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The destroyed Golden Lampstand Church building in China

Chinese authorities blow up Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church

. . . in a grim reminder of the realities of our day.
According to Independent:

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province. 

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions. 

The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media . . .

Guardian adds: “A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened,” then goes on to observe:

China guarantees freedom of religion on paper, but in practice authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious life. Churches must be officially sanctioned and pastors must adhere to a host of rules imposed by the government.

The restrictive policies have given rise to “house” churches, independent places of worship that exist outside official channels. Authorities periodically arrest pastors or demolish buildings used by unsanctioned congregations.

But authorities have taken a harder line since 2013 against towering crosses and large cathedrals. Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists.

In an annual report on freedom of religion, the US state department found that “the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices”.

The story then continues, citing a pastor of a nearby church who requested anonymity for very understandable fear of retaliation:

“My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own,” he said. “This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”

Where, of course, people who are raising that sort of sum and are building that sort of scale of structure, are obviously going to comply with reasonable permit and regulatory processes. The unreasonable reaction of the authorities is therefore quite revealing.
Japan Times gives some useful additional information:

Authorities in northern China’s coal country this week demolished a well-known Christian mega-church, underscoring long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist PartyWitnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province.

ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building . . 

An official at the local religious affairs bureau denied Thursday that the demolition took place, but pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

(FAIR COMMENT: China is a leading nation, and the Christian faith is the most persecuted in the world. The implications of this attack should by rights have received the sort of wall to wall coverage that major media now routinely give to items they think are significant. The relatively muted coverage of this issue speaks for itself.)
It is noteworthy that Independent goes on to give an estimate of the number of Christians in China as 60 millions, which is likely to be a very “conservative” estimate. The same number appears in other sources, which is likely to make it appear as a consensus number. The reader is cautioned that in such an environment as we are seeing, numbers like that are not likely to be accurate, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the real figure is twice or maybe even approaching three times that value.
So now, let us understand the signs of our times and let us be as wise as snakes but as harmless as doves.

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Mott McDonald

De Ole Dawg – Part 1: 2018 – What are Montserrat’s Economic realities, challenges and opportunities?

How can we build on the research published in the December 15, 2017 Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy document?

BRADES, Montserrat – As we all know, Montserrat’s economy took a very hard blow from the volcano disaster. That was multiplied by gaps and delays in emergency management response and the resulting loss of 2/3 of our population. We also lost access to 2/3 of our land, much of our key infrastructure and therefore a big slice of our productive capacity. So, if we are to soundly rebuild Montserrat’s economy we need to soundly understand what happened to us. This makes the December 15, 2017, Mott-MacDonald Draft Economic Growth Strategy document[1] doubly important. Here, let us look at an adjusted version of one of their tables, with some additional calculations:

This table tells our economic story by making a comparison between our economy in 1994 and in 2016, with a telling side-light from the Antigua Economy:

  • Our economy (in “real” terms) as indicated by Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[2] is just over half as big as it was on the eve of the volcano disaster.
  • Apart from Finance and Transport, the private sector collapsed well beyond the 50% or so that would imply just a scaling down; in some sectors it is less than 20% of what it was.
  • The structure of our economy has clearly changed drastically, due to a dramatic collapse of key productive sectors.[3]
  • It has stayed there for many years because of a want of investor confidence and lack of key growth-enabling infrastructure that we are still fighting to put in place over twenty years later.
  • The public sector has more than doubled as a percent of our economy, moving from 19.3% in 1994 to 45.8% in 2016. (This reflects the impact of the annual UK grants under the legally binding UN Charter Article 73 obligation to “ensure . . . advancement” and to “promote . . . development.” As the 2012 FCO OT’s White Paper shows, this is the main reason for the longstanding UK policy that “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s have “a first call” on the UK’s International Development Budget. [Cf. pp. 13 and 17.])
  • As a result, our GDP is not a “natural” one driven by a buoyant private sector, it reflects this annual support to our economy. Such is not sustainable.
  • In simple terms, if we are to return the same level of public sector to being 20% of our economy in 20 years, our economy would have to more than double, from EC$153 millions to EC$ 350 millions.
  • A compound interest calculation (yes, CXC Maths is good enough) will show this requires an average growth rate of 4.2%.
  • So, it is reasonable for Mott-MacDonald to target a 3 – 5% annual GDP growth rate. ECCB would prefer to see 5 – 7%.
  • However, if Montserrat is to move ahead, we must put in place key infrastructure, build our productive capacity,[4] provide incentives and reassurance that will rebuild investor confidence, and support a wave of enterprises that take advantage of our major opportunities: tourism, geothermal energy, the rising global digital services economy, and the like.[5]
  • A comparison with Antigua and Barbuda will show that on a per person (“per capita”) basis, our average income has increased by 13%. However, while in 1994 we were at 105% of the Antigua figure, by 2016 we fell to 98% of the increased Antigua figure. (As, Antigua’s GDP/Capita rose by 21% in the same twenty-two years whilst ours rose by only 13%.)
  • this strongly suggests that DfID has had a basic yardstick for annual support under “reasonable assistance needs,” keeping us on a comparable level to Antigua.
  • DfID Ministers and Officers have also repeatedly made it clear that unless they see sound proposals, credible capacity and sound governance reforms (including of financial management) they will not have good reason to invest in major infrastructure projects.
  • This brings us back to the need for a charter of good governance working with a development partnership memorandum of Understanding that will lay out how we are going to move ahead together.

