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J.A. Lester Spaulding

Chairman of RJR/Gleaner Communications Group Lester Spaulding has died

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov. 17, CMC – The Chairman of the RJR Gleaner Communications Group, J.A. Lester Spaulding, died in hospital on Friday.

J.A. Lester Spaulding
J.A. Lester Spaulding

Spaulding, who became the Managing Director of  Radio Jamaica in 1978, led the company through its expansion up to its recent merger to become the RJR Gleaner Communications Group.

Spaulding who also served as a board member of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA), began his career as an accountant at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to joining Radio Jamaica Limited (RJR) in February 1965

Posted in General, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional0 Comments

earthquake..

Tobago rocked by earthqauke

SCARBOROUGH, Tobago, Oct 20, CMC – An earthquake, measuring 5.2 hit Tobago on Friday, but there were no reports of injuries or damage to the island.

earthquake..The Trinidad-based Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that the quake, which occurred at 2.01 am (local time) was also felt 270 kilometers (km) east north east of Arima in Trinidad and 212 km south east of Bridgetown in Barbados.

It said the quake was located Latitude: 11.32N, Longitude: 58.94W and at a depth of 10km.

In 2010, Haiti was rocked by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 killing more than 200,000 people and leaving several thousand others homeless.

Posted in Environment, General, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

De Ole Dawg – Part 22: 2017 -Failing the opportunity test

De Ole Dawg – Part 22: 2017 -Failing the opportunity test

Do we “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”?

BRADES, Montserrat, – Does the recent dismissal of the Programme Management Office Head, Mr Carl Gomersall,[1] throw away key opportunities for Montserrat?

Sadly, yes.

To begin to see why let us recall an earlier article in this “De Ole Dawg” series[2] that reported on a telling point made during the budget speech:

“In his June 9th, 2017 Budget Speech, Premier Romeo said that, ‘[w]e took radical steps to ensure that the longstanding problem of delays in projects will be minimized by implementing a Programme Management Office  (PMO) . . . .  This will improve our value for money business cases, project and programme governance, transparency, and risk management. Such measures will help us improve our ability to effectively implement a sound development programme and put an end to underspending, and project over-runs.’ In short, the PMO and its PRINCE2-based standards for project and programme management are pivotal to the growth and transformation programme that is now beginning with the UKCIF and EU-funded first phase port development project.”

Ironically, the dismissal under a “no cause” clause has already cost us much of a year of work that has now been tossed aside. For, when someone is fired by being surprised at work and marched off the premises there can hardly be an orderly handover.  Worse, it will predictably cost us another year to get back to somewhere close to where we were just before the PMO head was marched off the compound under escort.

And, the “no cause” dismissal is a strong indicator that Mr Gomersall was not found to be guilty of theft, sabotage, spying or the like gross misconduct. Indeed, according to reliable reports, he had already resigned in protest, but was persuaded to return to office. He returned in good faith, only to be subjected to – and this is fair comment – what looks far too much like retaliatory behaviour.  (Putting this another way: why wasn’t the PMO head instead put on administrative leave? Surely, that would allow matters to be properly and fairly investigated; and, if necessary, it would give opportunity to arrange for a proper hand-over of work. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – err, Montserrat.)

Further, some may doubtless imagine that they can cobble together a patchwork of second-rate substitute measures and that will be good enough. Not at all. Instead, let us face sobering truth: for cause, our programme and project management credibility has long since been severely damaged. So, only the introduction of world-class, highly regarded standards and systems such as PRINCE2 can rebuild confidence.  And, without rebuilt confidence, our key transformational projects will remain stuck in endless circles of talks.  Precisely because, there are unresolved questions about capability, transparency, accountability and potential for corruption.

So, we must also ask, how has the Gomersall firing affected progress on the seaport breakwater? The hospital? Fibre Optic cable and connectivity? Geothermal development? Developing a new capital city? Capacity building for programme and project management, including the introduction of the world-class PRINCE2 system of standards, organisation and training? And, much more?

Already, we have to face the fact that in 2011 – 12, DfID for cause concluded that the Montserrat Development Corporation had failed:

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis of this failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over-ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.”

Yes, DfID put in another $5+ millions and tried to help pull MDC out of the morass it was stuck in. Sadly, that too failed, and by 2014 we saw whistle-blowers, investigations and a funding lock-off.  Then, in 2015, we were splashed across UK news headlines[3] as a capital example of aid failures.

