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Are there dozens of “genders” and “sexual orientations” to be protected by law?

Are there dozens of “genders” and “sexual orientations” to be protected by law?

Contribution  

(A special – part 3)

Is it bigotry comparable to racism to challenge today’s radical sexual agendas (and their champions in the FAC)?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 4, 2019 – This is no longer a day of live and let live about sexual identity, orientation and gender identity. That is the message sent by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee when they demanded that the five Caribbean OT’s fall in line and pass laws to homosexualise marriage or face imposition by the UK. The FAC went so far as to speak of a “bar” – language previously used to speak of the racist colour bar used to rob colonised Africans of their rights. Clearly, if one dares to challenge the radical sexual activists, she or he can expect to be labelled irrational – a “phobia” is an irrational fear – and will be targetted, smeared and pushed into the same boat as racists. We cannot have a serious conversation under such polarised and hostile circumstances; but, a serious conversation is always the first thing we need if we are to make sound policy decisions and law. Something is wrong, deeply wrong.

To see just how badly wrong, let’s start with a few of the dozens of “genders” that are now being touted by the activists. These are taken from the Genderfluid Support web site’s “master list” (which runs from A to V):

“Any gender named _gender may be made into _boy, _girl, _nonbinary, etc. . . . .

Abimegender: a gender that is profound, deep, and infinite; meant to resemble when one mirror is reflecting into another mirror creating an infinite paradox Adamasgender: a gender which refuses to be categorized Aerogender: a gender that is influenced by your surroundings Aesthetigender: a gender that is derived from an aesthetic; also known as videgender Affectugender: a gender that is affected by mood swings Agender: the feeling of no gender/absence of gender or neutral gender Agenderflux: Being agender and having fluctuating feelings of masculinity or femininity, but NOT male or female”

These are literally the first seven items on the “master list.” And yes, that is the sort of obviously irrational confusion that is now on the table. A chaos that results from rejecting our naturally evident creation order. As we saw last time, “those who try to tamper with marriage or twist sex out of its right place are playing with ruinous fire.” So, let us instead turn to the patent clarity and good sense that Jesus taught:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

But, what about sexual orientation, homosexuality, being gay or lesbian or bisexual? (After all, “sexual orientation” is protected in the Bill of Rights in Montserrat’s 2010 Constitution Order.)

The US-based Abortion-promoting Organisation, Planned Parenthood, suggests:

“Sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually. It’s different than gender identity. Gender identity isn’t about who you’re attracted to, but about who you ARE — male, female, genderqueer, etc. ”

Such definitions are of course always a work in progress, subject to extension as the radical agendas proceed. One may be sexually attracted and drawn to underage boys or girls, or to animals, or these days even robots. As was pointed out to the framers of the 2010 Constitution Order, “sexual orientation” is a psychological term not a legal one and it is dangerously vague and open to being pushed further and further into hitherto unmentionable territory. Already, we are seeing dozens of bizarre “gender” identities being touted. A warning.

But, aren’t these things genetically programmed so people cannot help what their genes made them do?

No. As we noted in the first article in this special series:

“. . . no complicated human behaviour has ever been shown to be actually determined by our genes. We are not mindless robots. The search for gay genes has unsurprisingly clearly failed despite the impressions given by the media and by ill-advised education. Instead, we are responsible, morally governed, conscience-guided. This clearly includes our sexual behaviour: our sexual attractions, acts and habits are under moral government. Of course, our impulses and behaviours can sometimes trap us in addictive, hard to escape patterns of life that are unwise, ill-advised (or even outright irrational), abnormal, damaging, disease-spreading, insanitary, destructive.

Common sense speaks again: such people need help.”

The above list of “genders” makes it very clear that that help needs to be psychological and spiritual. It is not for nothing that the Apostle Paul warned about the consequences of a civilisation turning its back on God, in Rom 1: 28 – 29: “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or consider Him worth knowing [as their Creator], God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are improper and repulsive, until they were filled (permeated, saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil.” [AMP]

That is the bottom line: will we or will we not respect our Creator? We can already see the grim consequences of turning our backs on him. Finally, principled, concerned, compassionate questioning of and/or objection to the radical sexual agendas of our day is simply not bigotry equivalent to racism. That defamation stands exposed and must be retracted and apologised for. It is time to return our civilisation to sounder footing.

