hopefully, not.)

Immediately, such developments underscored just how ill-advised it had been to proceed with the St Patrick’s festival “as usual,” despite warnings and pleas by Lawyer Jean Kelsick and others. To date, no clear explanation for this decision has been given.

And no, it was not simply “a matter of time” before the pandemic reached our shores.

For, by proceeding with “business as usual” for St Patrick’s, we brought here perhaps 2,500 people [a 50% jump in our population], many coming from countries where the epidemic had already broken out of containment and was spreading rapidly. Obviously, too, passenger screening measures here, in Antigua and in the UK failed.  So, now, we must prepare to try to manage a pandemic with our temporary hospital, lack of equipment and inadequate staff numbers.

Then, on Friday, March 20, His Excellency, Governor Andrew Pierce announced in the name of the UK FCO, that British Nationals were to expedite their return to the UK. This hints that the sort of travel bans and restrictions already headlined for the USA and other countries may likely impact the UK; where perhaps 7,000 volcano crisis-displaced Montserratians live.

How can we cope?

For one, we must recognise that we face a pandemic spread by a highly contagious and deadly virus that (on estimates of death rate being suggested by experts) likely will kill 1 – 3+ percent of those who catch it; it thus seems to be over ten times as deadly as the common yearly influenza. Where the aged are particularly vulnerable, the disease is highly contagious during its a-symptomatic incubation stage of up to 2 – 3+ weeks, and it seems that deaths on average happen 17 days after onset of symptoms. Those who recover – which takes longer on average – may suffer permanently diminished lung functionality.

Also, the epidemic models suggest that if it is unchecked, over the course of several months to about a year, it can infect 20 – 70+ percent of a population, with perhaps 50 – 80% of cases being mild or even asymptomatic.

Obviously, such a disease can easily overwhelm health care (and especially critical care) facilities, equipment and staff in advanced countries, much less in a country with a temporary hospital that is struggling to recover from a volcano crisis. It is vital, that we find a way to flatten out and diminish the spike of new cases if we are to prevent overloading of our health care facilities; which can trigger the much higher death rates we are seeing in Italy and saw in Wuhan, China.

That means, “social distancing” is key.

That is, we need to break the transmission cycle for the disease. A good approach has been suggested by Dr. Sanjay Gupta: assume you have the disease and now try to prevent passing it on to others. Hand washing, stopping from touching your face and surfaces others will contact, sanitising surfaces, keeping six feet away from others (so particles from our noses and mouths will settle towards the ground), avoiding groups, only going to where one must go, etc.

It may even be necessary to lock down our community for several weeks to break the spreading cycle, isolating and treating cases that emerge in the interim.

Then, after that, we will have to be far more vigilant about border protection and social distancing until the global surge in cases dies away. Unfortunately, pools of the virus will remain and its rapid mutation rate may well mean that we face further global surges. As a comparison, the 1918 “Spanish Flu” came in two to three waves, with the deadliest strain being in wave 2.

Is there any good news?

Yes. Credible initial reports suggest that a cocktail of [Hydroxy-]Chloroquine and  “Z-Pack” [ i.e. azithromycin, an antibiotic for bronchitis] has been especially effective in suppressing the viral infection, in initial studies in France, Australia and China. Bayer, who discovered Chloroquine [an anti-Malaria drug] in 1934, has donated three million chloroquine phosphate tablets to the USA and testing is on the fast track. Apparently, many doctors are already prescribing it. Other drugs are being investigated, blood plasma from survivors has been used to provide antibodies and various initiatives are underway to develop a vaccine. However, vaccines will take time.

What about economic fallout and bailouts?

The USA, the UK, and other countries are unveiling pandemic economy stimulus packages meant to restore confidence and to provide businesses and households with some emergency cash. This is because a breakdown of economic activity and investor confidence could easily trigger a recession or worse. Indeed, some have suggested a possible 24% decline in GDP, great depression-level numbers; but that is likely to be extreme. Worse for the Caribbean, Tourism is our only globally competitive industry; pandemic triggered drop-offs in tourism arrivals will obviously hit us hard.

For Montserrat, that means that we will have to go hat-in-hand to the UK, appealing for further help under the force of the UN Charter, Article 73 which the UK acknowledges to be legally binding. It is under this, that 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 90% of our capital budget has been funded over the years.  (Yes, this also means that those who have dismissed the UN Charter and the linked C-24 visit last December did Montserrat no favours.)

We will also need to see if we can expedite and expand the £30 million CIPREG capital programme negotiated by the former Donaldson Romeo-led PDM administration. For example, the case for a purpose-built, world-class standard local hospital has been strengthened and we obviously urgently need a significant upgrade for equipment, training and staffing our health care services.

More subtly, we may notice how digitally based work from home, distance education, teleconferencing, telemedicine, e-cash and more have been given a step-change boost through the pandemic.

This points to the relevance and urgency of the Fibre Optic Cable project that is also part of the CIPREG project. Where, already, ducting is being installed and the survey has been done.

Thus, too, we must bend every effort to expedite fibre optics and digitalisation, as the global digital sector just got a huge push. Onward, we have to seriously upgrade education and training for our people to be ready for digital productivity in the coming, even more digitalised world economy.

So, yes, there is hope.

Yes, we have to face and fix our stumbles.

Yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and we must act soundly in good time.

END

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Cross-section-of-a-Corona-virus

The Corona Virus pandemic reaches the Caribbean

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, could it be here in Montserrat? (What should we do?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 14, 2020 –  Over the past several days, first we learned that the Corona Virus had been confirmed in several regional territories. Then we learned how the UN Agency, the World Health Organisation, declared a pandemic – a globe-spanning epidemic.  Along the way, we heard of a Jamaican woman who flew home from the UK on March 4th to attend a funeral, and how authorities were taking steps to contain a possible outbreak. Since then schools have been closed as a second case then six more cases were diagnosed, totaling eight. Then,  it was confirmed that someone flying into Antigua from the UK on March 10 (on British Airways 2157), has been diagnosed with the virus.  Over eighty [80] passengers on that same aircraft came on their way to Montserrat, for the St Patrick’s Festival. (UPDATE: There is also a suspected case here, reported on ZJB.)

The Covid-19 virus attacks a cell,in an “isolate” from a patient(Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

Suddenly, the Covid-19 Pandemic – global epidemic – is at our doorstep.

