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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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May 20, 2016

Hospital Site and Consultations

– August 12, 2016

 

May 20, 2016

“An aggressive communications strategy in which we engage all our stakeholders. Government of Montserrat, the opposition, NGOs, academia, the media, professionals, donor agencies, the diaspora. It is important that we get all people, all persons involved in understanding this. We want to engage the population at every step of the way what our finding is, what our recommendations are, so that we will get feedback.” That was Terron Gilchrist, Montserrat’s Director of Hospital Services

It was in fact encouraging to learn that whoever made up the panel of site searchers listened firstly to the strong but few voices who decried the thought of constructing a hospital in Little Bay. Surely this could not have been the area that is very much the center or a big part of the ‘ambitious’ and later referred to as ‘the fairy tale’ strategy for Montserrat’s future development. Jus wonderin if what we might be saying here, that the dream may not have been too far off, just ambitious, suggesting that except for the corrupted mind, sensible modifications and negotiations, supported by the benefactors and

Bennette Roach, Editor Reporter

Bennette Roach, Editor 

sponsors, might have given the country the five years they needed through to 2020 for the dream to become reality.

Not necessarily in contrast, but also interesting is the fact that the site that is being considered as the preferred site, was not in the minds of the panel or board of persons who were entrusted with the high honour of finding or choosing the site. We asked the Governor who these people are that make-up the various committees that discuss, select and nominate regarding many important and interesting matters in the Island. These are usually top heavy with public servants if not consist of all civil servants. While disrespect has been shown the private sector, quite often deserved, its absence as well as ‘John Public’ however it is constituted, is the cause why so many projects seem never to reach completion or takes an inordinate time to culminate or come to fruition.

A few questions surface when we think of what it must entail to build a hospital, where a good percentage of public servants never see themselves, either having to go to, or spend time in a Montserrat hospital. Knowing that there was a plan for a hospital, whether it was upgrading the existing, or new, was that plan considered when selecting the site, or was this a brand new plan? Then we hope that parking played its major role in deciding the site.

It was also encouraging to hear that the media was considered as part of those bodies who would be invited to be among the stakeholders to be engaged in consultations. Several years ago media representatives were invited to inform and discuss whether residents would be in a position to meet the charges that were likely to be charged if Montserrat had to repay some part of the construct of the hospital along with its upkeep.

Every time the matter of any situation surfaces that involves a consultant, there is the general concern of, not whether their findings are pertinent or even relevant to the matter, but often who it is and how much they are being paid. Maybe the reason for this is because it is perceived the consultations are useless, an expected outcome because the findings must be skewed of the truth the result of the bad culture of not providing honest or all the information sought. A good consultant reports his findings and conclusions on the information he, she or they receive.

Noting that identification of the site came after the economic appraisal, it was possible that these people were all technicians of one kind or another. But as the Governor once agreed, there are often brighter, smarter capacity outside the public service.

 

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Who are they arguing the urgent, rather than action on the important

Who are they arguing the urgent, rather than action on the important

Her Excellency the Governor two weeks ago created our last week’s headline in the newspaper which really was a softer explanation for the  sad state of ‘competence’ and knowledge that exists in the Public Service.

As alluded to earlier the later statement when Governor Carriere lamented to, “what seems sometimes like more energy put into arguing among ourselves, refusals to act, litigation and other such activities than simply putting our shoulders to the wheel and getting on with it together…” is very symptomatic of course to the lack of progress about anything.

When a public service does not understand or rather does not care about “relationships with the public cited as part attitudinal, (part training), part issues around having the right people in the right places,” that is so low, one would think that decency and honesty would step in. But they are so grossly uncaring in their own corruption, they do not know what ‘public’ and ‘service’ means, the Governor was soft saying, “must carry out the right kind of service not just for Montserratians, but also for people who are visiting,” even though she had hoped for the recognition that this is “an area of focus for improvement.”

Good heavens, six months later she discovers that they lack understanding and awareness, the big shocker then at the thought that the reason the masses do nothing do not improve is because of the energy wasted in arguing among the big guns.

Then when it comes to the observers, those who were called upon to say or do something if ‘they love Montserrat,’ their agenda is so warped, a nicer word than corrupted, they are just as constipated with nothing positive to offer.

Let us get this right, the problem the Governor highlights is not only in the public service, it is deeply entrenched outside where there are many heads worse than buried in the sand. So that begs the question about their understanding also.