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FAC Report pushes for homosexualisation of marriage How can Montserrat respond reasonably and responsibly

FAC Report pushes for homosexualisation of marriage How can Montserrat respond reasonably and responsibly

Contribution (A special)

BRADES, Montserrat, February 25, 2019 – In the February 8th issue of The Reporter, it was noticed that when Lord Ahmad appeared before the UK Foreign Affairs Committee, on December 18th last year:

“. . . right after the imposition of a public beneficial ownership register was put on the table, the very next issue raised was: similar imposition of “same-sex ‘marriage’ . . .”? (In other words, when our elected members struck a “compromise” with the FCO in 2010 such that the first “rights” to be protected in the 2010 Constitution Order are “sex” and “sexual orientation” while in Section 10 it asserted the “right to marry a person of the opposite sex” and thus to “found a family,” that was just a temporary pause for those pushing the radical sexual agenda.)”

That concern about the UK Parliament being in a mood to push for further impositions was right. For, when the FAC report on OT’s came out on February 21st, it said that “a notable point of divergence and friction is same-sex marriage, which has been legalised in all but the five OTs in the Caribbean (Anguilla, BVI, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos), though this bar is currently being challenged in the courts in the Cayman Islands.” [Emphasis added.]

“Bar” is a loaded word: it is how the British spoke of how black people in Zimbabwe or Kenya or South Africa were excluded and robbed of their rights: “the colour bar.” In other words, we the people and Governments of Caribbean OT’s are being directly compared to racists. This is not right, it is not fair, it is not true and it must be answered.

Less than ten years ago, when the Montserrat 2010 Constitution Order was being negotiated with the FCO, it was noticed that the FCO draft had in it an odd section about “right to marry” – something that, historically, has not been a Constitutional issue – that was strangely vague and which had not been frankly discussed with the people of our community. So, Montserrat’s elected representatives proposed more specific language for Section 10, that one marries a person “of the opposite sex” and so may “found a family.” As a part of discussion with the FCO, this was “balanced” by specific inclusion of “sex” and “sexual orientation” in the list of rights to be protected under law. This was then passed by resolution of our parliament, was in what was tabled in the UK Parliament and was in what was issued through the Privy Council as an Order in Council.

Less than ten years ago, it was clearly reasonable to hold that marriage is between people of “opposite sex.” So, why is it that the FAC now wishes to compare such a view with racism and colour bar? With, the implication lurking just below the surface, that our Christian convictions on the matter are unreasonable, oppressive and backward?

Arguably, such is because the homosexualism-promoting activists have been able to get their way in several major countries, including the UK and have moved on beyond getting “civil unions” recognised to demanding “marriage equality.” In some, by court rulings, in others by acts passed in parliaments, in a few by referendums. However, here, such a move would have to be by Constitutional amendment, and to deal with that we must ask a pointed question: what has fundamentally changed over the past ten years about the two sexes required to conceive a child and to properly nurture that child in a stable, wholesome family environment? Obviously: nothing.

We will also need to be clear as to what makes a claimed “right” right, and what are the limits on just law. Otherwise, we will be labelled backward bigots and targetted as oppressors blocking “rights.”

So, what is a right, and what makes it a right? Ans: A right is a binding, moral claim that one must be respected and protected due to his or her inherent dignity and worth as a human being. Such worth can only come from our being made in God’s image and “endowed with certain unalienable rights.” Rights, that start with “life.” We are morally governed, conscience-guided creatures who have responsible, rational freedom. Clearly, then, to properly claim a right one must first manifestly be in the right.

Indeed, in order to persuade us the FAC expects us to know that we have duties to truth, right reason, prudence, fairness etc. That is, they too understand that we are morally governed creatures. But, such conscience-guided moral government, in the end, has just one credible source: the inherently good, wise, loving creator God.