As a result:

After this news hit our airwaves on Friday, March 13th, a call went out for these passengers to contact health authorities.

On Saturday the 14th the recently elected Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell summarised this development, stated that the passengers were traced, contacted and told to self-isolate, adding that events with more than fifty people were restricted.

Many churches announced that worship services are suspended.

Schools (which often serve as places where viral infections spread rapidly) are closed until Friday, April 3.

Such measures are to be extended if necessary.

In effect, the 2020 St Patrick’s Festival has been shut down. That’s why promoters for some events then went on radio to announce the cancelation.

Covid 19 is indeed at our doorstep.

Cross-Section of a Corona Virus. In an infection, the S-protein spikes bind to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus using the RNA in the virus (Cr: Wiki & Scientific Illustrations)

What will we do?

Why did it take a case of possible transmission on an eight-hour transatlantic flight to trigger such measures?

(On the worst-case – let us hope, such will not be actual! – that could be shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.)

Especially as, before the event, prominent local Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Jean Kelsick publicly advised us all on February 28:

he virus has surfaced, is spreading and has already killed people . . . . Should our visitors introduce the virus to Montserrat

will have to face some very hard questions over any deaths that may ensue . . . .  the financial cost and disappointment to the island and visitors [if the Festival were to be canceled] would be very unfortunate but a price cannot be put on lives.”

We are now in danger of both possibilities, the worst of both worlds. For, on the facts admitted by Premier Taylor-Farrell, [a] visitors have come who may be exposed AND [b] we are forced to restrict gatherings of more than fifty people. That suggests, that we did not act with sufficient prudence in good time.

Now, given the Covid-19 incubation period of up to two weeks (or possibly more in some cases) we will have to wait to see if the epidemic is here already where this virus can be spread by people before they have obvious symptoms. Also, many mild cases may be confused with an ordinary cold or could even go unnoticed.

In a further complication, there seem to be two strains, L and S. As ABC reports[1]:

“Scientists from China said they’ve identified two strains of COVID-19 linked to the recent outbreak.  Coronaviruses are a large family of RNA viruses, and when RNA viruses replicate quickly, they often mutate. Researchers analyzed 103 sequenced genomes using strains from China, and found that 70% of strains were one type, which they called ‘L.’ The ‘L’ strain was more aggressive than the remaining 30% of strains, which were dubbed ‘S.’”

There is some suggestion that it is possible to catch one strain then the other, in addition to the familiar problem of relapsing if one has not fully recovered from an infection. NewScientist gives background[2]:

Viruses are always mutating . . . When a person is infected with the coronavirus, it replicates in their respiratory tract. Every time it does, around half a dozen genetic mutations occur, says Ian Jones at the University of Reading, UK. When Xiaolu Tang at Peking University in Beijing and colleagues studied the viral genome taken from 103 cases, they . . . identified two types of the virus based on differences in the genome at these two regions: 72 were considered to be the “L-type” and 29 were classed “S-type” . . . . The first strain is likely to have emerged around the time the virus jumped from animals to humans. The second emerged soon after that, says the team. Both are involved in the current global outbreak. The fact that the L-type is more prevalent suggests that it is “more aggressive” than the S-type.”

Further, in a preprint article for the New England Journal of Medicine,[3] researchers have confirmed that “viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel . . .   Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for  multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.”

These specific experimental results are generally consistent with earlier reports that the virus can survive in the air for hours and on surfaces for up to a week or more. That immediately means that we have to be particularly vigilant to protect ourselves. Pix 11 of New York summarises some typical advice[4]:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

A distance of 6 feet can protect you from droplet transmission via coughs and sneezes.

Stay home if you feel you are sick.

Cough and sneeze into your elbow, or cover [your mouth and nose] with a tissue and immediately wash or sanitize your hands.

They add the US CDC instructions on proper handwashing:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

We can also note that for typical disinfectants, a “dwell time” of three to five minutes is advisable, to ensure maximum effect.

Of course, by definition a disinfectant can be hazardous, so we should follow instructions. Chlorine Bleach and Ammonia are particularly so, and must not be mixed. Mixing Bleach and detergents is also not advisable as chemical reactions that give off toxic gases are possible.

Alcohols are also toxic – yes, ethanol too . . . drunkenness is actually a first stage toxic reaction. Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol and Methanol (wood alcohol) should not be consumed; even though they look, taste and smell almost like White Rum. Again, follow instructions on the label.

Of course, a good newspaper is the people’s college, so we need to step back up to the policy level. Fair comment: twenty-five years ago, we were imprudent in managing the volcano crisis, often dismissing warnings as likely to cause a panic. Sometimes, we thought or even said that we needed to exercise faith that nothing bad would happen, trotting out scriptures on faith. On June 25, 1997, nineteen people died needlessly. Videos taken a few days before the fatal ash flows show people harvesting ground provisions in a field while hot ash ran down the ghaut next to them. Some of those people died in fatal flows.

We need a sounder approach: yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and act in good time.


[1]           See ABC https://abcnews.go.com/Health/scientists-identified-strains-covid-19/story?id=69391954

[2]           See NewScientist https://www.newscientist.com/article/2236544-coronavirus-are-there-two-strains-and-is-one-more-deadly/

[3]           See van Doremalen of US NIH et al https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217v1.full.pdf

[4]           See PIX11: https://www.pix11.com/news/national-news/coronavirus-how-to-protect-yourself-amid-covid-19-concerns

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, Opinions, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

Pilatus-PC-12-theoretical-range

Montserrat’s new Air ambulance service – implications

Part 103 – 02/2020 (Contribution)

What does the provision of a St Barths-based Pilatus PC-12 suggest for our air access?

BRADES, Montserrat, February 7, 2020 –  A few days ago, many Montserratians spotted a strange new aircraft in our sky as it flew in to land at our Airport in Geralds. This was a Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 air ambulance, which has a single, six-blade turboprop engine.  Montserrat has made an agreement for new air ambulance services, with an eye to accessing Guadeloupe (said to be 12 minutes) as well as Antigua (perhaps 5 minutes) in the first instance.

a Pilatus PC-12 on its way to land (Cr. St Barths Executivedot.com

However, the Pilatus is quite fast, can seat up to ten passengers, can fly with a single pilot and has a long-range. Indeed, the air ambulance service has posted online a map of its ability to reach the eastern seaboard of the USA in five to six hours from its St Barths Base.