The discussion of Brexit, which it really could not have been, and the likes in the house of Parliament where there if no is no expected legislation, tells that the proposers do not have a clue about much.

It puts the future of Montserrat in a dismal light. Everybody must consider very carefully the significance of the urgency that is being put into arguing, rather than action. And did she mention ‘litigation’? We strongly suggest that word, Governor, was a cover for something else. If our belief is correct, it makes our argument of ignorance and incompetence even stronger.

We agree with the theory that what we had before was a public service headed by, the work conducted by four ‘economists’ who passed nothing on to their servants who themselves were also steeped in their own form of corruption, to position themselves for change and progress, not smart enough, to understand their power

That is so bad. Note the Governor’s further explanation of the unwillingness to change. Do we remember this quote from last week? “…changes in public service delivery and better management of finances are keys to Montserrat’s economic revival.” The Governor six months later reports, arguing that prevents change, ““But change happens slowly and there appears to be a fair amount of resistance or reluctance or confusion around some of these changes.”

These thoughts and expressions are perhaps small compared to the rest, but who cares!

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May 20, 2016

No other place has suffered – needs of special attention

May 20, 2016

May 20, 2016

Doctor, Professor George Irish, Montserratian: “They don’t have many places on God’s earth where the total population has been virtually wiped out and new people have had to populate the land because of a volcano. It’s a fascinating place to be and the impact of the volcano on the environment and on the society and on the people…it’s something that we need to document and we can’t do it in one week so this group is only going to do the pioneer work and then set the framework for others to come lay.”

Alan Duncan, DFID’s Minister of State: “Montserrat has had unique difficulties; there is nowhere else in our responsibility which has had its main capital town swamped in by a volcano…so there are special challenges.”

Later he said: “I mean, where else in the world would some face a disaster like that and still come out smiling and determined to get things going again. The admiration we have for that gives us that extra bit of drive.”

What is the similarity with these two quotes? Both seeking and aiming at the development and progress of Montserrat! But what has happened since with respect to these quotes?”

Conceding that this government is seriously lacking, the problem is NOT what those seeking to promote their self-interests with their sometimes vile agendas. When they speak or write, hint, suggest and otherwise, they should do so, truthfully going back to 2008 and backward as the case warrants.

They point to the needs and wants and one very serious observer, by no means a bystander, notes as TMR has before, Montserrat was at a place where HMG was ready to take control. Their and now others concern rather than fear is that Montserrat is not far from that place.

Here is one sentence from Allan Duncan’s visit in December 2011, four and a half months before the ‘infamous’ May 1, 2012 Memorandum of Understanding. His visit then, was to among other things but generally, powerfully: “…Set the parameters for future self-sufficiency: more efficient management of the public finances, combined with strategic investments aimed at stimulating growth, improving access and facilitating economic activity.”

But two things have gone wrong. Instead of jumping forth from the promise of 2008 February to fix the airport mistake and related ferry/port issues, by 2013 we suddenly learned that any improvement in air access, the  statistically proven door to improving our low to nonexistent GDP was ignorantly and corruptly off the table. Since then Montserrat was forced back into a backward thinking that the ferry holds some non-discussed, imagined, ignorant worthiness to the future of Montserrat.

Please note that any reference to ‘access’, by HMG anyway refer specifically back to the 2008 promise and undertaking.

There are not so many contributing factors to the derisive nature of being in Montserrat.

There is nothing to fear from ‘Brexit’ that HMG through FCO, DFID will change its mandates to Montserrat, indeed the BOTs (British Overseas Territories). They will seek to improve on what is good and work on what is bad.

In respect of Montserrat, this also was said in 2011, and note no doubt with the 2012 upgraded White Paper just around the corner. “…with hard times in Britain, DFID did not suffer budget cuts like most other departments, but “…we’re not just a check book;  we have always made that clear where we are prepared to sign a check we want to prove value for money…spending the money for the greatest long-term economic opportunity…” But let us remind there are rules, governing how that is done, and now the accountability has become stringent because of what? Poor economic management, brought on by the worst feared risk, corruption. So if there is to be any fear it is by and of Montserrat itself. See all business case documents.

Now read this please, and then if you are so inclined, go back to all the hullabaloo. “Access, communications in general in the island are crucial. You can’t have a sustainable economy without good communications, transport or information.” Another of DFID’s statement.

