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China-Jamaica

China denies being involved in “economic colonialism” in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 11, CMC – China Friday condemned a video circulating on social network in which an opposition legislator claims that there is “a form of economic colonialism by Chinese businesses operating in Jamaica”.

In a statement, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China it is offended by the “unsubstantiated claims” in the video and has generated widespread discussion on social media.

In the video, former national security minister, Peter Bunting, and a member of Parliament, makes the claim of “economic colonialism” .

“We believe these claims could encourage a backlash and create an unsafe environment for Chinese Nationals working in Jamaica,” the Embassy statement noted.

China-JamaicaBeijing denied allegations that Chinese companies operating here are government owned and therefore have unlimited resources which Jamaican companies cannot compete against.

“There are clear separations between the Chinese Government and the management of Chinese state-owned enterprises. State-owned enterprises operate independently under business rules and assume sole responsibility for their profits and losses.

“The Government does not underwrite losses of state-owned enterprises. The Chinese Government continues to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Jamaica as long as these projects bring value to the Jamaican people and are profitable,” the statement noted.

China also dismissed allegations that Chinese companies in Jamaica engage in unfair competition, saying “Chinese companies are by nature very competitive. Their primary aim is the satisfaction of their customers by delivering timely, within budget and high quality work.

“Duty concessions are usually offered for projects that are joint ventures with Government of Jamaica such as the North South Highway and in other cases as a way to attract foreign investors. Concessions offered by the Jamaican Government are not limited to Chinese companies but are made available to other Foreign Investors.”

The Chinese authorities also disagreed with suggestions that more of their nationals were employed here as against Jamaicans, noting that the number of Jamaicans on staff at all Chinese companies far outnumber Chinese staff.

“The allegation that Chinese companies use convict labour is offensive and false. Such serious allegations by a former Minister of National Security should at the very least be substantiated by evidence. If Mr Bunting can produce such evidence, the Chinese Embassy will not hesitate to support whatever sanctions the Jamaican Government would wish to impose on the offending company,” the Embassy said.

It also disagreed with allegations that Chinese companies here are not transparent.

“he companies operate under Jamaican laws and regulations. If any Chinese Company is found to be operating outside of the law, it is up to the Jamaican authorities to take action.

“This Embassy and by extension the Government of China support the rule of law. We have also taken steps to promote the learning of English by our Chinese workers and Chinese by Jamaicans to promote better communication and mutual understanding.”

The Embassy said that although Bunting claimed he has asked it for information, “the Embassy has so far not received any request via phone, letter or email from him on this matter.

“China and Jamaica have had a long friendship and over the years our economic partnerships have been mutually beneficial. Chinese companies will continue to offer to the Jamaican Government and people value for money in the contracts they pursue.

“As we did recently in granting a request from the Government of Jamaica to supply the fireworks for the Grand Gala Celebrations, and the construction of a Children’s Hospital in Western Jamaica, the Government of China will continue to support projects and events that benefit the masses the Jamaican people.

“Our aim is not to “colonise” Jamaica but to always find areas of cooperation and mutual benefit that will improve the lives of both our people,” the Embassy said in the statement.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that his administration will act in the best interest of the Jamaican people while remaining open to foreign investment in the country.

Holness made the comments as the government signed a partnership agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the Barbican Road Improvement Works project.

“The government is very sensitive to what has been happening. I want to reassure the people of Jamaica that the Government of Jamaica will always act in the best interest of the people of Jamaica,” said Prime Minister Holness, noting that the country’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China dates back to 1972; and that Jamaica continues to support the One China policy.

He said that as the largest provider of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), China represents a window of opportunity for Jamaica to gain true economic independence.

““We have to be receptive to investments not just from China. Jamaica wants to see a diversified portfolio of investors coming into this country. We want investors from all over to come here and invest.

“We want people to choose Jamaica to invest; we want people to choose to make their homes in Jamaica and so the Government of Jamaica has, not just with my government but with the previous government and the government that I was a part of before that developed a strategic relationship and partnership with the Government of China,” Holness said.

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frog

How do we deal with “Cocobeh”- tainted big frogs in our region’s small ponds?

Contribution – Part 19/2017

 

 

The Caribbean’s tainted leadership challenge

 BRADES, Montserrat, July 13, 2017 – One of the old-time Caribbean superstitions is the one about how “frogs” (especially toads) carry “Cocobeh,” leprosy. Many an innocent frog has paid with its life for this myth. And even that crime against ecology is part of how useful “the Cocobeh model” is for understanding and solving the region’s tainted leadership challenge. For our governments, for our businesses, for education, media, even churches, regional/international bodies and sports.