With that in hand, let us briefly look at a modified SWOT table from the Mott-MacDonald study:

Glorified common sense, almost a no-brainer once we see the sort of data we now have in hand. Any economic development framework going forward must reckon with these issues and opportunities. That means we have a basis for national consensus, so let us now move forward together. 

[1]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf

[2]           See Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp

[3]           See TMR reference resource:  https://ia902707.us.archive.org/11/items/EconomicsForDummies_/EconomicsForDummies.pdf

[4]           See TMR, DoD: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/22132-2/

[5]           See TMR, DoD: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part10-contribution/

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Haiti UN

Peacekeepers in Haiti saved many lives, despite challenges

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 30, CMC – The United Nations said that despite many challenges, its peacekeepers in Haiti and other places saved several lives in 2017.

It said despite a particularly deadly year for United Nations peacekeepers – with more than 60 “blue helmets” killed in hostile acts – it completed its peacekeeping objectives in Côte d’Ivoire, refocused its work in Haiti and will soon complete its mandate in Liberia.

“We do protect civilians every day. We do save lives every day. We often do it under very difficult and stressful circumstances,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

Haiti UN“I think it’s more than warranted to pay tribute to them and their achievements. But, certainly, we have to work hard to overcome the challenges we are facing,” he added.

The UN said one of the challenges facing UN peacekeepers, as they operate in increasingly complex and dangerous areas, is the need for better training and equipment, particularly when it comes to intelligence gathering and enhancing situational awareness.

It said this includes the use of modern technologies, such as unmanned aerial services, radars and tethered balloons.

The head of the UN Department of Field Support, Atul Khare, said the UN is also looking to borrow or purchase more equipment related to security reinforcements, accommodations, vehicles and communications tools, among others.

The needs also extend to gaps in working closely with local communities, which means that, in some areas, more peacekeepers are needed who speak French, he said.

“We must do even more on the side of prevention and risk mitigation when seeking to protect our colleagues. Providing for the safety and security of deployed personnel in volatile environments is an absolute necessity,” Khare said.

The UN said one of the main challenges in peacekeeping operations has been grappling with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres unveiled his strategy for eradicating the scourge, and appointed Jane Connors as the first Victims’ Rights Advocate.

The new UN strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse puts more pressure on governments to investigate and prosecute wrong-doing.

In addition, 17 countries volunteered an estimated US$1.8 million for a trust fund to aid victims get medical, psycho-social, legal or socio-economic support, the UN said.

All UN peacekeeping operations this year launched Environmental Action Plans, which have, for example, led to 80 wastewater treatment plans being installed in peacekeeping operations.

“We are constantly looking into keeping our own house in order, and leave the place better than we found it,” Khare said.

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The Bureaucratic Red Tape Monster (HT: Deviant Art)

De Ole Dawg – Part 27: 2017 -Clare Short’s dismissal of Montserrat’s case as ‘noise and a row’

How can we exorcise the lingering impact of UK International Development Secretary Clare Short’s 1997 dismissal: ‘They are making a noise and a row’?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – Montserrat still remembers DfID Secretary of State Clare Short for her ill-advised “golden elephants next” remark. But, while this is what grabbed the headlines and got her a media battering, we (and other disaster-stricken OT’s) also have to deal with the reason she gave for that dismissive remark. According to the Coxes in their recent book:

UK International Development Secretary Clare Short (Cr. BBC)

“Clare Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [Stan and Paul Cox, How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p. 271.]

Notice, the focal argument: “it would be weak politics” to give more aid in response to “noise and a row.”  That is, as BBC put it in a 1999 article, “she accused the inhabitants of the volcano-ravaged island Montserrat of making unreasonable demands.”[1] Also, let us note its lingering consequence – keeping us on slow-drip support in the economic ICU rather than moving on to ensure . . . economic advancement” and to promote constructive measures of development.” Which, is what the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 actually states.

The key to that move, was to separate the concept of supporting “assistance needs,” from optional investment in transformational development that would materially help us to stand up on our own two feet. But plainly, securing our advancement and development are reasonable assistance needs too. So, the flash-point question is: how do we make a reasonable case that is undeniably more than empty “noise and a row”?

