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Good communication is lacking – is it ignorance or dishonesty? - II

Good communication is lacking – is it ignorance or dishonesty? – II

April 21, 2017

Last week we began noting, not for the first time that good communication is lacking and asked whether this was because ignorance or dishonesty!

Surprised, we were to find that while there was no disagreement on the matter, but that we were probably too general as sometimes we are likely to be, finding no need to point directly as indeed there is enough to go around the circle.

The problem is that far too many, really many people do not understand that learning how to effectively communicate with others while choosing the right words can literally make or break growth. The question does remain however, who is interested in growth? A politician, a would-be politician, a priest, a teacher, student, parent, a manager… and everyone and anyone.

A business owner, having the ability to communicate is a vital key for long-term success. If An employee, knowing how to become a more skilled communicator will increase your value to the company and marketplace. Just being a good communicator, makes a good listener, knows when the politician is well intended or just crooked, or just as bad, in between.

So, when one side fails to exercise the skills of providing good communication, isn’t it time for the other to sharpen their skills?

One thing is sure that when truth guides the communicator, communication is easier. It is poor communication when the Human Resources (HR) department does not know or understand that they first must know how to communicate a vacancy, requiring firstly the need to make that vacancy information available to everyone.

One politician once said, “I cannot tell or inform everything, so it’s on ‘the’ website, not realising that the website is merely one tool one uses to communicate and that it requires someone with special expertise to make it work successfully. That’s knowing exactly how to effectively communicate the message or plan to the world.

Then the other thing, it requires knowledge about the message which you hopefully, want to truthfully share. Listen to the messages that come out on some of the talk programs around us that gets so mixed up. Their problem, is the difficulty of speaking without facts or intentionally misleading and or ignorantly choking with scarce truths; that they should know better.

Reference the fact that up to 2014 budgets for some years prior were made by March 31, but on figures that were allowed but not yet approved in some cases. See our recent editorials. Analysis that are skewed which must leave the listeners if any very misinformed. There was one case where the analysis contradicted itself, doing more damage to themselves.

Of course, knowing what, when and how to say anything especially when providing information for everyone to follow, is vitally important.  It lacks sense to misinform when the main idea should be to educate, so that as the matter gets clearer, simpler, you easily become a winner.

Two matters financial matters arose recently for the Government involving UK government’s budget approval and the cessation of funding from the Caribbean Development BNTF program. Much has been coming from those who could not show that they have anything to show that either of these are disastrous enough to put Montserrat in a worse position than it is economically.

Lack of knowledge in our view by these critics who are looking rather to bring down than provide ideas that would make a setback, if there is one, a success. Unfortunately lack of good communication by government does encourage the poverished behaviour, and when all put together, Montserrat loses.

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Good communication is lacking – is it ignorance or dishonesty? II

Good communication is lacking – is it ignorance or dishonesty? II

 

Last week we began noting, not for the first time that good communication is lacking and asked whether this was because ignorance or dishonesty!

Surprised, we were to find that while there was no disagreement on the matter, but that we were probably too general as sometimes we are likely to be, finding no need to point directly as indeed there is enough to go around the circle.

The problem is that far too many, really many people do not understand that learning how to effectively communicate with others while choosing the right words can literally make or break growth. The question does remain however, who is interested in growth? A politician, a would-be politician, a priest, a teacher, student, parent, a manager… and everyone and anyone.

A business owner, having the ability to communicate is a vital key for long-term success. If An employee, knowing how to become a more skilled communicator will increase your value to the company and marketplace. Just being a good communicator, makes a good listener, knows when the politician is well intended or just crooked, or just as bad, in between.

So, when one side fails to exercise the skills of providing good communication, isn’t it time for the other to sharpen their skills?

One thing is sure that when truth guides the communicator, communication is easier. It is poor communication when the Human Resources (HR) department does not know or understand that they first must know how to communicate a vacancy, requiring firstly the need to make that vacancy information available to everyone.

One politician once said, “I cannot tell or inform everything, so it’s on ‘the’ website, not realising that the website is merely one tool one uses to communicate and that it requires someone with special expertise to make it work successfully. That’s knowing exactly how to effectively communicate the message or plan to the world.

Then the other thing, it requires knowledge about the message which you hopefully, want to truthfully share. Listen to the messages that come out on some of the talk programs around us that gets so mixed up. Their problem, is the difficulty of speaking without facts or intentionally misleading and or ignorantly choking with scarce truths; that they should know better.

Reference the fact that up to 2014 budgets for some years prior were made by March 31, but on figures that were allowed but not yet approved in some cases. See our recent editorials. Analysis that are skewed which must leave the listeners if any very misinformed. There was one case where the analysis contradicted itself, doing more damage to themselves.

Of course, knowing what, when and how to say anything especially when providing information for everyone to follow, is vitally important.  It lacks sense to misinform when the main idea should be to educate, so that as the matter gets clearer, simpler, you easily become a winner.

Two matters financial matters arose recently for the Government involving UK government’s budget approval and the cessation of funding from the Caribbean Development BNTF program. Much has been coming from those who could not show that they have anything to show that either of these are disastrous enough to put Montserrat in a worse position than it is economically.

Lack of knowledge in our view by these critics who are looking rather to bring down than provide ideas that would make a setback, if there is one, a success. Unfortunately lack of good communication by government does encourage the poverished behaviour, and when all put together, Montserrat loses.

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There really isn’t anything to hide over budget scrutiny

There really isn’t anything to hide over budget scrutiny

Editorial – April 7, 2017

This Montserrat Government (GoM) for its first two budgets (2015-17) had what appeared to be an easy time and might have given the impression or caused it to be perceived that they had no problem then.