Marches, protests, complaints, overthrow, new elections, to go where, to what end? Even talk of independence! Have we exhausted our good thoughts? Or, are there any? Then start again.

When will we stop elevating the wrong people, praise people for merely doing their work, practicing the analogy, putting square pegs in round holes. Yes, mediocrity reigns in the place. Note it didn’t take Governor Carriere a year, as it was her early observation, that the Public Service was a problem, “lacking understanding and awareness…”

Let’s agree with the call for, “those who ‘love’ Montserrat to stand up.” Someone directed to an article asking: 21 Years on..What’s Going On? A good article in our view, even though the informant while agreeing to some extent, suspected an agenda. So it might be in order to ‘Jus wonder if the article was just rhetorical or directed to any specific group! Certainly if all the goings-on about Montserrat’s state of affairs had been anywhere on mark, the question would not be forthcoming, except of course it is purely rhetorical or indeed should be viewed and treated with skepticism.

All miss the real issues and the problems. There are those who will argue there is better employment than in recent past. But that is relative. The ferry fiasco solution is misguided and Montserrat can no longer afford trying to build a future around that. Surely a port is necessary, needed, but any access issue must be built around it also. The only immediate solution to that access issue is two twin otter arrivals into and out of Montserrat every day. Is there a place for the rumoured blocker airlines? Of course there is. We are talking about Montserrat’s future, immediate, medium and longterm. But let’s see where some of the real problems are.

We say little about the noise, at least for now about that article as we are left to wonder if it is because of the fear of the very global and wide readership that ‘TMRonline’  enjoys, in spite of the effort to make it irrelevant, why these ‘insights’ are not shared with TMR. Is it that they do not want the Chinese, Russians, Ukraine, USA, Korea, Slovenia, France, all among the top 25 who make up close to the two million hits per month on www.themontserratreporter.com, to read their ‘opinions’?

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May 20, 2016

UK leaving the EU is a one way door out with no turning back

May 20, 2016

June 17, 2016

We have sought to heighten, if not least draw the awareness of Montserratians and British Overseas Territories as well as other Caribbean countries citizens living in the United Kingdom the impact of Brexit or Bremain, the latter phrase surfacing the vote nears.

In this issue we continue those presentations. We have presented as much as we can interestingly enough opinions on the issue from different areas with direct reference to Montserrat and the rest of the Caribbean. Those of us living in Montserrat can only seek to influence our own as best we can our diaspora in the UK many of whom are voters there. We seek to make them aware that their action will impact their homeland in which the majority have said remain their interest.

As we see it the argument to remain seem to show that there is obvious hidden agenda, as there is hardly much that can be said with any certainty that the future is brighter for the UK and its territories should they leave the EU.

We believe it is very strange that since 2008 and even before, for decades the encouragement that the world must seek to unite and be one as has become necessary and done in blocks. The belief has been going alone was taboo. But suddenly Britain in the bare face of economic progress and being fifth strongest economy in the world should is being encouraged choose go it alone in the hope of forging new partners.

The British media makes an interesting study and appears to us to be among the worst training ground a journalist can be exposed. The polls we would advise ignore. Just look back at the last General Elections!

Ross Steinberg, an AEIdeas intern, wrote the following as the points that make up the debate.

The Remain arguments: WhyVote to Remain

Brexit (that is to leave) would create a sterling crisis in the UK as well as the reemergence of the Scottish secession movement.

Brexit would challenge the legitimacy of both the UK and the EU, and even if the final vote is to remain, the uncertainty leading up to the vote could still lead to a sterling crisis.

A post-Brexit UK would have trouble negotiating as good of a free trade deal with the US as it currently gets under the TTIP.

A Brexit would leave the UK in the EEA and thus forced to follow many EU regulations without them having a say in those regulations.

The leave arguments: Why vote “leave”? 

Brexit would free the UK from the negative influence of the EU—economic disunity, rising welfare costs, decreasing military spending—and revitalize the UK-US special relationship.

The EU has been an experiment in reconfiguring political, not economic power, and Brexit would be an affirmation of the power of individual state sovereignty.

The UK has a trade surplus with the EU, which it should leave sooner rather than later, and so would have the upper hand in negotiations post-Brexit.

The US shouldn’t advocate for the UK to remain in the EU since it may go against our strategic interests.

The final warning is: “It’s a one way door to the future – a UK one way exit, there will be no turning back…”

End:

 

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