There is of course much talk about evidence-based (thus, “reasonable”) decision-making.  As one result, by now, somewhere in Government Headquarters, there must be a shelf- or- two- full of major consultancy studies on key infrastructure projects, strategies, plans, policies and initiatives that could credibly help to spark self-sustaining inclusive growth and development.  Costing, doubtless, the value of a few dozen golden elephants. So, why then are we still stuck on slow-drip economic life support twenty years after the peak of the volcano crisis in ’97 – ‘98?

Especially, when these studies consistently point to a well-known key cluster of economy kick-start initiatives?  For instance, here is a list from DfID itself in the 2012 MDC Business Case:

  1. “develop a tourism-driven capital town . . . as the principal location for new foreign direct investment, tourism, housing and civic facilities”;
  2. “improve physical access to Montserrat through the development of a port and breakwater . . .” ;
  • “improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets”

Likewise, we can see in a 2012 Consultancy:

  • Tourism
  • LB/CB development
  • Spa and wellness tourism
  • Educational tourism
  • Renewable energy (geothermal)
  • Mining and light manufacturing
  • Agro-processing
  • Fishing
  • IT-enabled services

Five years later, that list is still obviously valid. So, how can we now move it forward in partnership with DfID and other aid/development/investment partners?

First, the recent commitment of the UK in the 2017 JMC Communique point 17 to “ensure” advancement is a key admission of the full force of legal obligation under the UN Charter Article 73.[2] The UK, Montserrat and other OT’s that were hard-hit by disasters must work to put in place credible recovery, capacity-building, resilience and transformation plans to an agreed timeline and effective capacity to carry them out. 

Yes, as point 16 of the Communique indicates, that will require addressing various good governance concerns, including improved public financial management.  If you doubt the force of that, ponder this from The Man from Baker Hill in TMR, in 2014:

“Some Montserratians still believe that British people’s hard earned tax dollars are to be lavished on a selected few . . . . The situation at MDC and by extension Little Bay in the year 2014 is the just the tip of the Curse . . . Things could get worse than the Turks and Caicos situation. Nevertheless, Montserratians do not despair over the likely dismantling of the MDC. If it happens, then it is a necessary ritual in exorcising the curse of Lady Minister Claire Short. You see, MDC is where the money is stacked. And as long as there is loads of money, there will be some people with great desire to get stacks of it to build their own little golden elephant . . . . And if one or two of us have to be temporarily put in jail, so be it.” [“Claire Short’s Curse,” TMR Dec. 19, 2014.[3]]

How soon do we forget.

The Bureaucratic Red Tape Monster (HT: Deviant Art)

 

Obviously, efforts to build capacity and reform governance should be projects under the resilience and transformation programme. Where, for Montserrat, the dismembered Programme Management Office (PMO) clearly needs to be put back together.[4] Likewise, reforms need to be sound and illuminated by all relevant best practices. They must not turn into an out-of-control bureaucratic red tape monster that frustrates timely progress. Where, too, DfID is a leading aid and development agency and so can and should provide key technical support. Support, that will “promote” – not, hinder, delay unduly or undermine – “constructive measures of development.” As, Article 73’s words put it. Twenty years are long enough to wait.

 

Lastly, to point such out is not mere “noise and a row.” Nor, is it “weak politics” to seriously face these issues. It is time to exorcise and move on beyond this ghost from 1997. END

[1]           See: “The frank Ms Short,” BBC, April 7, 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/312910.stm

[2]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-27-2017-jmc-17-a-development-aid-policy-breakthrough/

[3]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/claire-shorts-curse-the-quest-for-golden-elements/

[4]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-22-2017-failing-the-opportunity-test/

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JMC ole dawg

De Ole Dawg – Part 27 2017: JMC ‘17: A development/aid policy breakthrough?

Contribution – Part 27/2017

JMC ‘17: A development/aid policy breakthrough?

 How can acknowledging UN Charter legal obligations make a difference with UK OT disaster relief, aid and development projects?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – It was not business as usual on November 28th and 29th 2017, when UK and Overseas Territories Ministers met at Lancaster House in London for the annual Joint Ministerial Council  (JMC) Meeting.[1] 

A year ago, Montserrat was the only Overseas Territory facing a long-term disaster recovery, rebuilding and development challenge. But, this year, after a horrific string of Category 5 hurricanes,  four out of five UK Caribbean OT’s are now disaster-struck: Montserrat, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. The fifth, Cayman Islands, has all-too-vivid memories of the impact of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  Several other Caribbean islands such as Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten and even Puerto Rico have also been hard-hit and were splashed across global news. And, the next hurricane season is just seven months away now.