But here we are with the normal time of budget presentation gone never mind there has been no approval. This said because what no one hears about because it is obvious there are too many ostriches as we must believe that if only because TMR noted it, the budgets of 2012-13–14 were what we called ‘sham budgets’ or what we may now seem to learn were really roll-over budgets.

Something happened; do the ostriches not know, or is it that the British ‘heads’ are right in their thinking that Montserrat’s best chance is now rather despite what has been squandered and that there is nothing better to come?

And where are we, one might ask? Just short of TCI 2009. Only that the resistance is quiet acknowledgement and inability to understand the subtlety of British diplomacy, especially in the light of their own culpability. In that regard, there are persons who are still nervous, who already have lost their jobs and others demoted or moved across nervously waiting to see if they may yet be quietly disgraced.

Up to April 27, 2012 even though a budget presentation had been made, Montserrat’s cost of living was being cited as one of the reasons that “it is impossible to get to that trajectory budget support” by HMG.”

Dr. Kato Kimbabwe DFID’s representative on Island in addressing why the budget had not yet been approved, had said that because of the increasing cost of living on Montserrat and a few other things that needed to be addressed, along with, “The road map which used to be a document that essentially guided their financial relationship between DFID and the government of Montserrat setting out what the budget provisions over the next five years, would have to be rescinded…the process is on the way and normally we agree the budget and agree the business case well before the end of March…it took slightly longer than we had expected…”

So, who remembers and who said what, when in 2013, it was not until 20 May 2013 the announcement came “that the budget aid settlement amounting to EC$70.3million has been agreed.” This was an increase over the previous year by $13.2million.

But there was a budget presentation in March. Then, it was accepted that a presentation had to be made even if it was based on the previous year’s allocations, especially if it was reasonably believed the budget approval would not be less. In actuality this would have already been conveyed; the question will GoM get all it requested. In this particular case they did not, but did better than some anticipated, knowing the arguments and questions that were raised by the negotiating teams.

That year monies were provided for the Opposition office, DFID playing their part to provide good governance. $3million to settle outstanding financial liabilities; $2m to meet critical gaps; $1.5m increase in the sea and air access and 5.3m increase in the recurrent budget. Also increase in strengthening Audit function.

In 2014, the approval never came again until April and it was believed that MCAP’s loss at the general election polls could have been attributed to the Aide Memoire that eventually surfaced following another ‘temporary’ budget presentation in March.

Numerous Appropriation bills were the order of those years.

There was understandably much discussion over the green PDM government’s first budget presentation but they came out of that one, ill prepared as it had seemed, with housing allocation which their predecessor had not been able to obtain for all the years prior. But last year there was little if any observation that there was a lapse back to what this current Financial Secretary has hinted is ‘criminal’ to not spend budgeted monies.

So, what really is the state of the scrutiny now that has become so pronounced? We will speak to these soon, but by then if the soundings are correct there may be motions in place to fix what may be the cause reasons creating the communication dysfunctions in the island. As hinted earlier the closet doors will have to be thrown open, one way or the other.

 

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Think now about St. Patrick’s Day week of activities, to make it count

Think now about St. Patrick’s Day week of activities, to make it count

We did not publish a newspaper on March 17, 2017, which date would not have been used, the day being the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, declared some 32 years ago in 1985. But it is a wonder how many would know the reason for the non-publication. And the truth perhaps, who cares!

However, if we did publish, the news would have certainly concentrated on the events of the week; the events of festivities and celebrations, the events staged for entertainment, most of which were cause of annoyance for a few who continue to ponder and question, some even including the Catholics who remember the real reason the day is remembered or commemorated, it being the feast day of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of the church parish in Montserrat.

And yes, the questions and ponderings that made up the failed UWI local campus St. Patrick’s Day Lecture, now a fixture on the week of activities calendar, and easily, outside a couple rerouted events, the only disappointment perhaps, for the week.

From here that failure should have served as instructive to existence in Montserrat, instead of being so very badly misrepresented as far as the early and continued willingness to blame conveniently the wrong people for a sequence of events that should probably not have begun as far the nonperformance of the Lecture. (See the facts in the front-page story in this issue from the eventual main players) The topic of that Lecture: “St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Montserrat: Cultural Development or Cultural Irresponsibility.”

Thus we remember, but can the question be understood, asked 17 years ago by C. Kirnon in an article: “Have we joined forces and fought for the common good of all? Or do we just portray St. Patrick’s Day Heroism by delivering speeches, writing books and poems, and perhaps staging skits and plays?”

There were several other thoughts expressed and questions asked in the article, and we highlight once again, the beginning of the article, for the time being.

This was in 2000. “It is now 232 years since the 1768 planned slave revolt in Montserrat. As background let me remind you the readers that on the 17th of March 1768, the slaves on Montserrat decided to overthrow their masters and thus gain their freedom. Remember they were not treated as equals but rather like beasts of burden. They were forced to work for long hours and were beaten if they tried to rest.”

There were all kinds of expressions, yes freedom of expression at work, but it is our suggestion, that when that is exercised we should seek always to do so on a sound foundation and with good purpose.

A sentiment expressed somewhere: “Members of the public who were in attendance and others who were waiting to view via live stream said the cancellation of the lecture based on government interference was blatant censorship and felt like a modern day 1768 betrayal.” Opinion? Maybe, expressed too early, to be kind.