In short, we have to rebuild our credibility and demonstrate world-class capacity to manage the US$ 200 – 400 millions of investments across 10 – 20+ years that it is going to take to transform our economy. Where, by missing the MDC boat, we already have missed the opportunity to draw from DfID’s then rapidly growing budget as it moved towards the 0.7% of national income aid target. Now, the growth has tapered off, and with several sister Caribbean territories being devastated by hurricanes over the past few weeks, we are suddenly no longer unique as a disaster-ravaged Caribbean overseas territory.

The PMO was a key part of that rebuilding of capacity and credibility, but it too has obviously become needlessly stuck in a morass.  Just in time for the month of three hurricanes.

So, today our challenge is to work with our sister territories to address post-disaster recovery, rebuilding and sound development.  To do so, let us soberly draw lessons from what has happened here since 1995, let us reform what we must and let us work hard together with our sister territories to move forward.  END

[1]           “Head of PMO dismissed without cause – the Premier laments,” TMR, Sept 28, 2017, p. 6. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[2]           DOD, part 13, 2017, June 11th: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-13-2017-prince2-and-moving-towards-an-economy-transformation-programme/

[3]               http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

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Apocalypse Now? Doomsday Predictions Are Just Recycled Bogus Theories

Apocalypse Now? Doomsday Predictions Are Just Recycled Bogus Theories

 
Apocalypse Now? Doomsday Predictions Are Just Recycled Bogus Theories

 

Credit: Igor Zh./Shutterstock

Old doomsday predictions never die. They just get recycled.

Just six years after radio preacher Harold Camping promised the apocalypse, and five years after the end of the Mayan calendar was supposed to extinguish life on Earth as we know it, new doomsday predictions have arrived. This time, they come via YouTube and a man named David Meade, who claims that the first spiritual sign of the apocalypse will arrive tomorrow (Sept. 23).

Meade’s theories meld biblical prophecy with astronomy. He claims that on Sept. 23, there will be a rare alignment of the sun in the constellation Virgo — with the moon just to the east — with nine stars and three planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) clustering around the constellation’s head, like a crown. This is supposed to be the sign foretold in the beginning of Revelation 12, which reads, in the New International Version of the Bible: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” [Doomsdays: Top 9 Real Ways the World Could End]

The date, Sept. 23, is 33 days after the total solar eclipse that crossed the United States in August. That number is meaningful to Meade because Jesus Christ is said to have been 33 when he died.

This astronomical sign, Meade said, is evidence that the end is near. In October, he said, the mysterious Planet X will pass close to Earth, which will mark the beginning of seven years of Tribulation — a period of time that some say will be full of hardships before the second coming of Christ — followed by the rapture of true believers to heaven and a millennium of peace. [Oops! 11 Failed Doomsday Predictions]

Meade’s theories echo a lot of ideas that have been floating around conspiracy and doomsday circles for years. Planet X, sometimes known as Nibiru, was supposed to have crashed into Earth during the Mayan apocalypse of 2012 or maybe in 2011, or was it 2003? The problem with this idea is that a rogue planet hurtling toward Earth just doesn’t exist. The hysteria over the mythical planet got so pitched in 2011 that NASA scientist David Morrison made a YouTube video to explain that Nibiru isn’t real, and that if a giant planetary object were zooming through the solar system, it would be easily visible from Earth and easily detectable from gravitational changes in the orbits of planets in our solar system. (Confusing matters, there is a possible “Planet X” beyond Pluto, but astronomers have not proved its existence yet. If it exists, it orbits far at the outskirts of the solar system. “Planet X” is what scientists call possible planets that have yet to be identified.)

Eclipses, too, have long been associated with the end. According to the writings of 16th-century Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, Aztecs made human sacrifices during a total solar eclipse, fearing that if they did not, the darkness would never lift. “It was thus said: ‘If the eclipse of the sun is complete, it will be dark forever! The demons of darkness will come down. They will eat men,'” de Sahagún wrote.

The Vikings, too, felt they had to do something to prevent perpetual darkness — in their mythology, a wolf named Skoll was eating the sun, and they had to make noise to scare the monstrous beast away, lest the sun vanish forever.