Where also, earthquakes and tsunamis (“tidal waves”) can strike us with little or no notice, we face volcanoes and we are prone to floods and droughts.

All of this made a big difference.

This time, Brexit was not the only major issue in the headlines.

So, when Montserrat’s Premier Donaldson Romeo spoke yet again about the development-choking impact of twenty and more years of dragged out recovery, rebuilding and redevelopment efforts, it was suddenly utterly, all-too-vividly relevant. Unsurprisingly, the Overseas Territories came together as one and the old 2009 St Helena Airport Project consultancy report, Annex H,[2] took on a new lease of life:

“[T]he UK is also responsible for ensuring compliance with international obligations of the UK which have been extended to its Overseas Territories. To meet these legal responsibilities, it has been the settled policy of Governments that the development needs of Territories are a first call on the aid programme.”

Indeed, as Annex H reminds us, as far back as a 1997 DfID White Paper (yes, right at DfID’s founding) we can see that:

“The Government reaffirms its responsibilities for Britain’s 13 remaining Dependent Territories . . . The reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories are a first call on the development programme.” (para 2.28)  [This led to three key goals:]

[1] to maximise economic growth and self-sufficiency through sensible economic and financial management leading to graduation from such support, where this objective is feasible

[2] to ensure in the meantime that basic needs are met, including the provision of essential infrastructure

[3] to support the good governance of the territories, including the proper management of contingent liabilities . . .”

In the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s,[3] we see that HMG understands that:

“The UK Government’s fundamental responsibility and objective is to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories and their peoples. This responsibility flows from international law including the Charter of the United Nations. It also flows from our shared history and political commitment to the wellbeing of all British nationals. This requires us, among other things, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories, to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the Territories. The reasonable assistance needs of the Territories are a first call on the UK’s international development budget.” [p.13, cf. UN Charter, Article 73.[4]]

Under this legally binding mandate, DfID’s role is to work “in partnership with those Territories that need support to provide assistance with the aim of helping them achieve sustainable, inclusive growth and reducing their financial dependence on the UK wherever this is possible.[p. 17.]

These principles, legal obligations and commitments are in fact the reason why from year to year some 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 80 – 90+% of our development budget come to us as grants from HMG, courtesy the UK taxpayer. So, despite problems that crop up from time to time, and despite ill-advised political punditry that dismisses the significance of this commitment, it is unavoidably the start point for serious resilience and transformation development planning for Montserrat and the other three disaster-struck OT’s. (NB: That’s why other donors will often tell us that the UK must take the lead to help OT’s, precisely because of the same UN Charter Article 73 obligations. Even potential investors may be tempted to tell us, if your main aid/development partner, the UK, is persistently unwilling to give you a vote of confidence and put in place key development-sparking infrastructure, why shouldn’t we simply follow their lead?)

Given that history and those factors, it is unsurprising to see a renewed, key commitment that actually uses the language of the UN Charter Article 73 (a) in the new JMC 2017 Communique, [5]point 17:

“The UK and the Overseas Territories commit to ensure the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the Territories and their just treatment and protection from abuses.”

Notice, “ENSURE . . . ADVANCEMENT,” where Article 73 (d) adds the commitment to “PROMOTE constructive measures of development.” This gives focus to the communique’s point 16 on good governance reforms:

“We reiterated our commitment to high standards in public life supporting and developing open and transparent institutions for democracy, including Codes of Conduct, human rights institutions, sound public financial management, and a strong, effective and diverse public service. We reiterated our commitment to progress the development and implementation of clear Codes of Conduct for Ministers, elected officials and civil servants, where these do not already exist.”

This brings back to a focus the need for a charter[6] of good governance[7] and for a development partnership memorandum of understanding[8] that has come up more than once or twice in this series for TMR, and now not just for Montserrat. For these two initiatives would work together to lay out a comprehensive, legal framework- backed foundation for the key reform and capacity-building commitments and principles, as well as a viable programme based project cycle management agreement and timeline for agreed key resiliency and transformation projects.  These should be backed by an economic growth strategy study[9] that gives the crucial economic and broader sound development rationale for what is to be done. As a part of that study, of course, feelers should be put out to potential major investment partners so that it is a working document not just yet another consultancy study gathering dust on our shelves.

We paid an awful price for this policy breakthrough. So now, let us come together to turn it into a transformational breakout that helps us build a sound future. 