Too many leaders in our region and far beyond seem to be part of a toxic leadership culture of being big frogs in a dirty, tainted pond. They have Cocobeh, they spread it to the pond, they infect those who work with them, they even use it as a weapon, spitting it on those who challenge them. So, Cocobeh is too often deeply embedded in our regional leadership culture. That is, a toxic brew of corruption, deceit, selfish ambition, envy, greed and too often critical gaps in character and capability that predictably turn promising projects into damaging failures. Under these circumstances, just getting into or living near the pond is a hazard, much less having to deal with infected leadership at close hand day by day.

This is a tough challenge, but it is hardly a new one. Nor is it unique to our region. Indeed, our region’s most common history book has in it a key case study from 3,000 years ago. Namely, the transition between the Saul and the David generations. Saul started well, but became tainted and was troubled with depression, jealousy and more. David first came into his life as a young talented musician who could help calm his troubled spirit. Then, one day the lad killed a giant, stirring jealousy as Saul heard the people praise David for a feat he had been too demoralised and tainted to attempt. So, even though David was now his youngest General, son-in-law and even head of his bodyguard, in his fits of rage and envy Saul began to throw javelins at him and to scheme against him. Ironically, the Crown Prince (Jonathan) Saul wanted to promote became David’s close friend and mentor. Eventually, David had to flee for his life, ending up at the cave of Adullam. Then, we read how:

1 Sam 22:2 “ . . . everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to [David]. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”  [ESV]

This seemingly unpromising group became David’s mighty men and the core of the greatest generation of leadership in Israel’s history. They stood with him through thick and thin, even when he had to flee to exile among his enemies. And when Saul and his sons fell in battle at Mount Gilboa in the Jezreel region, they were joined by six hundred Philistines when David first returned to Hebron. (These, brought with them the key breakthrough technology of that day: Iron-making.)

The pattern is clear enough: in and around a tainted pond, genuine breakthrough leadership will always be under attack by javelin throwers and will be spied on and schemed against. Such alternative leaders therefore need to have support teams with a critical mass of capability, and opportunity to grow. Key technologies may be a big part of their secret sauce. They may need to go into exile to come into their full potential. They may need to bring in outside expertise. And, they will need to be purified from the taint of the dirty pond.

Big frogs will know this and they will fight dirty to protect their turf. They will try to lock out promising young people they don’t favour. The tempting offer of tainted funding or the tainted “compromise solution” or the dangerous “promotion” are obvious tricks. They will create false but persuasive stories. They will try to stir up scandals and will try to put up street theatre stunts, all to be barked up loudly far and wide by their media wolf-packs. They will throw javelins – whether rhetorical or real. They will drive out those they promoted but cannot compromise, capture and control. They will hunt them down after they have fled, driving them into exile. They will find every excuse to undermine and discredit expertise that is not under their tainted control. Lastly, it may take devastating failure, defeat and a long, confused leadership struggle before a David generation can come into its own. All of which seems all too sadly familiar.

So, we need to learn how to tell the difference between the Saul Generation trying to capture the future and an emerging David generation. The track record that shows Cocobeh-taint is a main clue. Character shown by diligent stewardship is a key test, as he who is untrustworthy with what is little will also be untrustworthy with what is much. Jealousy and dirty favouritism games will also speak. So will a track record of tainted projects. As will bad attitude towards truth, fairness, the right, the just. All across our region, it is time to move beyond the tainted culture of a dirty small pond.

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Sandals

Sandals Resorts says it will vigorously defend its good name

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Aug 11, CMC – Sandals Resorts International (SRI) says it reserves the right to initiate all legal options, including suing for slander and libel to protect its good name as the war of words continues with the Antigua and Barbuda government.

In a statement, SRI said “our main concern is the impact this is having on our 700 team members and their families…and many of whom have been a part of the Sandals family since inception”.

The row between the Gaston Brown government and SRI began last year when the two were engaged in a public exchange over Sandals’ retention of sales tax income under what St. John’s called “an unlawful agreement”.

Sandals collects an Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) from its customers and, according to Prime Minister Browne, keeps 65 per cent of the yields.

SandalsThe government is trying to change this but Sandals chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, is claiming it means the rescinding of a concession agreement with the hotel chain.

The agreement was signed in 2009 with the now opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) administration. However, Browne’s administration made it clear to SRI about its unwillingness to continue with the arrangement. The hotel claimed that this was a blatant breach of the agreement and called on the Antiguan government to revisit its decision.

On July 14, Sandals informed the Antigua government that it would close the 380-room Sandals Grand hotel for three months from September 20 to December 17 for essential maintenance work.