That’s because the Pilatus 12 family of aircraft is capable of up to 330 miles per hour cruising speed, with a ceiling of 30,000 ft. Payload is 2,236 pounds, just under one standard ton.  Its range with six passengers (“executive” configuration) is up to 1,800+ miles.  It can seat up to ten passengers (plus one pilot), but six is preferred (hence, “executive”). The aircraft which came here was set up for four passengers and a patient. A reported current price is US$ 3.3 million.

What about the single-engine? According to St Barths Exec:

Pilatus PC-12 theoretical range

“Multi-engine aircraft have no advantage over single-engine turboprops when it comes to safety. . . The argument that single-engine aircraft are less safe than multis is based on the presumption of engine failure. However, modern turbine engines are so reliable they are rarely the primary cause of an accident or incident. This never happened for the PC12 world fleet (1800 aircrafts) after almost seven million flight hours.”

So, perhaps, we need to re-think our assumptions on the safety of small aircraft that have modern turboprop engines, sophisticated navigation equipment, autopilot, and computerised controls.

Let’s compare the famous Twin Otter, in its modern form:

The DeHavilland 6-400 Twin Otter Medium Turboprop is manufactured by Viking Air since 2010. The cabin measures 18.5 feet long by 5.3 feet wide by 4.8 feet tall giving it a total cabin volume of 475.9 cubic feet making it comfortable for up to 19 passengers. The baggage compartment can hold up to 17.6 bags assuming your average piece of luggage is less than 5 cubic feet. The DE Havilland 6-400 Twin Otter has a maximum range (not including headwinds, high altitude, hot temperatures, or higher capacity) of 811 miles and a maximum speed of 181 mph . . . . Service ceiling 25,000 feet.”  [Source: prijet dot com]

Also, a current version Twin Otter (19 passengers twin turboprop, 25,000 ft ceiling, cruising air speed 170 – 180 mph, range up to 1,000 mi) is on offer for US$ 6.4 millions,[1] and other sources suggest that old models may possibly go for US$ 1 – 2 millions. For comparison, the Britten Norman Islander is usually piston-engined but a turboprop version is available. As a piston-engined aircraft cruising speed is up to165 mph, ceiling is 13,600 – 19,700 ft and range is up to about 620 miles. Currently, a Turbo version is on sale for US$ 1.3 millions, and piston-engined versions from US$ 195,000 (it has 15,000+ flying hours).[2] Of course, a key advantage is that the Islander requires just one pilot, the Twin Otter (as we will remember) normally flies with two.


[1]           See: https://www.globalair.com/aircraft-for-sale/Twin-Otter-DHC-6-400

[2]           See https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/manufacturer/britten-norman

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Regional0 Comments

Comparison-voting-patterns-2014-HT-Wikipedia-1

MNI: Post-Election reflections and challenges, 2019

November 29, 2019

How will we best manage our development partnership with the post-Brexit UK and the upcoming UN Charter Article 73 C24 visit?

We also note that, with a split opposition, the former administration PDM team is now the bulk of the opposition, three seats led by Hon Mr. Paul Lewis. Former Premier Romeo sits as the fourth opposition member, having been elected on an independent ticket. We wish the new opposition well too, not least because a good opposition that is credible as the potential next government is a key part of our democratic system.

Comparison: voting patterns 2014 (HT: Wikipedia)

That said, it is interesting to observe that there was a fall in turnout rate for the 2019 election as compared with the 2014 one: 2,410 of 3,858 registered voters [62.47%] as opposed to 2,747 of 3,866 [71.06%].

That is, while registered voters fell slightly [8 voters], the voter turnout fell by 337.

The total 2019 MCAP vote was 8,512 and the total, PDM – counting “seven plus one” – was 7,029. In 2014, MCAP had 8,193 votes and PDM had 11,591. The MCAP support grew by 319 and the PDM fell by 4,562. This election was more of a loss for the PDM than a triumph for MCAP.

However, as the margin of victory was one seat, for purposes of analysis, let us ponder the effect of just three hundred disaffected PDM supporters turning out and supporting their party. Where the ninth past the post candidate in the actual 2019 election [Hon Mr. Hogan] garnered 873 votes. (In 2014, Hon Mr. Willock was 9th, with 1,117 votes.)

In our hypothetical “+300 PDM” Election 2019, for instance, Hon Mr. Lewis (with + 300 votes) would have had 1,551 votes. Hon Mr. Romeo (the “plus one”), would have had 1,360 votes. The “seven plus one” PDM vote total would also have shifted to 9,429.

More importantly, Mr. Hixon would have had 1,162 votes, switching the election to the other side.

The new 9th past the post would – for the moment – be Hon Mr. Kirnon, at 970 votes. But, if we add 300 votes to Mr. Emile Duberry, he would now have 998 votes, matching Hon Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph, so Mr. Kirnon would have been defeated.

That is, the election would have likely swung the other way, 5:4 or perhaps even 6:3.

(Recall, the “+300 PDM” model is only a hypothetical estimate to help us understand the actual election’s outcome.)

An obvious lesson from this comparison, is that a party leadership “coup” six weeks before an election is not a well-advised electoral strategy. A slightly less obvious one, is that allowing hostile messaging to dominate for years on end is also not a well-advised electoral strategy, especially when one’s party is obviously trending towards splits. Doubtless, our politicians, pundits and public relations gurus have taken due note.

However, there is a further issue, one that carries such urgency that it needs to be put on the table now, for national discussion. Yes, even during the traditional new government honeymoon period.

For, in the next few weeks, we expect to see a UN Committee of 24 visit under the UN Charter, Article 73. However, skepticism on the relevance of the UN and similar skepticism on the UN Charter, Article 73 (thus the FCO commitment that the OT’s have a “first call” on the UK’s development budget) were a major part of MCAP’s messaging over the past several years and so much skepticism has become entrenched in much of popular opinion.

This is in a context where the UK is in a Brexit-dominated General Election. One, where newly incumbent Euro-skeptic Prime Minister the Hon Mr. Boris Johnson seems likely to handily win re-election. (Where, the previous UK Prime Minister, Hon Mrs. May, resigned several months before the election.)