Total eclipses, though, are visible from someplace on Earth roughly every 18 months. The alignment of the sun in Virgo is not particularly rare, either — it happens once a year, every September. Earth’s view of the sun’s relationship to the stars simply changes as it moves through its yearly orbit. That’s why astrologers developed the concept of the 12-month zodiac.

Nor are the other stellar alignments around Virgo on the 23rd that unusual, according to EarthSky. The moon passes through every constellation of the zodiac throughout the month, so it’s regularly just east of Virgo. The crown of 12 stars upon Virgo’s head on the 23rd is an arbitrary designation, according to EarthSky, because there are more than nine stars in the constellation Leo, which is supposed to make up the stellar portion of the crown. [Monsters of the Night Sky: Strange Constellations to See in Fall]

What’s more, this exact arrangement of stars and planets has happened before, EarthSky found. In the past 1,000 years alone, it occurred in 1827, 1483, 1293 and 1056.    

Repetition doesn’t appear to faze Meade. When asked by Live Science whether the failed Planet X predictions of recent years gave him any pause in his own prognostications, he responded by email, “There’s never been a year like 2017. Read my book.”  

In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that failed doomsday predictions don’t do much to forestall future “prophets.” Nineteenth-century preacher William Miller, founder of the group that would eventually become the Seventh-day Adventists, predicted doomsday in 1843, then in 1844, and died five years later, still thinking the end was nigh. Camping, who took out billboards to advertise the supposed coming apocalypse in 2011, had previously promised the end of the world in 1994. (Camping died in 2013.) In one famous 1954 case, a woman named Dorothy Martin convinced her followers that although the end of the world was coming, a UFO would drop by to save them. When nothing happened on the appointed date, Martin and her followers decided not that they’d been wrong, but that their faith had saved the world from doom. A psychologist who had infiltrated the group wrote about their reaction in the book “When Prophecy Fails” (Harper-Torchbooks, 1956).

“The real tragedy of this kind of thinking is that many people do take it seriously,” said Allen Kerkeslager, a comparative religion professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Sometimes a mythical apocalypse really does become the end of the world, at least for believers. Between A.D. 66 and 73, the Jews of Judea revolted against their Roman occupiers, Kerkeslager said, bolstered by prophecies that promised that their struggle was part of a great End Times battle and that God would rescue them at the last minute. God did not, and tens of thousands died.

“There are so many past cases showing that no amount of contrary evidence or failed prophecies will ever deter some of the people who believe that the Bible has codes about an apocalyptic end that will leave their own group triumphant,” Kerkeslager told Live Science in an email. “For such people, there is no need to negotiate or compromise in delicate international political crises and arms races, no need to work out peaceful resolutions with countries deemed somehow part of an ‘axis of evil,’ and no need for concern with environmental problems such as the impact of human-caused climate change on a planet that is going to be destroyed and recreated anyway. So all of this does have very real and very dangerous negative social implications.”

For most people, it’s easy to dismiss Meade, and certainly the idea that the world will enter its last throes tomorrow has no more to back it up than the umpteen failed predictions that came before it. But apocalyptic thinking is everywhere, said Robert Joustra, a political scientist at Redeemer University College in Ontario and co-author of the book “How to Survive the Apocalypse:Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World” ( Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2016).

Postapocalyptic shows like “The Walking Dead” or “The Leftovers” are a secular way of dealing with the same questions that the Book of Revelation would have been written to answer, Joustra said: What is the point of all this suffering? What is the meaning of life? How should we live now, in the midst of all our struggles?

The symbolism in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation would have had a very different meaning to the early, badly persecuted Christians who read it compared to people of the 21st century, Joustra said. They would have taken certain numbers, like 7, to represent perfection and completion, not as an invitation to start pulling out the calculator to predict the date of the rapture. For them, Revelation would have offered a measure of comfort, promising that their suffering under Roman rule would eventually amount to victory and eternal peace.

A more individualistic approach to the apocalypse dominates today’s pop culture, Joustra said. Ever since the invention of the atomic bomb, he said, mainstream apocalypse narratives have shifted from something that God will do to something humans will cause. The question then becomes what sort of person an individual will be once you strip away laws, institutions and social mores, he said. [Doom and Gloom: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Worlds]

It’s a concept that would have flummoxed the ancients, Joustra said. For example, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotlebelieved that humans were defined by their relationships, institutions and communities. Stripping those things away and then asking what was left would be almost nonsensical, Joustra said.  