But Browne claimed that SRI’s decision to close the hotel was sabotage and an “act of hostility” designed to win tax concessions from the government.

“Some people might say they (Sandals) have four properties and can hold you accountable. I look at it from the perspective that Sandals has a substantive amount of its overall global inventory in St. Lucia. So I think the likelihood of them doing something similar in Antigua — I’m not so sure that’s possible,” he said.

In the statement issued Thursday, SRI said that it has 22 hotels in eight different territories throughout the Caribbean, and in 35 years of doing business with numerous governments “we have always operated at the highest standards and in the most ethical and transparent manner.

“As an upstanding and conscientious corporate citizen, we have always sought to work in harmony with the various stakeholders. Therefore, we are appalled at the unwarranted and vicious attack that has been launched against the company and its Chairman by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his Government, after plans to upgrade the resort in Antigua and Barbuda were revealed — news that should have been cause for celebration for any investor-savvy administration as it will be beneficial to both the country as well as the resort staff and their families.”.

SRI said that it is no stranger to Antigua and Barbuda nor its people having “panted our flag here over a quarter of a century ago when we took over a floundering 99-room hotel …and over the years transformed it into a world-class, five-star resort and conference centre.

The SRI has also defended its decision to close down the hotel to carry out renovations and dismissed suggestions that the move was aimed at getting back at the government as a result of the present disagreement between them.

“If the Prime Minister and his government are indeed genuinely concerned about the people working here in Antigua then cease the unnecessary threats, posturing and false accusations and let’s work together to ensure that the maintenance work, which we have agreed to reduce from five months to three months, takes place as quickly and with as little disruption as possible.

“Sandals never has and never will be intimidated. It is not in the nature of our company, nor the nearly 15,000 proud team members who make up the Sandals family in Antigua and Barbuda and globally, and who continue to make our company the most sought after product on the planet. Indeed it will not be long before a number of new countries soon welcome the Sandals brand as well.”.

Earlier this week, the Antigua and Barbuda parliament approved an amendment to the Investment Authority Bill making it mandatory for large hotels to give notice of their intention to close.

The debate came on the heels of the announcement by SRI that it was closing for three months to carry out renovations and the government said that the legislation is intended to provide protection to employees within the hotel sector.

The government said that all stakeholders, including trade unions, should have at least two months’ notice of the closure of these hotels for renovations and that they run the risk of losing concessions granted to them.

Leader of Government Business Lennox Weston told legislators the bill simply codifies good business practices.

“We are codifying in law to make sure that all actors know that in the hotel industry if you have roughly a 100 rooms or more and you intend to close for two or more months, you should notify all parties.

“You couldn’t find something as non-contentious as that. I mean it is really good business practice,’ he added.

However, Opposition Leader and former finance minister, Harold Lovell, disagreed, saying the amendment “is really designed to use state power as a tool for intimidation.

“It is bad for the economy of Antigua and Barbuda, it will kill further investment, not only local investors but foreign investors,” he added.

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Tennyson Joseph

UWI lecturer against the rise of businessmen-politicians in the Caribbean

By Kenton X.Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Aug 11, CMC – A University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer is warning against the rise of the businessman-politician in the Caribbean identifying St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and U.S. President Donald Trump as examples of why businessmen as politicians are bad for society.

Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados , Dr. Tennyson S.D. Joseph, said that the region should regard the development as “a new window for the re-emergence of the left”.

However, his theory was rejected out of hand by St. Clair Leacock, a two-term elected Member of Parliament, businessman and vice-president of the right-wing opposition New Democratic Party, who attended the public lecture on the topic “‘Any Cook Can Govern?’: Plato, Donald Trump, and the rise of Caribbean Businessmen Politicians”.

Tennyson Joseph
Dr. Tennyson Joseph

In the lecture, Joseph, who unsuccessfully contested the 2006 general election in St. Lucia against Chastanet’s United Workers Party (UWP), rejected 20th  century Trinidadian intellectual CLR James’ theory that any ordinary person can become a leader and argued instead in support for Greek philosopher Plato’s view that business people should not be political leaders.

“There is much evidence in the politics of the USA, the Caribbean and elsewhere that the election of persons with business experience, and the election of persons who fail to understand that political leadership requires a specific nobility of character, has compounded, rather than resolved the challenges of governance or development.  It is clear that not any cook can govern,” Joseph told the audience attending the second in a series of lecturers organised by the UWI Open Campus, and LegalEase SVG Inc.

Joseph said he was moved to think about the specific questions that he addressed in the lecture when in April 2016, “an untried and untested son of a St. Lucian businessman, Allen Chastanet, emerged as Prime Minister of St. Lucia after successfully wresting power from Dr. Kenny Anthony”.