Further to this, the UK press has shown for months, that Hon Mr. Johnson has pushed to reduce DfID to being a Department under FCO. For example, as a July 24, 2019 Guardian article reports, on becoming Prime Minister, Hon Mr. Boris Johnson:
. . . spoke of the “jostling sets of instincts in the human heart” – the instinct to earn money and look after your own family, set against that of looking after the poorest and neediest, and promoting the good of society as a whole. The Tory party has the “best instincts” to balance these desires, he said.

This balancing act will be tested soon after he moves into No 10 . . . . The UK’s £38bn defence budget is just 2.5 times greater than the £14bn aid budget.

After leaving his job as foreign secretary, Johnson spelled out his thinking over foreign aid, telling the Financial Times that if “Global Britain” is going to achieve its “full and massive potential” then we must bring back the Department for International Development (DfID) to the Foreign Office. “We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO.”

The Guardian article adds, how:
In February, [Hon. Mr. Johnson] went further. Writing the foreword of a report by Bob Seely, Tory member of the foreign affairs select committee, and James Rogers, a strategist at the Henry Jackson Society thinktank, he suggested aid should “do more to serve the political and commercial interests” of Britain.

That report “called for the closure of DfID as a separate department and argued the UK should be free to define its aid spending, unconstrained by criteria set by external organisations.” It went on to assert that DfID’s purpose “should be expanded from poverty reduction to include ‘the nation’s overall strategic goals’,” and that “the Foreign Office should incorporate both DfID and the trade department.” Which, is precisely what has been put on the table.

While, the UK cannot unilaterally redefine what Development Aid is [the OECD defines that], it is clear that there will be strong pressure to reduce UK aid from the 0.7% of national income target level that has been met since 2013/14 and which is actually mandated by current UK law. And, mixing in trade and strategic goals is likely to raise questions on the quality of aid offered under such a reduced budget. (Perhaps, too, it may be advisable for the UK to ponder that timely aid that addresses root causes of conflict is a lot cheaper and far less risky than major wars are.)

What this means for us, is that the importance of the UN Charter as a cornerstone of International Law since 1945 has suddenly shot up as the UK moves towards Brexit. In that context, the Article 73 mandates that the UK is legally bound to “ensure [our political, social, educational and economic] advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development” are of particular value.

Especially, where £30 million under the CIPREG programme and another £14.4 million for the sea port under the UKCIF are on the table. And where these sums are programmed into existing projects, so that attempts to re-open the negotiations may well carry significant risks of further delay or even loss of funding. (Let us recall, that for years, sections of the UK press have decried £400+ million in cumulative aid to Montserrat as a “fiasco” and worse.)

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, De Ole Dawg, Elections, Local, News, OECS, UK - Brexit0 Comments

signing-fibre-optic-contract

Fibre Optic Cable Project Breakthrough!

How do we now move on to a digital productivity-driven economic breakout?

Head of the Programme Management Office, Martin Parlett; Director of DITES, Denzil West; Permanent Secretary, Office of the Premier, Daphne Cassell; and Premier, Honourable Donaldson Romeo. Photo Credit: GoM/GIU

BRADES, Montserrat, October 26, 2019 –  On Thursday, October 24, Premier Donaldson Romeo announced that he is standing aside from the PDM Candidates list for the November 18th election. In saying this, he listed various achievements of the PDM administration. The first of these is strategically decisive for Montserrat:

“. . . after a ten-year fight, just today, October 24th, 2019, we have signed off the contract for the laying of the undersea Fibre Optic Cable worth EC$17 million. This is one-sixth of the CIPREG EC$100 million programme. The fibre optic cable project will open up the dynamic digital sector with many opportunities for internet server farms, business, and financial services, telemedicine, multimedia education, web-based enterprises, digital multimedia products, and lots more. This will lead to jobs, especially for our digitally-minded youth.”

Premier Romeo also had a few words for “naysayers” on the CIPREG Project: “The naysayers who so often publicly mocked the reality of these projects and sometimes suggested they were fake were wrong; they should now come clean to the people of Montserrat.” (Though this is a surprisingly strong remark for this Premier, it is understandable given how insistently the “naysayers” said and suggested such, in the face of mounting evidence. The “naysayers” now have a lesson to learn and face a character test. A fair comment is: if good news for Montserrat is bad news for you, and bad news for Montserrat is good news for you, you have a serious problem. Our voters will decide pass/fail, come Nov. 18.)

Now, based on a Government press release[1] dated October 25 we can fill in some details on the project:

“ . . . [T]he Government of Montserrat through the Capital Investment Programme for Resilient Economic Growth (CIPREG) today signed a landmark multi-million-dollar deal with Southern Caribbean Fiber (SCF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Digicel Group, for the installation of a new subsea fibre optic cable system . . . .  the transformational 15-year agreement, worth in excess of XCD$16m,[2] sees SCF managing, maintaining and operating a new 25 kilometre [ = 15.6 miles ] fibre optic cable which paves the way for faster, more reliable and more resilient internet connectivity through Guadeloupe and Antigua. The agreement also provides for ten years of high-speed broadband internet access for the delivery of its services for the Government of Montserrat for free. SCF won the contract as part of a competitive international tendering process, and aims to complete the installation of Montserrat’s new fibre optic system by the summer of 2020 . . . . The Project will be overseen by the Programme Management Office in the Ministry of Finance, and the Department for Information Technology and E-Government Services (DITES) under the portfolio of the Office of the Premier. ”

A revealing fact here, is that we are to have a 15 mile cable, where Antigua is 26 miles away and Guadeloupe is even further. This means, logically, that we must be getting a “spur line” to a junction box inserted in an existing SCF/Digicel subsea Fibre Optic Cable between those two islands that obviously runs 15 miles off our coast.  No wonder SCF/Digicel won the bid! (The bonus is, we get a tie-in to Europe through Guadeloupe and one to the USA through Antigua. Two birds with one stone.)

