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MSS hosts school’s talent in exhibition

The Montserrat Secondary School (MSS) hosted an exhibition which as ZJB reporter put it, “was a hive of activity today. It enabled students to showcase their skills in an eye-opening exhibition to mark the institution’s 80th anniversary.

A more detailed account will appear in the next TMR issue.

Posted in Entertainment, Kids, Local, News, Youth0 Comments

You Don’t Want Fries With That

You Don’t Want Fries With That

 French fries might be derived from potatoes but they’re no substitute for green leafy vegetables, nutritionists say.

CreditMatt Roth for The New York Times
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French fries might be derived from potatoes but they’re no substitute for green leafy vegetables, nutritionists say CreditCreditMatt Roth for The New York Times

If French fries come from potatoes, and potatoes are a vegetable, and vegetables are good for you, then what’s the harm in eating French fries?

Plenty, say experts and nutritionists, including Eric Rimm, a professor in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, who called potatoes “starch bombs.”

Potatoes rank near the bottom of healthful vegetables and lack the compounds and nutrients found in green leafy vegetables, he said. If you take a potato, remove its skin (where at least some nutrients are found), cut it, deep fry the pieces in oil and top it all off with salt, cheese, chili or gravy, that starch bomb can be turned into a weapon of dietary destruction.

A study last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that potatoes have a high glycemic index, which has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study found that, controlling for other risk factors, participants who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were at a higher risk of mortality compared with those who ate unfried potatoes.

Sweet potato fries might offer more Vitamin A and fiber than white potato fries but they’re still no health food, experts say. CreditCraig Lee for The New York Times
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Sweet potato fries might offer more Vitamin A and fiber than white potato fries but they’re still no health food, experts say. CreditCraig Lee for The New York Times

Dr. Nicola Veronese, of Padua, Italy, who was one of the study’s authors, said he and his colleagues were surprised at the amount of French fries Americans consumed compared with the amount consumed by people in other countries.

In the United States, potatoes are the most consumed vegetable, with Americans eating an average of 115.6 pounds of white potatoes a year, of which two-thirds are in the form of French fries, potato chips and other frozen or processed potato products, according to Agriculture Department statistics.

Of Americans’ appetite for fries, Dr. Rimm said, “It’s too bad in this country you’ll pry them from my cold dead hand.”

But fries, with their appealing “mouth feel” of warmed salt and fat, are undeniably tasty. Going fries-free seems like a lot to ask. So if you do indulge, here are some better ways to do it.

How many fries you eat matters more than things like the fries’ surface area or the type of oil used in making them, Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said.

Waffle fries rank lower on the list of better options because their greater surface area soaks up more oil, experts say. CreditEirik Johnson for The New York Times

Consider, for instance, that a large serving of McDonald’s fries is 510 calories, nearly the same as a Big Mac (540 calories), she said. The Agriculture Department lists a serving of fries as three ounces, which amounts to 12 to 15 individual potato sticks, or about 140 calories.

Split your order, get the smallest portion possible or substitute with a side salad or some kind of green vegetable, Ms. Moyer said, or get a baked white or sweet potato instead.

“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries,” Dr. Rimm said. “I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”

The National Potato Council and the National Restaurant Association did not respond to emails for comment.

Some appetizers consist of fries coated with cheese and chili or other dressings, which can deliver as much as 1,000 calories per serving, Ms. Moyer said.

Home fries are a better option because they usually have their skins and are cooked in a skillet instead of being deep-fried. Credit Ryan T. Conaty for The New York Times

Don’t overdo it on the condiments, either: An average packet of ketchup is only 10 calories but the same amount of aioli or mayonnaise can add nearly 100 calories.

“With such an epidemic of obesity, nowadays most of us need to cut back,” Ms. Moyer said. “There’s not a lot of room for an extra 100 calories here and there.”

Elaine Magee, the author of 25 books about nutrition and healthy cooking and a corporate dietitian for the supermarket chain Albertsons Companies, ranked fries best to worst this way:

Homemade baked fries: Make them at a high temperature with a sprinkling of canola or peanut oil.