Here is someone’s description which may just be a part of or maybe just an expression of an incomplete take on what is a commemoration rather than celebration. “Montserrat celebrates St. Patrick’s Day not primarily to honour its Irish heritage but to remember the nine slaves killed after a failed uprising on March 17, 1768. It is believed that a fellow slave chose to sell out the group who planned to fight for their freedom while the slave owners were celebrating.”

For the coming 250th year of the slaves uprising, beginning with the topic of the lecture that was never delivered, its contents may serve a good spring board to operate from to put all the facts and opinions together, to truly once and for all get an understanding of what it is that is commemorated and/or celebrated.

Whatever is done must take on board what was said in that article in 2000. “I am not for one minute saying that we have not had our heroic moments, for we have. Over the years we have had marches, demonstrations, strikes, enacting of Legislation to protect our basic human rights and freedoms. For instance, the right to rote, freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to own land and other property.

The sad thing is that this cowardly, undermining and, betrayal attitude, that was evidenced back in 1768, has transcended time and generations. Today it permeates our society like a cancer…”

 

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It is time ‘good and proper communication’ be given importance

It is time ‘good and proper communication’ be given importance

It is time ‘good and proper communication’ be given importance

As Montserrat tries to find its place in a world that is beginning to believe it Is not the only living planet, life and all its assortments and departments of thrills and disappointments for the past twenty plus years, may have its starts and stops, but as of today it continues to retrogress.

The feeling is that it is difficult trying to be positive as much as negativity surrounds us. For just about any venture or relationship pursued, it has been stressed inexhaustibly that without good or proper communication, success will be remote. Today, it is a course that must form part of almost every discipline.

There is a serious lack of appreciation that good, effective communication plays importantly in the conduct of life overall, socially, economically, and spiritually.

This past week saw abrasions in presentations and reactions. Worst of all is the potential libel and slander that developed in social media, serving for mischief, entertainment and gossip.

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge along with surgeon specialist Dr. Bramiah Kassim, other medical doctors Gopal and wife Asha Gopal appeared live on ZJB Radio and pledged their strong support for a colleague whom they named, an unfortunate error.                                                                                                    

ZJB’s Basil Chambers was the host. “We are here as a team, as a group of doctors, in support for our colleague, Dr. …” Dr. Buffonge began, expressing disappointment for what she said is, “the way the whole thing was managed…” further said: “

Except for breaking the protocol regarding how such matters of a sexually nature involving young women the doctors by expressing their concern about the quick action of charging was their right, and there is nothing wrong with even commenting publicly or otherwise of their belief in the actions of their fellow doctor. However, we do not know what consultation they though necessary as to how far or how much they can say.

But for the Director of Public Prosecutions to refer to the doctors’ pronouncements especially without being specific, saying, “I think it’s highly improper and downright wrong for any doctor or anybody else to go on public radio and comment on a matter that is pending before the court.” is itself more improper and even ill-advised.

That seems to us obvious actions without thought of communication and is itself challenging persons’ right to comment on issues as human as this one. What did the doctors say that had to do with, “…One has to be mindful of the right to a fair trial… to go on the radio to me [is] tantamount to trying to influence potential jurors in this matter…” which as he said has to do with the accused as well. Really? Surely, he too must be mindful of the context of the matter and indeed consider the potential outcome of police actions if they may have acted hastily. As DPP he should also be mindful of what and how he speaks.

Those who the DPP should mostly be addressing are those who resorted to social media, who may have been encouraged by their, also not so thoughtful request to ‘come forward’.

We should caution that nothing here is intended to discuss the allegations as to truth or its falsehood, but merely to draw attention to those who often are may need to provide information to the public of whatever nature. 

Likewise, the pronouncements of the Women Resource Centre while spoken in seemingly general nature of the problem facing women in particular, was in our view also untimely.

So it says, directing attention to the issue, “stands in support of this young woman and all other victims and alleged victims of gender based assault.”

What can be wrong for anyone else to express their support for an accused person. Does that in any way suggests if the actions complained of are true that they are condoned. In this case they went on to state their concerns of issues raised and should serve as further advice as to how those entrusted with the care of such matters should operate.

We submit that communication here was also untimely: “It is very unfortunate and discouraging that the onus is always on the girls and women in Montserrat to prove their allegations rather than on the alleged perpetrators to disprove them.”

Did the DPP not think after citing the matter, that this might be influencing potential jurors?

He seems conflicted as he speaks about ‘justice’ from time to time, struggling as he perhaps more than defence attorneys must always consider that the law is not just for one side, but everyone, just as he intimated in his comment, about a fair trial. Justice is for the complainer as the accused.  His office as that of the Attorney General should pay attention to the many times they face the Appeal Court, an example the just concluded Warren Cassell Case, and they are asked, “is that fair, is that justice?”

Telling the public that the doctors were “highly improper and downright wrong,” to state their concern in any matter where they are accused, is in our view is poor communication. They may have miscommunicated as well, but generally, they were not wrong or improper.

They were representing the public entitled to a view point on any matter, however the circumstances may dictate.

END

 

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It is time ‘good and proper communication’ be given importance

Editorial – March 10, 2017

As Montserrat tries to find its place in a world that is beginning to believe it Is not the only living planet, life and all its assortments and departments of thrills and disappointments for the past twenty plus years, may have its starts and stops, but as of today it continues to retrogress.

The feeling is that it is difficult trying to be positive as much as negativity surrounds us. For just about any venture or relationship pursued, it has been stressed inexhaustibly that without good or proper communication, success will be remote. Today, it is a course that must form part of almost every discipline.

There is a serious lack of appreciation that good, effective communication plays importantly in the conduct of life overall, socially, economically, and spiritually.