Joseph sort to present Chastanet as an incompetent leader and showed a news clipping of the prime minister experiencing great difficulties piloting a bill through the nation’s national assembly.

He further said that among “the clearest examples of his narrow association of politics” was Chastanet’s decision to contract a private accounting firm to prepare St. Lucia’s 2017 budget.

Joseph further said that the prime minister justified the decision on the basis that the public sector had limited knowledge of new and modern approaches to taxation.

“Whatever the explanation, this begs the question of the appropriateness of conceding such wide swathes of public responsibility to a private firm to determine the revenue and expenditure priorities of a democratically elected government.  Further, whilst an elected government would be guided by notions of public accountability, a privately contracted accounting firm is not obligated to be informed by similar considerations,” Joseph said.

Joseph, who confirmed that he had work as Anthony’s political attaché between 2000 and 2003, said that on sober reflection “both Chastanet and Trump’s victories were the result of the same architectonic structural and ideological issues reflecting themselves in contemporary early Twenty-first century politics”.

Joseph said that both the St. Lucia and United States elections were fought on the basis of “an electorate frustrated with established politics, with voters opting to vote for ‘something new’”.

He further posited that on the basis of the ideological hegemony of neo-liberalism, both the St. Lucian and U.S. electors assumed that their countries’ challenges could be resolved by business persons rather than by so-called “professional politicians.

“However, since the elections both countries have experienced ‘disnormative’ political developments largely arising out of the political inexperience and the crude application of the ideological “business-oriented” concerns of the respective leaders, but these failures themselves are symptomatic of deeper crises confronting capitalist democracies in the present and are manifesting themselves most clearly as failures of leadership,” Joseph said.

Regarding the future, the UWI lecturer said that he believes that the current moment calls for “a more heightened degree of political activity from the historically progressive social democratic forces of the Caribbean.

“The present moment, in contrast, is one of both of optimism and pessimism.  The pessimism lies in the concrete reality of the actual takeover of our politics by the business class and represents a moment of triumph of neo-liberalism in which its theoretical claims are being backed up by political victories.”

Dialectally, however, Joseph said, the moment presents itself as a simultaneous moment of collapse and defeat of neo-liberalism, noting German philosopher Friedrich Hegel’s reminder that the highest stage at which something can reach, is the stage at which it begins to perish.

“We are also informed that something — an idea a social formation or an institutional principle — can only be said to reach its highest stage when all its principles are taken for granted.  The full negative effects of capitalism had always been mediated by its social veil in which political power was transferred into the hands of the non-bourgeois technical managerial class.

Leacockt
St. Clair Leacock

“However, when, as in the present moment, the bourgeoisie seeks to govern directly without the mediation of the technical managerial middle class, we are indeed in the highest stage prior to the moment of collapse,” Joseph argued.

He said that there are myriad signs to suggest that Trumps moment of victory, coincides with the moment of the collapse of the United States’ capitalist world leadership.

“Similarly, the emergence of the CEO politician in the Caribbean is coming after several decades of crisis of post-colonial development when the independence project appears to have lost its steam and has entered crisis.

“Chastanet and the business class represent the symptom and not the solution to that crisis.  For the last four decades Caribbean social democracy has been beaten back and lost its voice.  My message to the Vincentian and Caribbean progressive forces, is that we should see the moment, not as one of defeat, but as the opening of a new window for the re-emergence of the left, as the business politicians demonstrate concretely that they cannot resolve a crisis which was caused by the very class to which they belong.  It is now time for the left to re-emerge,” Joseph said.

But, speaking in the open forum, Leacock told Joseph that he rejects all his conclusions “totally out of hand as an absence of serious political science”.

Leacock told Joseph that he found great difficulty “finding the triangulation”.

“The expansive detail on St. Lucia’s situation, unfortunate, regrettable — Chastanet’s challenges, I am not here to defend or promote — but it is difficult for me to accept that the St. Lucian experience finds a generalisation in Caribbean politics or international politics.”

Leacock told Joseph that he found his treatment of leadership to be “very shabby and totally absent of academic research. It is different for me to find how you can ground that. I don’t find the triangulation that should be present and the conclusions are very, very narrow.”

But Joseph said that Leacock gave “an emotive response” to the lecture and not “an intellectual critique of it”.

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Governor Carriere and Martin Dawson leave doubtful impressions

Governor Carriere and Martin Dawson leave doubtful impressions

August 11, 2017

The news a week ago coming out of Government House was for many quarters surprising. That was so because there were those who believed that Governor Carriere was serious and at times seemed aggressively pursuing a course of doing something meaningful before she leaves next year, if indeed she would.