[1] See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/british-pm-meets-with-leaders-of-british-overseas-territories/

[2]   See http://www.sainthelenaaccess.com/application/documents/Consultation/02-Airport-Consultation-Annex.pdf

[3] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14929/ot-wp-0612.pdf

[4] See: http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xi/index.html

[5] See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/663983/Joint_Ministerial_Council_2017_-_Communique.pdf 

[6] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-6-2016-a-framework-for-good-governance/

[7] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-contribution/

[8] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[9] See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-14-2017-economic-transformation/

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ECHO Factsheet – Caribbean – November 2017

ECHO Factsheet – Caribbean – November 2017

FACTS & FIGURES

6.2 million people have been affected throughout the Caribbean due to extreme drought in 2015 – a consequence of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

€61 million for disaster preparedness since 1994 European Commission assistance to the Caribbean:

€540.5 million since 1994

  • €378.3 million for Haiti
  • €162.2 million for the rest of the Caribbean.

Introduction

The Caribbean region is spread over a “hurricane belt” and surrounded by several tectonic plates. It is exposed to severe, recurring natural hazards. In 2017, the hurricane season (usually June to November) was extreme, with Irma and Maria – both category 5, maximum strength hurricanes – devastating Dominica, Cuba, Antigua & Barbuda, but also severely affecting Turks & Caicos, St Kitts & Nevis, Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Dominican Republic, and leaving millions destitute. The Caribbean is also prone to droughts, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, flash floods, landslides, mudslides, droughts and earthquakes, as well as recurrent epidemics.

What are the needs?

Humanitarian aid in the Caribbean focuses on access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, shelter, or providing food assistance and relief items. The protection of displaced and migrant populations is required in some countries.

Given the region’s vulnerability to frequent disasters, enhancing local capacities to respond to natural hazards is vital. The Commission’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO) therefore supports simple, cost-efficient preventive measures implemented by the communities and national systems, enabling them to protect lives and livelihoods before, during and after a disaster strikes. The Commission also supports the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in all our projects, through specific targeted actions.

How are we helping?

Since 1994, the European Commission’s has funded €540.5 million in humanitarian aid to the Caribbean. €378.3 million have been dedicated to Haiti, particularly in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010 which claimed 222 750 lives. EU-funded programmes against the ongoing cholera epidemic and recurrent food insecurity by providing shelter, safe drinking water, healthcare, food assistance, protection, livelihood activities, and access to water and sanitation.

Throughout the region, €162.2 million has been allocated to humanitarian emergencies. For disaster-preparedness activities, the Commission has committed €61 million. The Commission focuses on linking emergency relief and longer term development interventions, helping to build the resilience of the most vulnerable population groups.

Following categories 5 hurricane Irma and Maria’s landfall in the Caribbean in September 2017, the Commission provided €2.9 million through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WPF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to provide temporary shelters, safe drinking water, health and sanitation services and food aid, in Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, and Turks and Caicos.

These events took place after an extreme drought that has affected over 6.2 million people in Caribbean countries since 2015 – a consequence of the El Niño weather phenomenon. As such, for the period of 2015-2017, the Commission has funded response interventions in Haiti (€12.2 million), the Dominican Republic (€1.1 million), and Cuba (€700 000) to mitigate the impact of the drought on people’s livelihoods, food security, nutritional status, and health. The total response for 2015-2017 amounts to €14 million.

After tropical storm Erika battered Dominica in August 2015, €300 000 were released to bring relief to victims, including access to water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion to minimise diseases and rebuild health services. Over €300 000 were also released to help bring relief to the victims of floods in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines following severe rains in December 2013. The assistance included distribution of food and relief items, access to water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion.

Through its DIPECHO programme, the Commission allocated €12.1 million for disaster preparedness across the Caribbean in 2015-2016. Projects funded included the promotion of early warning systems, strengthening health infrastructure, retrofitting shelters and school facilities to withstand disasters and improving awareness of the risks linked to earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. In 2017, another €2 million were allocated for disaster preparedness.

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De Ole Dawg – Part 26: 2017 -DfID, MNI and moving to economic breakthrough

De Ole Dawg – Part 26: 2017 -DfID, MNI and moving to economic breakthrough

How can we solve the “golden elephants next” problem?

BRADES, Montserrat– We continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98. However, given the persistent plight of Montserrat, we clearly need to focus on removing key barriers to economic breakthrough.

Now, due to the legally binding force of the UN Charter Article 73 (and with our longstanding Britishness as another factor) the UK has a policy that the “reasonable” assistance (or sometimes, “development”) needs of Overseas Territories have “a first call” on the UK aid budget. It is as a result of this that when in 2012 DfID reported on its work with Montserrat and other OT’s,[1] it stated:

“The British Government remains firmly committed to meeting the reasonable assistance needs of the aided Territories as a first call on the aid budget. At the same time, consistent with the vision of flourishing communities, DFID is striving to support interventions that will deliver greater financial independence, where options exist to achieve this [p. 2.] . . . .  [W]here conditions are right, we will make strategic investments  in the aided Territories to enable private sector-driven economic growth. These investments will be made where we can see the real prospect of self-sufficiency being achieved in due course and savings for the British Government through the reduction or elimination of dependency on UK aid. We expect the Territories, for their part, to help develop their financial management capacity so that they can meet their budgetary obligations and reduce their reliance on subsidies from the UK taxpayer.  [p. 5.]”