“It’s a much more individualistic way of thinking about human nature and the apocalypse that I think is different from anything else in human history,” he said.

Original article on Live Science

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NDCC

GRENADA-POLITICS-Opposition dismisses latest Cabinet re-shuffle in Grenada

 ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Sept 1, CMC – The leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke, has dismissed the latest Cabinet re-shuffle announced by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell earlier this week, saying it is one that is clearly about party politics and not national development.

“A Cabinet re-shuffle is supposed to be about improving management of the state, but what was announced by Dr Mitchell on Wednesday, was clearly about party politics, not national development,” he said a statement.

“What was presented as a national address was nothing but a NNP (New National Party) position that could easily have been conveyed to members in a party meeting,” Burke said, adding there is no mention of other issues the party considered to be more important than reshuffling of the cabinet.

NDCC“There was no mention of issues of national importance, such as productivity to stabilise the economy and remove it from life support, sexual crimes against women, girls and boys, the critically high youth unemployment, the citizenship by investment programme which is now under a dark cloud with allegations of corruption and sale of diplomatic passports and the deplorable state of the facilities to care for the mentally ill,” said Burke.

In his address, Prime Minister Mitchell said that as of Friday, two of his ministers would be leaving the government even while providing support in other ways.

Mitchell said Brenda Hood, who entered politics in 1999 general elections and won the St George’s Constituency was retiring while and Roland Bhola, who entered politics in 2003 general election, would be moving away from representative politics and transitioning to lead the work of the New National Party.

Without mentioning the words “general election” or “winning”, Mitchell indicated in his broadcast that the NNP is preparing to continue as the Government following the upcoming general elections.

“Sisters and brothers, as we approach the dawn of another Grenadian morning, we recognize that there is much work to do and we are on duty. We also recognize that in this new season, as we endeavour to serve you better before we come to you again seeking your support, we know that we must make some adjustments,” the Prime Minister said.

“We continue to build on our successes; and to fine-tune our agenda to meet the needs of these modern times.  Our attitude going forward is based on the understanding of the need for continuity, while constantly dipping into the well of renewal,” he said while telling the Nation that he and his party’s executive council are confident that the next generation of Grenadian leadership is beginning to emerge under their guidance and influence.

But describing the speech as a political campaign message, the NDC leader said that the national address was “simply a man begging to remain in office so that the country’s scarce resources can be kept for himself and his chosen few.

“The time has come for the people of Grenada to be more than spectators in their own country, and this address, which was not a national address from the prime minister, is a wake-up call for voters that his administration is about his party, not the nation,” the NDC leader added.

CMC/ls/ir/2017

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ramlogan

TRINIDAD-CRIME-Former attorney general formally charged

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 30, CMC – Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan was on Wednesday formally charged with misbehaviour in public office more than 30 hours after he was picked up at his southern home by police.

ramlogan
Anand Ramlogan

A statement issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) stated that Ramlogan, who served as attorney general here from 2010-15, was charged “with misbehaviour in public office and obstruction of justice arising from allegations contained in a report made by Mr. David west to the Commissioner of Police on January 28, 2015”.

The statement said that the charges were laid against Ramlogan, 45, following consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and that he will appear in court on Friday September 1, “to answer the charges”. He was released on TT$750,00 (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) bail.

Earlier, one of Ramlogan’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Pamela Elder, told reporters that she was disappointed at the lengthy period it had taken to lay charges against him and that ““it is becoming oppressive now because he has been in continuous detention since 6o’clock yesterday and he has been cooperating fully with the police officers”.

The police picked up Ramlogan at his residence in Palmiste, south of here, early Tuesday morning as they continue their probe into allegations that he had sought to pervert the course of justice by asking West, the director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to withdraw a statement he had made in support of the then Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley in a lawsuit more than two years ago.

In 2015, then Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar fired Ramlogan and her national security minister Gary Griffith over the allegations.

The lawsuit followed statement allegedly made by Rowley during a news conference relating to the failed extradition involving businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh, who are reported to be financiers of the United National Congress, and are wanted to the United States on corruption charges.

Ramlogan has denied that he asked David West to withdraw his witness statement in support of Rowley six days before the PCA director took up his new post.