There are also those who recall the departure of Dr. Kato Kimbugwe whom every-one will quickly say, the on-island DFID representative worked hard and for the most part with good intentions. So much so that some of us refrained from recounting his work while here, knowing that there were efforts on his part to leave a legacy of very positive change behind.

Two things that were major for him was geothermal and fibre optics, both key to the future development of economic growth to include tourism. He had seriously hoped that tourism would have been well underway along with the development at Carrs Bay and Little Bay pretty much in keeping with the Master Plan, which fed the SGP that he had ‘master minded’.

But for Kimbugwe things did not pan out so well come February and onward to his departure and since for his tenure. It was almost like he was never in Montserrat. There was the rush to break ground for the new power plant which still never came to fruition until recently even though the jury may still be out as whether that was a successful project, with the difficulties experienced of syncing it with the old and tired temporary generators that have continued to fail.

Governor Carriere arrived seemingly with a fairly good knowledge of what may have been lacking in the end with the tenure of her predecessor Anthony Davis who was too defeated or deflated to hold a final press conference which would have given him a chance to lay better grounds for her to step onto.

So, she too walked in to meet a totally green government, politically to some extent and administratively. She found a government who came into power from the disappointment of a frustrated and dissatisfied people who really had almost a single hope of better treatment rather than concern about economic development both of which had to go hand in hand.

She came almost the same time with or just after a new DFID rep arrived in Montserrat to meet the same circumstances she was likely aware of.

While focussing on her and the rather odd and surprising announcement of her departure, this came at the same time Martin Dawson the DFID rep was coming to the end of a not so fruitful tenure of three years which was extended for a year just about the time there were discussions and even a rumour over whether he would have continued to serve in his position to the end of 2016.

It was during both their tenure that we wrote a quote from Jean H. Charles about corruption. He said: “Corruption has been designated as the number one hindrance to a country’s development.”

Do I see some eyebrows going up or some eyes rolling? In that editorial you will find: “Does ignorance play a part in this? Dishonesty, secrecy and the lack of goodness are soft terms but all support the culture of corruption, which all help to retard the progress of any country.” Perhaps this will open some eyes and ears.

One of our well-known communication specialists wrote seriously in a medium, social though it is, that both HE Governor and Martin Dawson had to account for the lack of positive progress and development of the island for past few years, but also joined the government also in his criticisms.

“In my view, these two British appointees must be surely be held at least partly responsible and accountable for the moribund and stagnated state of Montserrat’s post-eruption rebuilding. They have presided over this dilemma, regrettably aided and cluelessly abetted by the present government of Montserrat under the leadership of Mr Donaldson Romeo,” he wrote.

The Governor gave a positive review of success over Dawson’s tenure on the island. That was in the face of him struggling at her press conference to give any real and meaningful suggestions of his achievement while serving here. In fact, there was also one comment which suggested that he blamed the government squarely for him not having much to say in that regard. “Martin Dawson, responding to questions by Nerissa Golden (Gov’s press conf) laid the blame squarely at the feet of Mr Romeo and his government, when he said: “Our role has been to help the government to develop these strategies but ultimately the decision is theirs to move to the next phase.”

He has over the past few weeks struggled to articulate what he has done “to help the government develop…” As a matter of fact, the suggestion is that he has not only not done so, but has attempted to or thwarted progress.

The Governor’s announcement of her early break of her tour of duty here and Dawson’s departure, which some probably mistakenly or mischievously say was also under a cloud of being asked not to continue, do raise some questions. The Governor has promised to say more about her surprise announcement and it will surely be interesting to learn how she views her performance to date and what she believes will happen to her ‘efforts’ during her next few months and after she leaves.

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Harris

Government will to give second chance to young people if they move away from crime

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says his administration is willing to provide a second opportunity to young people to move away from a life of crime and was guaranteeing them a job should they do so.

Harris
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris

“If there is any young person out there involved now in illegal activity, particularly in relation to guns, and they want to make a turn, I would guarantee them, I repeat, I am guaranteeing them a job if they are seriously committed to turn away from the life of crime,” Harris told reporters.

He said “that is the solemn guarantee I make” adding “I would guarantee you a job that you could at least earn a weekly wage if you are serious about making the turn for the better.

“The country deserves fewer criminals than we have on the streets and the cost of maintenance of the peace and security requires us to be open-minded and to even think outside the box if we are to nip this situation in the bud.”

Harris, who is also National Security Minister, said there are career opportunities available in St. Kitts and Nevis for young people, particularly school leavers, in the area of law enforcement.