That’s why in July 1776, the American founders wrote:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . ”

Likewise, Jesus went on record:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

So, by implicitly comparing our stand to racism, the FAC has now forced us to justify our views, on common sense, moral principle and scripture. Marriage is based on the naturally evident creation order of the two sexes, male and female, and is a lifelong covenant under God. Where, what God joins, man must not separate.

That is also the testimony of common sense. For example, no complicated human behaviour has ever been shown to be actually determined by our genes. We are not mindless robots. The search for gay genes has unsurprisingly clearly failed despite the impressions given by the media and by ill-advised education. Instead, we are responsible, morally governed, conscience-guided. This clearly includes our sexual behaviour: our sexual attractions, acts and habits are under moral government. Of course, our impulses and behaviours can sometimes trap us in addictive, hard to escape patterns of life that are unwise, ill-advised (or even outright irrational), abnormal, damaging, disease-spreading, insanitary, destructive.

Common sense speaks again:
Clearly, distorting Marriage under false colour of law is not the right or just answer. Likewise, stigmatising people who have principled objections to such distortions as though they were backward bigots comparable to racists is equally unjust. The activists have gone too far.

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What is Marriage?

What is Marriage?

Contribution,  (A special, part 2)

Is marriage merely a contract under law that we can change as we wish?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 1, 2019 –  In their February 21st report on Montserrat and other Overseas Territories, the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) it proposed that the UK Government  “should set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage” and if that date is not met, it should impose this novelty through legislation or an Order in Council. However, such presumes that marriage is merely a convenient contractual arrangement that can be readily updated for new times, through getting rid of backward, oppressive notions. Especially, as the FAC viewed the historic understanding as imposing an unjust “bar” on homosexuals, etc.[1]

But, is that so? 

Are those who support the historic view of marriage guilty of the equivalent of the racist “colour bar” that was used to rob Africans of their rights in colonised Africa?

No.

First, historic marriage is obviously not the equivalent of Apartheid – the FAC owes us a public apology and retraction for that outrageous, subtle insult.

Instead, historic marriage rests on our nature as male and female and on sound moral principle. That’s why “marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.” For, men and women are matching halves of a whole, not just so that children may be born and nurtured in a sound family, but relationally – “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Stable marriages that honourably join men and women in a lifelong union and resulting families are the foundation of stable, sustainable society.

That is why those who try to tamper with marriage or twist sex out of its right place are playing with ruinous fire.

That is the logic behind Jesus’ words:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

Such words are not mere empty religious bigotry or myths, they reflect our naturally evident creation order, an order that we can all see by simply looking around us. An order, that is the basis for sound, sustainable civilisation. Those who tamper with it are unwittingly serving forces of chaos.

Indeed, we are already seeing the next item on the chaotic sexual agenda, a list of dozens of “genders”[2] intended to replace being male or female – and some of this is already being taught to young children in schools. One wonders, if animals and robots will also be brought into this already absurd picture. Already, factories are building sex robots.

If we are to weather this cultural hurricane, we will need a sound, principled understanding of marriage, one anchored to our nature as male and female. For example, George, Girgis and Anderson wrote in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy that:

“Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children con-tributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.” [“What is Marriage?,” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol 34 No. 1, p. 246.]

No, marriage is not merely a matter of romantic attachment and personal fulfillment, to be expressed in whatever acts we can dream up, then can freely discard once the heat of our emotions cools down. No, legislatures did not invent it, nor can they use the magic of words under colour of law to alter its fundamental nature. No, those who stand for sound marriage are not the moral equivalent of oppressive racists.

So, it’s not just about imposition without due consultation with our people. It’s not just a debate on amending Montserrat’s Constitution Order of 2010, which says that a person of appropriate age has a “right to marry a person of the opposite sex” and thus to “found a family.” Provisions, passed by the UK’s Privy Council less than ten years ago. It is about basic respect and it is about preserving the soundness of our civilisation.