Persad Bissessar said that Griffith had failed to inform her that he had been allegedly asked by Ramlogan to telephone West asking him to withdraw the statement.

Meanwhile, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Wednesday urged members of the public to refrain from making comments on the detention of Ramlogan. As it chided two politicians for expressing an opinion on the matter.

In a statement, the LATT sought to remind the public of the importance of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Posted in Court, General, Legal, News, Police, Politics, Regional0 Comments

De Ole Dawg – Part 21: 2017: Renewing the Caribbean’s leadership culture

De Ole Dawg – Part 21: 2017: Renewing the Caribbean’s leadership culture

How can we renew our region’s leadership?

BRADES, Montserrat, July 14, 2017 – If we go back to May 10, 1940, the day when Hitler’s Panzers thrust out across Belgium, France and Holland, we will find the UK in leadership crisis. The Neville Chamberlain government had just collapsed due to the Norway fiasco. And, the only serious candidate to replace him was a most unlikely figure, the then much derided and doubted Winston Churchill.  Sure, he had spent the 1930’s warning of the gathering Nazi storm, but his track record in 1915 was that of disaster at the Dardanelles. To many, he seemed to be utterly unsuitable. And yet, those desperate days of the Battle of Britain after the Fall of France and the hard, bloody, painful, tear-stained years that followed cemented him in history as one of the greatest leaders of all time.

From this, we can know that the leadership we need in the Caribbean may come from unexpected directions, and may be under a cloud (especially given the habit of big frogs to spit “cocobeh” on those they don’t like). But, sound leadership is marked by courage and almost prophetic insight as to what is coming; which is bound to be controversial or even unpopular. Also, that if we are to have good leadership, we must be willing to be led, even by people we may not like. Envy, selfish ambition, utter disrespect for truth, fairness and the right, etc. will block or undermine any leadership. Disaster lies down that road, big frogs. And, leadership “cocobeh” can be cured.

We already know that ground zero for renewing Caribbean leadership and curing the “cocobeh” plague is our churches, and wider civil society: that is where our people already are. We know that sound ethical vision and example are critical – leadership is visionary, transforming service by example, not just empty words. We know that we have to educate and train leaders, and that sound, godly character makes a big difference. We know, we want a participative, community based approach, but this implies a major public education effort to renew our vision. There are too many myths and misunderstandings out there, too many manipulators. That also means we need plumb-line tests that let us know who we can trust, and who will lead us into marches of folly.

All of this already points to the pivotal role of newspapers with sound, brave editors. This is the only medium of mass communication that provides record, reach and always available access. It also implies that we need people to rise up with the courage, insight and will to stand in the gap, not just in prayer and teaching the scriptures or the like, or teaching sound history, but providing sound and even prophetic insight so that we can understand the signs, opportunities and challenges of our times as a region and thus be strategically guided as to what we should do.  Yes, good old SWOT analysis has its place: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

 Such immediately shows that we also need educators willing to train our people in leadership, committing themselves to writing on a regular basis, speaking, presenting, holding workshops, supporting church leaders, clubs, schools, and so forth, across the community.  (And yes, some of these should be providing training in business leadership, starting with how to start and run a successful small business.)

I would go beyond that. We are in an era of tablet computers, smart phones, low-cost laptops, online libraries and distance education by Internet.  Our churches, collectively provide the widest network of community-based facilities suitable to support education services across our region.

So, why not, let us create an online based, local centre-supported Associate Degree programme, with a concentration in Caribbean themed-, Christian Discipleship and Gospel Ethics based-, transformation- oriented leadership and service? Why not, let’s put as a major component in that, equipping our people with IT, Computer Science, high tech agriculture, small business, management, electronics and other technical skills? Why not, support this with a secondary completion and bridging programme that helps a good slice of the 80% of our youth who do not have good exam certificates, access such a programme with a good change of success?  Why not, associate this with short courses, workshops and the like that allow our people to build up specific skills they need? Why not, create an associated Graduate/Professional Diploma and Masters programme in education, to help build up the technical and professional muscle to back up such an initiative?(Surely, such an initiative can help make a key difference.)

Similarly, I think our churches, newspapers, media houses and civil society organisations need to provide widely accessible training in straight thinking, public speaking/presenting, sound persuasion [as opposed to manipulation], and in proper procedure for organising groups, running meetings and managing small projects – including business development projects.  In this work, let us look at the modern versions of Robert’s Rules of Order and similar guides to sound organisation and procedure.