Home fries: “They tend to still have their skin on as chunked or wedged potatoes, and they aren’t deep fried but tend to be fried in a skillet, usually in oil,” she said.

Sweet potato fries: Ms. Magee said Americans aren’t likely to eat as many of them as white potato fries, and they will have more Vitamin A and fiber. Still, don’t be lulled into thinking too highly of them, Ms. Moyer said, noting they’re “no health food.”

Nutritionists warn that French fry servings laden with toppings can amount to 1,000 calories.CreditClay Williams for The New York Times

Chili cheese fries: These are second to last but it depends on the kinds of fries, the chili ingredients and the amount of cheese, Ms. Magee said.

Poutine: “This is an example of taking something with fat and salt (French fries) and topping it with something that adds more fat and saturated fat (cheese curds) and topping that with something that contributes potentially more fat, saturated fat and salt (gravy),” Ms. Magee said.

Diners should ask how often a restaurant changes its oil, Dr. Rimm said. The repeated heating, cooling and reuse of oil promotes the creation of unhealthy fatty acids.

Sharon Zarabi, the bariatric program director and a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, noted that corn oil, which is often used in making French fries, is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation.

“In a country where we already consume a fatty diet comprising mostly of pro-inflammatory markers of omega-6 versus heart-healthy omega-3 (often found in fatty fish) we must limit its use and intake,” she said in an email.

Dr. Rimm suggested that consumers track how they feel after eating fries, and that, in turn, might lead to changes in eating habits.

Ms. Magee said to savor the flavor. Take half a fry, put it on your tongue and close your eyes, she said.

“Anything can be eaten healthfully if it’s eaten mindfully,” she said. “If you eat French fries that way, you will probably be satisfied with 10.”

Posted in Health, International, Local, News, Regional, Youth0 Comments

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.

Posted in Columns, De Ole Dawg0 Comments

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

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

High number of child sexual abuse cases in Trinidad and Tobago

High number of child sexual abuse cases in Trinidad and Tobago

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 21, CMC – The Children Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CATT) says it has had to deal with more than 5,000 cases of sexual abuse and sexual offenses against children during the three and a half years of its establishment.

CATT director, Safiya Noel said that more than 16,000 cases regarding children have come to its attention and that represents nearly 25 percent of the actual cases received by the authority.

CATT, which came into operation in May 2015, following the proclamation of several pieces of legislation including the Children’s Authority Act, said to date, it has received 69,319 calls and now has before it 16,661 cases.

“The number of reports of child sexual abuse and sexual offenses against children over the period amounts to 5,737 of total cases,” Noel said.

Figures released by CATT show that the majority of the cases are from the east-west corridor and

“The main forms of abuse are firstly, neglect; physical abuse and some sexual abuse,” she said, adding “working with the family is a critical thing and we have found that in a lot of single parents there is where a lot of the neglect cases”.

She said that parents themselves are either victims or victims of abuse and urged them to seek help and therapy.

“Nothing is wrong with going for therapy. You don’t have to be crazy…some­times if you think about it think, about your own lives, you would recog­nise that there are sit­u­a­tions that you strug­gle to deal with and some­times you need some­body there to help you through the process,” Noel said.

CATT chairman, Hanif Benjamin, said that a national protocol will be submitted to Cabinet for review and approval by mid-2019.

He said the document will be rolled out as a national system where it will out­line responsibilities for all stakeholders.

Posted in CARICOM, Court, Crime, Kids, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Guyana accepts CCJ ruling on transgender matter

Guyana accepts CCJ ruling on transgender matter

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov 21, CMC – The Guyana government says it respects the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that recently ruled as “unconstitutional” a law here that makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in public while dressed in clothing of the opposite sex.

The CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, also said that the law, Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, should be struck from the laws of the country and that costs are to be awarded to the appellants in the appeal before it and the lower courts.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, in an interview with the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper, said Georgetown respects the decision.