This past week saw abrasions in presentations and reactions. Worst of all is the potential libel and slander that developed in social media, serving for mischief, entertainment and gossip.

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge along with surgeon specialist Dr. Bramiah Kassim, other medical doctors Gopal and wife Asha Gopal appeared live on ZJB Radio and pledged their strong support for a colleague whom they named, an unfortunate error.                                                                                     

ZJB’s Basil Chambers was the host. “We are here as a team, as a group of doctors, in support for our colleague, Dr. …” Dr. Buffonge began, expressing disappointment for what she said is, “the way the whole thing was managed…” further said: “

Except for breaking the protocol regarding how such matters of a sexually nature involving young women the doctors by expressing their concern about the quick action of charging was their right, and there is nothing wrong with even commenting publicly or otherwise of their belief in the actions of their fellow doctor. However, we do not know what consultation they though necessary as to how far or how much they can say.

But for the Director of Public Prosecutions to refer to the doctors’ pronouncements especially without being specific, saying, “I think it’s highly improper and downright wrong for any doctor or anybody else to go on public radio and comment on a matter that is pending before the court.” is itself more improper and even ill-advised.

That seems to us obvious actions without thought of communication and is itself challenging persons’ right to comment on issues as human as this one. What did the doctors say that had to do with, “…One has to be mindful of the right to a fair trial… to go on the radio to me [is] tantamount to trying to influence potential jurors in this matter…” which as he said has to do with the accused as well. Really? Surely, he too must be mindful of the context of the matter and indeed consider the potential outcome of police actions if they may have acted hastily. As DPP he should also be mindful of what and how he speaks.

Those who the DPP should mostly be addressing are those who resorted to social media, who may have been encouraged by their, also not so thoughtful request to ‘come forward’.

We should caution that nothing here is intended to discuss the allegations as to truth or its falsehood, but merely to draw attention to those who often are may need to provide information to the public of whatever nature. 

Likewise, the pronouncements of the Women Resource Centre while spoken in seemingly general nature of the problem facing women in particular, was in our view also untimely.

So it says, directing attention to the issue, “stands in support of this young woman and all other victims and alleged victims of gender based assault.”

What can be wrong for anyone else to express their support for an accused person. Does that in any way suggests if the actions complained of are true that they are condoned. In this case they went on to state their concerns of issues raised and should serve as further advice as to how those entrusted with the care of such matters should operate.

We submit that communication here was also untimely: “It is very unfortunate and discouraging that the onus is always on the girls and women in Montserrat to prove their allegations rather than on the alleged perpetrators to disprove them.”

Did the DPP not think after citing the matter, that this might be influencing potential jurors?

He seems conflicted as he speaks about ‘justice’ from time to time, struggling as he perhaps more than defence attorneys must always consider that the law is not just for one side, but everyone, just as he intimated in his comment, about a fair trial. Justice is for the complainer as the accused.  His office as that of the Attorney General should pay attention to the many times they face the Appeal Court, an example the just concluded Warren Cassell Case, and they are asked, “is that fair, is that justice?”

Telling the public that the doctors were “highly improper and downright wrong,” to state their concern in any matter where they are accused, is in our view is poor communication. They may have miscommunicated as well, but generally, they were not wrong or improper.

They were representing the public entitled to a view point on any matter, however the circumstances may dictate.

 

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Humility is a needed, with an understanding of the role of being legislator

Editorial – January 27, 2016

Well, if all you did was listen to the campaign restricted only to radio announcements and statements and attend couple of announced rallies, you would think that this is a general election campaign. That situation if you agree is i

Anyhow, it is a by-election and one can imagine becoming a legislator with less than 20% of the votes, a situation which can exist when voting in constituencies. That of course assumes votes might be nearly evenly split. That suggestion was last mentioned last in 1996, but the question this time is whether the 1/8 rule apply now.

There are seven candidates for this by-election and it is not with its own form of entertainment which depends on one’s expectations. Politics on Montserrat continue to provide unmatched entertainment for the pundits both local and regional; and yes even international.

As observed time and time again, “Only the issues Matter” this is not the time for that. Yet many of the seven still found it convenient and perhaps necessary to talk about their plans to change the circumstances of life in Montserrat, when in fact except for the PDM candidate they can do no more than being the best legislator they can be, hoping that their inputs, questions, suggestions, even demands are good enough to get attention.

As mentioned or suggested in another article, it is questionable that nearly all of these candidates know what their role ought to be if elected as a legislator. Oh yes, they may be planning to sit on the government front benches other than the PDM entrants.

Of course, it is the right of every Montserratian to offer his or herself up for public office.

Then the electorate of Montserrat have the right to reject or accept whoever offer themselves for public office. But that electorate must know what expect from their legislator/s or perhaps a Minister of Government (a legislator in the Cabinet). Also the expectation should be the same for everyone, and not because this one or other has a doctorate or degree, or needs a job, or is a nice fellow. That nice fellow should simply be interested in the waking up and going to bed of every Montserratian and its citizens, however or wherever.

There are those proposers and supporters who join their candidates to insult the people of Montserrat. If the electorate understand what is good and best, they will shun such behaviour coming in any form or fashion, no matter how subtle.

As for the promises and plans, will you remember them a year after you have made your choice? You should have demanded that they be in writing. Of course, that is already to the disadvantage of those who never thought of it or who deliberately, for one reason or another chose not to do so, maybe for the very reason of deceiving the electorate.

It is said ever so often, “We are a civil and Christian society.” Let us continue to behave like civil and God-fearing people, by being sensible gaining the wisdom to help bring sensibility to our politics and politicians.