 “Being in the Police Force is not just about carrying a baton, it’s not just about standing at some beat; it is also about learning a diversified array of life skills that could put you in good stead for life.

“The career paths in terms of policing now are so diverse. So for example, as we are building out our [Closed-Circuit Television] CCTV programme we need young men with knowledge in ICT to be part of that particular programme.

“As we are developing our forensic department, we need young people with expertise and experience in forensics, so there is a wide range. As we are talking about building and reorganizing our Traffic Department, there is room even in administration,” Prime Minister Harris said.

The twin-island Federation has been rocked by brazen criminal activities including murder in recent months and Harris said that as his administration moves to implement policies aimed at curbing these activities, job opportunities were also being made available to the unemployed.

“The Customs Department has a regular training programme for recruits and we want to build on that cadre of persons and so we are welcoming and encouraging people to get involved. We want our parents not to have their children at home being idle doing nothing when work is going a-begging in the country,” he told reporters.

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Fibre-optics delay is a set-up

Fibre-optics delay is a set-up

But by whom? Should they get away!

By Bennette Roach

The absence of the reinstallation project of fiberoptic cables to Montserrat has begun to make rounds in supposedly important circles in Montserrat, but it is difficult to understand the utterances and the discussions. Some, one observer say is relevant but still does not meet the discussion.

The Montserrat Reporter has learnt the delay in this already long approved Fibre-Optic reinstallation back in 2013 in Montserrat was seriously affected by someone with knowledge of what strings to pull at a time when the UK high spend share of its budget, Department for International Development was undergoing scrutiny and review occasioned by its new Minister Priti Patel. So it was that Expressions of Interest request was published under date May 28, 2013. What ever happened between then and 2016 it was submitted again this time by DFID for a Response Required By Mon 29 August 2016.

Governor Carriere and Premier Romeo

Premier Romeo made reference to this in his meeting with Montserratians in London recently few weeks ago. He lamented on this among other projects which have been languishing. Very recently Minister of Communications and Works reported that there has been no progress on the project but that it was hoped to be revised soon.

Back when the business case for this project was among others, it was sought through such arguments. “(By reducing the cost of electricity geothermal will open up new possibilities of export production.) Installation of fibre-optic will boost the growth of high-value knowledge intensive industries. MDC should continue to be at the forefront on how to best capitalise on these newly arising opportunities for attracting inward investment and to the wider benefit of local tourism, light-manufacturing and export-oriented businesses.

Comms & Works Minister Paul Lewis

It was held that “Achieving this requires a complex, inter-dependent package of potential projects which include the LB/CB development, investment in geothermal energy, reinstallation of a fibre optic cable link, improved sea access, and improvements in the island’s access infrastructure (primarily a new breakwater and port at Carr’s Bay). All of these are to be supported by a substantial reform programme to improve the enabling environment for sustainable socio-economic development of the island through private sector growth, governance and institutional capacity.”

So, it was part of the strengthening of the Montserrat Development Corporation to attract private sector investment, 2013/14 – 2015/16.

Eventually in the Intervention Summary it came to provide financial assistance to the Government of Montserrat for priority infrastructure requirements.

Private Sector Adviser and in-country representative, Kato Kimbugwe

Dr. Kato Kimbugwe when he left Montserrat was proud that he had left the project well on its way to final approval, and so it was announced on July 22, 2016 by his replacement, Dawson of already two years. “Yes, I’m very pleased to announce that the fiber optic project was formally approved I think two weeks ago today and the prequalification stage of the procurement has started in fact that started today…prequalification questionnaire which is due back in to DFID, I think on the 22nd of August; and on another base of that they’ll go to the next stage of issuing tender documents so very positive on that one and I’m pleased to announce that…” Dawson had said.

Two months later on Sept. 23, at the Governor’s press conference he reported: “…So we’re now moving to the next stage which is the invitation to tender process. So, we’re going to be I think a pretty big meeting with some of those potential tenders just make sure they’re actually clear what we’re asking them to provide and then we’ll launch the I.T.T. as it’s called. I would hope it will happen within the next two months if not earlier because a number of the procurement activities are going on (such as ferry procurement)… we need to be focusing on the moment.”

But that ferry procurement turned out to be a saga and a fiasco resulted that required direct intervention with the UK heads. It resulted in a consultant/TC to be unceremoniously dismissed from Montserrat. It had been rumoured that the local DF ID representative’s head was also on the block, but he later at the September 2016 press conference, laugh at the suggestion of him being fired. (Today it is suspected he may have colluded later to stall the fibre optic reinstallation process). He is due to leave the post as announced earlier, having completed an extened two to three-year term.