He said that now that the CCJ has ruled, Guyana must now work on adjusting its culture to include all sections of society including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people.

Nagamootoo acknowledged that the issue is a human rights one and that education will need to form a major part of the process intended to change the way persons engage with the LGBT community.

“So I think social organisations, in particular, have a responsibility to start the education process to be more tolerant to accept that we have differences in our society that we are not all the same; that we are all entitled to the same rights,” he told the newspaper.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that the Ministry of Social Protection and the Ministry of Social Cohesion would also have a role to play in the process, emphasising that the ruling “is one step forward in an appreciation of the fact that society has differences.”

He said the David Granger government must also find mechanisms through which it can give “teeth” to the decision.

In 2009, several trans women were arrested and convicted under the 1893 Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act of the offence of being a “man” appearing in “female attire” in public for an “improper purpose”.

They spent three nights in police detention in Georgetown after their arrest for the minor crime. One year later, McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the law and the treatment of the appellants during the legal process.

At the time of arrest, McEwan was dressed in a pink shirt and a pair of tights and Clarke was wearing slippers and a skirt. A few hours later, Fraser and Persaud were also arrested by the police and taken to the Brickdam Police Station.

Posted in CARICOM, Court, Education, Fashion, Legal, News0 Comments

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

Sugar workers to receive remainder of severance payment

Sugar workers to receive remainder of severance payment

GEORGETOWN. Guyana, Nov 1, CMC – Agriculture Minister Noel Holder says payments will be made to former sugar workers “as soon as possible” after the National Assembly Wednesday approved GUY$350 million (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) in supplementary funding.

“The monies going to GUYSUCO (Guyana Sugar Corporation) represents the final payment to be paid in severance to all sugar workers,” Holder told legislators.

Last month, President David Granger, speaking at a public meeting, had indicated that the severance would have been paid in two parts.

“One in the first half of the year and the second part in the second half of the year. You received your first part and you will get your second part in the second half of the year. Sugar workers are going to get their severance and I say so.

“We are not going to deny sugar workers one dollar of their severance pay. We are also going to work with the unions to make sure that the workers who cannot find employment on the estates are given a soft landing, that is, we will try to provide employment opportunities so that nobody has to suffer,” he told the meeting.

In February, GUYSUCO acting chief executive officer, Paul Bhim, said then that 1,400 ex-employees had received their full severance, with the remainder of them awaiting the remaining 50 per cent.

About 3,700 employees were issued with severance letters and the government had approved the partial payment of the severance, but there was an adjustment made, and workers, due GUY$500,000, (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) or less, was paid in full.

The coalition government has said since coming to office in 2015, it has provided GUY$38 billion to the sugar industry mostly to meet wages and debt repayments.

The government has defended its policies towards the survival of the sugar industry, noting that various estates such as Albion in East Berbice Corentyne, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt in West Demerara, were left in operation while those estates which were not profitable were closed down.

Holder also told legislators that the GUY$250 million approved for the National Drainage Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will facilitate drainage and irrigation works.

“This move is in keeping with the government’s policy for NDIA to assume responsibility for the drainage and irrigation duties that were once under the purview of GUYSUCO,” he added.

“NDIA has increased operational and maintenance cost of machinery and equipment due to extensive and unplanned works resulting from the prolonged rainy season,” he said.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Labour, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrating 39th anniversary of independence

St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrating 39th anniversary of independence

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Oct 27, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines is celebrating its 39th anniversary of political independence from Britain on Saturday with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves indicating that the country has made “modest’ economic growth over the past year.

Addressing the Military Parade here, Gonsalves said that th3e island’s diversified economy is growing and being placed on a sound footing.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addressing
the Military parade (CMC Photo)

“Indeed this year, our country is experiencing economic growth albeit it modest following upon marginal to modest economic growth in each of the last seven years.