What can we do with this opportunity? Many things:

  • We need to put in further, hurricane-proof underground fibre optic cable across the island so that households, schools, the hospital, businesses, new digital economy enterprises and Government can have fast, reliable digital access. (Yes, thanks to Lime and Digicel, we already have some underground fibre optic cable, as well as some that run in the air from telephone pole to telephone pole.)
  • We need to back this up with adequate standby generation so the cables won’t go down due to power cuts.
  • Longer term, we need to put in Geothermal Energy-based electricity, as this is one of the two most reliable electricity energy sources; along with large scale hydroelectric generation. (The Thermal Energy Partners estimates indicate that we may have over 100 MW of potential.[3])
  • This opens up opportunities for GT energy backed, Fibre Optic Cable connected server farms providing Internet, multimedia and business services.
  • As we are native English speakers – living in a low crime, UK Overseas Territory, emerald isle, tropical paradise (we have spring water in our taps!) – at a longitude between the US and Europe, Call Centres and the like are just the low hanging fruit.
  • Imagine, the impact of just a few investors moving to villas here with state of the art global fibre optic connectivity to do instant trading on the markets while they can pop over to a tropical beach in five minutes, or instead go for a lush tropical forest mountain hike just for a change of pace.
  • That points to business or art retreat centers, similarly globally connected.
  • Mix in Offshore Medical Universities and research centers and we can see telemedicine and specialist treatment facilities open up as major opportunities.
  • Of course, the to-be-rebuilt Glendon Hospital [£15m under CIPREG] must be wired for telemedicine and multimedia digital medical/nursing education.
  • As the new CXC Registrar announced here in August, CXC is moving regional education to a digital base. Blend that with multimedia, server farms and on-call services and digital education opportunities beckon. (Entertainment, music and television opportunities are too obvious to detail.)
  • Last June, we here at TMR pointed out[4] that since 2013, the UK has launched a Computing in Schools initiative for ages 5 to 16. We need something similar in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean. We need a digital workforce to go with a digital world.
  • You fill in ________ (the sky is the limit).

[1] GoM http://www.gov.ms/montserrat-selects-southern-caribbean-fiber-in-multi-million-dollar-subsea-fibre-optic-cable/?fbclid=IwAR24Mc48jd46Qs7H0rBujgDduEUq_VCqiJS4kpzIFoHhKAVRQWpBrGG0MFg

[2]  NOTE: £4.9 mn x 3.50 = EC$ 17.15 mn.

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrats-geothermal-energy-gold-mine/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-go-digital-or-go-bust/

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, De Ole Dawg, Elections, Energy, Features, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

SPECIAL: Thoughts for MNI Election Nov 18, 2019

SPECIAL: Thoughts for MNI Election Nov 18, 2019

Is Ship of State MNI taking sound counsel or looking for “a sweet south wind” [Ac 27:13] – with a dangerous storm lurking?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 8, 2019 –  On Monday, October 7, .2019, Montserrat’s Premier Donaldson Romeo announced that we are to go to the polls on November 18th next.  By Wednesday morning, he was back on the air, announcing how by a “democratic” process, he had been deposed the previous evening through a vote of candidates as Party Leader of his People’s Democratic Movement (PDM). He is to continue as in effect caretaker Premier until the election. Then, over the next few days, he headed off to New York to make a presentation to the UN General Assembly’s key 4th Committee; on an upcoming UN field visit to Montserrat under Article 73 of the UN Charter (on decolonisation).

In his presentation, he announced how:

“[A]fter ten years of effort, through the recent help of the UK, the project to install a replacement subsea fiber optic cable to Montserrat is going through.  As I speak, my technicians are finalizing the contractual agreements for the UK funded 4.9 Million sterling undersea fiber optic cable . . . ”

This £4.9 million subsea fibre optic cable is a key component of the post-volcano crisis rebuilding and redevelopment of Montserrat’s economy and society. That is why (in its successful-at-long-last form) it is one of the projects under the UK-funded £30 million CIPREG programme he has discussed in recent months. Indeed, it is fully 1/6 of it. So, on the one hand, we see triumph at last and recognition by the wider world but on the other, repudiation by his own Party six weeks before a General Election. The ways of politics are strange indeed.

Ironically, street buzz strongly indicates that there is a surge of rage over the repudiation of Mr. Romeo by his Party; likely reflecting his strength of personal support and respect among ordinary people.

Talk of splits and dismissive commentary over his alleged failures as a leader abounds.

Oddly, we did not hear much of such talk when the now main opposition party, the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) split, leading to the formation of a splinter party led by a former chairman and also by a former MCAP legislator. Sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander in politics, MNI style.  (Or should we be asking whether crabs busily pulling one another back down in a barrel realise why a large pot is being heated and spiced right next to them?)

There seem to be one or two further parties waiting in the wings plus several independents.

Have those who deposed Mr. Romeo on the eve of an election shot themselves in the foot? Are we headed for a landslide victory for MCAP? Will we see some other parties win a majority? Or, will we have a hung parliament followed by horse-trading and a patched-together coalition? Time will tell, and the decision is ours to make.

Meanwhile, the scripture writer Luke has a sobering word for us:

“Acts 27:9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast [Day of Atonement] was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but also of our lives.”

11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.” [ESV]

Mr Moneybags and his bought and paid for technical man won the vote but lost the boat.

That happened because they manipulated the senior person and the majority to act imprudently. Likely, they derided the apostle and his words of sober caution. Later, the same apostle showed prophetic leadership in the storm and saved the 276 souls aboard when shipwreck happened. To do so, he had to expose a ruse by which the same crew tried to abandon the passengers to shipwreck.

Just so, merely voting is not enough to safeguard our hopes, we must seek out godly wisdom, prudence, and the right – not the easy – way.  That holds for elections and it holds for life too.