A bit from yesteryear. One writer wrote back in 1996, “Is it sufficient to have a candidate who is articulate, can speak to the issues and have a good track record? These are all important, but just as important is the contempt or respect that the Regional and International community and yes, the mother country, hold for your choice of candidate.” That was speaking where there were actually three parties plus independents, contesting the  seven constituency general election. It was projected that a Coalition would result and so it did.

Montserrat needs people who will be concerned about their needs and represent its people as best possible. Definitely not those who are already brighter and smarter than everyone else. That is a losing probability. Yes, those who are willing to get on board to change the bad culture, the poor attitudes working with all around them. We want to be intelligent people who are politically aware and should be rooted in reality.

What is this about funding, do you hear them, understand them? The issue is of great and grave significance for the people of Montserrat at this time. We cannot move to any comfortable life in the immediate future without the assistance and goodwill of all Funders out there in the International Community.

 

 

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Knowing the facts will avoid distastes

Knowing the facts will avoid distastes

Editorial – December 9, 2016

May 20, 2016

It is difficult to believe that Her Excellency and Government were unaware of the long standing debacle surrounding TCOs and Montserrat’s continued failure of progress with Public Service Reform and  that first thing required was Human Resources Reform. There was the PSRU (Public Service Reform Unit), designed to address the problems.

The problem therefore was the unawareness that there was a serious lack of competence, just ignorance  or lack of interest in really improving the situation.

When Her Excellency Elizabeth Carriere repeatedly, from the day she arrived focused comments on the Public Service and the lack of capacity, for us it was obvious she was well briefed on the chaos that existed. We reported frequently on her pronouncements on the issues.

She remined of the foregoing when she announced her new plan to move forward in an effort to change the status quo. “As you will recall in my press conferences we have discussed repeatedly the need to reinvigorate the public service, to make it fit for purpose for the times we are living in and the demands of the public.”

Was she aware at that time, she did not say, that capacity for certain expertise was lacking in Montserrat? Surely, she did speak to that on the way. Did she? Surely, the Deputy Premier who is collaborating her effort by co-chairing the new venture was aware that HR-PSRU was led by at least two TCOs. Right now, or at least up to very recently there was or is a person who may well be completing a two-year stint in working on the very issue of Public Reform.

In our last Editorial, we rushed to provide information regarding the conversations to somehow quieten or lessen “the language” as the Governor referred to it in her recent and final press conference for this year. Without comment we showed that TCOs have been around, but not utilized. In addition, it was beneficial to some that skills training and scholarships were just not taken up or promoted. What does that really say about those responsible?

We were repeatedly told of their availability and offered their services. Indeed, at no stage was there a hint of a take-over. Nor was there any suggestion that these people had to be from any particular race, country or colour. In fact there was the suggestion that, with respect to the many vacancies which we sought not to fill would be filled preferably by qualified local personnel or from the region.

A look at the MDC staff and management was testament to that. Did that come from negotiation or was it an indication of a partnership and willingness to go forward?

The Governor acknowledged there was a problem with the wording of some of the job offers, acknowledging also that they need to do better in their methods of advertising which may well have been deliberately decided both in and without, but with Montserrat being the worse off for ignorance. A change in their methods of advertising, not so much their method, but the ignorant policy, will bring significant change at finding the best persons, as the Governor indicated is her or their desire.

As someone who knows the dangerous future Montserrat faces administratively and politically, we need to see them coming from Somalia, Chinese looking all kinds of colours, people who may very well have Montserrat blood in them.

Governor Carriere spoke as to what she would like to see taking place indicating that both herself and the Deputy Premiere could not be better placed as they both have expertise in the areas needed to recruit. However she denies that she forces her own preferences on her boards and committees, in making selections, pointing to the fact that even where she has sole responsibility and authority she has preferred to act with consultation.

What has been exhibited on the local front has been that refusal to research and understand what has been, particularly within the last five to ten years. It is vitally important that this happens. There seems to be little cohesion throughout Government from top to bottom. But, it is time that we have a Cabinet that sets about getting the work done. They should say, “Not just my work, my interest, but Montserrat’s work. Those who have to fund this are fed-up; they may not say this openly, but it is not a secret. How can we know otherwise?

 

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May 20, 2016

Editorial – November 25, 2016

How informed are the people of Montserrat, public and private sectors?

May 20, 2016

November 25, 2016

This week the question was posed: “What is your opinion with the influx TCOs to Montserrat?” Surprised, much thought had to be given particularly because of the source whence the question, that reasoned information should have been known, and the opinion would have been obvious. The response was forthcoming but it was interrupted.

There had been some issues surrounding the issue of TCOs but not of concern as to whether Montserrat needed them or not.

Firstly, let us direct our people’s attention to the Race Relations Act which says under Discrimination against applicants and employees

  1. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall, with respect to any employment at an establishment in Montserrat, discriminate against another—
    (a) in the arrangements made for the purpose of determining who should be offered that employment; or (b) in the terms in which the offer of employment is made; or (c) by refusing or deliberately omitting to offer that employment to a particular person.

(2) No employer shall discriminate against an employee in relation to— (a) the terms of employment of that employee; (b) the employee’s access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, or to any other benefits, facilities or services; (c) acts of dismissal, or disciplinary acts or any other act of the employer which is to the detriment of the employee.

The public servants are entitled, unlike the private sector, to the services i.e. advice and the interpretations of the Attorney General’s Chambers. Some understanding of the above alone might tell them on what grounds they stand.

Then following are some extracts that speak directly to, or provide useful information for the concerns of our questioner. These are from Aide Memoires as noted.