Martin Dawson

We should note that in December when the process supposedly had been progressing safely, the UK Sun and the Daily Mail published a very dubious article which we published fully. See: £5million on Fibre Optic Cable offends UK media at www.themontserratreporter.com – Posted on 06 January 2017, at www.themontserratreporter.com.

The claim – super-fast broadband for a tiny Caribbean island despite terrible connection speeds in the UK – DFID is blowing the fortune to construct an underwater fibre optic cable to the volcanic island of Montserrat, which has a population of just 4,900 by the (UK) Sun written by By Harry Cole, Wesminister correspondent.

It is claimed amazingly by our own government that this and other articles was responsible for the delay in the fibre-optic project onward delivery.

 We were later able to confirm that as noted in a DFID report on financing to Montserrat in 2016 some £100,000 had indeed been set aside for that step. The tender has been awarded according to some documentation available.

The article did leave much to be desired. It was supported by what we refer to as ignorant complaints coming from: a Barmaid, a Builder, a Pub landlord, a Cafe boss, a Shop owner, a Factory worker, a Waitress!

There was a simple response by the UK govt. but one equally ill-informed Tory referred to the funding as ‘overseas aid’. Former DFID minister Grant Shapps hit out: “It will be far easier to maintain support for overseas aid if we can get our own infrastructure needs in order,” he said seemingly to the writer.

It is not certain whether this is the same Tory who the Sun says – The Tory MP who heads up the BIG infrastructure campaign added: “Super speed broadband isn’t just some nice to have extra, it’s vital to British success outside of the EU and we need to get every British home and business connected and world beating speeds.”

While a DFID spokesman said: “Following the devastating eruption in the UK overseas territory, we’ve met our legal obligations to Montserrat by investing in the vital infrastructure needed for the island to stand on its own two feet again.”

It seems that our information that this article was encouraged out of some sort of ‘hit back’ on Montserrat. But should it have really been so effective to stop or slow the project, as we hope that is all it is. That MP’s quote was not lost in another article of January 5, 2017 by Mark Jackson (ISP Review). See: http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/01/uk-gov-commits-4-94m-help-deploy-fibre-broadband-montserrat.html

See ISP Review video on Montserrat’s volcanic destruction of Plymouth: Posted in Buisness/Economy/Banking, Featured, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

8-3-17-eccb-website - rev

ECCB Launches New Website

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) this week launched its new, user-friendly and mobile compatible website on Wednesday, August 2 at a regional media conference, where Governor Antoine gave feature remarks.

 

The new ECCB website is one of the organisational effectiveness initiatives under the Bank’s Strategic Priorities and is designed to improve citizen engagement and stakeholder relations.

The website Project Manager, Elizabeth Wayland, says the new site features a cleaner and more modern look and a discussion forum functionality where visitors can share ideas, ask questions and submit concerns. The site also allows visitors seeking statistical data to conduct data comparisons of the ECCB member countries and generate graphical depictions such as charts, and to submit orders for commemorative coins.

The ECCB worked with the website development company, eMagine Solutions, Inc based in
Saint Lucia to develop the new site. 

The launch of the ECCB website was streamed live via the Bank’s YouTube channel – ECCB Connects from 10:30 a.m.

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Amuelle Kirnon and Dr. Buffonge

Legislator Dr. Buffonge and Banker A. Kirnon receive Chevening Scholarship

by B Roach

Dr. Buffonge

Amuelle KKirnon

The Governor’s Office announced on Friday that Miss Amuelle Kirnon of the Bank of Montserrat and Dr. Ingrid Buffonge of Glendon Hospital have been awarded prestigious Chevening Scholarships for the 2017/18 academic year.

Miss Kirnon will study for a Master of Science (MSc) in Occupational and Organisational Psychology at the University of Surrey commencing in September.

The release from the Governor’s office reported Miss Kirnon as saying: “I am very thrilled and excited to be afforded the opportunity to pursue an area which will aid in the social and economic development in Montserrat. I have a keen interest in the productivity within organisations and the integral role employee relations play in shaping the image and contributing to the overall success of an organisation. My journey in becoming a Chevening Scholar has now begun and I am extremely enthusiastic about beginning classes in September.”

Dr. Buffonge, a 2014 elected Member of Parliament, will study for a Master of Science (MSc) in Critical Care at Queen Mary University commencing also in September of this year. The doctor reportedly said: “I am passionate about the provision of good quality healthcare on Montserrat. I am keen to further contribute to Montserrat by advancing my knowledge in Critical Care, an area I’ve long advocated for. Therefore, I am really pleased that I have been awarded this year’s Chevening Scholarship and now have the opportunity to expand my knowledge in this area.”