[1]See, TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fac-report-pushes-for-homosexualisation-of-marriage-how-can-montserrat-respond-reasonably-and-responsibly/ and https://www.themontserratreporter.com/same-sex-marriage-in-montserrat/

[2]E.g. see: http://genderfluidsupport.tumblr.com/gender/

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Why does Montserrat need a “breakthrough”?

Contribution – Part 2/2019

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Why has it taken so long for economy transforming projects to begin to roll out?

BRADES, Montserrat, January 17, 2019 –  In his New Year’s message, Premier Romeo announced a list of “breakthrough” projects.[1] As TMR announced,[2] within days, we then saw a rush of activities on the ground.

For example, just after the New year, the “cab” for the new air traffic control tower was trailered up from the port via Davy Hill and the tunnel to the airport. Yes, it got stuck in the tunnel, but that was just a hiccup. The main point is that with a new control tower and proper lighting, the airport can open at night. That improves access for tourism and for medical evacuations by night. Tourism is our biggest hope for economic growth.

If we go down by the MCWL building, we will see solar PV panels being installed for the new 250 kW – 250,000 Watt – power plant, about 10% of our peak electrical load. Ministry officials tell us that a 750 kW plant is to follow shortly. These plants will improve resiliency and provide diversity for our power grid. Officials also informed the public that announcements on geothermal power plant development are to follow shortly. As there may be up to 100 MW – a hundred million Watts – of geothermal energy, we will be able to replace fossil fuel fired electricity, perhaps reducing prices to the consumer (including fuel surcharge) by 50% and opening up room for economic growth and high quality jobs.

Likewise, Stantec of Canada and Barbados is already doing stakeholder and environmental consultations and in coming months is to work with Government to oversee design and construction of the new breakwater and berthing facility for the sea port.

A subsea fibre optic cable is to be laid in coming months also.

Each of these initiatives has good potential to help move our economy on a growth path. That’s not the issue. The problem is, why did it take so long? What are the barriers, obstacles, roadblocks, undermining etc that have been hindering growth? What can we do to make sure barriers go away permanently and do not kill our key development projects?

A good example is a concern that is now making the rounds on the street. It is credibly said that the TC Canadian Economist who helped to push through our Economic Growth Strategy and who has helped us make key connections that opened up possibilities is being pushed out despite the many contributions he obviously could continue to make. This follows the case where an Engineer and Project Management expert who was already setting up a system for training and certifying world class capability for project management here (as well as introducing the famous PRINCE2 practical Project Management system) was frog marched out of Government headquarters, on a “no cause clause” dismissal. Of course, ever since, the Project Management Office has been put in the freezer, undermining our credibility to manage and properly govern projects and programmes. Indeed, a January 2017 Cabinet instruction to proceed with radical reform of the Premier’s Office has also been delayed, roadblocked, stalled for two years now.

Oh is Don fault, ‘e too soft an’ incompetent!

No, such things should never happen, regardless of who is or is not Premier.

We should not “need” a strong man with raised hand holding a whip over us for us to do our work properly and promptly. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago.

Just so, we should not be found undermining, slandering and pushing out people who are helping us by beginning to deliver results. Similarly, we should not throw out the baby with the bath water and we should not kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs.

It is not for nothing that Scripture warns that where we find envy and selfish ambition there will we find disorder and every evil work. It again counsels, let him who is without fault throw the first stone. As a third counsel, it informs us that we should take out the plank in our own eyes then we will see clearly enough to help our brother down in the saw-pit with the sawdust that got in his eyes.

Once we get our spiritual attitude right, we will then able to act wisely enough to come together with godly teamwork and build a sound future for Montserrat.

Where, clearly – even astonishingly, Premier Romeo and his colleagues have in fact begun to deliver on some key, economy transforming initiatives that have been roadblocked for twenty years.  For all their faults – real and imagined – they have to be getting something right. So, it is time for a balanced look to learn lessons going forward.