Aide Memoire of 2013: the following explains –

Delivery of Key Public Services in 2012/13

  1. GoM suffers critical capacity gaps. In 2012/13 DFID provided funds for both longer term skills development and to satisfy immediate and critical needs. Whilst uptake of the Annual Country Training Scheme (ACTS) has been good, with the allocation brought into the recurrent budget in 2012/13 and fully utilised, GoM has not taken good advantage of the short term (STTC) and long term technical cooperation (LTTC) programmes, utilising around 30% of the support available. Although delays can be justified to some extent by fulfilling time-consuming recruitment protocols, GoM should consider where efficiencies could be made to enhance use of the support available.
  2. The continuing lack of socio-economic data continues to hamper evidence on social development indicators, including poverty levels, undermining policy analysis, planning and prioritisation. DFID agrees with GoM that a Statistics Director is a priority LTTC post… and welcomes the recruitment of a Senior Social Policy Planner.  Further analysis of the 2011 Census data is anticipated this year.
  3. DFID welcomes GoM’s release of the 2009 CDB funded Comprehensive Poverty Assessment (CPA) though is concerned to note that 36% of the population was classified as poor, a third of whom are under 15 years of age, and a further 3% classified as extremely poor[1]. The primary causes of poverty in Montserrat are economic – low wages, continually rising prices and lack of employment opportunities.  Neither public sector pay nor social welfare has increased since 2006.  Meanwhile, inflation from 2006 to the present time is around 25%. DFID looks forward to seeing issues further analysed in the much delayed social welfare review, anticipated to start shortly, and also in the minimum wage analysis planned by GoM under the new Labour Code (2012). Meanwhile, DFID intends to actively follow-up on the much delayed technical support agreed to address child safeguarding concerns.

Aide Memoire – dated February, 2014 – very much an MCAP government killer

Capacity and Technical Cooperation

The 2013 review of the SDP[2] highlights lack of human capacity in critical areas as a continuing development constraint with implications for effective delivery of public services. DFID will continue its support for longer term skills development through ACTS, with 13 new awards allocated in 2013/14 bringing the total of existing scholarships to 20.  Priorities for 2014/15 were due to be confirmed by Cabinet following the budget mission and discussions with DFID.  GoM is attempting to align ACTs with identified skills gaps in Montserrat though this is constrained by the need to complete a Labour Market Strategy (LMS). MCWL have revised ToRs for this work and anticipate completion by August 2014.[3]  By September 2014 it is expected that work to improve the education curriculum will be linked with the LMS to improve labour market planning.  

DFID will continue to support GoM to address critical line-post gaps through LTTC. HRMU is in the process of identifying new requirements for 2014/15 as well as continuing recruitment efforts for agreed posts in 2013/14. Once GoM’s finalised requests for 2014/15 have been approved by DFID, the agreed amount will be reflected in GoM’s recurrent budget.  STTC, which is a one year project set up in 2013/14 to fund urgent social and economic development priorities, will have a project completion review (PCR) carried out by the end of this month. DFID is currently reviewing the funding arrangements for STTC next year, drawing on the lessons from the PCR and GoM requests for 2014/15.

Challenges remain in TC recruitment, although this situation has improved over 2013/14. Of 12 critical LTTC posts identified in 2013/14, four remain unfilled, with a further new post recently added. Serious delays have occurred in the recruitment of a Chief Economist, Chief Statistician, Crown Counsel, Child Safeguarding Specialist, a Senior Social Worker and Community Mental Health Officer. GoM and DFID will work together to agree an alternative strategy (for example, more effective advertising, reviewing the use of recruitment agencies and benchmarking of salaries) to improve the utilisation of TC.

DFID will continue to support GoM to address critical line-post gaps through LTTC. HRMU is in the process of identifying new requirements for 2014/15 as well as continuing recruitment efforts for agreed posts in 2013/14. Once GoM’s finalised requests for 2014/15 have been approved by DFID, the agreed amount will be reflected in GoM’s recurrent budget.  STTC, which is a one year project set up in 2013/14 to fund urgent social and economic development priorities, will have a project completion review (PCR) carried out by the end of this month. DFID is currently reviewing the funding arrangements for STTC next year, drawing on the lessons from the PCR and GoM requests for 2014/15.

Every Ministry and department of GoM should have access to these documents before and since. Any ignorance of these or misunderstanding, there must be, testifies to the sad state of affairs we have heard or often known surrounding the public servants. The Human Resource Unit, in particular should be asked for a report, that is if they acknowledge their state, now and then; and suspecting that such a report has been forthcoming, it should be made public.

We suspect there would be no surprise that the current government because of their own incompetence, assuming knowledge, which if there is not, indicts them further rather than excuse them.

  1. Challenges remain in TC recruitment, although this situation has improved over 2013/14. Of 12 critical LTTC posts identified in 2013/14, four remain unfilled, with a further new post recently added. Serious delays have occurred in the recruitment of a Chief Economist, Chief Statistician, Crown Counsel, Child Safeguarding Specialist, a Senior Social Worker and Community Mental Health Officer. GoM and DFID will work together to agree an alternative strategy (for example, more effective advertising, reviewing the use of recruitment agencies and benchmarking of salaries) to improve the utilisation of TC.

The following should also be noted and kept in mind at all times. This would be found in many Business Cases for the various projects.

The UK’s responsibilities to Montserrat (and all the aided Overseas Territories) are:

  • meeting the reasonable needs of aid-dependent OTs;
  • accelerating towards self-sufficiency where possible; and

managing the risk of contingent liability and ensuring OTs meet international commitments

Again, every public servant should know what the foregoing entails and live up to their side and make demands as required to achieve a common goal.