“At the same time the government’s fiscal condition has improved despite the loss of substantial resources under the PetroCaribe agreement occasioned by the unwise banking and financial sanctions against Venezuela,” Gonsalves said.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The alliance was launched on the 29th of June 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. In 2013, PetroCaribe agreed for links with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), to go beyond oil and promote economic cooperation.

Gonsalves told the nation that amidst all the challenges facing the country “we have not gone to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) nor have we sold our citizenship and passport” he said in reference to the move by some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to lure foreign investors through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) that allows them to get citizenship in return for making a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of their countries.

“Our passports and citizenship are not commodities for sale. We oppose such sale in principle and in practice. I so re-affirm today,” Gonsalves said.

He said that the various sectors of the economy, including the banking, and credit unions “continue to play a significant role in our country’s development.

“Current initiatives by the state sector facilitate and fuel further developmental advance. We see so in the consolidating and expansion of education, health and housing revolution,” he said, noting the new Argyle International Airport is now playing a significant role in the development of the tourism industry.

He said those who had been very critical of the airport were on the losing side “again and again and again” and that the “existing hotel stock is expanding and new hotels and apartments are currently being built”.

He also made reference to the proposed US$145 million modern cargo project and the multi-million dollar plans to re-develop the city.

In his address, Gonsalves said that during the period 2010-17, St. Vincent and the Grenadines suffered losses estimated at EC$700 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) or one third of the gross domestic product (GDP) due to the impact of climate change.

“Climate change is now unfamiliar in time, type and seasonality. Unprecedented in their frequency and intensity and thus urgent beyond measure. Both the pre-existing condition of countries like ours and the immediacy of climate change have given rise to the many sided concept of small state exceptionalism as a category in the global political economy which deserves a special carve out and recognition beyond the traditional rubric hitherto of special and differential treatment,” Gonsalves added.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has extended congratulations to St. Vincent and the Grenadines with Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, saying that  “the chosen theme for this year’s festivities ‘Working together to enhance national pride’ encourages Vincentians to combine their efforts, not only to ensure a prosperous and secure future for the next generation, but also to strengthen their fraternal bonds.

“Prime Minister, the commitment of the government and People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in promoting regional integration, particularly as it relates to the Regional agenda for transport, is most appreciated.

“This is illustrated by the dedicated efforts to ensure that the importance of transport to the sustainable development of the Community remains at the forefront”, LaRocque added.

Gonsalves is the prime minister with lead responsibility for Transportation, Maritime and Aviation in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet.

“CARICOM looks forward to the continued active engagement of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in strengthening the development of the Community,” the Secretary-General said.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Labour, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

DSC_9700

Did the Education Minister claim environmental issues for teachers at MSS?

Minister of Education, Mrs. Delmaude Ryan

The Minister of Education, Mrs. Delmaude Ryan was speaking just before she declared open the Montserrat Union of Teachers Convention on Friday, October 5, at the Lookout Primary school convention.

Delivering the feature address at the Convention while expressing concern and the government’s desire to have a high number of trained teachers at the Montserrat Secondary School, which she said stood at 72% in 2016/17 and was above the average set for themselves had declined to 55% in 2017/18.

She said that the retention of teachers is a problem across the world. “This shows you the challenges all around the world in being able to retain as well as to increase the number of trained teachers in our classrooms,” she remarked.

However, she pointed out that the retention of teachers is not always about the salary. “Trained teachers overall, keeping and retaining teachers is not necessarily at times about the salary, but is the environment that is created, the support that they receive in that environment that encourages whether they want to stay or whether they want to leave,” she said.

This caused the speculation that all was not well with the conditions of work around the school, but without expanding on the issue, she concluded, “There’s a very important role that we all play in how do we work together as a team in delivering that one core essential item of education to our nation’s children.”

She then noted, “At the primary level we have 77% of teachers trained so it is at a good level comparatively to others across the world, however for Montserrat our aim is to bring that up to 100 percent trained.

Posted in Features, Kids, Local, News, Regional, Youth0 Comments

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Honourable Premier Donaldson Romeo 2019 New Year Statement

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