Perhaps, we can notice: every one of the key projects that are moving forward is externally managed. A clue. The sea port, CDB and Stantec. The Fibre Optic Cable will be laid by a specialist ship. The Control tower “cab” is prefabricated. SALT Energy is building our solar PV plants. DfID has taken over geothermal development. The subtle signal being sent is that we have to drastically improve project governance and project cycle management capability and credibility. That’s why PRINCE2 would have been making a big difference. We must go right back to where we were in July 2017. That includes, fixing the Premier’s Office – including putting in place a capable Chief Executive Officer he is comfortable working with.

Likewise, after hurricanes Irma and Maria gave us two close calls in two weeks, resiliency moved to first priority. Suddenly power brokers in the UN, the UK and other OT’s hit by the hurricanes were listening keenly as Premier Romeo called attention to the acknowledged legal force of the UN Charter’s Article 73 . The UK is legally bound to “ensure . . . advancement”: socially, educationally, politically and economically. It is to “promote constructive measures of development.” Then the Premier  [a] withdrew Premier Meade’s request to take us off the UN’s list of territories that Article 73 applies to AND [b] invited a UN delegation to visit us. That has to go through the UK. Not too long thereafter, we are getting movement on ever so many long-stalled projects. Each of these projects also has a resiliency component. 

Last, but not least: it’s obviously time to stop scoffing at the “first call” principle and to instead use it as a strong negotiating point.


[1] See, TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/honourable-premier-donaldson-romeo-2019-new-year-statement/

[2] See TMR, addr

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Governing Montserrat 2019 – 2024

Contribution – Part 1/2019

Is “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual”  good enough for Montserrat, going forward?

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BRADES, Montserrat, January 15, 2019 –  Everything is now under the shadow of the upcoming elections; due by September (or a little later).   So, let us look at how we may best govern Montserrat over the next six years: 2019 – 2024.  Yes, six years – we have to get on with actually governing and building the future even while an election looms. Where, obviously, “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual” cannot solve our serious governance, capacity-building, social stabilisation, resiliency, and economy-rebuilding challenges. Gross exaggerations and one-sided accusations multiplied by unbalanced news coverage only serve to distort, polarise, stir up needless anger, misinform and mislead.

We must first remember:  Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – yes, that is the formal name – is supposed to be an alternative government, ready to take over at need. Fair comment: we are failing that test.

(That’s why a visiting expert has warned some of our more strident political voices that winning an election through attack politics is one thing, but building a sound governance consensus for the future is quite another.)

Obviously, while the current Premier has his failings, “is Don’s fault” cannot be the correct diagnosis for everything that is wrong after nearly twenty-four years of crisis and challenges. Similarly, Montserrat is not “dying.” Given the painful journey we have been on since July 18, 1995, our economy is not “dead,” or “the worst ever,” etc., etc. It is not true that every “foreigner” – fellow Caricom citizens! – just wants to get a UK passport and go off to greener pastures; and many who have done that provided years of service to the country.

Yes, we face many challenges, there are many errors, we have to do better.

But, the politics of polarisation, targetting scapegoats, exaggeration, half-truths, drowning out or silencing the rest of the story and of outright slander are not the way forward. So, those who have insisted on “folly-tricks” and “melee” despite repeated correction here at TMR and elsewhere have no excuse; they know better – or should know better. By insisting on the wrong way because they thought it gave them an advantage or because they were too angry to think straight, they have exposed the sad fact that they are simply not ready to lead Montserrat going forward.

Yes, we clearly have a leadership gap.

No-one is going to ride up as a shining knight on a white horse and single-handedly, magically save us from all of our troubles, not even if the MVO, SAC and Emergency people declare next year, that the eruption is over. (What about the apparent, roughly thirty-year cycle since 1897 – 98? As in 1935 – 37, 1967, 1992 – 97 etc. If it is real, a new disturbance could be due within six or so years. This, too, we have to frankly face.)

Come together should be the buzz phrase. We are the ones who have to come together, find a way to build consensus (despite our differences and disagreements) and actually work together as Team Montserrat. We must realise that the reason why crabs are in a barrel together is to be put in the same hot, boiling pot. 