 [2] GoM, July 2013 Review Report for Medium Term Development Strategy, 2008-2012.

[3] The Labour Market Strategy is both an SGP and an EU indicator.

 

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Opale Express

Are the real “Access” facts on the table? What or Who guides the discussions?

By Bennette Roach

Let us follow up with the discussion which suggests that the Montserrat Government (not just the Premier), the Ministers and Public Servants, must seek to understand the issue of “Access” and the issues surrounding it, as against the ‘folly and emotional need’ of a ferry.

At the moment as far as cargo in, and out of Montserrat, like the ferry the Government (DFID) subsidises in even a better fashion than the ferry could provide. Same applies to the air transport, with the vast contrast that the service is inadequate. So then there is the immediate and not at all difficult proposal to get a twin-otter services to and from Montserrat. We know that all the provisions have been made for this in this year’s Financial Aid package.

We ask again, who are those people and what do they bring to the table informing the discussion and decision processes to have an immediate solution that will move to the short, medium and long term progress of Montserrat’s overdue development.

Instead of making statements, such as ‘nobody wants the ferry service like I do, because there are people who need the service’, get out and tell the people the truth about why there developed the problem of no ferry service. Tell the people what it is costing to satisfy the service that brings very little returns. Hmmm! Value for Money!

If the Communication Service, now so severely lacking, to deal with this, do something about it. Instead of having people throwing hints and then have others tossing accusations and begging to be exposed for their own peace, do something about it.

What is the story about the quality of the ferry being preferred by those paying for it? We listen to much ill informed, asking questions and answering them with heavy criticisms. These are only farce with the acknowledgement that the real information is not forthcoming.

We make the argument agreeing with the Governor in her kind way of reemphasising the impoverished attitude of our public servants which includes the Ministers etc. There is also her earlier statement that there are more and better able capacity, expertise and knowledge, the case is true all round that exists in any public service.

What other countries do is bring on board advisers to Ministers who as the Governor points out make the policies that are then managed and carried out by the Permanent Secretaries through the rest of the public service. What did their boss say about that? This must be done without personal bias, or favour. The last time this was mentioned, so too was the Public Administration Act.

The truth and the bottom of the problem has to do about good governance and integrity: “…the interests of good practice and fairness”. It is much more to do with jealousy, greed and selfishness. So is it really just ‘lack of understanding and awareness?”. That is indeed the nice way of putting it. But we say it is deliberate. It has become a very bad culture. Only that culture is not really built in 20 years. But this it has become meaning it may be that latent thing the lady professor highlighted in her recent sojourn here and her call to action. Sorry we missed her, but… here is a phrase no longer to be tolerated, “…this is Montserrat!.”

Earlier we posed the suggestion that the serious lack of capacity that continues to plague the public service has much to do with the fact Montserrat was run by and for the four economists, most of whom are no longer in sight but with very strong physical effect on government business.

DFID had this to say in May 2001, after C M John Osborne had said the comments were disastrous for Montserrat: the people of Montserrat must understand that the helicopter and the ferry are costing over £100,000 per month in subsidies.

He pointed out that the ferry, capable of holding over 200 passengers, carried only 11 persons one day this week and that the helicopter “runs very rarely with a full company. We can’t continue like that” he said.

As for DFID’s meeting all its operational costs, salaries and other wages from money sent as aid to the people of Montserrat, he said:

“All of the professionals who are here working for DFID are here for a particular purpose, to do something for Montserrat. I think it would be unfair to expect the British government to pay them separately from the funds that have been given to Montserrat; because in considering the budget, how much money to allocate, they take in the factor of how much we need for experts like engineers, and architects. In a year, two years’ time, there will be less experts here so there will be less money. It’s standard practice.”

So what is the case being put to DFID who must agree the spend of the money it has provided for access. Here is what no one is telling the people: “Access subsidy – Up to £1,402,000: To support and maintain access to Montserrat.

Note this is not just ‘ferry’ access. Montserrat pushes the ‘ferry’ button but since 2012 (in fact 2009) with no proper tourism plan in place, is yet to satisfy that this difficult to support strategy is without any real base. That is where the issue lies. So here is the problem on that!

  • The sea ferry subsidy, of up to £1,186,000, is dependent on the Government running the ferry service on a purely commercial basis which maximises revenue. The ferry subsidy will therefore not be used for the provision of complimentary or arbitrary reduced cost tickets.

Get the message? That is bringing the discussion to a whole new level. Soon the chicken will come home to roost!

In this SVG, FlyMontserrat and WINAIR are mentioned. The Agreement goes on to say:

Up to £164,000 will be provided to cover subsidies to the two passenger airline operators in Montserrat (SVG and fly Montserrat), and to WINAIR.

With great interest – Note: The subsidy is transferable between the air and sea providers upon agreement with DFID, in order to maintain reasonable access in the event that either mode of transport is not operational.

 

Here is some more background that should help inform the real decisions that ought to be made, when the discussions, if any, take place.

See the following, taking us back to 15 years. The problem can be stretched further back to 1998, when the decision for an airport was made in British parliament.

Consultants: ‘Obtain New Ferry, Hike Copter Fares’
July 2001

Montserrat - helicopter

Montserrat – helicopter

Consultants from Roughton International, who are on island reviewing the ferry and helicopter services here at the request of the Department for International Development (DFID), say Montserrat is spending too much of British aid funds on these services.

Note: Can you hear this tune? He was right then. Only he either did not know, the HMG agenda or he was playing the hypocritical game! But in February 2008, came the admission about the HMG strategy to then. That cleared the path for real and true development. A year later distrust was realised and five years later, “ambitious and fantasy” (not my words – HMG and USA experts) – We are now here nearly two years later, with no plan to correct or move on.