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, De Ole Dawg, Elections, International, Local, OECS, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

mail-on-line-daily

Truth will ouch, 2019: The CIPREG facts come home to roost

Part S09/2019 (Contribution)

Where do our hopes for development stand, on the eve of elections 2019?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 19, 2019 –  In recent days, following the ouster of Premier Romeo as Political Leader of the PDM Party by his fellow candidates, events here in Montserrat and overseas have unraveled several carefully crafted political talking points and have undermined widely held opinions:

  • Premier Romeo’s October 10, 2019 presentation to the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee[1] (despite some flaws) seems to have been fairly well received at Turtle Bay in New York.
  • Angry street buzz continues in the aftermath of the Romeo ‘ouster’ by his fellow PDM candidates. It is now likely that – absent a drastic turnaround – the PDM may pay a stiff price for trying to change horses in mid-stream.
  • We can now definitely expect a UN Committee of 24 field visit on progress with our decolonisation in December. (The UN envisions three possible decolonisation outcomes: 1: independence, 2: free association with UK or another state, 3: incorporation into the UK or another state.)
  • A main focus for the UN visit will be fact-finding consultations and site visits. It will also provide public education that will pivot on the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 and its requirement that the UK is mandated to “ensure” our political, economic, social and educational “advancement.”
  • Article 73 also binds the UK to “promote” – not, delay or frustrate – “constructive measures of development.” (This lent weight to Premier Romeo’s challenge regarding 20+ years of delays on key projects, though it is fair comment that part of the delay is due to our own faults.)
  • In addition, Premier Romeo has been calling for the UN to create what we could describe as a “decolonisation observer and facilitator” who would be based here.
  • Putting two and two together, that seems to have had some impact in London. For, a few days later, HE Governor Andrew Peirce went on ZJB Radio to do a nearly one and a half-hour-long live interview with that station’s Breakfast Show.
  • There are now calls for a wider press conference with our local media.
  • During the interview, the Governor spoke about several development projects under the £30 million CIPREG programme negotiated by the Romeo administration, other projects associated with the EU project  (£18 millions), the seaport development (£21.5 millions) and even responded to the playing of an excerpt of Mr Romeo’s latest UN speech.
  • We now know “from the horse’s mouth” that the UK has in fact committed to the £30 million CIPREG agreement and is serious about moving ahead on key projects such as the Fibre Optic cable, the hospital, housing, fix-up for the MSS campus, the A01 road upgrade, airport runway upgrade, and more.
  • The Governor also affirmed that the commitments in the 2012 FCO White Paper on OT’s[2] are firm, so onward support to our “reasonable assistance needs” will continue.
  • Those who mocked this commitment over the years have therefore been publicly corrected “from the horse’s mouth.”
  • He seemed to shift the emphasis towards Solar PV electricity, rather than Geothermal. (Actually, Geothermal electricity is far less prone to fluctuations than PV and we may have over 100 MW of GT potential.[3])
  • Ironically, we also had a visit by EU officials, looking at their energy projects [which is associated with the release of the first tranche of EDF 11 funds], but on their way out there was an incident with a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft aborted flight where passengers had to deboard.
  • This follows an incident where a similar aircraft ran off the runway several weeks ago.  Several incidents over recent years and a fatal accident also come to mind.

These developments, understandably, sent shock waves throughout Montserrat; even as political campaigning heats up towards elections scheduled for November 18th.

Some denounced the Governor as interfering in our local politics. Others point out that the persistent rhetoric that – in the teeth of evidence and repeated correction – insisted on going on radio week by week to doubt, deride and dismiss the reality of the breakthrough projects and to talk down our economy as being “worst ever” was ill-founded and has now had a hard collision with the facts.  They, therefore challenge the truthfulness and general fitness of such aspirants to power for high offices tasked to carry forward these projects in the national interest.

Actually, it is fairly obvious that the UK has much bigger fish to fry than local political campaign talking points and personalities. Especially, given the upcoming UN visit and the prolonged delays with and repeated cutting down of long-needed development projects. They have some explaining to do and so are belatedly reaching out with public education before December.

Just so, we too had better be prepared to answer for our own faults in the matter.

Yes, our own faults.

Here at TMR, we have already highlighted the MDC-Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco[4]: by 2012 DfID for cause concluded that “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure and injection of over EC$5 million did not turn it around.

In 2014 we saw whistleblowers, then media exposes the next year. Then, a few weeks ago, GoM and DfID have had to settle the McLaughlin case[5] in his favour. Likewise, the Auditor General has lashed the Government regarding the environmental disaster caused at Gun Hill in 2013/14 when the Meade administration knocked down the hill.[6]

Topping off, in the Auditor General’s Report for 2014–15, we also find telling remarks on an audit of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) on the MCRS and MAHLE building projects:

“Insufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with the government’s contracting policies. At the time of the audit the buildings were still under construction but were outside the agreed construction dates as specified in the contract. To strengthen contract management arrangements, enhance transparency  in decision making and facilitate future project reviews we recommend that record keeping be improved.” [p. 23.]

Auditors use very restrained language, so “[i]nsufficient information was provided by PIU for the auditors to complete the audit and verify that the work and payments were in accordance with government’s contracting policies” is deadly. So is the want of proof that work and payments were in accord with established policy. Likewise, the claim that timelines slipped badly and the remark that record keeping needs to be “improved.” PIU as well as MDC, clearly had serious challenges with project governance, management, and implementation, contributing to our lack of credibility on projects, procurement, and financial management. That simply has to be fixed.

In short, on the eve of a crucial election, devastating facts have come home to roost across the board. No-one is coming up smelling like roses. Perhaps, it is time for our voters to call for a government of national unity that will set aside ill-founded partisan points scoring, admit the truth, face hard facts, carry forward necessary reforms and build on the CIPREG breakthrough.


[1] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/premier-romeos-presentation-at-the-un-general-assembly/

[2] UKG https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32952/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrats-geothermal-energy-gold-mine/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/the-mdc-little-bay-gun-hill-fiasco/

[5] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/sean-mclaughlin-whistle-blower-and-our-governance-capacity-challenge/

[6]TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, De Ole Dawg, Editorial, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

MNI: Facing our 2019 – 24 post-Brexit Governance- Capacity- Leadership Challenge

MNI: Facing our 2019 – 24 post-Brexit Governance- Capacity- Leadership Challenge

How are we going to handle the UK’s 2025 policy “pillars” and “values” agenda for the Caribbean?

BRADES, Montserrat, September 26, 2019 –  “Governance” is about how the big decisions are made, and how they are made to stick. That becomes a challenge when we have murky swamps and lurking dragons to deal with. So, how do we drain the swamp and deal with the dragons?[1] Especially, with an election just around the corner, with a £63 million [~ EC$ 200 million] development programme on the table that needs to be managed properly; also, with Brexit and a UN Decolonisation Committee visit also to happen, maybe by December?

For one, we have to recognise that elections can easily become part of the problem rather than the wave- a- magic- wand instant solution.