Of course, such words have to be read quite carefully, to see what they really mean; not just what they may appear to mean at first glance.  For instance, reasonable investments in “catalytic” economic initiatives or in health, education and welfare cannot fairly be dismissed as “making a noise and a row” in order to get “golden elephants next.”  That ghost from twenty years ago needs to be properly and permanently exorcised.

As well, DfID’s words need to be compared with the underlying legal requirements of the UN Charter Article 73. For, strictly, the UK is bound to “ensure” economic, political, social and educational advancement, and it must “promote” constructive measures of development. Such a comparison instantly reveals a gap: the UN’s priority is ensuring development, but DfID’s language suggests a gap between “assistance” on one hand and support for strategic development initiatives towards self-sufficiency or advancement on the other.  Also, there is no certainty that the reasonable cost of “catalytic” aid projects that promote development will always be cheaper than the net present value of slow-drip support budgetary assistance “forever.” But, needlessly reducing a people to endlessly having to beg for hand-outs from year to year – when there is a reasonable alternative that does not cost hugely more – just does not seem right.  That is, Mr Rhys-Burris’ words may be all too apt: “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.”

Especially, when the sweat equity of two hundred years of unpaid plantation slave labour under the lash should also be put into the reckoning. Unpaid labour that (as historian and Trinidad Prime Minister Eric Williams long since pointed out) was a significant source of the funds that energised the UK’s industrial revolution. Plus, there are nearly two hundred more years of interest on the value as at August 1st 1834.  (But, there is no need to go into a futile and polarising debate over reparations and the like.  We just need to reckon that this is not simply a cold, clean financial calculation where the only relevant interest is what brings “reasonable” benefits to Montserrat AND saves money for UK taxpayers. Let’s just say: history written in tears and blood carries sobering weight on this matter.)

Now, too, of the three OT’s on year-to-year budgetary support, Pitcairn – home of the descendants of the mutiny on the Bounty – is one of the most isolated places in the world.  Perhaps fifty or sixty people live there on any given day and it has no hopes for moving towards self-sufficiency.  But, there is still an Article 73 obligation of support towards their political, social, educational and economic progress. 

Likewise, in 2012 DfID held up the £200+ million St Helena Airport as a shining example of how a major investment could be transforming, and so Montserrat by implication should go and do likewise. Especially in terms of fixing governance, financial management and technical capacity so that economy-transforming projects could go ahead. Since then, the once shining example has been tarnished by a media scandal over a gusty runway that seemed to be a failure; however, it turns out that the Brazilian firm Embraer makes suitable aircraft and regular commercial flights have now begun.  Also, St Helena has just signed a MoU with the South Atlantic Exchange cable people, funded through the European Union. By 2020 it is to have Fibre Optic access to an intercontinental cable connecting South Africa, Brazil and the USA.

 Where, too, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to compare the £4.94 million Montserrat Fibre Optic Cable project to the ongoing billion-pound effort to roll out superfast broadband to remote UK communities? Rather than, coldly calculating what some private entity or another donor agency may or may not be willing to put up?

Similarly, we need to factor in signaling. For, at global level, available financial capital looking for opportunities greatly exceeds what any given project or organisation can absorb. So, if capital is not knocking on your door, that is itself a strong sign that there are barriers there that would deter potential investors.  So, let us ask: if Montserrat lacks key catalytic infrastructure (in the main, due to impacts of the volcano disaster) and across twenty-plus years our chief development partner has consistently declined to make a strong vote of confidence in our future, what message does that send to the potential investor? What additional burdens would that place on a potential project?

The too often overlooked DfID 2012 MDC Business Case may therefore have something we need to heed:

“The principal development challenges facing Montserrat since the eruptions are: a persistent budget deficit, the high costs of access, severe human capital deficits, a demand-deficient local economy and high energy costs . . . . The base of local business comprises only 150-200 firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. [p. 3] . . . . The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access [p. 4] . . . . Why UK finance is required Montserrat’s OT status precludes access to other international donor support. GoM cannot secure funding from any other source. [p. 6 ]”

This brings us full circle to the February 2011 visit by the then Secretary of State for International Development. The way forward, is credibly the same almost six years later: “the UK would provide catalytic investments and technical support and in return GoM would implement a programme of reforms that would create the appropriate enabling environment for private sector led growth and reduce Montserrat’s financial dependence on the UK.”  However, since then – for various reasons –  these catalytic investments in key infrastructure have not gone through. Indeed, the one that seemed to have finally broken through (fibre optic cable) has now been rolled back. 