There is also a place for sponsoring and supporting church and civil society based think tanks and organised reform movements.  In turn, this calls for a new spirit of volunteering of time, effort, skills and yes adequate money.  Investing – it is indeed an investment – in leadership is one of the keys to building a sound future for this or any other region.  Thus, we must ask: if not now, then when? If not here, then where? If not us, then who? And, where will that end up? END

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De Ole Dawg – Part 20: 2017: Challenging the Caribbean’s churches and civil society on leadership

De Ole Dawg – Part 20: 2017: Challenging the Caribbean’s churches and civil society on leadership

How can we nurture fresh, clean, capable, well-informed leadership across our region?

BRADES, Montserrat, July 14, 2017 – Now, our churches host the largest voluntary social involvement in our region.  That’s simply a basic fact about our region. However, this brute fact instantly means the churches are “ground zero” in the struggle for the Caribbean’s future. So, if we are to create a fresh, David generation of leadership in the Caribbean, the churches – yes, our churches – and civil society must act. In so acting, we must address the Big frog in a dirty pond challenge, and we must defend ourselves from fresh taints coming into our region from outside. 

That puts ethical vision at the centre of our rebuilding of leadership challenge. And it means that we have a plumb-line test for those offering to “help” us or “inform” us or “lead” us: if such are cynical or disrespectful about or manipulative towards the churches and the core gospel and ethics messages handed down from the Messiah, Apostles and Martyrs, that should set off alarm bells

But equally, those in our churches, other community-based organisations and civil society who refuse to rise to the challenge to renew and refresh the Caribbean’s leadership culture – especially among our youth – are also part of the problem, not the solution.  Irrelevance, ethical blindness, corruption or cowardice in the pulpit, classrooms, lecture halls, clubs, professional bodies and editorial boards etc. are outright menaces to our region.

Education efforts, syllabuses, textbooks and courses in schools, colleges, businesses, organisations and civil society are another flash-point. Too many of these simply echo the old and new follies of the increasingly apostate and suicidal North – usually in the name of progress or even science.  Neither will it do to turn money into a god, naively running after any potential investor or alleged development “partner” who waves a fist-full of dollars at us.  Nor, does the “watermelon” strategy improve matters: repackaging failed “progressive” strategies and agendas under a green cover.  Turning politicians into messiahs is also going to fail. Yes, there is a very good reason why Marxism collapsed a generation ago and there are reasons why our region’s churches, civil society at large, educators, pundits and politicians by and large failed to provide consistently adequate, sound insight and strategic guidance at the time and since then. 

Where, too, while atheistical, godless evolutionary materialism often pretends to be the mark of being bright, sophisticated and well-informed, in fact it is inevitably utterly corrosive of morality and good governance.  For, this ideology has no foundation in it that can bear the weight of “ought,” of duty, of moral government. So, it utterly corrodes conscience once it spreads across and dominates leadership in a community.  That has been on record since the days of Plato pondering why Athenian Democracy self-destructed. Here is his key warning in The Laws, Book X[1]:

“ . . . these people would say that . . . the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them . . . These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, . . .  and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them.”

That grim lesson of history is a key part of the deep background for what the US Founders agreed to say in the US Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

In turn, these words echo Canon Richard Hooker’s Scripture driven insights cited by John Locke:

my desire . . . to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . ” [Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2, Sect. 5.]

Hooker continued, citing Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ” In short, Paul was right that the core moral law is stamped on our consciences. So, sound civil society will nurture conscience-guided reason and will seek to raise up leaders who respect God-given rights, thus mutual duty to do the right by our neighbours. This then leads to the collective right and duty to renew and reform civil society and government across our region towards the manifest good. 

Unfortunately, we hardly ever hear such ethics of citizenship and leadership ideas and challenges in our churches, schools, newspapers etc. anymore. That’s why this article highlights the question of sound, ethically based leadership vision. And no, our people are not too stupid, ignorant or benumbed in conscience to understand such matters. END

[1]           http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/laws.10.x.html

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frog

De Ole Dawg – Part 19: 2017: The Caribbean’s tainted leadership challenge

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

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. END

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ECCB Jan 2017 data

De Ole Dawg – Part 18: 2017: Time for truth about Montserrat’s economy

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. END

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

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The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017

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