The Chevening Scholarship scheme is the UK Government’s global scholarship programme, funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations. They are geared to students with at least first degrees enabling them to study for Masters programmes or equivalent and who show the potential to become future leaders and decision makers in their home countries.

The release advised that “as Miss Kirnon and Dr. Buffonge leave at the start of their scholarships, Miss Thandie Williams and Miss Cilma Wade, last year’s Chevening Scholarship recipients, will be making their way back to Montserrat.”

 

 

 

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De Ole Dawg

Time for truth about Montserrat’s economy

 Contribution – Part 18/2017

 What is the true state of our economy, and what should we do about it?

BRADES, Montserrat, June 28, 2017 – One of the common sayings on our streets is “the economy is dead,” and many shop-owners say that sales are “slow.” At the same time there is a wave of “new” Internet cars on our roads – which will eat up “free- to- spend money” for many families. Some local businesses are actually building additional capacity, while many others have “dead” or slow-moving stock. Some homes are being built, but there are few factories. For decades, local agriculture has been a tiny sector of our economy, now about 2 – 3%. There has been an obvious increase in cruise ship visits over the past few years, but tourism is nowhere near what it was pre-volcano. A very mixed pattern.

How, then, can we make sense of the economic big picture? For one, the ECCB is the official source for economic data about Montserrat. So, here are their January 2017 growth rate figures since 2007- 8 (when the global economic down-turn began):

As a comparison, the IMF recently estimated that the USA is expected to grow at 2.3% this year, the UK at 1.5%, Germany at 1.5% and France at 1.3% – major sources for tourism. In the years since 2007 – 8, US growth has never exceeded 3%. Such persistent low growth is a clear sign of long-term weakness of the global economy.  Also, a few years ago, the ECCB noted that growth in the EC$ zone has slowed from 6% in the ‘80’s to 3% in the ‘90’s then to about 1% recently, and has called for measures to restore long-term growth to 5 – 7%. (Note: Montserrat’s economic numbers critically depend on and fluctuate with annual budget grants and capital aid projects from the UK. Figures for 2016 – 18 (in blue) are estimates or projections, showing a gradual increase in growth. Where, too, EC$ 100 – 200 thousand – less than the cost of a “typical” house – is about a tenth of one percent of our local economy’s annual output, its GDP. That is, building just one house can make a difference.  And, post Brexit, UK capital project support is uncertain, in part due to the fall in the Pound and given the UK’s ongoing negotiations to leave the EU. We also have to address major challenges on financial management, governance and transparency.)

In 2012, as part of a business case to inject over EC$ 5 million to deal with MDC’s “failure,” DfID argued[1]:

“The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years . . . . The population has now declined to 4922 and the base of local business comprises 150-200 firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market . . . The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s. Housing and other social amenities existing before the eruptions have not been fully replaced. The island is heavily dependent on imports of all types of goods and services . . . .

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new [investment] in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development.”

Unfortunately, this picture is still largely so five years later – something both our local governments and DfID need to clearly, publicly explain. Notwithstanding, they have agreed to jointly expedite several key projects:

  1. sea port development, phase 1
  2. geothermal energy development,
  • hospital developments,
  1. access and connectivity; and,
  2. human resources/public sector reform phase 3

These and other similar projects (e.g. Fibre Optic Cable based digital access) should help to open up room for self-sustaining economic growth and transformation. However, it will likely take 2 – 3 years to get these projects moving, and economic transformation will probably require 10 – 20 years; that’s what it took between the 1960’s and 80’s. In the meanwhile, and alongside those projects, we need a steady flow of modest development-oriented projects.  Such projects will help to rebuild our infrastructure, promote economic development, meet key education, health and welfare needs, while providing employment. Again, just one house makes a difference – much less, seven.

However, an artificially pumped up “boom” is neither the normal state of an economy nor is it a wise one. As, excessive “stimulation” will “overheat” and distort an economy and will create unrealistic expectations that will make the following “bust” all the harder to bear. And, if an economy’s productive capacity has been reduced due to shocks or the economy is out-dated, “overheating” may happen before all who want jobs can find work. Likewise, if businesses are not well suited to the changing local or global economy, they can fail even while others are seeing “good” times. Also, what feels like good growth can be unsustainable, due to a mismatch to key trends and hazards. For example, it could be argued that by the mid 1980’s local and UK officials knew or should have known about our volcanic hazards, and they had in hand specific recommendations. Putting all the eggs in the Plymouth basket (especially post-Hugo) may well have unfortunately contributed to what proved to be unsustainable development.

We cannot change the painful past, but we can learn from it. So, going forward, let us focus development policy on sound, self-sustaining economic growth and development.

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

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