At a public discussion Team Leader Kenneth Grundey may have confused the public with the complexity of subsidies and deficits. He said annual figures show that spending on the ferry totals EC$8,171,147 and on the helicopter amounts to EC$4.6 million. Despite ferry revenues of EC$2,184,389, the ferry is left with a deficit of EC$5 million. For the helicopter, despite passenger revenues, there is still an annual deficit of EC$2.9 million.

Note: In 2016 I can well imagine the situation would be the same for the two years since Montserrat landed a one-year ferry contract from March 2014 and again effective March 2015 but signed three months later. There were obviously DFID concerns then, but also obvious, is that those responsible for the decision did not notice or overlooked what came to haunt them a year later in March this year: during which time, again concerns were raised by DFID in the form of their questions.

Observation: People must know that since 1999 (White Paper) HMG has declared they will not tell the OTs what to do, repeated in 2012 White Paper still being referred to; and also statements reiterating that position. (Alan Duncan in December 2011 – see last week’s Editorial, best read online. www.themontserratreportercom).

The consultants then suggested possible alternatives for each service. (Please note: This was 2001.)

For the ferry, they presented five:

  1. Maintain current use of the ferry and keep losing almost $6 million annually;
  2. Stop use of the ferry altogether, which would inconvenience travelers but would allow $6 million to be put to other uses;
  3. Negotiate reduced charges, and save about EC$2 million annually;
  4. Government purchase a (the) ferry, an option the consultants considered as a last resort;
  5. Charter a new ship that is most likely to give best value for money.
Opale Express

Opale Express

The consultants chose number five, saying the Opale Express, which is currently being used, was hired for an emergency in 1997 which no longer really exists.  The ferry has a carrying capacity of 302 passengers, they said, but seldom carries more than 20 persons at a given time.
Note: (That last did not really change except from 50th Festival for the Christmas season and this year St. Patrick’s Week)

For the helicopter they offered six alternatives:

  1. Maintain current situation;
  2. Keep helicopter, but eliminate passenger service; have patients and/or government pay for medivac services, and reduce the MVO’s 40 hours of helicopter use a month to the designated 30 hours;
  3. Offer no passenger service and provide little time for search and rescue;
  4. Offer passenger service, search and rescue, medivac and MVO use;
  5. Same as four, but increase helicopter fare from EC$178 to EC$275 round trip;
  6. Same as five, but with subvention.

The consultants said they favor number five.

Some members of the public expressed concern that the consultants made no mention of expediting the airstrip process so as to negate the costs incurred by both the ferry and helicopter.

Did Eugene Skerritt, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, speak for the Government’s position at the time? He said: ”the date 2004 has been targeted for the completion of an airstrip for the island. Until that time, he said, arrangements must be made for traveling to and from Montserrat.” We know the airport was opened in 2005.

And again we know and got a run-down last week of whence the issues were built.

Now the following and again the question – did Governor Longrigg know HMG’s position of the one foot forward and one back, whereby no significant development, infrastructure would be forthcoming because of their belief about the volcanic situation?

“End Airport Discussions Quickly” Says Governor

The issue on this occasion was later in 2001

His Excellency the Governor Anthony Longrigg sees further discussions on the airport project as unnecessary  because “I mean there’s been years of discussion about this airport as I understand it,” the governor said in a radio interview with ZJB.

He said building an airport is crucial to improving life for Montserratians, and that there should be no more delays. “I don’t think it’s necessary in arguing between the Montserrat Government and the British Government,” he said.

Before his tenure as governor of Montserrat is over, Governor Longrigg said there are many things which he hopes to see accomplished.  “My main wish is that by the time I leave, the island will be a far more normal, healthy place; there will be far more job satisfaction, far more employment, far more better quality of life, I think is the best way of putting it.”

On the matter of the construction of an airport and discussions relating to it, Acting Chief Minister Mrs. Dyer-Howe told the Montserrat Reporter, “the Government of Montserrat’s position is that, we are awaiting the study from the Italians before making a decision.”

Minister for Communications and Works Dr. Lowell Lewis, who advocates discussions where the airport project is concerned, particularly the proposed site at Gerald’s is currently out of state and could not be reached for comment.

Parliamentarian Chedmon Browne has voiced concern over the fact that His Excellency the governor Anthony Longrigg is “suggesting to the listening public that the Government of the day is split on the airport issue.”

He said contrary to that suggestion, “It is not the government of Montserrat that is speaking about the issue of the airport at Geralds, it is the voice of the people who have already spoken on the issue.

Now for the governor to suggest that there is an argument within the government of Montserrat over the airport issue, well, this is news to me, and I do believe that I am a member of the New PLM Party. And I am not aware of any split or argument over the issue.  We’ve been firm on the issue OK. Our position has always been firm on the issue. If there is a split, like I said, it’s a new thing to me because we have stated over and over again that we would want DFID and the British officials to look at other alternatives we have suggested, to compare those alternatives, let us arrive at a decision. Last word spoken on it by the Chief Minister of Montserrat was that he is quite willing to wait until this latest consultancy report, which is about the fifth consultancy on the issue, comes out, before again even begin to discuss the issue.”

The Man From Baker Hill, John Allen, told the Montserrat Reporter he is fully supportive of Governor Longrigg’s stance on the airport issue. “I am grateful that somebody has forcefully put the cards on the table. The ball is in Montserrat’s court. No more discussions before the report, after the report, action!” Mr. Allen said.

 

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