As Acts 27:11 – 12 reminds us, when St Paul warned the ship’s company of dangerous winter storms at Fair Havens, “the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said . . . the majority decided to put out to sea.” So, they set sail for Phoenix, a nicer winter harbour 40 miles away, only to be caught in such a storm and shipwrecked at Malta; hundreds of miles off course. Yes, Mr Moneybags, his bought and paid for technical experts, stubborn ignorance and want of common sense can easily turn democratic elections into ruinous voyages of folly: de-mock-racy, not democracy.[2] Merely having elections won’t solve the problem.

Similarly, if our “permanent government” – the senior civil service – is “not fit for purpose” (as former Governor Carriere said in an unguarded, frank moment) then we are going to be hampered every step of the way by lack of capacity, foot-dragging, outright incompetence and even corruption. And if many candidates for election are cut from the same roll of cloth,[3] that will only multiply the problem.

For elections to work, we need to have a choice of credible, competent, good-character candidates with sound policy proposals, and if policies are to be implemented, our senior civil service will need drastic reforms led by Cabinet. We will have to fix the DfID-FCO side of the problem, too.

This part of the problem is why, over the past several weeks, we here at TMR have looked at the needed Charter of Good Governance and Development Partnership MoU with the UK; which have actually been on the table for several years, but were obviously road-blocked. Such agreements and such Resolutions of our Assembly would give us tools to drain the murky waters so beloved of swamp-dwelling chaos-dragons . . . that’s how they can lurk in ambush.

A capacity-building component would help us build a new generation of policy and political leadership. The creation of a priority transformational programme with agreed “catalytic” infrastructure-building projects supported by designated expediters and sound PRINCE2-style governance systems would then move us beyond the stop, study, start, stop, restudy pattern. For sure, without a protected sea port, without an improved airport, without fibre optic cable digital access and without developed geothermal energy, we are a poor investment and growth prospect.

Correction, we should have already been doing those projects.   Yes, that is what frustrating the Charter of Good Governance, the Development Partnership MoU and linked reforms cost us, after the MDC’s failure.[4] Where, with the Programme Management Office head frog marched off within months of his arrival (followed by nearly two years of foot dragging on a new head), we can see what happens when the dragons strike back. 

As for church, professional, media and general community leaders, they will obviously typically reflect our general level.

For instance, why isn’t the lesson of Acts 27 routinely, repeatedly taught in our churches? There are of course sterling exceptions, and a few years back in these pages we reported on a series of meetings held by a visiting senior church leader, the Rev Dr. Nicholson.[5] And, there have been other voices, in our churches, on the streets, in TMR’s pages and elsewhere. So, our prolonged plight is not for lack of being prophetically warned and counseled. As a fair comment, the Apostle Paul also warned that in these last days many would reject or dismiss sound instruction; instead, seeking out those who would tickle itching ears with what they want to hear – as happened in Acts 27.  Soundness, is very much a cultivated taste (like healthy vegetables).

We also face a rapidly changing world situation. Whatever our opinions on how Brexit was voted in and on the UK’s new Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson, Brexit is to happen “soon.” That is naturally going to shift the UK’s policy focus back to the Commonwealth and to the Overseas Territories, even as going into the European Common Market (which developed into the European Union, as intended) shifted focus away from us.

Where, no, for centuries, the UK has been skilled at three- moves- ahead policy and strategic thinking, so the notion that they are so taken up with Brexit that they can’t see beyond the immediate crisis is nonsense. Obviously, in the background, there are many people studying issues and framing long term options as we speak. Indeed, just a few days ago, Mr Asif Anwar Ahmad, UK High Commissioner to Jamaica announced as follows regarding the United Kingdom’s “Strategy for the Caribbean, its six Overseas Territories in the region and Bermuda up to 2025”[6]:

“the [UK’s] strategy has three pillars — partners on values, partners on prosperity, and partners on protecting people . . . . the strategy calls for increased support for the region on the UK’s priorities which include good governance, human rights and democracy, including issues such as the death penalty and LGBT rights.”

How are we going to manage things like using the prestige and power of our Courts to unilaterally amend Constitutions from the Bench to impose radical agendas?

That has already been put on the table by Justice Antony Smellie in the Cayman Islands,[7] and it is by no means certain that the Appeals Court will defer to the argument that Constitutions should only be amended through proper process involving parliament and people.

Where, from FCO answers to UK Foreign Affairs Committee questions, it is already clear that the FCO is willing to go along with – or is even quietly pushing for – such blatantly undemocratic usurpations. Policies, that promote fashionable anti-Christian “values” and agendas.   The resulting potential for political destabilisation, increased social conflicts, moral confusion and chaos could easily dwarf the formidable challenges we already face.

Similarly, after days of meetings with the UN General Assembly [UNGA], embattled US President Donald Trump announced on September 25th that negotiations are in progress with the UK for a major post-Brexit trade deal. That deal is likely to be fairly similar to existing deals with Canada etc. How can we OT’s use the Joint Ministerial Council process to get a slice or two of the American pie?

These and many other issues point to an urgent need for a different level of awareness regarding trends, issues, pros and cons of policy options, etc. They point to a need for political, civil service, church and civil society leadership and independent thought at a different level. Yes, we here at TMR will continue to do our part as The People’s College.  However, as a nation, we need – right now – people with high capacity, the character of spiritual maturity, vision and values to tackle the sort of policy and frankly, world views challenges that are now on the table. Not, in five years’ time, now.

How are we going to address that? E


[1] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/

[2] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-15-2016-will-we-have-democracy-or-de-mock-racy/

[3] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/we-need-a-new-politics-of-truth-soundness-and-national-consensus/

[4] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/the-mdc-little-bay-gun-hill-fiasco/

[5] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-20-2016-how-do-we-build-a-wholesome-god-fearing-society/

[6] See: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/uk-to-push-jamaica-on-lgbt-right

[7] TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/answering-cj-smellie-neither-tradition-nor-religion-could-form-the-rational-basis-for-a-law/ and https://www.themontserratreporter.com/cayman-islands-chief-justice-smellie-tries-to-redefine-marriage-fails/

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg, International, Local, News, Opinions, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

daily mail excerpt

The MDC-Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco

Part 12/2019 (Contribution)

When will we face facts about the MDC’s “failure” from 2007 to 2014?