That’s why “crabs in a barrel,” pulling one another back down as usual cannot work.

For just one example, did we notice that on December 18th last year, while we were debating here in the Assembly, Lord Ahmad was before the UK Foreign Affairs Committee? Did we see that right after the imposition of a public beneficial ownership register was put on the table, the very next issue raised was: similar imposition of “same-sex ‘marriage’ . . .”?[1] (In other words, when our elected members struck a “compromise” with the FCO in 2010 such that the first “rights” to be protected in the 2010 Constitution Order are “sex” and “sexual orientation”[2] while in Section 10 it asserted the “right to marry a person of the opposite sex” and thus to “found a family,” that was just a temporary pause for those pushing the radical sexual agenda.)

How are we going to deal with new colonialism by passing laws in the UK to impose whatever they want on us – on whatever excuse?

Especially, given our post volcano disaster challenges which put independence off the table for a long time to come? And, that even if we get a few seats in the parliament, we would most likely be drowned out amidst 600-plus seats?  (The American Colonists figured that out in the 1770’s.)

The only credible option is something far too many of our politicians, pundits and media voices have derided and mocked time and again: yes, the UK-acknowledged, legally binding force of The UN Charter, Article 73. We are Geographically distant, ethnically distinct and culturally diverse from the UK, and Europe, which is/are therefore duty-bound to respect our own democratic decisions, such as the 2010 Constitution Order compromise.

Where, as a right is a moral claim for respect and support, to properly claim a right, one must plainly first be in the right. For, no-one can have a right to demand that another taints conscience or damns his or her soul before God by supporting and encouraging evil.

(That’s why Jesus taught that one who causes a child to stumble into sin would have done better to have drowned instead. Where, obviously, Jesus did not issue an invitation to hate, vigilantism or violence. It is also why we see in the Revelation, that warning about how a devillish tyrant will one day order that no man could buy or sell save he take the infamous soul-damning mark of disloyalty to God. Caesar cannot demand from us what properly belongs to God alone: the loyalty of our souls.)

One step towards progress would be to humble ourselves and admit that Premier Romeo has been right to focus on the legal force of Article 73 and on the linked first call OT’s have on the UK aid/development budget.

Indeed, that “first call” is precisely why FCO and DfID support our recurrent budget year to year with a 60% grant, and are supporting the new Economic Growth Strategy and the work-in-progress “£30-plus million” five-year capital programme. It is also why sea port and airport developments are being funded and it is why DfID has been funding Geothermal exploration and development. It is why a new standby generator has just been put in place at the new ZJB building above the Carr’s Bay corner.[3] It is why STANTEC consultants have now arrived, to take charge of building the new port breakwater and quay. It is why as the new year dawned, those two trucks carried the new airport control tower “cab” from the sea port up to the airport – and yes, that is how it got stuck in the tunnel until somebody let air out of the tyres of the trailer.  (And, once we have a better control tower and lighting, night flights will be possible – a tourism opportunity. Also, that would allow medical evacuation flights on fixed-wing aircraft. [Attitude check: Why were we so caught up in how “it got stuck in the tunnel” and seemingly overlooked the tourism and improved health services opportunities?])

Article 73 is also why the subsea fibre optic cable is still on the table despite a bad press in the UK tabloids. It is why the new ZJB building and other government facilities have been funded – despite delays and serious project management problems for many years. It is why we are still working together towards a proper hospital and social housing, despite all the delays, confusions and finger-pointing debates. It is why roads, bridges and other civil works are steadily being funded.  And much more.

It is initiatives like these which will open up opportunities for economic growth and sustainable, inclusive livelihoods, high quality jobs and general prosperity.  So, it is time for a new conversation on how we can best move forward together under our national vision. The time for “crabs in a barrel” as usual is over. 


[1] See Q221 vs. Q237: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/oral/94446.html

[2] See Section 2:http://constitution.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/monstitution-order-oct-2010.pdf 

[3] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/honourable-premier-donaldson-romeo-2019-new-year-statement/

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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

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