Perhaps, one of our key challenges is an unwelcome truth: some ghosts from twenty years…! ago! need to be faced together and permanently exorcised.

[1]           See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67426/DFID-work-overseas-territories.pdf

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De Ole Dawg – Part 25:2017 -DFID, MNI and the “golden elephants next” effect

De Ole Dawg – Part 25:2017 -DFID, MNI and the “golden elephants next” effect

Are we still suffering from the “golden elephants next” problem

BRADES, Montserrat, Oct 30, 2017 – It bears saying again that we must continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98. However, given the persistent plight of Montserrat, there is clearly still room for speaking to concerns on what has been going wrong and how we may work together to fix the key problems.

Perhaps, a point from a recently published book on disaster management by Stan and Paul Cox[1] can help us:

“Montserrat’s shelters were viewed as unlivable by the evacuees who were stuck in them. [Yvonne] Weekes provided graphic descriptions, and Don Romeo took many hours of video footage to document the conditions and shelter residents’ stories. In a report to the governor, he wrote of “poor ventilation, unhygienic and inadequate cooking facilities, minimal toilet facilities, lack of storage space, washing in buckets, health risk,” . . . lack of privacy.  The temporary hospital was being run out of an elementary school, without much of the necessary medical equipment—the crucial items that had been abandoned back in Plymouth’s brand-new yet soon-to-be-buried hospital.” [How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p 270.]

Yes, twenty years and 400 millions of aid later, some of that has changed, but the hundreds still living in temporary houses that are not strong enough to face a hurricane, and the lingering continuation of the temporary hospital (plus much more) speak volumes on how much further yet we have to go. That’s why the next page deserves our full attention:

“Claire Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [p. 271.]

Whatever we may say about the Coxes’ interpretation (or on their views on “resilience”), these remarks reflect the background debate over where aid to Montserrat and other OT’s should be administered.  A context, in which fourteen named individuals died needlessly and with contributory responsibility found to rest at the doors of both GoM and HMG due to negligence in respect of the urgent needs of those displaced by the volcano. 

Indeed, as the Coxes went on to note, one of the key Rhys-Burris findings was:  “Montserrat has many needs consequent upon the volcanic crisis but none is more pressing than that for many acres of land to be acquired in the north for permanent housing and for houses to be built on that land,” but “the British Government response has been unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” [p. 271.] In less elegant words, “golden elephants next.”

Now, as we saw last time, in UK Parliament discussions held in 1997 – 98 both the International Development Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee went on record that perhaps Montserrat and other OT’s should fall under a different Department than DfID. But, DfID is where development aid expertise and funding are concentrated. So – despite the obvious clash with its prevailing vision, it would be hard to sail against those brute facts. 

It is thus unsurprising that in 2002, when the UK Parliament passed the UK International Development Act to govern DfID, it stipulated in Sections 1 and 2 that:

“1(1) The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty . . . .

2 The Secretary of State may also provide any person or body with development assistance in a case where the requirement of section 1(1) is not met, if the assistance is provided in relation to one or more of the . . . (British overseas territories).”

There we have it, DfID’s prime mandate of poverty reduction (now joined in (1A) by gender equality), and the prime exception, the OT’s.  That exception is there because the UK acknowledges the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73; which mandates that the UK must “ensure” the political, economic, educational and social advancement of OT’s, and that it must “promote” constructive measures of development. This is also the reason why there is a longstanding series of UK policy declarations that the “reasonable assistance (or, sometimes: “development”) needs” of OT’s have “a first call” on the UK development aid budget.  It is why, in the FCO 2012 White Paper on OT’s, the FCO stated that “DFID works in partnership with those Territories that need support to provide assistance with the aim of helping them achieve sustainable, inclusive growth and reducing their financial dependence on the UK wherever this is possible. [p. 17.]

Given that Montserrat moved to self-sufficiency for its recurrent budget from the 1960’s – 80’s, there is every good reason to see that this is “possible” again, despite the havoc caused by the volcano disaster.  As examples, we can list: tourism, Fibre Optic Cable delivered digital services, geothermal electrical and thermal energy, back office and financial services taking advantage of our native English speakers and longitude between Europe and the Americas, and more. There would be plenty of economic potential in Montserrat, once the long agreed list of “catalytic” infrastructure projects is put in place.

We must look elsewhere to explain the lack of advancement here since the early 2000’s.