BRADES, Montserrat, August 28, 2019 –  Yes, MDC – Little Bay – Gun Hill fiasco. In case anyone doubts the need for a Charter of Good Governance and a Development Partnership MoU with the UK Government, he or she needs to face the MDC fiasco facts. Fact one, in 2011 – 12, DfID for cause concluded that the Montserrat Development Corporation had failed:

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis ofthis failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.” [DfID 2012 MDC Business Case,[1] p. 4]

Notice, carefully, DfID’s evaluation of MDC by 2011 – 12: “MDC has not performed to date as had been expected . . . failure.”

Yes, Fact 2: DfID put in another $5+ millions and tried to help pull MDC out of the morass.

Sadly, Fact 3: that too failed, and by 2014 we saw whistle-blowers, investigations and a funding lock-off.  (All of that stuff that we have forgotten.)

Then, Fact 4: in 2015, we were splashed across UK newspaper headlines[2] as a capital example of DfID’s aid failures. (Something else we forgot.)

Conclusion A: our opinions or clever punditry and political rhetoric are irrelevant, it is DfID that (for cause) has lost confidence in us.

In short, Conclusion B: if we are to make serious progress on rebuilding our country, we have to rebuild our credibility and demonstrate world-class capacity to manage the US$ 200 – 400 millions of investments across 10 – 20+ years that it is going to take to transform our economy.

Indeed, Conclusion C: credibility and capacity to carry forward a transformation programme are the pivotal challenges we face over the next three to five years.

That is what makes understanding the MDC- Little Bay-Gun Hill fiasco so important for our future. And no, by September 2014 it was clear that DfID lost confidence in the MDC and was not going to back further projects, given governance and management challenges that led to the emergence of a key whistleblower. By the next May, we were being splashed across the UK Tabloids as a key example of alleged corruption with UK development aid. That was a nearly mortal blow to Montserrat. And yes, “fiasco” is their word:

DfID’s 2012 MDC business case is quite clear:

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new FDI in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development. Whilst some infrastructure provision and construction has occurred on the Little Bay site, it has not yet generated significant momentum and is hampered by poor physical access, an impractical master plan, fragmented and unprofessional marketing and promotion, and an unsupportive policy environment. 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.

[pp. 3 – 4]

In effect, by 2012 – after five years – MDC had failed to get self-sustaining investment momentum going (reallocating its funds to build a few buildings – with a cloud of associated questions over procurement[3] –  doesn’t count). A further injection of EC$ 5+ millions then failed by 2014, leading to whistleblowing then loss of confidence by DfID and finally to tabloid headlines.

A further factor we drive by every day but seem to overlook was the diversion of millions of EDF capacity development funds to knock down Gun Hill[4] (which was to “signal the start of the US$96 million dollar port development project in the Carrs Bay area”). The material was then used to fill up Piper’s Pond (which was supposed to become the new town centre . . . another evaporated idea); thus destroying the last remaining significant wetland on our West Coast.  Here is what we did to the now collapsing Gun Hill:

However by February 2014, after sixteen months no investment partners were found for the proposed Carrs Bay seaport development, so the UK proposed a reported £23 million, less costly but arguably adequate port development at Little Bay. (So, five years later we are only now clawing back up to what we already had on the table in February 2014 but walked away from.)

Worse, we also ended up with two environmental failures and two eyesores to this day. That’s why on August 9th just past, TMR  reported on the recent Audit on Gun Hill[5]:

The removal of Gunn Hill had immediate adverse effects such as loss of scenic quality, loss of resilience to storm attack and reduction of sediment supply to the coast. To date, no manmade landscape was created as a result of the discontinuation of the project.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found that the appearance of sinkholes in and around the site highlighted the danger of using the area for fishing, increased dumping of soil and boulders and derelict items and vehicles which can be easily moved during strong wind and heavy rains.

Extraction of a significant portion of the hill has weakened the superstructure; Additionally, ongoing mining of significant amount of sand using excavators also threatens the possibility of further erosion . . . .

Government of Montserrat should always ensure that they have agreed alternate sources of financing to cover the full cost of a project before commencing projects of such nature and magnitude. Further, a request should be made for every project/proposed development requiring an environmental impact assessment to include a section on the impact on the environment at the end of each critical phase of major projects if it were discontinued.

This is where we are since 2012 – 14, utterly discredited in the eyes of DfID (and then the UK public); starting with MDC but going far beyond that.

That was not helped when, after two years of effort, a Programme Management Office was finally set up, only to see its Director frog marched out of Government Headquarters a few months later,  in July 2017. Marched out, on a no-cause clause dismissal; which is obviously highly questionable. The dragons had struck back.[6] Nearly two more years of foot-dragging in murky waters followed, before we could re-start the PMO under a new head. That has multiplied our utter discredit, having already cost Montserrat two (or is it three . . . ?) more needlessly lost years.

We must do better, much better.

Clever rhetoric and finger-pointing blame games or vague promises to wave one’s magic wand, hey presto are not going to solve the problem. Nor, can we go back and conveniently erase this history.  Instead, we must learn from it and make sure that the restored PMO is credible, solid, substantial. For one, it will need to go back to the Axelos, PRINCE2 system as a benchmark for world class project, programme and portfolio capacity-building and governance. We must at least be as sound as that. 

Similarly, any onward trade, investment, town development and tourism promotion agencies will have to have far stronger governance mechanisms than those that failed for the MDC.  That points to the same Axelos yardstick.

And yes, that cuts clean across what our dragons want – or for that matter, the UK ones. It is therefore we the people who will have to collectively put our feet down and say, enough is enough . . . after twenty lost years.


[1]           See: http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[2]           See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

[3]           TMR, May 17, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/opposition-leader-romeo-questions-mdc-procurement-practises/

[4]           TMR, Aug 20, 2013: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/gun-hill-removal-to-begin-next-week-seen-as-commencement-of-port-project/

[5]           TMR, Aug 9, 2019: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/auditor-general-reports-on-the-degradation-at-gunn-hill-carrs-bay/

[6]           TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, De Ole Dawg, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Please Support The Montserrat Reporter

This is bottom line for us! Unless we receive your support, our effort will not be able to continue. Whatever and however you can, please support The Montserrat Reporter in whatever amount you can (and whatever frequency) – and it only takes a minute.
Thank you

TMR print pages

Flow Internet Open Gifts

Notice – British American Insurace Company Ltd.

Newsletter

Archives

Bank of Montserrat – Scholarship Offer

FLOW - Back to School

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d