A chilling clue lies in the UK Government’s About Web Page for DfID, as we will look through that page[2] in vain to find a single direct mention of the OT’s.  The only promising hint, is the statement that DfID is “responsible” for “honouring the UK’s international commitments” which must clearly include the UN Charter, Article 73. As fair comment, poverty reduction, gender inequity and climate change etc. are all openly there but the legacies of Britain’s sometimes embarrassing colonial past are strikingly absent, despite what section 2 of the 2002 Development Act declares. Yes, there is an Overseas Territories Department, and in a subsidiary page on the Caribbean,[3] we see that since 2015 the UK has committed £400 million to “fund major new infrastructure projects in eight countries plus Monserrat [sic.] to boost economic growth and trade,” but it seems to be fair comment to infer that the OTD is in key part a problem child department.

That has to change, decisively. For over twenty years, Montserrat has languished, devastated by a volcano and subjected to an aid programme that has too often been just as the Rhys-Burris report described: “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.”  Now, due to the impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the list of disaster-ravaged Caribbean OT’s and countries has considerably lengthened. We simply cannot afford another twenty years of the “unimaginative, grudging and tardy.” 

Instead, we must now move to a dynamic and world-class development aid programme that “ensures” advancement and “promotes” constructive measures of development in Montserrat and the other OT’s.  For, we are at a moment of truth. END

[1]               See, here at Amazon.

[2]           See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development/about

[3]           See https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/dfid-caribbean

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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

Source: OECD, Aizenman et al.

28 to solve the US income gap, researchers say

  • Researchers are investigating how the United States can become more competitive in the manufacturing industry in the age of artificial intelligence.
  • Some of their conclusions suggest that more investment is needed in vocational programs and not in large, four-year universities.
  • “There are too many four-year colleges serving too many students, and too few institutions with greater focus on vocational education and training,” the researchers said.

Thomas Franck@tomwfranck

Published 9:00 AM ET Sun, 12 Nov 2017CNBC.com

Additional trade schools, and not four-year college degrees, may be a better bet for U.S. workers, according to new economic research.

The amount of vocational training available relative to the size of a country’s manufacturing sector may reduce income inequality, and improve the fortunes of workers earning below the top 10 percent of household incomes, the data show.

“Pushing more students to B.A. granting colleges may no longer be the most efficient way to deal with the challenges caused by the decline in manufacturing employment,” wrote Joshua Aizenman, the economics chair at University of Southern California. He did the research with academics at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington.

And declined it certainly has.

In September 1977, about 18.3 million people, or more than 18 percent of the U.S. labor force, worked in U.S. manufacturing. Forty years later, that number has since slipped to 12.4 million, or less than 8 percent, even as the general U.S. population has surged to 326 million, U.S. Census figures show.

US workers in manufacturing (in thousands)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

But while one might suspect that fewer workers would mean decreased output, real gross domestic product (GDP) manufacturing has actually risen over the past two decades, leading to a popular conclusion that machines have simply replaced labor in the workplace.

Real GDP: Manufacturing (millions of dollars [chained to 2009])

Also of note: Manufacturing’s share of GDP trickled downward, as automation spread and the economy shifted toward service.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, retrieved from FRED

 

Manufacturing share of total GDP

*The value added of an industry, also referred to as gross domestic product (GDP)-by-industry, is the contribution of a private industry or government sector to overall GDP.

No more ‘College Premium’?

It has long been assumed that a college degree leads to higher average income, what some might call the college premium. But even with this hypothetical edge, some students will earn less than average. And they might even lose money if the burden of college debt undermines the income boost that comes with a bachelor’s degree.

 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, retrieved from FRED

“There are serious questions about the future trends of the college premium,” Aizenman told CNBC in an email. “Providing cheaper and better vocational education and re-training will provide the marginal workers with useful options.”

 

After studying data from the World Wealth and Income Database, OECD and Eurostat, the researchers concluded: “As manufacturing sector becomes more important in a country’s income, relatively unskilled laborers benefit from access to vocational education, thereby narrowing the income gap with skilled labor.”

To answer how that conclusion can be applied in the U.S. given manufacturing’s decline as a percentage of the labor force and share of GDP, the researchers did a case study of manufacturing industries in the U.S. and Germany.

Source: OECD, Aizenman et al.

Manufacturing employment has fallen in both countries, yet in Germany, manufacturing’s value added has stayed around 22 percent in the last 20 years.

Of note: The share of workers with upper secondary education in Germany exceeds that of the U.S. by about 15 percent. However, the share of workers with post-high school education in the United States exceeds that of Germany by about 17 percent.

Germany’s education system, the researchers said, better fits the needs of modern manufacturing, which requires more upper-secondary and vocationally trained labor.

In the U.S., on the other hand, “there are too many four-year colleges serving too many students, and too few institutions with greater focus on vocational education and training,” Aizenman said.

“Chances are that better vocational education access and its quality in the U.S. would increase the income of the workers that are in manufacturing, and probably would reduce the overall income inequality in the US,” he added.

Note: Working papers have not been peer-reviewed or been subject to review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications.

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